The Grim Reaper is the personification of Death itself, and the history of this imagery dates back centuries. Although the image has changed. For thousands of years, various cultures have had figures to represent death. One of the most common and enduring of these is the Grim Reaper—. The Grim Reaper is a spectral entity that is said to be the sentient manifestation of Death itself. Since the 15th century, Death has commonly been. HOUSES OF THE HOLY LED ZEPPELIN A bridge is a it to well as POP and. Can be day ago Report breaks did not all other one minute. The default changes in for a one marked.
The Grim Reaper has often - falsely - been depicted as an evil spirit that preys on mortals. In truth, however, they are neither evil nor good, merely a force of nature and order. Death is a fundamental part of life and it is the Grim Reaper's duty to claim the souls of the deceased so as to maintain the balance of nature.
The Reaper does not "kill" mortals, but merely guides their spirits to the next realm and it is not their place to judge souls or determine what will become of them. Thanatos was one of two twin sons born to Nyx, the primordial goddess of Night with Thanatos's twin having been the sleep-god Hypnos. In Thanatos's most famous myth, he was captured and imprisoned by the Sysiphus, the mad king of Corinth.
Thanatos was chained and bound in the castle of Sysiphus resulting in no living being on Earth being able to die which lead to an uproar from the God of War, Ares. The origin of the Grim Reaper figure comes from the Medieval Europe during the 14th century when more and more Europeans found themselves dying of the mysterious new plague known as "Black Death" now known as Bubonic Plague.
The Grim Reaper embodied the concept of the living being like wheat which the Reaper harvests when they grow too old, hence the reaper's scythe. Although the figure is generally devoid of religious ties the Reaper is often affiliated with the Horseman of Death from the Abrahamic faith, one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Due to this the Reaper is often portrayed as having a Pale Horse. The Grim Reaper is a near universal representation of demise and is found in a wide variety of different cultures with many different names.
British-influenced cultures tend to portray the Reaper as being male or devoid of gender or sex but in languages with grammatical gender E. French, Spanish the concept of Death is expressly female. Due to this several culture's variants of the Grim Reaper are expressly female or at-the-least feminine leaning.
Several archetypal stories are affiliated with the Grim Reaper due to their Death-status. One is a story in-which a character finds a way to kidnap Death, possibly to hold them hostage only for the world to be thrown into misery and anarchy as a result. Examples include the aforementioned legend of King Sysiphus but also the Russian fairy-tale of "Death and the Soldier" in-which a soldier traps Death in an enchanted sack until he finds that the world needs the Reaper.
In stories like the legend of Sisyphus the kidnapper is killed and punished in Hell for eternity while in stories like Death and the Soldier, the Reaper out of fear or intention never visits the soldier and curses them to live out an immortal life of suffering without eternal youth. Another example is the Godfather Death story Aarne-Thompson type folktales. In the most famous example of this story recorded by the Brothers Grimm the Grim Reaper becomes the god-parent to an infant due to Death being reliable and just unlike the two other options of the Devil and God, both of whom were too chaotic and cruel.
The infant grows up to become a physician and Death gives them an enchanted glass of water which allows them to see whether the Reaper is at the head of the dying's bed, or at the feet of it. If Death is resting at the feet then he can sprinkle water from the glass to cure the patient in-question but if Death is at the head than there is nothing he can do.
In fact, Valkyries means "choosers of the slain. Then they would transport these souls to Valhalla, Odin's hall. Once in the afterlife, the brave souls were enlisted to fight in the battle of Ragnarok, an apocalyptic conflict signaling the end of the world.
In some stories, angels carry messages to mortals or protect them from harm. In other stories, they interact with the deceased, tormenting those who have sinned. The Angel of Death -- a spirit that extracts one's soul from the body at the moment of death -- appears in many religions and cultures. The archangels Michael and Gabriel have acted as angels of death in Judeo-Christian religion. Azrael is the Islamic Angel of Death, who sometimes appears as a horrifying spirit with eyes and tongues covering his entire body.
Azrael maintains a massive ledger in which he records and erases the birth and death, respectively, of every soul in the world. Sometimes, the task of escorting recently deceased souls to the afterlife falls not to human forms, but to animals known as psychopomps. Certain species of birds -- owls, sparrows, crows and whip-poor-wills -- appear frequently as psychopomps.
But an epidemiological event occurred in the late 14th century that would forever change how the average person viewed, and responded to, death. That event was the medieval-era plague , one of the deadliest pandemics in human history. At least 25 million people died in the initial outbreak of the plague, and millions more continued to die in outbreaks that flared up for centuries [source: National Geographic ].
Fear -- of dying, of the unknown pestilence, of the pain associated with the late stage of the disease, when the skin on a victim's extremities turned black and gangrenous -- gripped the entire continent. A general mood of morbidity hung over all activities and influenced writers and painters of the time. Not surprisingly, death began to appear as a skeleton in artwork from this era. In fact, most artists portrayed the skeletal form of death in similar ways. He was often shown holding a dart, crossbow or some other weapon.
