Yama, the Hindu god of death and Lord of Naraka (hell). He was subsequently adopted by Buddhist, Chinese, Tibetan, Korean, and Japanese mythology as the king of hell.
Maya death god "A" way as a hunter, Classic period

The mythology or religion of most cultures incorporate a god of death or, more frequently, a divine being closely associated with death, an afterlife, or an underworld. They are often amongst the most powerful and important entities in a given tradition, reflecting the fact that death, like birth, is central to the human experience. In religions where a single god is the primary object of worship, the representation of death is usually that god's antagonist, and the struggle between the two is central to the folklore of the culture. In such dualistic models, the primary deity usually represents good, and the death god embodies evil. Similarly, death worship is used as a derogatory term to accuse certain groups of morally abhorrent practices which set no value on human life. In monotheistic religions, death is commonly personified by an angel or demon standing in opposition to the god.


In polytheistic religions which have a complex system of deities governing various natural phenomena and aspects of human life, it is common to have a deity who is assigned the function of presiding over death. This deity may actually take the life of humans or, more commonly, simply rule over the afterlife in that particular belief system (a single religion may have separate deities performing both tasks). The deity in question may be good, evil, or neutral and simply doing their job, in sharp contrast to a lot of modern portrayals of death deities as all being inherently evil just because death is feared. Hades from Greek mythology is an especially common target. The inclusion of such a "departmental" deity of death in a religion's pantheon is not necessarily the same thing as the glorification of death.

A death deity has a good chance of being either male or female, unlike some functions that seem to steer towards one gender in particular, such as fertility and earth deities being female and storm deities being male. A single religion/mythology may have death gods of more than one gender existing at the same time and they may be envisioned as a married couple ruling over the afterlife together, as with the Aztecs, Greeks, and Romans.

In monotheistic religions, the one god governs both life and death (as well as everything else). However, in practice this manifests in different rituals and traditions and varies according to a number of factors including geography, politics, traditions, and the influence of other religions.

Africa and the Middle East

Section of the Book of the Dead for the scribe Hunefer, depicting the Weighing of the Heart in Duat, featuring the deities Anubis, Ammit and Thoth

Sub-Sahara Africa




Afroasiatic Africa


Afroasiatic Middle East




Western Eurasia








See also: Death in Norse paganism

Rán uses her net to pull a seafarer into the depths in an illustration by Johannes Gehrts, 1901



Hades or Serapis with his dog Cerberus
  1. Acheron, god of the river Acheron
  2. Alpheus, god of the river Alpheus
  3. Cocytus, god of the river Cocytus
  4. Eridanos, god of the river Eridanos
  5. Lethe, goddess of the river Lethe
  6. Phlegethon, god of the river Phlegethon
  7. Styx, goddess of the river Styx, a river that formed a boundary between the living and the dead


Western Asia






Asia-Pacific / Oceania

Far East Asia



Yan Luo Wang

Emperor(s) of Youdu (Capital City of the Underworld)

Judges of the Ten Underworld Courts

The rest only have surnames including Li, Yu, Lu, Bi, Lu and Xue.

Four Kings of the Underworld

Ghost Kings of the Five Regions

Ghost Kings of the Five Regions (Ver.2)

Governors of Fengdu

Imperial Censor of Fengdu

Four Generals of the Direct Altar of Fengdu

Eight Generals of the Inner Altar of Fengdu

Eight Generals of the Outer Altar of Fengdu

Ten Masters of the Underworld

(Note: in some versions, Xie Bi'an and Fanjiu are the Bai Wuchang and Hei Wuchang, respectively.)

Four Strongmen of Fengdu

Two Agents of Fengdu

Wardens of the Nine Prison of Fengdu

Administers of the Six Paths of Rebirth of Fengdu

Judges of Fengdu


North and Central Asian mythology

Oceanian mythology

Southeast Asian mythology


Main article: List of Philippine mythological figures


American mythology

Mictēcacihuātl as depicted in the Codex Borgia







Latin American Folk Catholicism




Umbanda and Candomblé

Haitian Vodou

Gede lwa

In fiction

Death is the protagonist in the science fantasy novel On a Pale Horse, book one in a series of 8 books, the "Incarnations of Immortality".

