July 1, 2013
Beware The Grim Reaper And Its Many Forms
Many cultures have a version of the grim reaper and most of them portray it in the same manner. A skeleton clothed in a black hooded robe carrying a scythe. It is associated with death and in some cultures the reaper causes one’s death. In some legends, the reaper can be bribed or tricked to preserve one’s life. Most cultures depict the reaper as male, but in some legends the reaper is female.
This legend also has many different names; the English version is the grim reaper.
Ancient Greece believed the reaper (Thanatos) to be either a bearded man with wings or a young boy. The job of this reaper was to escort the dead to the underworld where they were taken to the river Styx, which separates the living from the land of the dead. The ferryman operates the boat to transport the soul across the river. If the ferryman did not receive payment, the soul would remain at the riverside for hundreds of years. Keres are the sisters to Thanatos, considered to be the spirit of violent death. They were dressed in bloody garments, and had fangs and talons. After the soul had been taken to the underworld, they would feed on the blood of the body left behind.
In the Breton legends it is named Ankou and is the spirit of the last person who died in the community. It is portrayed as a tall, haggard figure with long white hair wearing a wide hat. In some legends the Ankou is a skeleton with a revolving head. The Ankou drives a death wagon filled with corpses, and if stops outside, it means instant death for the occupants within the home.
In Ireland it is called Dullahan and carries its head under his or her arm. The head has large eyes and smiles from ear to ear. It rides a black horse, or a carriage being pulled by black horses. It will stop at a house of a person who is about to die, call their name and the person will immediately die. If the Dullahan knows someone is watching it, it will lash their eyes with a whip made from a spine, or toss blood on them, which means they are next to die.
Scottish legend portrays the reaper as a black or dark green dog that takes the soul of a dying person to the afterlife.
In Poland the appearance is the same as the English Grim Reaper, but with a white robe and being female instead.
In Norway the reaper is an old woman named Pesta, “plague hag”. She wore a black hood and carried either a rake or broom. The rake meant some people would survive the plague, but if she carried the broom, everyone would die.
In early Lithuanian culture it was named Giltine. It was described as an ugly old woman with a long blue nose and a poisonous tongue. Now the reaper is portrayed with a scythe and black robe.
In Hindu it is called Yama and rides a black buffalo and carries a lasso to carry the soul back to the Yama’s home. It is considered as the king of justice and decides where the soul will reside depending on that person’s life.
In Asian culture it was adopted from the Hindu’s version and is described as a stern and ruthless servant of Great King Yomna who escorts all souls to the netherworld.
The Japanese name the reaper Shinigami, who brings the deceased souls the world of the dead. This version translates into Death God and is used in many Japanese anime and shows; Bleach, Death Note, Naruto, Decedents of Darkness, and Zombie Powder, just to name a few.
In Latin American culture the reaper is named Santa Muerte. It is a sacred feminine skeleton figure holding a scythe.
The reaper in its many forms has been part of the entertainment world for many years. Movies, books, games, and many other forms of entertainment have used the reaper as their main character.
No matter where you live, or where you travel to. There is a grim reaper around. All cultures have a version of the reaper, so be cautious and aware, the reaper is all around.
Join me next time for another legend in Supernatural Endeavors.
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