Death (personification): Wikis


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A Western depiction of Death as a skeleton carrying a scythe

Death as a sentient entity is a concept that has existed in many societies since the beginning of history. In English, death is often given the name the "Grim Reaper" and from the 15th century onwards came to be shown as a skeletal figure carrying a large scythe and clothed in a black cloak with a hood. It is also given the name of the Angel of Death (Hebrew: מַלְאַךְ הַמָּוֶתMalach HaMavet) stemming from the Bible.

In some cases, the Grim Reaper is able to actually cause the victim's death, leading to tales that he can be bribed, tricked, or outwitted in order to retain one's life. Other beliefs hold that the Spectre of Death is only a psychopomp, serving to sever the last ties between the soul and the body, and to guide the deceased to the next world without having any control over the fact of the victim's death.

In many languages Death is personified in male form (English including), while in others it is perceived as a female character (for instance, in Slavic languages)


Indo-European folklore / mythology


Thanatos as a winged youth, c. 325300 BC, at Temple of Artemis, Ephesos

Ancient Greece found death to be inevitable, and therefore he is not represented as purely evil. He is often portrayed as a bearded and winged man, but has also been portrayed as a young boy. Death, or Thanatos is the counterpart of life; death being represented as male, and life as female. He is the twin brother of Hypnos, the god of sleep. He is typically shown with his brother, and is represented as being just and gentle. His job is to escort the deceased to the underworld Hades. He then hands the dead over to Charon (who by some accounts looks like the modern western interpretation of the Grim Reaper, having a skeletal body and black cloak), who mans the boat which carries them over the river Styx, which separates the land of the living from the land of the dead. It was believed that if the ferryman did not receive some sort of payment, the soul would not be delivered to the underworld, and left by the riverside for eternity. Thanatos' sisters, the Keres were the spirits of violent death. They were associated with deaths from battle, disease, accident, and murder. They were portrayed as evil, often feeding on the blood of the body after the soul had been escorted to Hades. They had fangs, talons, and would be dressed in bloody garments.


In Germanic folklore Death was a guise of Odin. The 'Grim' of Grim Reaper being derived from Grimnir, a name for Odin.


To the Welsh he is Angeu and Ankou to Bretons. He is regarded as a man in a hooded robe (invariably black) sometimes carrying a scythe.


Old Slavic tribes viewed Death as a woman in white clothes, with a never-fading green sprout in her hand. The touch of the sprout would put a human to an everlasting sleep.

This image survived well into the Middle Ages, only being replaced by the more traditional Western European image of a walking skeleton as late as in the 15th century.


In Poland Death, or "Śmierć" is appeared to be like the normal Grim Reaper but instead of a black robe Death has a white robe. Many believe the Polish Death is a woman, but this is not true. In Poland Death is an "it" not a she.


Lithuanians named Death Giltinė, deriving from word "gelti" (to sting). Giltinė was viewed as an old ugly woman with long blue nose and deadly poisonous tongue. The legend tells that Giltinė was young, pretty and communicative until she was trapped in a coffin for seven years. The goddess of Death was a sister of the goddess of Life and Destiny, Laima, symbolising the relationship between beginning and end.

Later, Lithuanians adopted the classic Grim Reaper with a scythe and black robe.

Hindu mythology

Yama, the Hindu lord of death, presiding over his court in hell.

In Hindu scriptures the lord of death is called Yama, or Yamaraj (literally "the lord of death"). Yamaraj rides a black buffalo and carries a rope lasso to carry the soul back to his abode called "Yamalok". There are many forms of reapers, although some say there is only one whom disguises itself as a small child. It is his agents, the Yamaduts, who carry the souls back to Yamalok. Here, all the accounts of the person's good and bad deeds are stored and maintained by Chitragupta, which allow Yamaraj to decide where the soul has to reside in his next life, following the theory of reincarnation. Yama is also mentioned in the Mahabharata as a great philosopher and devotee of Supreme Brahman.

Interestingly, Yama is also known as Dharmaraj or king of Dharma or justice. One reasoning is that justice is served equally to all – whether they are alive or dead, based on their karma or fate. This is further strengthened by the fact that Yudhishtra, the eldest of the pandavas and considered as the personification of justice, in Mahabharata was born due to Kunti's prayers to Yamaraj.