In the novel The Book Thief, Death is the narrator of the story.

Death is the name of one of "The Endless" in the DC Universe.[31]

Death is a recurring character in the Discworld series written by Terry Pratchett. Books featuring Death include Mort, Reaper Man, Soul Music, Hogfather and Thief of Time. He also makes a cameo appearance in Interesting Times.

In A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin, the guild of assassins known as the Faceless Men believe that all death deities are simply different incarnations of the same god, known to them as the Many-Faced God or Him of Many Faces, while the Faith of the Seven worships The Stranger as one of Seven Aspects of God representing Death and the Unknown.

In the works of J. R. R. Tolkien, especially The Silmarillion, Námo a.k.a. Lord Mandos is the Doomsman of the Valar, Judge of the Dead and Lord of the Halls of Mandos (where Elves await reincarnation and humans retreat before making the Journey into the Beyond).

In the CW TV show Supernatural, Death makes a crucial appearance. He is portrayed as existing alongside God since the beginning of time and being so ancient he cannot remember when he came into existence; he may even be older than God. In the show he is the oldest and most powerful of the Four Horsemen (Death, Famine, War and Pestilence). He is not portrayed as a villain.

In the Sailor Moon franchise, the last Sailor Guardian (of the Sol System) introduced is Sailor Saturn. Her powers revolve around destruction, ruin, and death and she can be thought of as a "god" of sorts (all Sailor Guardians can). Her weapon is the Silence Glaive that is capable of utterly obliterating and destroying entire worlds/planets if used to its maximum potential.

In the Marvel Comics Universe, the personification of death is Mistress Death.

The Transformers mythos features the character of Mortilus, a Cybertronian deity who represents death and who later betrayed his brethren and was destroyed, leading to the longevity of the Transformer race. A similar character is The Fallen, a member of the Thirteen Primes who is identified as the guardian of entropy.

In the manga and anime, Death Note, gods of death (shinigami) exist in their own realm and are owners of Death Notes, which are used to kill humans. When a note falls into the human world, the person who touches it first becomes the new owner of the note, can recognize the god of death to whom it belongs, and the god follows them for the rest of their life. However, shinigami are more like Grim Reapers with freakish appearances than deities who are worshiped. This is because shinigami are a fairly recent concept in Japanese folklore directly inspired by the European figure of the Grim Reaper, and thus, are not "true" death gods. Despite their Western origin, many people will refer to both the Death Note characters and the folklorical shinigami using the Japanese name instead of the English translation or even "Grim Reaper". For similar cases of shinigami being more akin to Grim Reapers in anime, see Bleach (anime) and Soul Eater (anime).

In the 2018 Nintendo published title Kirby Star Allies, a Butterfly is revealed to be the embodiment of death, ruling the underworld after atomizing and absorbing Galacta Knight to become Morpho Knight. Very little is known about it but it is awaiting something called the Day of Judgement.

In Nintendo's Metroid franchise one of the bosses, Ridley, is also known as "the Cunning God of Death".

In the series Malazan Book of the Fallen, Hood is the God of Death, and King of High House Death.

In the Warhammer fantasy battle universe of Games Workshop, Morr is the god of death.

