The Grim Reaper in Various Cultures

Different types of ghosts and spirits.

The Grim Reaper is the personification of death, representing the end of one’s life. Often depicted with a black cloak and sickle, his image has struck fear in the hearts of millions for centuries.



In Ancient Greece, Death was known as Thanatos, though he wasn’t thought of as an evil entity because one’s departure from our world to whatever exists out there after death is inevitable. Thanatos worked for Hades, the god of the underworld, and was said to don blood-covered clothing.

Celtic Lore

The Ankou

In Breton folklore, there is a figure that represents Death named “the Ankou.” Usually, the Ankou is the spirit of the last person to die in a small community, and they escort the next to die to the afterlife.



The Irish dullahan is a dark, creepy figure that rides in a large carriage pulled by many black horses or on a single black horse, riding to the home of wherever someone is about to die. Once he arrives, the dullahan calls the person’s name, and they die instantaneously. Dullahans were an entire species according to the Irish.


Cú Sith

In Scotland, it was believed that a black or dark green dog called a cù sith would reap the souls of dying people and take them to the afterlife.



The Polish Śmierć has a very similar appearance to the traditional Death appearance, with exception of the fact it wears a white robe. The Śmierć is a female and she is described as looking like a skeletal hag.



Pesta means “plague hag,” her name originating from the Black Plague during the Dark Ages. The old hag wore a black hood, and would enter the town with either a rake or a broom. If she was carrying her rake, a few people would survive her plague. If she brought her broom, everyone would be swept away to the afterlife with her.



In Lithuania, Death was known as “Giltinė” (which means “to sting”). She was an ugly old lady with a large blue nose and a poisonous tongue. Legend states that she was a young, pretty girl and was very nice until she was accidentally trapped in a coffin for seven years. Her sister, Laima, was the goddess of life and destiny. Later on, Lithuanians adopted the Grim Reaper with a scythe and long, black robe.