Japanese mythology/folklore

In Kojiki, after giving birth to the fire-god Hinokagutsuchi, the goddess Izanami dies from wounds of its fire and enters the perpetual night realm called Yominokuni that the gods thereto retire. After Izanagi, her husband, failed in the attempt to reclaim her from the land of Yomi (the underworld, to which he travels and discovers his wife as not-so beautiful anymore), in a brief argument with Izanagi, she claimed to take 1000 lives every day signifying her position as the goddess of death.

Another popular death personification is Enma (Yama), also known as 閻魔王 (Enma Ou) and 閻魔大王 (Enma Daiou) meaning "King Enma", or "Great King Enma" which are direct translations of Yama Rājā. He originated as Yama in Hinduism, later became Yanluo in China, and Enma in Japan. He is from Chinese Buddhism, and before that, from India. Enma rules the underworld, which makes him similar to Hades, and he decides whether someone dead goes to heaven or to hell. A common saying parents use in Japan to scold children is that Enma will cut off their tongue in the afterlife if they lie.

There are also death gods called shinigami, which are closer to the Western tradition of the Grim Reaper. Shinigami (often plural) are common in modern Japanese arts and fiction, and essentially absent from traditional mythology.

In Abrahamic religions

In the Bible, the fourth horseman of Revelation 6 is called Death, and is pictured with Hades following him. The "Angel of the Lord" smites 185,000 men in the Assyrian camp (II Kings xix. 35). When the Angel of Death passes through to smite the Egyptian first-born, God prevents "the destroyer" (shâchath) from entering houses with blood on the lintel and side posts (Ex. xii. 23). The "destroying angel" ("mal'ak ha-mashḥit") rages among the people in Jerusalem (II Sam. xxiv. 16). In I Chronicle xxi. 15 the "angel of the Lord" is seen by King David standing "between the earth and the heaven, having a drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem." The biblical Book of Job (xxxiii. 22) uses the general term "destroyer" ("memitim"), which tradition has identified with "destroying angels" ("mal'ake Khabbalah") and Prov. xvi. 14 uses the term the "angels of death" ("mal'ake ha-mavet"). Azriel is sometimes referred as the angel of death, as well.


La mort du fossoyeur (Death of the gravedigger) by Carlos Schwabe

The memitim are a type of angel from biblical lore associated with the mediation over the lives of the dying. The name is derived from the ancient Hebrew word, "mĕmītǐm," and refers to angels that brought about the destruction of those whom the guardian angels no longer protected.[1] While there may be some debate among religious scholars regarding the exact nature of the memitim, it is generally accepted that, as described in the Book of Job 33:22, they are killers of some sort.[2]

In Judaism

Form and functions

According to the Midrash, the angel of death was created by God on the first day[3]. His dwelling is in Heaven, whence he reaches earth in eight flights, whereas pestilence reaches it in one.[4] He has twelve wings.[5] "Over all people have I surrendered thee the power," said God to the angel of death, "only not over this one which has received freedom from death through the Law".[6] It is said of the angel of death that he is full of eyes. In the hour of death he stands at the head of the departing one with a drawn sword, to which clings a drop of gall. As soon as the dying man sees the angel, he is seized with a convulsion and opens his mouth, whereupon the angel throws the drop into it. This drop causes his death; he turns putrid, and his face becomes yellow.[7] The expression "to taste of death" originated in the idea that death was caused by a drop of gall.[8]