See also


  1. ^ "Anubis - Anubis AKA Inpu, Anupu, or Ienpw". Archived from the original on 2012-10-26. Retrieved 2012-10-30.
  2. ^ "Anubis - Osiris AKA Un-nefer, or Khenti-Amentiu". Archived from the original on 2012-05-26. Retrieved 2012-10-30.
  3. ^ "The counterpart to these deities of sky, air, water, and earth was the underworld, the realm of the dead, originally seen as ruled by the powerful Goddess Ereshkigal." Ruether, Rosemary Radford. Goddesses and the Divine Feminine: A Western Religious History. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-23146-5
  4. ^ "After consulting his mistress Ereshkigal, the queen of the Nether World, he admits Ishtar" Kramer, "Ishtar in the Nether World According to a New Sumerian Text" Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research. 1940. Google scholar results as the JSTOR link is unlikely to be universally available.
  5. ^ F. Wiggermann, Transtigridian Snake Gods [in:] I. L. Finkel, M. J. Geller (eds.), Sumerian Gods and their Representations, 1997, p. 34
  6. ^ M. Krebernik, dU.GUR [in] Reallexikon der Assyriologie und vorderasiatischen Archäologie vol 14, 2014, p. 297
  7. ^ F. Wiggerman, Nergal A. philologisch [in:] Reallexikon der Assyriologie und vorderasiatischen Archäologie vol. 9, 1998, p. 220
  8. ^ a b Kveldulf Gundarsson. (1993, 2005) Our Troth. ISBN 0-9770165-0-1
  9. ^ a b The dwelling one went to after death varied depending on where one died, at the battlefield or not. If not at the battlefield, one would go to Hel (not to be confused with the Christian Hell). Of the slain at the battlefield, some went to Fólkvangr, the dwelling of Freyja and some went to Valhalla, the dwelling of Odin (see Grímnismál). The ninth hall is Folkvang, where bright Freyja. Decides where the warriors shall sit. Some of the fallen belong to her. And some belong to Odin.
  10. ^ "HADES (Haides) - Greek God of the Dead, King of the Underworld (Roman Pluto)". Theoi.com. Retrieved 6 November 2021.
  11. ^ "MACARIA (Makaria) - Greek Goddess of Blessed Death". Theoi.com. Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  12. ^ "Classical Mythology: Hades Takes a Wife: Persephone". InfoPlease. Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  13. ^ "THANATOS - Greek God of Death (Roman Mors)". Theoi.com. Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  14. ^ Duchesne-Guillemin, Jacques (1982), "Ahriman", Encyclopaedia Iranica, vol. 1, New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, pp. 670–673
  15. ^ Micha F. Lindemans (27 July 1997), "Asto Vidatu", Encyclopedia Mythica
  16. ^ Jaimoukha, Amjad M. (2005-03-01). The Chechens: a handbook (1st ed.). Routledge. p. 110. ISBN 978-0-415-32328-4. Retrieved 2009-08-14.
  17. ^ "KALMA - the Finnish Goddess of Death (Finnish mythology)". godchecker.com. Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  18. ^ "TUONI - the Finnish God of the Underworld (Finnish mythology)". godchecker.com. Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  19. ^ a b c Jocano, F. L. (1969). Philippine Mythology. Quezon City: Capitol Publishing House Inc.
  20. ^ Bimmolog, H., Sallong, L., Montemayor, L. (2005). The Deities of the Animistic Religion of Mayaoyao, Ifugao.
  21. ^ Cayat, G. C. Manuscript on Kalanguya Cultural Communities. National Commission for Culture and the Arts.
  22. ^ Arbues, L. R. (1960). Philippine Sociological Review Vol. 8, No. 1/2: The Negritos as a Minority Group in the Philippines. Philippine Sociological Society.
  23. ^ Nicdao, A. (1917). Pampangan Folklore. Manila.
  24. ^ Pangilinan, M. (2014–2020). An Introduction to the Kapampángan Language; Interview on Láwû. Sínúpan Singsing: Center for Kapampángan Cultural Heritage.
  25. ^ a b Loarca, Miguel de. (1582) 1903. Relation of the Filipinas Islands. In Blair and Robertson, The Philippine Islands 5.
  26. ^ Jocano, F. L. (1968). Sulod Society. Quezon City: U.P. Press.
  27. ^ Talaguit, C. J. N. (2019). Folk-Islam in Maranao Society. History Department, De La Salle University – Manila.
  28. ^ a b c "Psychopomps (Death Guides) of the Philippines". Aswangproject.com. 9 March 2017. Retrieved 6 November 2021.
  29. ^ "Mictecacihuatl | Goddess a Day". Archived from the original on 2013-03-15. Retrieved 2012-10-30.
  30. ^ "Mictlantecuhtli, Lord of the Land of the Death". Azteccalendar.com. Retrieved 6 November 2021.
  31. ^ "DC on Instagram: "This conversation between Dream and Death in "The Sound of Her Wings" is almost a word-for-word adaptation of the scene from the original book. How are you enjoying the new series so far? Have you read the comics? Now you can watch #TheSandman streaming on Netflix AND read Volume 1 for free with registration on DC UNIVERSE INFINITE. Link in bio."". Instagram. Retrieved 2022-09-23.