It’s time for another sneak preview of Pocket Guide to the Afterlife, which releases next year from Jossey-Bass (along with Pocket Guide to Sainthood and a repackaged Pocket Guide to the Bible). The following is one of the lists from the final chapter, which is helpfully titled “The Afterlists.”
Seven Random Names and Descriptions of the Death Deity in Various Cultures
1. Ah Puch, the bell-wearing, owl-headed, skeleton-bodied god of death (Mayan mythology).
2. Giltine, a formerly pretty young thing who was trapped in a coffin for seven years and emerged as a horrible old woman with a long blue noise and freaky-lickin’ poisonous tongue (Lithuanian paganism).
3. The Grim Reaper, a black-hooded, gown-wearing, skeletal creep with a scythe (Western/English pop mythology).
4. Izanami, the maggot-infested goddess of death who takes 1,000 lives a day (Japanese mythology).
5. Joe Black, the scruffily handsome character played by Brad Pitt in the 1998 film remake Meet Joe Black (American cinema).
7. Yama, the green-skinned Lord of death who rides a water buffalo (Hindu mythology).
Most recognizable death deity? The Grim Reaper.
Most disgusting death deity? Izanami.
Most frightening death deity? Yama, by far. That’s him at right.