The Grim Reaper : Origin and Myth

Grim Reaper -

The Grim Reaper : Origin and Myth

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1) The origin of the Grim Reaper

It is since the 15th century that the spectral entity commonly called the Reaper has become the personification of death 💀. Having become a conscious manifestation of it, it is described as a human skeleton covered with a black dress (often in tatters) and its scythe. This scythe allows her to remove the last life ties from the soul she comes to seek and guide her to the afterlife.

2) Europe and the Black Death

Where does the myth of the Grim Reaper come from?

During the 14th century, Europe was facing what was then the worst pandemic, the Black Death. According to estimates at the time, 1/3 of the total European population died as a result of the epidemic. Some parts of the continent suffered much higher losses than others (notably England 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿and France 🇫🇷). 

European Black Death

The first outbreak of plague occurred between 1347 and 1341 V and the outbreaks repeated several other times after that. So bright that death was something that the surviving Europeans had in mind was not surprising that they had created an image to represent it, black death ⚰️.

3) The Myth of Reaper in other Culture

A. Greek Mythology

In Greek mythology, death is represented under the divinity of Thanatos. He is the twin brother of the deity of sleep Hypnos, they have been described as pleasant young men (far from the image of the Reaper). 

Thanatos God of Death Greek

In some illustrations, Thanatos is depicted with wings and an extinguished flame. His work consisted in accompanying the dead to Hades, the Greek underground world reserved for them 🇬🇷.

He delivered the souls to the ferryman of the Styx river named Charon. In the Greek version of the Reaper, death is not seen as terrify and does not have an ugly and frightening image. 

It is perceived as a useful and attractive god of death to those whose path seems to end.

B. Norse Mythology

In Nordic mythology, beautiful young women called valkyries served as messengers for Odin but especially as escorts to the souls of the brave warriors who died in battle. In Old Norse Valkyrie means "chooser of the slain". 

Valkyrie Norse Mythology

During battles, the Valkyries rode flying mounts on horses 🐴, which gave them a global view of the battlefield. That's how they recovered some of the vigorous warriors who had been killed.

 They carried their souls to Odin's room, the Valhalla. This brave soul was sent to fight the Ragnarok, the apocalypse of their world.

C. The Grim Reaper is the Angel of Death?

In Islam, the angel of transformation and also the angel of death is the Archangel Azrael, who helps the living to adapt to change, who supports the dying to cope with the transition that is death. From the earthly dimension to that of heaven, the deceased go away while they comfort those who mourn their death. He is often depicted with a sword, scythe or hood ⚔️. 

Azrael The Angel of Death

These symbols represent her role as an angel of death, as does the sinister Reaper of popular culture.

4) The symbolism of the Grim Reaper

The Reaper is often misrepresented as the embodiment of an evil spirit that would attack the souls of mortals. In truth, it is neither good nor evil, it is just a force of nature and order. Life is as fundamental as death, so it is its mission and existence that is the duty of life. It must claim the souls of the deceased to maintain the balance of nature ⚖️. 

Gentle Grim Reaper

He does not kill mortals, he only guides their minds to the kingdom that awaits them. It is not he who judges and determines the future of the souls he recovers.

A. The Scythe

In the first illustrations and descriptions of the Reaper, it was armed with arrows, spears or crossbows. A whole arsenal of weapons to shoot down his target 🗡️. Then over time, he was holding a scythe as the main instrument of death.

Initially, this tool was created for farmers to allow them to harvest, cut grass and grains. This image is a perfect metaphor for killing, farmers harvest in the fall as the death collects the dead. Men reap their harvest, and death reaps the souls of those who will go to the afterlife.

B. The Black Cloak

Black has always been linked with death and grief. People wear black at funerals and carry the dead in black hearses. Black is also the color that represents the forces of evil 👺. The Reaper's black coat gives it an air of threat as well as mystery.

Those we can't see, scare us as much as the things we can see, which is why the Reaper lurks in the shadows with her black coat. The Reaper plays with our fears of the unknown.

C. The Skeletal Figure

The reason why the Reaper has a skeleton shape with a scary skull and linked to the plague. While the disease was infecting Europe and Asia, it was not uncommon to see piles of decaying corpses. In 1665 in London, during the Great Plague, one in five inhabitants died of this epidemic ☠️.

Great Plague of London

With death and the dying as an integral part of daily life, it is logical that the artists and illustrators of the time began to depict death as an animated skeletal corpse. This figure represents the decomposition of the terrestrial flesh, once the maggots have passed. This illustrates well the main human fear, which is the fear of annihilation.

5) The Reaper nowadays

While some believe that the era of magical and superstitious beliefs is over, many people cling to old traditions. When people don't understand something or are afraid of it, they favor creating explanations that are easy to manage.

Nowadays, the image of the Reaper no longer inspires the same fear in people because it is rooted in popular culture. But, there is still the image of death that entertains as much as it can inspire people to express a part of their personality.

A. Music

As the great Reaper is linked to death, her aura and images are well known in contemporary music. When we think of death and music, we think directly of Metal music 🤘. Whether in the covers, the lyrics, or in the universe itself, the great Reaper always has an essential place in this style of music (there is even a group called "Grim Reaper"). 

You can also find it in a famous Rock hit by Blue Oyster Cult "Don't fear the Reaper".

Don't Fear The Reaper Blue Oyster Cult

B. Movie and TV

The cinema 🎞️ has also made extensive use of the Reaper character, such as the influential film of 1957, "The Seventh Seal". You can also find the Reaper in horror movies, but also in animated movies like "A Christmas Carol" or the series "The Grim Adventure of Billy and Mandy".

The Seventh Seal DeathHumorous films are not to be outdone, as in the movie "Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey" where death helps the comic duo. We also found it in the Monthy Python "The meaning of life" or in the killer of the funny movie "Hot fuzz" 🍿.

 Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey Death

C. Video Game

The Reaper is also rooted in the culture of video games 🎮, as in Darksiders, where you can control death itself with your scythe. Or more recently in the game Overwatch where you can play the famous Reaper or in Diablo 3 with the "reapers of souls".

Overwatch Reaper

Scary or funny, from Terry Pratchett to the Children of Bodom mascot, the Reaper will probably remain a primary character in pop culture. Even if the storytellers get tired of him, he will patiently wait for their moment in the shadows. Be careful, we're also on his list ⏳!

6) Grim Reaper Rings (Unholy Skull)

The great Reaper has become rock, trendy, and mysterious at the same time. That's why at Unholy Skull, our team has made it its mission to bring this symbol back into fashion! All our reaper rings finish your look with incredibly beautiful details 🏴‍☠️.

You want to be as fresh as death itself? Wearing dark, badass, and worked jewelry? Then you've come to the right place!

Grim Reaper Skull Rings

Reaper Skull Rings

At Unholy Skull, the quality and handmade craftsmanship of an army of skeletons are reflected in trendy and crafted Reaper jewelry. They exist in all styles such as this 316L Stainless Steel Grim Reaper Ring and this sublime 925 Sterling Silver Grim Reaper Ring. You can go with that with our fantastic Grim Reaper T-Shirts. Not to mention this superb Biker Skull Leather Jacket made with solid Buffalo Leather that gives a unique style and class like the Reaper!

Grim Reaper T-Shirts


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