Death DeitiesSTUDENT: Ceap Delia IoanaADVISOR: Lazea Anca
ArgumentAs French writer Jean Cocteau once said, The worst tragedy for a poet is to be admired through being misunderstood..
Thus, I have chosen this as the subject of my study so as to highlight one of the ways in which Death came to appear more acceptable, more diverse, more human: through mythology.
IntroductionThe biblical need of humans to see in order to believe led them to associate every notion they could not quite grasp with an image after their own likeness, with particular features varying from one culture to another, and made them their deities.
As death, along withbirth, is among the major parts of human life, these deities may often be one of the most important deities of a religion, some of the most renowned being as follows:
EreshkigalShe was the goddess of the land of the dead, the Underworld, inMesopotamian mythology.
She is the older sister ofIshtar, the goddess of life and fertility. In this sense, she is also her counterpart.
She was the sole ruler of her kingdom, until she came to share power with the god Nergal, who became her husband and king; the story is included in the myth "Nergal and Ereshkigal.
Ereshkigal withstood an attempt by Isthar to usurp her throne in the Sumerian hymn "The Descent of Ishtar," thought to have influenced later myths such as the Greek story ofPersephone.
The Hebrew concept ofSheolis closely related to the Mesopotamian concept of the Underworld, but themonotheistictradition did not allow for a goddess such as Ereshkigal. Nevertheless, she may be related to the Hebrew tradition ofLilith.
CizinCizin,also spelledKisin (Mayan: Stinking One) was the Mayanearthquakegod and god of death, ruler of the subterranean land of the dead, Xibalba.
After the Spanish Conquest, Cizin became merged with the Christian devil.
In the ancient Maya writing system, Kisin's name was written two ways: one way depicts a dead body whose eyes are closed, and the second way depicts Kisin's head but with a short nose and bone jaws and a sacrificial knife.
This Lord of Death usedMuan,the evil bird of bad tidings, as his messenger. Legend states if an owl screeches, someone nearby dies.
He was envisioned as a hunting figure that stalked the houses of people who were injured or sick. Mayans typically engaged in extreme, even loud mourning after the death of loved ones for it was believed it would scare him away.
MictlantecuhtliInAztec mythology, he was a god of the dead and the king ofMictlan, the lowest and northernmost section of theunderworld.
His wife wasMictecacihuatl,and together they were said to dwell in a windowless house in Mictlan. They were the opposites and complements of OmetecuhtliandOmecihuatl, the givers of life.
He was one of only a few deities held to govern over all three types of souls identified by the Aztecs: people who died normal deaths (of old age, disease, etc.), heroic deaths (e.g. in battle, sacrifice or during childbirth), or non-heroic deaths.
According to Aztec legend, two twin godswere sent to steal the bones of the previous generation from Mictlantecuhtli in order to make the humans. He tried to stop them, but failed.
When a person died, they were interred with grave goods. Upon arrival in Mictlan these goods were offered to Mictlantecuhtli and his wife.
SupayIn theIncamythology,Supaywas both thegodofdeathand ruler of theUkhu Pacha, the Incanunderworld, as well as a race ofdemons.
When the Spanish conquered the area, their mining operations where considered perturbations, so in order to insure that they did not cause harm, indigenous peoples made traditional offerings to thesupay.
In some areas of Peru, theQuechua peoplecontinue the tradition of the Supay dance atMamacha Candichawhich roughly translates as "flamevirgin" and is a festival with dancing lasting up to two weeks.
The name Supay is now roughly translated intodiablo(Spanish: devil) in most Southern American countries.
OsirisHewas one of the most important gods of ancient Egypt, both a god of fertility and the embodiment of the dead and resurrected king. The king at death became Osiris, god of the underworld.
According to themyth, Osiris was killed bySeth, his brother, who flung the pieces of his corpse over Egypt. Eventually,Isisand her sister Nephthys found and buried all the pieces, except the phallus, thereby giving new life to Osiris, who thenceforth remained in the underworld as ruler and judge.
Osiris was not only ruler of the dead but also the power that granted all life from the underworld, from sprouting vegetation to the annual flood of theNile River.
The idea that rebirth in the next life could be gained by following Osiris was maintained through certain cult forms.
The rise of the cult of Osiris offered to even his humblest followers the prospect of eternal life, with moral fitness becoming the dominant factor in determining a person's suitability.
HadesHades was the King of the Underworld, thegodof death and the dead, and also the god of the hidden wealth of the earth.
Along with his two brothers, they drove theTitangods from heaven and locked them away in the pit of Tartaros. When the three victors then drew lots for the division of the cosmos, Hades received the third portion, the dark dismal realm of the underworld, as his domain.
Despite modern connotations of death as evil, Hades was actually morealtruisticallyinclined in mythology. He was often portrayed as passive rather than evil; his role was mostly maintaining relative balance.
He strictly forbade his subjects to leave his domain and would become quite enraged when anyone tried to cross him, asSisyphusandPirithousfound out to their sorrow.
As Hades desired a bride, the myth of Persephone tells the tale of her abduction; she eventually became his queen. This myth is also considered as an explanation for the changing of the seasons, as her mother, Demeter, would bring winter on earth for those four months each year that her daughter had to stay in the Underworld.
The Greeks were afraid that uttering his name would result in their untimely death, so they decided to give him another,Plouton (Greek: wealth), due to the precious metals mined from the earth. Thus,Hadesalso became the god of wealth.
Santa MuerteShe is a femalefolk saint venerated primarily inMexicoand theSouthwestern United States. A personification of death, she is associated with healing, protection, and safe delivery to the afterlife by her devotees.
Despite opposition by theCatholic Church, her cult arose from popular Mexican folk belief, with its origins dating back to the aztec goddess Mictecacihuatl.
As the worship of Santa Muerte was clandestine until the 20th century, most rites have been traditionally performed privately in the home. However, since the beginning of the 21st century, worship has become more public, especially inMexico Cityafter Enriqueta Romero initiated her famous Mexico City shrine in 2001.
The number of believers in Santa Muerte has grown over the past ten to twenty years, to several million followers in Mexico, the United States, and parts of Central America.
ConclusionTo conclude with, I believe that the human imagination managed to fully comprise in mythology the many wonders that Death can mean to different people: the devotion of Ereshkigal, the mightiness of Cizin, the power of Mictlantecuhtli, the respectability of Supay, the wisdom of Osiris, the passion of Hades or the goodness of Santa Muerte.
Mythology doesnt necessarily require magic in order to captivate; it only needs to capture the ordinary in the extraordinary. Thus, people can relate and believe wholeheartedly in the new hope that is the great beyond. Death has been misunderstood for too long; the human faces that these myths illustrate aim to change that for the better.
Thank you for your attention!