Various Anthropomorphic Personifications of Death and Something We Can Learn About Certain Cultures From Each. (part 1 – Thanatos)

Good Morning, Evening or night, I apologize for not posting yesterday my computer died. It wasn’t easy to identify which death gods actually were anthropomorphic personifications of death and for which death was a secondary aspect so if any of my entries don’t fit the definition mention it in the comments and I will add a more correct entry (leaving the wrong entries to the end).

Today’s post will cover the Greeks as this became a far different assignment than I original suspected, as it requires far more research.
I may even do ten post each of which covers a different culture (and if I do such I will re-title the list, and if that interests say something in the comments)

Thanatos is a ancient Greek god of death, and in later depictions non-violent or peaceful death, and he is depicted as unbiased and indiscriminate, hated by both men and gods, incapable of being bargained with yet having a gentle touch being quick and painless, in later eras on as the transition from life to death in Elysium became a more attractive option as in his depictions he was shown as being more angelic with lighter colored wings, Thanatos came to be seen as a beautiful. He became associated more with a gentle passing than a woeful demise. Most early depictions of Thanatos show him with dark wings and a scythe*. While later portrayed as, a slumbering infant in the arms of his mother Nyx, as a youth carrying a butteefly, the ancient Greek word “ψυχή” can mean soul or butterfly, or life, amongst other things), or a wreath of poppies (poppies were associated with Hypnos and Thanatos because of their Hypnogogic traits and the eventual death engendered by overexposure to them).

Thanatos was one of the earliest Greek gods and is probably an amalgam of multiple death gods worshiped by various Greek tribes as different tribes and cities had there own understanding of gods and religion which over time melded together to something similar to what we know today.
Thanatos was said to be the son of Darkest Night and brother of Hypnos.
Counted among Thanatos’ siblings were other negative personifications such as Geras (Old Age), Oizes (Suffering), Moros (Doom), Apate (Deception), Momus (Blame), Eris (Strife), Nemesis (Retribution) and even the Acherousian/Stygian boatman Charon. Not all children of Nyx were seen as evil as in addition to the above mentioned children of Nyx there ware also Philotes (Friendship), Moirai (Fates), and the tribe of Oneiroi (Dreams).

As Thanatos became more associated with peaceful death other death gods known as the Keres, who were female death-spirits rose to prominence. They were the goddesses who personified violent death and who were drawn to bloody deaths on battle fields. The Keres were also daughters of Nyx. And the word Keres is also the name of a cult worshiping Nyx.

When looking at the Greek Mythos we discover that they made personifications of many different aspects of life in this I see a view of life as a game played between the gods and the view of heroic and villainous individuals as ones who defeat or push off their fates. Hercules had once defeated Thanatos in battle, and Thanatos could occasionally be outwitted, a feat that the sly King Sisyphus of Korinth twice accomplished. the difference seen here is that the heroic individual, Hercules, struggled against Thanatos and defeated him in a context of strength and as such achieved his goal, wherein Sisyphus escaped his fate through trickery and in the end Sisyphus was subject to an even worse fate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.