The soul escapes through the mouth, or, as is stated in another place, through the throat; therefore the angel of death stands at the head of the patient (Adolf Jellinek, l.c. ii. 94, Midr. Teh. to Ps. xi.). When the soul forsakes the body its voice goes from one end of the world to the other, but is not heard (Gen. R. vi. 7; Ex. R. v. 9; Pirḳe R. El. xxxiv.). The drawn sword of the angel of death, mentioned by the Chronicler (I. Chron. xxi. 15; comp. Job xv. 22; Enoch lxii. 11), indicates that the angel of death was figured as a warrior who kills off the children of men. "Man, on the day of his death, falls down before the angel of death like a beast before the slaughterer" (Grünhut, "Liḳḳuṭim", v. 102a). R. Samuel's father (c. 200) said: "The angel of death said to me, 'Only for the sake of the honor of mankind do I not tear off their necks as is done to slaughtered beasts'" ('Ab. Zarah 20b). In later representations the knife sometimes replaces the sword, and reference is also made to the cord of the angel of death, which indicates death by throttling. Moses says to God: "I fear the cord of the angel of death" (Grünhut, l.c. v. 103a et seq.). Of the four Jewish methods of execution three are named in connection with the angel of death: burning (by pouring hot lead down the victim's throat—similar to the drop of gall), slaughtering (by beheading), and throttling. The angel of death administers the particular punishment which God has ordained for the commission of sin.

A peculiar mantle ("idra"-according to Levy, "Neuhebr. Wörterb." i. 32, a sword) belongs to the equipment of the angel of death (Eccl. R. iv. 7). The angel of death takes on the particular form which will best serve his purpose; e.g., he appears to a scholar in the form of a beggar imploring pity (M. Ḳ. 28a). "When pestilence rages in the town, walk not in the middle of the street, because the angel of death [i.e., pestilence] strides there; if peace reigns in the town, walk not on the edges of the road. When pestilence rages in the town, go not alone to the synagogue, because there the angel of death stores his tools. If the dogs howl, the angel of death has entered the city; if they make sport, the prophet Elijah has come" (B. Ḳ. 60b). The "destroyer" ("saṭan ha-mashḥit") in the daily prayer is the angel of death (Ber. 16b). Midr. Ma'ase Torah (compare Jellinek, "B. H." ii. 98) says: "There are six angels of death: Gabriel over kings; Ḳapẓiel over youths; Mashbir over animals; Mashḥit over children; Af and Ḥemah over man and beast."

Death and Satan

Drawing of Death bringing cholera, in Le Petit Journal
Death on the Rail, 1873, a wood engraving from Harper's Weekly

The angel of death, who is identified by some with Satan, immediately after his creation had a dispute with God as to the light of the Messiah (Pesiḳ. R. 161b). When Eve touched the tree of knowledge, she perceived the angel of death, and thought "Now I shall die, and God will create another wife for Adam".[9] Adam also had a conversation with the angel of death (Böklen, "Die Verwandtschaft der Jüdisch-Christlichen mit der Parsischen Eschatologie," p. 12). The angel of death sits before the face of the dead (Jellinek, l.c. ii. 94). While Abraham was mourning for Sarah the angel appeared to him, which explains why "Abraham stood up from before his dead".[10] Samael told Sarah that Abraham had sacrificed Isaac in spite of his wailing, and Sarah died of horror and grief.[11] It was Moses who most often had dealings with the angel. At the rebellion of Korah, Moses saw him (Num. R. v. 7; Bacher, l.c. iii. 333; compare Sanh. 82a). It was the angel of death in the form of pestilence which snatched away 15,000 every year during the wandering in the wilderness (ib. 70). When Moses reached heaven, the angel told him something (Jellinek, l.c. i. 61).

When the angel of death came to Moses and said, "Give me thy soul," Moses called to him: "Where I sit thou hast no right to stand." And the angel retired ashamed, and reported the occurrence to God. Again, God commanded him to bring the soul of Moses. The angel went, and, not finding him, inquired of the sea, of the mountains, and of the valleys; but they knew nothing of him.[12] Really, Moses did not die through the angel of death, but through God's kiss ("bi-neshiḳah"); i.e., God drew his soul out of his body (B. B. 17a; compare Abraham in Apocryphal and Rabbinical Literature, and parallel references in Böklen, l.c. p. 11). Legend seizes upon the story of Moses' struggle with the angel of death, and expands it at length (Tan., ed. Stettin, pp. 624 et seq.; Deut. R. ix., xi.; Grünhut, l.c. v. 102b, 169a). As Benaiah bound Ashmedai (Jew. Encyc. ii. 218a), so Moses binds the angel of death that he may bless Israel.[13]

