Death Symbolism & What It Means?
What does death symbolize? There are many questions about death and what this means. I am here to share these with you. Maybe you are here because you are wondering what symbols to watch out for. Maybe you have had a close encounter and wondered if this means death. A world where we are immortal sounds like utopia obviously we all have to die at some stage. We all die - unfortunately.
There are many different symbols of death. From darkness, and crows, to the grim reaper.
The Grim Reaper Symbolizes Death
Grim Reaper has many religious connotations and the main goal of the reaper is to bring souls to the other side. There is much written from a theological perspective about death and the “angel of death” which is another term for the Grim Reaper. There was a strong belief in Hajar in the 1440s that God created every soul: he ordered our lifespan and the time of death. This belief still exists today. During our passing it was thought certain angels at "gods will" would carry out his work. The Grim Reaper arrives to gather the end of the life cycle, and additionally sowing seeds of regeneration.
According to Christian Apologetics the “Grim Reaper” is known as the angel called Azrael (the angel of death) and that the goal of Azrael is to move sounds to the third heaven. This name is not in the bible but does appear in the Jewish Encyclopaedia in 1906 where he has wings. The name Azrael is also part of Batman mythology. Maybe you are here because you had a dream about the Grim Reaper or you just want to learn a bit more. I have broken this article down into easy sections so please scroll down to learn more about the Grim Reaper. Over the last few months I have had a few dreams about death, in particular the Grim Reaper. It was not frightening or worrying but these dreams helped me focus on what it can mean. In our dream state, the Grim Reaper is ingrained in our subconscious mind to denote change. When we create death as an entity it is much better for us to understand. The personality of the Grim Reaper and his task are as unknown. Many people say they are visited by this being before death. Just like death itself, one thing is for sure: the Grim Reaper isn’t a pleasant companion that you wish to meet soon.
What is the grim reaper meaning?
The Grim Reaper is a legendary personification of death. Most people have heard of the Grim Reaper and some people have been visited by death before they pass away. The Grim Reaper is depicted as a man in black that is skinny and carries a scythe. The task of the Grim Reaper is to “reap” the soul from the living. Often referred to as death. The term comes from the great plague in Europe and the Grim Reaper was seen to appear and spraying mist in fields. There is also reports that the grim reaper created crop-circles. The grim reaper term comes from the plague in the 1400s. People reported seeing a skeleton before death and this was said to “reap” the souls of the dead. This was also known as the angel of death and spread disease, the plague, and insanity. The Grim Reaper is known to work with lucifers temptation to create wars, weapons, guns, and chemicals. I will speak about this connection further on in the article but for now, the meaning of the Grim Reaper is death and passing onto the third heaven.
Does the Grim Reaper exist?
There is metaphysical speculation about the existence of the Grim Reaper. Death has many meanings historically and there are social meanings to the beliefs that people hold. The omnipresence of funeral rituals has made the Grim Reaper (Angel of the Lord) hold true in our own minds. There are many questions about spiritual existence that have been passed down in religious and mythology.
What does the Grim Reaper look like?
The medieval image of death comes from the New Testament in the apocalyptic visions. The vision is known as the four horsemen of the apocalypse. The horses represent the four struggles in life. The skeletal figure is represented by the plague (which I will speak about in length later on) The visual connection to the figure of death also represents putrefaction and alchemical processes in the Waite-Smith tarot deck. The death card indicates a corpse riding a horse. The interesting thing to note is that the image represents death as holding a flag with a white rose, a symbol of peace and regeneration. The Grim Reaper is the black, covered specter and lord of death who visits you when your time is up. He appears to take the life out of you and remind you that nothing’s eternal. Allegedly, as portrayed, the Grim Reaper’s appearance has made this a preferred costume for Halloween for generations. When we think of death we automatically picture a long, black robe. The robe wraps all the way around the reaper’s body and covers his face beneath a deep cowl. The cowl is usually in poor condition and loose, so it flies in the wind as he moves. I know scary right!
What is the scythe the Grim Reaper is holding?
The ‘weapon’ in the Grim Reaper’s barebone hand is known as a scythe, a long stick with a curved blade fastened to the top. The scythe is a traditional tool for harvesting crops when fall comes to an end. But the Grim Reaper uses it to harvest souls as I have mentioned before. That’s right. He harvests souls when their time on earth expires and it’s time for someone to move to the other side. Sometimes, the Grim Reaper has an hourglass, which he wears to keep track on time and check how much time has a person left to live before he takes away their soul. Some represent the figure traveling on a white horse. Others believe that he moves around in a chariot pulled by a few ghostly white horses.
