The Grim Reaper

Where did the idea for the Grim Reaper come from? The short answer is that most scholars trace the origin of the Grim Reaper to ancient times where he was known as Cronus to the Greeks and Saturn to the Romans. But the Grim Reaper as he is depicted today comes directly to us from the Middle Ages and the black death. Here’s how it all reportedly came about.

Matteo Villani was a historian in the early fifteenth century who wrote of mysterious figures, who released mists from weapons that dispensed plagues. Figures were often seen clothed with black like robes with scythes in their hands, they had demon-like faces. Their appearance brought about a great fear to the onlookers. Then these creatures would spread some type of mist, after which the people began to die in masses. Some other citizens of that era also reported seeing some type of gas or mist coming towards a town just before the plague arrived. This occurred during the times of the black plagues. This disease eventually wiped out one-third of the population or anywhere from 20 to 75 million people back then, it was spread by rodents according to scientists. Yet in those days, the activity and appearance of rodents was reported only infrequently. However, historically there are many similar reports of mists being seen during the Justinian and Cholera plagues.

Some see the basis for those creature coming from Greek legend of Chronos (Cronus) the Lord of the titans, which has been explained by out Alexander Hislop to be Satan and his demons in his work of “The Two Babylons.” He was also a harvest god called Father Time, and carried a sickle which is a tool used in harvesting grain. Both the Grim Reaper and Cronus carried a scythe. The myth of Chronos eating his children was used in a poetic sense for time devouring all things, as in the old saying “nothing lasts forever.” The three Greek words that were either related originally or related through confusion later were: Chronus (meaning “time”), Cronus (the god of harvest before the Greek gods took over), and corone (meaning “crow”). Little wonder then that we often see a crow accompanying the Grim Reaper today.