Solomon once noticed that the angel of death was grieved. When questioned as to the cause of his sorrow he answered: "I am requested to take your two beautiful scribes." Solomon at once charged the demons to convey his scribes to Luz, where the angel of death could not enter. When they were near the city, however, they both died. The angel laughed on the next day, whereupon Solomon asked the cause of his mirth. "Because," answered the angel, "thou didst send the youths thither, whence I was ordered to fetch them" (Suk. 53a). In the next world God will let the angel of death fight against Pharaoh, Sisera, and Sennacherib.[14]

Scholars and the Angel of Death

Talmud teachers of the fourth century associate quite familiarly with him. When he appeared to one on the street, the teacher reproached him with rushing upon him as upon a beast; whereupon the angel called upon him at his house. To another he granted a respite of thirty days, that he might put his knowledge in order before entering the next world. To a third he had no access, because he could not interrupt the study of the Talmud. To a fourth he showed a rod of fire, whereby he is recognized as the angel of death (M. K. 28a). He often entered the house of Bibi and conversed with him (Ḥag. 4b). Often he resorts to strategy in order to interrupt and seize his victim (B. M. 86a; Mak. 10a).

The death of Joshua ben Levi in particular is surrounded with a web of fable. When the time came for him to die and the angel of death appeared to him, he demanded to be shown his place in paradise. When the angel had consented to this, he demanded the angel's knife, that the angel might not frighten him by the way. This request also was granted him, and Joshua sprang with the knife over the wall of paradise; the angel, who is not allowed to enter paradise, caught hold of the end of his garment. Joshua swore that he would not come out, and God declared that he should not leave paradise unless he was absolved from his oath; if not absolved, he was to remain. The angel of death then demanded back his knife, but Joshua refused. At this point a heavenly voice ("bat ḳol") rang out: "Give him back the knife, because the children of men have need of it" (Ket. 77b; Jellinek, l.c. ii. 48-51; Bacher, l.c. i. 192 et seq.).

Rabbinic views

The Rabbis found the angel of death mentioned in Psalms lxxxix. 45 (A. V. 48), where the Targum translates: "There is no man who lives and, seeing the angel of death, can deliver his soul from his hand". Eccl. viii. 4 is thus explained in Midrash Rabbah to the passage: "One may not escape the angel of death, nor say to him, 'Wait until I put my affairs in order,' or 'There is my son, my slave: take him in my stead.'" Where the angel of death appears there is no remedy (Talmud, Ned. 49a; Hul. 7b). If one who has sinned has confessed his fault, the angel of death may not touch him (Midrash Tanhuma, ed. Buber, 139). God protects from the angel of death (Midrash Genesis Rabbah lxviii.).

By acts of benevolence the anger of the angel of death is overcome; when one fails to perform such acts the angel of death will make his appearance (Derek Ereẓ Zuṭa, viii.). The angel of death receives his order from God (Ber. 62b). As soon as he has received permission to destroy, however, he makes no distinction between good and bad (B. Ḳ. 60a). In the city of Luz the angel of death has no power, and when the aged inhabitants are ready to die they go outside the city (Soṭah 46b; compare Sanh. 97a). A legend to the same effect existed in Ireland in the Middle Ages (Jew. Quart. Rev. vi. 336).

In Christianity

Medieval painting of Death playing chess from Täby Church in Sweden

Death is, either as a metaphor, a personification or an actual being, referenced occasionally in the New Testament. One such personification is found in Acts 2:24 – "But God raised Him [Jesus] from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him". Later passages, however, are much more explicit. Romans 5 speaks of Death as having "reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses", and various passages in the Epistles speak of Christ's work on the Cross and His Resurrection as a confrontation with Death. Such verses include Rom. 6:9 and 2 Tim. 1:10.

Despite Jesus' victory over it, Death is still viewed as enduring in Scripture. 1 Cor. 15:26 asserts, "The last enemy to be destroyed is death", which implies that Death has not been destroyed once and for all. This assertion later proves true in the Book of Revelation.