According to Nordic mythology, only a few are lucky to get away from the Grim Reaper. They claim to see his face and allegedly lived to tell the tale. If you’re not familiar with this figure, just try to remember movies like “Scream” and “Ghost Rider”. Okay, in Ghost Rider, the skeleton that Nicolas Cage turns into doesn’t look much like the Grim Reaper but it’s something similar to that. In Scream, the lead role is a figure dressed in a robe. I assume that these characters were inspired by the Grim Reaper because of their role in both movies. The Grim Reaper is often presented as a skeleton. You can notice the barebones and empty skull. But a few people who claim to have seen this figure, say that they weren’t able to notice a skull or barebones beneath the robe.
What does it mean to see the Grim Reaper?
If you have seen the Grim Repear in your dreams or in real life you may be wondering if you are going to meet an unfortunate end! I know it is worrying if you actually experienced seeing death. A number of researchers have looked into this experience and apparently almost 90% of cases people feel “more alive than ever” before a near-death experience. Maybe the most important thing you need to understand is that this might be a divine moment for you. That you need to transform your thinking. If you had an angelic encounter this could be a sharpened spiritual awareness. When we face death, either our own or alternatively after someone we love dies then we tend to open our hearts spiritually.
Is the Grim Reaper Evil?
As for his personality, many assume that the Grim Reaper is an evil figure who comes to take life. But he’s not as evil and terrifying as he looks. In fact, he’s a hard worker. Imagine how many souls he has to collect on a daily basis. He’s devoted to his work and doesn’t complain because there’s always another person dying in the next minute he’s finished collecting some other soul. He always meets deadlines and nothing can distract him or force him not to finish the job. Some see the Grim Reaper as an assassin because of his job to end lives without caring too much. However, there’s a huge difference between an assassin and the Grim Reaper. The assassin will kill you without caring about your fate, while the Grim Reaper collects you when your time’s up. In simple words, he will take your soul once you’re goals in life are complete. His work is beneficial in many ways. Meaning, he ends up suffering for old and sick people. Also, he takes care of the population and makes sure there’s no overpopulation happening any time soon.
Does the Grim Reaper have any special skills or superpowers?
The Grim Reaper's task is important, his signature skill is the ability to separate the soul from the body and send it to the afterlife. Most believe that the presence of the specter itself will begin to drag the soul from your body. After with the crook of his bony finger, he breaks your bones and you’re dead to this world forever. After he collects your soul, he grants you a spirit guide to lead you to the place of the dead. Many stories circle around heroes who accomplished to trick or convince the grim reaper to leave their soul. In some folklore, the grim reaper has given talismans to certain people in order to make them immortal.
Who invented the Grim Reaper? Where does he originate from?
Personifications of death take place in every culture in the world, throughout history. For instance, the Greek god of Death, Thanatos, was a noble, kind-hearted and attractive young man. I have touched on this in the opening paragraph but the personification of death happened during the 14th century when Europe was destroyed by the Black Plague. In most cities, 1 out of 5 people would die from the Black Plague. It was so grim that there were accounts of dead bodies decaying on the streets. Every family was grieving over someone who died. Many people were in pain and even more ended up dead. According to statistics, over 75 million people died during this devastating period. So, during this disaster, artists began to portray death as a terrifying figure. They associated death with skeletons, barebones, skulls, deadly weapons, wagons full of bodies inspired by the actual wagons carrying around dead bodies at the time, and white “ghost” horses. So, you can clearly notice the similarities with the presentation of the Grim Reaper with what’s happened during the Black Plague. With the high death rate society felt like death was walking amongst them, so quite naturally “death” was given a name and form. The personification of death during a period like this was inevitable.
Some even call it the “Black Death” because the global population was reduced by 10% at the time. This is most probably the inspiration for the black robe. The Grim Reaper’s black costume and weapon were probably inspired by the doctors who wore dark mantle and bird-like face masks to protect themselves from inhaling the infected air. As for the name “Grim Reaper”, this was created in the 19th century. However, “the Grim” represented a famous nickname for death starting in the 13th century. Today, the Grim Reaper isn’t extinct. In fact, he's become even more famous with time. He’s the legendary personification of death. He’s also presented in many fantasy or horror movies and novels.
And although most people believe that the era of magic and supernatural is over, it actually isn’t because of the superstitions that people still believe in figures like the Grim Reaper. There is more to this - when people fail to understand something or get scared of they cannot explain we naturally create a manageable easy explanation in order to feel better and stop the fear. This is inevitable. If what we fear is given a human shape, we feel more confident to beat it or overcome it in our mind. Just like we do with God, faires, the moon, and eclipses. The list goes on and on. In fact, every natural phenomenon that people cannot explain try to make these somewhat humanized.
Today, most people still fear the Grim Reaper and believe in his existence. And have you noticed that everyone refers to the Grim Reaper as a male? Who knows what exactly hides beneath the robe. Also, how do we know it is a male skeleton? The Grim Reaper is a fascinating mysterious figure. We must accept the truth that one day, we will face death. So, giving death a human form in the past (during the plague) has resulted in us feeling somewhat hopeful. There have been many accounts of the Grim Reaper which I will outline below.