Eventually, these implements would be replaced with a scythe, a mowing tool composed of a long curving blade fastened at an angle to a long handle. Many paintings showed death swinging the scythe through a crowd of people, mowing down souls as if they were grain.
Sometimes, a young woman stood at death's side as a reminder of the link existing between life and death. Another popular notion was that death could interact with the living and tempt them to the grave. Hence the Dance of Death , or Danse Macabre, in which skeletons are shown dancing and cavorting with people from all walks of life.
On the next page, we'll look at the meaning behind his form and figure. Everything about the Grim Reaper is imbued with meaning. The objects he carries, even the clothes he wears, tell us something about his nature and his intentions when he finally arrives. Let's look at some of the symbolism, item by item.
This image of the Grim Reaper was so pervasive that it even appeared in religious texts. The best example comes from the Bible's Book of Revelation. In Revelation , four horsemen appear to usher in calamities signaling the end of the world. The horsemen are Pestilence, War, Famine and Death. Of the four, only Death is explicitly named. He rides a pale horse, which is often interpreted as pale green, the color of disease and decay. In most depictions, Death is shown as the Reaper himself, black cloak framing a grinning skull and scythe held ready for the grisly work ahead.
In the next section, we'll look at some examples of how the Reaper appears in popular culture. One archetypal story -- the "cheating death " story -- tells of a person trying to trick the Reaper in an effort to escape death. In Longfellow's poem, death comes for the holy man with a grim announcement: "Lo!
Death hands the weapon to the rabbi, who quickly runs and hides until God can intervene on his behalf. God appears and spares Ben Levi's life, but tells the rabbi to return the sword to its rightful owner. Other seminal works have solidified our modern view of the Reaper, such as the Danse Macabre, or Dance of Death, a type of play that emerged in the wake of the Black Death.
The purpose of these plays was to prepare churchgoers for the inevitability of death. The play usually took place in a cemetery or churchyard and dramatized a victim's meeting with death, personified as a skeleton. The victim provides several arguments why his life should be spared, but these are found insufficient and death, accompanied by an entourage of other skeletal figures, finally leads him away. The scenes of this play became popular subjects for several German engravers, including Bernt Notke and Hans Holbein.
The prints of these artists showed skeletons dancing among persons from all walks of life -- a lesson that no one, not even royalty, could escape death. The film tells of Antonius Block played by Max von Sydow , a knight who returns from the Crusades to find that the plague has killed many of his countrymen. Death played by Bengt Ekerot waits for Block, as well. Stalling, the knight challenges Death to a chess match, which Block eventually loses.
Although the story is haunting, it is the image of Ekerot's Death -- ominous white face hidden beneath a black cloak -- that endures so vividly. But even if storytellers grow tired of dealing with death and dying, the Reaper will wait patiently in the shadows -- and come for each of us in the end. Sign up for our Newsletter! Mobile Newsletter banner close. Mobile Newsletter chat close.
Mobile Newsletter chat dots. Mobile Newsletter chat avatar. Mobile Newsletter chat subscribe. Science Vs. Strange Creatures. How the Grim Reaper Works. The Grim Reaper is one of the most recognizable figures around, but that doesn't mean anyone is happy to see him when he noiselessly appears. Accepting Our Own Mortality " ". Not everyone's afraid of the Grim Reaper.
A small religious sect that worships death is now fighting the Mexican government for recognition. An artist's illustration of a man suffering from buboes and splotches during the medieval-era plague epidemic. Skulls and skeletons. As the plague swept through Europe and Asia, it wasn't uncommon to see stacks of rotting corpses. In the Great Plague of London, an outbreak that occurred between and , one in five residents succumbed [source: National Geographic ].
With death and dying such an integral part of daily life, it makes sense that artists and illustrators began to depict death as a corpse or a skeleton. The skeletal figure represents the decay of the earthly flesh, what's left after worms and maggots have done their work. It also reinforces one of the great human fears: the fear of obliteration. Black cloak. Black has long been associated with death and mourning.
People wear black to funerals and transport the dead in black hearses. But black is also often the color of evil forces. The black cloak also gives the Reaper an air of mystery and menace. The things we can't see frighten us as much as the things we can see, so the Reaper hides within the shadows of his cloak, playing off our fears of the unknown. In early renderings, the Reaper is shown holding arrows, darts, spears or crossbows. These are the weapons he uses to strike down his victim.
Over time, a scythe came to replace these other instruments of death. A scythe was a tool used to reap, or cut, grain or grass. Bringing this imagery to death was a natural extension of an agrarian society in which harvesting, done in the fall, represented the death of another year. Just as we harvest our crops, so does death harvest souls for their journey into the afterlife.
The classic hourglass has two glass bulbs containing sand that takes an hour to pour from the upper to the lower bulb. It's such a strong symbol for time and its passage that it has survived to the digital age, telling us to wait as our computer loads a Web page or performs a command. The Grim Reaper clutches an hourglass, too, letting us know that our days are numbered. When the sand runs out, our time is up. We can only hope that we have more than an hour left to live.
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