The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews declares that Satan "holds the power of Death" (Heb. 2:14). It is written that the Son became human that by his death he might destroy the devil; this is the head of the Beast referred to as, "One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed" (Rev. 13:3) as well as the head of the serpent as preemptively referred to in Genesis 3:15 - "And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise Him on the heel". If the head that was fatally wounded but healed refers to Death, this accords with 2 Tim. 1:10, which states that Jesus "has destroyed death", and the implication that death was yet to be destroyed in 1 Cor. 15:26. The victory over death is also referred to as "Eternal Life"

The final destruction of Death is referenced by Paul in the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians; he says that after the general resurrection, the prophecies of Isaiah 25:8 and Hosea 13:14 – "He will swallow up death forever", and "Where, O death, is your sting?" (Septuagint), will be fulfilled. According to Paul, the power of Death lies in sin, which is made possible by the Law, but God "gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." That victory over Death is also discussed in the Revelation of John.

A life sized figure of Santa Muerte stands outside a fortune teller's storefront in Mexico City's Chinatown

In the visions of John, Death is used as one of the metaphorical Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Rev. 6:8 reads, "I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth". In Rev. 20:13-14, in the vision of judgment of the dead, it is written, "The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death." This describes the destruction of the last enemy. After this, "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away" (Rev. 21:4).

In Roman Catholicism, the archangel Michael is viewed as the good Angel of Death (as opposed to Samael, the evil Angel of Death), carrying the souls of the deceased to Heaven. There, he balances them in his scales (one of his symbols). He is said to give the dying souls the chance to redeem themselves before passing as well. In Mexico, a popular folk-Catholic belief regards the Angel of Death as a saint, known as Santa Muerte, but this local cultus is not acknowledged by the Church.

In Islam

Whilst the preceding Abrahamic religions offered little detail on the passage of souls from one dimension into another, Islam provided detailed information. Previously, the lack of scripture tended to categorize Death with the supernatural or evil, a natural consequence of humanity's fear over the unknown. However, with the onset of Islam, the concept of death as a celebratory event as opposed to one to be dreaded became manifest. It is the passage of the everlasting soul into a closer dimension to its creator that is seen as a point of joy, rather than misery, obvious mortal grief and sadness not withstanding. Indeed, the Islamic prophet Muhammad demonstrated that grief was an acceptable form of what makes us human, however prolonged mourning at the expense of the living is inappropriate, especially in the light of the transition from one world to the next.

Death is represented by Azra'il, one of Allah's archangels in the Quran:

6:93: "If thou couldst see, when the wrong-doers reach the pangs of death and the angels stretch their hands out, saying: Deliver up your souls."

32:11: "Say: The Angel of Death, who hath charge concerning you, will gather you and afterward unto your Lord ye will be returned."

The irony of the Angel of Death refers to his involvement in the creation of life. In these verses the Angel of Death and his assistants are sent to take the soul of those destined to die. Who is the Angel of Death? When God wanted to create Adam, he sent one of the Angels of the Throne to bring some of the Earth's clay to fashion Adam from it. When the angel came to earth to take the clay, the earth told him: "I beseech you by the One Who sent you not to take anything from me to make someone who will be punished one day." When the angel returned empty-handed, God asked him why he did not bring back any clay. The angel said: "The earth besought me by Your greatness not to take anything from it." Then God sent another angel, but the same thing happened, and then another, until God decided to send Azra'il, the Angel of Death. The earth spoke to him as it had spoken to the others, but Azra'il said: "Obedience to God is better than obedience to you, even if you beseech me by His greatness." And Azra'il took clay from the Earth's east and its west, its north and its south, and brought it back to God. God poured some water of paradise on this clay and it became soft, and from it He created Adam.

He is mistakenly known by the name of "Izrail" (not to be confused with Israel, which is a name in Islam solely for Prophet Ya'qoob/Jacob), since the name Izrael isn't mentioned in the Quran nor Hadith, the English form of which is Azra'il. He is charged with the task of separating and returning from the bodies the souls of people who are to be recalled permanently from the physical world back to the primordial spiritual world. This is a process whose aspect varies depending on the nature and past deeds of the individual in question, and it is known that the Angel of death is also accompanied by helpers or associates.