The first story goes like this.
Allegedly, a man wanted to warn people that the Grim Reaper is real by sharing his experience. He claims that he not only saw but also felt the presence of the Grim Reaper. Allegedly, once as he walked into the woods in order to feed the guineas he bought, he noticed a figure standing on a hill in the forest. He immediately dropped the food for the animals, and stood there, paralyzed. He kept staring at the tallest figure with a gray robe and small wings. He claims the figure was between 20 to 25 feet tall and carried a 5-foot mace. He then ran away and never turned back to see if the figure would follow or not. He believes that this was the collector of souls or the Satan himself because of the height. According to him, no human can reach that height and he was pretty sure that this wasn’t a prank. He never believed in the Grim Reaper until he allegedly saw it with his own eyes. He took the animals to the front yard and never went back into those woods. He wouldn’t even allow his children to play there, scared of the presence of death. He fears that the Grim Reaper might come back and take their souls.
Now, why would someone lie about something like this and write it on forums? If you find this story legit or had a similar experience, share it with me. If you don’t believe this story, wait to hear the next one, that’s even more creepy.
The second story goes like this.
Allegedly, two brothers claim they’ve seen the Grim Reaper while their mother was visited by death. She passed away many years ago and this is what happened. She was sick in the last ten years of her life. She practically spent her life more in the hospital than her own home, suffering from kidney issues which led to heart failure. One day, she suffered a bad bout in the presence of her sons. She nearly passed on the way to the hospital but survived and her health got better with time. But not for too long. She claimed to have seen a person walk down the highway in a black gown and entered her bedroom. Allegedly, the entity would enter the room through the wall and approach her bed. She described a long black robe covering the entity’s body and face, but she could clearly see red glowing eyes under the hat. She claimed that she’s been followed by the entity for days. But when her sons went in her room, they saw nothing unusual. Last time she saw it, it allegedly took her soul because she died on the way to the hospital for her dialysis. Both children said they’ve noticed an entity same as their mother described it. And since that day, they believe in the existence of the Grim Reaper.
The question is where did this hallucination coming from? Was it the fear of death? Were the children hallucinating? Before I end this article, I would like to share a few more interesting facts about the Grim Reaper and death itself. Have you heard of “the Book of Revelation”? If not, it’s the final book of the New Testament of the Bible. Apparently, this book keeps records of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Now, you probably heard of the four horsemen who was riding a red, white, pale and a black horse. Allegedly, the fourth horserider represents death. It’s often portrayed as a skeleton wrapped in an old robe, such as the one presented by Victor Vasnatsov in one of his paintings. I have covered already that death is the main symbolism of the Grim Reaper. However, in different cultures and mythologies, death has different names. For example, in Greek mythology, death is associated with Thanatos, as I have mentioned before. The image is a young attractive but kind-hearted man. He was the twin brother of the god of sleep known as Hypnos. Is it true to say that due to the pleasant portrayal of Thanatos in Greek mythology, we can conclude that people back in the time, believed that death was horrible but accepted it as a natural thing?
In Breton mythology, Norman French, and Cornish folklore, death was represented as Ankou. This personification is very similar to the Grim Reaper. These people believed that a skeleton or a man appeared in a black robe with a scythe in his hand and took people’s soul. Alternatively, he was presented as an old man with a long, black hat and four horses pulling a cart filled with souls. Turning to the religious leader on the Africas Gold Coast during the 1700s there was a different view about death and the practices that surround it. During this time ships from the British Empire took around 2 million children, women and men from the African coast to be slaves. The death rate was high, and many slaves wanted to meet death, which is extremely sad. What is interesting here is that taking ones life during this time was seen as a revelation and death was not feared. Going overboard was a means of escape and embracing the end. This is a more positive view of the end.
I have touched on a few stories that suppose how the Grim Reaper became so popular and explained his alleged origins. But it’s also widely believed that Ankou is actually the real Grim Reaper. Or the Grim Reaper is the contemporary version of Ankou due to many similarities. What do you think? Is there a possibility that the Grim Reaper is real? Or is this just another legend that survived through time because of the fear of death? People are terrified of death and the fact that one day, they will probably face it too. This is why we feel comfortable with an entity in human form to overcome the fear and hope to defeat death before our journey ends.
The Grim Reaper helps our souls pass on the other side. In the accounts I have outlined you can learn that he grants each soul a guide in order to get to the right place where all dead remain for eternity. And if that’s not a noble thing, I don’t know what is. He’s not the one making the decision about your death. Destiny is. He’s only there to collect your soul and make sure it gets to the right place, according to legends.
By Flo Saul
Aug 29, 2018