Apart from the characteristics and responsibilities he has in common with other angels in Islam, little else concerning Angel of death can be derived from fundamental Muslim texts. Many references are made in various Muslim legends, however, some of which are included in books authored by Muslim poets and mystics. For instance, the following tale is related in the Naqshbandi order of Sufism on the practicalities of sweeping up human souls from the expanse of the earth:

The Prophet Abraham once asked Azra'il who has two eyes in the front of his head and two eyes in the back: "O Angel of Death! What do you do if one man dies in the east and another in the west, or if a land is stricken by the plague, or if two armies meet in the field?" The angel said: "O Messenger of God! the names of these people are inscribed on the lawh al-mahfuz: It is the 'Preserved Tablet' on which all human destinies are engraved. I gaze at it incessantly. It informs me of the moment when the lifetime of any living being on earth has come to an end, be it one of mankind or one of the beasts. There is also a tree next to me, called the Tree of Life. It is covered with myriads of tiny leaves, smaller than the leaves of the olive-tree and much more numerous. Whenever a person is born on earth, the tree sprouts a new leaf, and on this leaf is written the name of that person. It is by means of this tree that I know who is born and who is to die. When a person is going to die, his leaf begins to wilt and dry, and it falls from the tree onto the tablet. Then this person's name is erased from the Preserved Tablet. This event happens forty days before the actual death of that person. We are informed forty days in advance of his impending death. That person himself may not know it and may continue his life on earth full of hope and plans. However, we here in the heavens know and have that information. That is why God has said: 'Your sustenance has been written in the heavens and decreed for you,' and it includes the life-span. The moment we see in heaven that leaf wilting and dying we mix it into that person's provision, and from the fortieth day before his death he begins to consume his leaf from the Tree of Life without knowing it. Only forty days then remain of his life in this world, and after that there is no provision for him in it. Then I summon the spirits by God's leave, until they are present right before me, and the earth is flattened out and left like a dish before me, from which I partake as I wish, by God's order."


In Sikhism, the Death is portrayed as being one of God's angels often used as a personification for the bringer of Death and one of Waheguru's (God's) servants. Some of Guru Nanak's Hymns display that in the fourth watch of the night, (Old age) The angel of Death will snatch thy soul and no one will know of the mysteries of where you have gone. Said by Guru Nanak, after that moment all your wailing will be of no use before God's Kingdom in Heaven. According to a collection of prophecies in Sikh holy book of Dasam Granth Sahib, in future, when Mankind will sink in sins and there will very little hope for God's rule on Earth. Then God shall order Death to take birth in human form on Earth and tell It to kill all sinners of Earth. Those who will have had God's name engraved in their hearts shall be left unharmed.

In popular fiction

Death in The Seventh Seal (1957)

A personified character of Death has recurred many times in popular fiction. The character can be found in early pieces, such as the fifteenth century morality play Everyman.

In the present day, death is portrayed in many mediums of popular fiction. One of the most iconic portrayals is that of the 1957 film The Seventh Seal, by Swedish director Ingmar Bergman. It is an influential (and heavily symbolic) movie depicting one of the most famous moments in the portrayal of Death. In the movie, a medieval knight returning from a crusade plays a game of chess with Death, with the knight's life depending upon the outcome of the game. American film critic Roger Ebert remarked that this image "[is] so perfect it has survived countless parodies."[15]

Death is also personified in the 1934 film Death Takes a Holiday with Frederic March and the 1998 film Meet Joe Black with Anthony Hopkins and Brad Pitt.

Another appearance of Death in popular fiction, is in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series of novels. The character of Death has appeared in almost every one of the series' 36 books. Donal Clarke of the Irish Times called Death the most famous of Pratchett's characters and said that this version is "somewhat less fearsome than the version of the character in, say, Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal."[16]

In the popular Final Destination franchise, Death is an unseen antagonist for disaster survivors' attempts to defeat, but with no success.

DC Comics have various fictional entities within its publications besides the Grim Reaper which are all personification of Death, such as the Spectre, Nekron, the Black Flash, Black Racer, H'ronmeer, Death, Azraeuz etc. Nekron, which is describes as a "black personification" of it, currently is a primary antagonist of the 2009-2010 crossover event Blackest Night.

In the N64 and Xbox game, Conker's Bad Fur Day and it's remake, Live & Reloaded, there's a Grim Reaper called Gregg, who is very short and speaks in a high-pitched voice.

See also


  1. ^ Olyan, S.M., A Thousand Thousands Served Him: Exegesis and the Naming of Angels in Ancient Judaism, page 21.
  2. ^ Gordon, M.B., Medicine among the Ancient Hebrews, page 472.
  3. ^ Midrash Tanhuma on Genesis 39:1
  4. ^ Talmud Berakhot 4b
  5. ^ Pirke De-Rabbi Eliezer 13
  6. ^ Midrash Tanhuma on Exodus 31:18
  7. ^ Talmud Avodah Zarah 20b; on putrefaction see also Pesikta de-Rav Kahana 54b; for the eyes compare Ezekiel 1:18 and Revelation 4:6
  8. ^ Jewish Quarterly Review vi. 327
  9. ^ Pirke De-Rabbi Eliezer 13, end; compare Targum Jonathan to Genesis 3:6, and Yalkut Shimoni 25)
  10. ^ Genesis 23:3; Genesis Rabba 63:5, misunderstood by the commentators
  11. ^ Pirke De-Rabbi Eliezer 32
  12. ^ Sifre Deuteronomy 305
  13. ^ Pesikta de-Rav Kahana 199, where lifne moto(Deuteronomy 33:1) is explained as meaning "before the angel of death")
  14. ^ Yalkut Shimoni 428
  15. ^ Ebert, Roger (2000-04-16). ":: :: Great Movies :: The Seventh Seal". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2007-07-28.  
  16. ^ Clarke, Donal (2009-01-09). [ "From fantasy to new reality"]. Irish Times. pp. 18. Retrieved 2009-06-03.  


This article incorporates text from the 1901–1906 Jewish Encyclopedia, a publication now in the public domain.

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  • Bender, A. P. (July 1894). "Beliefs, Rites, and Customs of the Jews, Connected with Death, Burial, and Mourning". The Jewish Quarterly Review 6 (4): 664–671. doi:10.2307/1450184.  
  • Böklen, Ernst (1902). Die Verwandtschaft der Jüdisch-Christlichen mit der Parsischen Eschatologie. Göttingen: Vendenhoeck & Ruprecht.  
  • Dillmann, August (1895). Handbuch der alttestamentlichen Theologie. Leipzig: S. Hirzel.  
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  • Winer, B. R. ii. 383-386;

Simple English

[[File:|thumb|300px|Depiction of Death as a skeleton carrying a scythe.]] Death is a creature that exists in a lot of societies all over history. In English Death is usually given the name Grim Reaper and from the 15th century to now, the Grim Reaper is shown as a human Skeleton holding a scythe and clothed with a black cloak with a hood. It is also given the same of Angel of Death (Hebrew:מלאך המוות, Mal'ach Ha'Mavett), that appeared in the Bible.

In some believes, the Grim Reaper can cause the death of the victim, that created legends that he can be bribed, tricked and make deals to keep the life of someone. In other beliefs, the Grim Reaper guides the dead to the next world, without the knowing of the dead about his death.


Indo-European Mythology

Ancient Greek

File:Column temple Artemis Ephesos BM Sc1206
Thanatos God of death in the ancient greek mythology.

In Ancient Greek, the Greeks saw death as good. He is often shown as a bearded, winged man or a young, winged, boy. Death, or Thanatos, is the opposite of Life. Death is represented as a male, and life as a female. He is the twin brother of Hypnos, the god of Sleep.He is discripted as gentle, he escorts the dead to the Underworld, Hades.Then he hands the dead to Charon, who mans a boat that carries the dead to the underworld, threw the river Styx.Thanatos' sisters, Keres, where the spirits of violant death, they where connected with deaths from battle, disease, accident, and murder. They where portrayed as evil, they where feeding on the body of the dead, after the soul was escorted to the Hades. They had fangs, talons, and would be dressed in bloody jewels.


The Welsh portrayed death as Angeu, and for the Bretons it was Ankou, they were the same one. He appeared as a man with a black robe, sometimes carrying a scythe, riding a cart which he collected the dead on it.


In Poland, Death, or Śmierć, has an appearance that is similar to the our modern Grim Reaper, but instead of a black robe, he wears a White robe.


Lithuanians call death Giltinė, from the word gelti(to sting). Giltinė was shown as an old, ugly, woman with a long blue nose and a poisonous tongue. The legend tells that Giltinė was young, pretty and communicative until she was trapped in a coffin for seven years. The goddess of death was a sister of the goddess of life and destiny, Laima, symbolizing the relationship between beginning and end.

After it, the Lituanians adopted the classical Grim Reaper with the black cloak and the scythe.

Hindu Texts

In Hindu texts, the lord of death is called Yama. Yama rides a black buffalo and carries a rope to take the dead to his prison. There are many form of Reapers, they are his agents. They are called Yamaduts. There, all the man good and bad are stored in an kind of archive. Then Yama take the records out and desides where the soul will be set in the next life, according to the Reincarnation of Hinduism. Yama is also mentioned in the Mahabharata as a philosopher and a devotee of Brahman.

Japanese mythology

In the Kojiki, after giving birth to the fire god, Kagu-tsuchi, Izanami dies from wounds of its fire and enters the perpetual night realm called Yomi-no-kuni (the underworld) that the gods retire to and where Izanagi, her husband, travels to in a failed attempt to reclaim her. He discovers his wife as not-so beautiful anymore, and, in a brief argument afterwards between them, she promises to take a thousand lives every day, signifying her position as the goddess of death.

In Abrahamic Religions


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La mort du fossoyeur (Death of the gravedigger) by Carlos Schwabe

Memitim is a type of angel from the Bible that is connected to the death of the humans. The words is from the hebrew language ממיתים (English:Killers). They are mentioned to kill the people that their guardian angel no longer protects them. There is some debate about the nature of the Memitim among biblical scholars, but it is accepted that, as described in the Book of Job 33:22, they are killers of some kind.


Form and functions

According to the Midrash, the Angel of Death was created by God in the first day of the creation. His house is in Heaven.He has twelve wings."Over all people have I surrendered thee the power," said God to the Angel of Death, "only not over this one which has received freedom from death through the Law".It said that the angel of death is full of eyes. In the time of the death, he stands over the dying one, and waiting for the man to see him. When the dying finally sees him, he drops a gall to the dying's mouth and that is what kills him finally The expression "to taste of death" originated in the idea that death was caused by a drop of gall.

Death and Satan

[[File:|thumb|left|200px|Drawing of Death bringing cholera, in Le Petit Journal]] The Angel of Death, who is identified by some with Satan, right after the creation has a dispute with God about the light of the Messiah. When Eve touched the tree of knowledg, the Angel of Death talked to her, and she thought:"Now I shall die, and God will create another wife for Adam". Adam also talked to the Angel of Death. The Angel of Death sits before the face of the dead. While Abraham was mourning, for Sarah the angel appeared to him, which explains why "Abraham stood up from before his death". Samael told Sarah that Abraham had sacrificed Isaac in spite of his wailing, and Sarah died of horror and grief.It was Moses who most often had dealings with the angel. At the resistance of Korah, Moses saw him.


In the Christianity, first there was no creature to death, because God resurrected Jesus and can kill people. Then the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews declared that Satan has the power to control death. One of the beieved that The son, with his death, killed Satan, and by his resurrecting he brought Satan back to life.

File:Taby kyrka Death playing
Medieval painting of Death playing chess from Täby Church in Sweden

It is also believed that the first head of the Beast in the Book of Revelation is the resurrecting of Satan.


In Islam there is the Angel of Death, that is more known with the name ArchAngel of Death, which his name is Azrael. In the Qur'an, he is not mentioned by his name but in the name of Mal'akkh al Mut (Angel of Death). He is also descripted in old Hebrew texts as Azrael, the Angel of Death. He is also mentioned in early Christian texts also as Azrael.

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