When people think death costumes at Halloween, it's fairly easy to find a Grim Reaper costume. But through my research writing about deities I've found there are far more than I ever realized. Of course, some I was familiar with before I started. Most people know Hades, as he's often depicted in literature and Greek mythology as one of the more popular and well-known mythologies. But we are a world of many cultures, so here are five different death deities that would make for fun and unique costumes:
Kali: Her very name means "She who is Death" or "She who is Black." Kali is a Hindu goddess, and she's long been a favorite. She is associated with empowerment, while she also been called the destroyer. Appearance wise, I usually see her depicted as being blue with many arms and a necklace of decapitated heads. You might have to get creative with the arms, but don't worry about necessarily painting yourself entirely blue, she's depicted in a number of hues. Unless of course you want to paint yourself blue. After all, Halloween only comes around once a year. Going blue might be fun. You can also get your inner Miley Cyrus on, because in some depictions, Kali likes sticking her tongue out. Regardless of which way you decide to dress yourself up, Kali could be a pretty bad-ass costume. I think I have an idea for next year!
Anubis: This Egyptian protector of the dead is often depicted as either a canine or with a canine head, wearing black or shirtless with a toga-like garment around his waist. This could be interesting ... (visions of a shirtless dog-headed husband dance in my head). Okay, that might be kind of weird, but that's what Halloween is for! And Anubis also has a female counterpart, Anput, who very occasionally is depicted with a dog head as well. Can you say couples costume!
Atropos: One of the three Moirai, better known as the Fates, Atropos cuts the threads with her shears. This is definitely one for the girlfriends, because this Greek goddess of death could easily be paired with her two sisters, Clothos, the spinner, and Lachesis, who measures lives. All three friends need do is don Greek-style robes or togas, and each one carry a different tool: scissors, needle and thread, and a tailor's measuring tape.
Santa Muerte: Okay, so she's not totally abstract, but I love her and I'm actually being her for Halloween. I'm a bit in love with the Mexican Day of the Dead art, and she's a character in The Reaper's Daughter, otherwise known as Sebastiana, and she's just my favorite. She's an easy one to do because most costume shops sell facial decals to give your face the colorful, day of the dead appearance, plus there are plenty of Mexican Day of the Dead costumes now available. I'm not using any of them, of course, because they're the "sexy" costumes, and not Santa Muerte specific, but I am using the decals and some makeup for my face. If the results come out as I hope, I'll definitely post a spooky Halloween selfie.
Santa Muerte isn't just a deity, she's actually a Mexican folk saint, and she's venerated. She's often depicted with a cloak and scythe, and sometimes with black angel's wings. See why I want to be her for Halloween?
Mythology in itself is vastly fascinating because these stories have been crafted from age-old beliefs within any given culture. Whatever you decide to be, remember that the personification of Death has many forms, so in stories and in real life, honoring other cultures by knowing more about their mythology and beliefs can also open the doorways to creativity.
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As part of the October Frights Blog Hop, I'm posting a short story from the world of my YA Paranormal novel, The Reaper's Daughter. You don't have to have read my book to follow this, because this story stands on its own. It's more like the beginning, a prequel, so to speak. This is the story of the Grim Reaper's banishment from the underworld.
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“I dare you.” His rough, hard face creased with a taunting smirk, his narrow dark eyes flickering with challenge. From his hand hung a sword, the whistle of steel meeting air still echoing from where he’d only moments before tried to slice off her arm—the one that held the scythe.
Grim laughed, the sound bouncing off the glittering crystals and craggy rock of the caverns. They had come to the walkway of the dead, near where Styx guarded the doorway between the underworld and the land of the living. The guardian deity hadn’t intervened yet, and for that Grim was thankful. She was ready to end the death deity war Hades had set in motion.
Hefting the scythe she so easily held in her hand over her shoulder, she shook her head, gazing at him imperiously although he dwarfed her by the mass of his bulk, his shadow almost vanquishing hers. “I will not kill my brethren, and you are that, even if I find you … well, I’ll be honest, repulsive,” she said dryly, arching a dark brow.
He smiled, and Grim stared at him impassively, eyeing the sweat clinging to his long hair and glistening against the pale of his skin with an inward distaste. She had always disliked the deity and his brutish ways, never felt he carried with him the compassion for those he crossed, and she didn't respect his need for power. Now, his eyes glittered black and he held her gaze, his focus only wavering away from hers for a moment to focus on the gleam of the silver scythe she held. He gestured beyond himself. “If you are to stop me, you will have to kill me.” From the shadows stepped his army, more than she could count.
“Your devil’s spawn,” she said, inclining her head in acknowledgement.
“Oh, well I’m hurt you would refer to innocent children so,” he said calmly, a mocking thread running through his tone.
“Innocent? I could say the living are happy when they see me, but that doesn’t make it true.” She smiled humorlessly, glancing to the figures of Hades’s children standing behind him, around her, with weapons in their hands and ambition in their souls. Glancing back to Hades, she caught the gleam of his sword slicing through the air, sending her into motion, her hands folding securely around the scythe and swinging it, the clang of metal reverberating off stone pierced the night with death.
“War then,” he said.
“You and yours began this,” she said, gritting her teeth and shoving him back with the force of her weapon, making him stumble back, a grimace of surprise flashing across his face.
Grim grinned, the power from the scythe crackling within her. How could he think he’d beat—a wind slapped her, and from the corner of her eye she caught the mass that was Hades barreling toward her, his hybrid goons closing in on her.
Thought wasn’t an option, and she swiveled, instinctively putting the power of the scythe into physical action by stepping forward and slamming the blunt part of the weapon into his chest. A crack of bone shattering filled the cavern, and Hades was sent flying back into a part of the wall that jutted out, his body hitting it with a slap. A strange expression flickered across his face, his black eyes losing the steel twist of corruption for the briefest of moments, and then he slid down to the ground, his eyes closing.
That must have hurt, she thought, glancing dismissively at the deity. He was immortal, so he’d heal fast enough, and he would be punished for his crimes, she would see to it. Grim eyed the kids moving in on her and sighed softly. Indoctrinated by Hades with his hate and misdirected power grab, and as many as there were, they’d be a challenge, but ultimately, they’d be no match for her.
A moan drew her attention back to Hades, who sat up slowly from his spot on the ground and rubbed a large knuckled hand over his chest. “Feeling under the weather?” she asked, wondering when the council would show and provide her the support to bring him and his brood to justice. But when he looked at her, she was startled by the creases of pain that worried his face. “He’s quiet … I can’t hear him … You-you killed him!” he growled.
“Killed who?” she asked slowly, watching him carefully, the scythe still clutched in her hands. He couldn’t possibly mean--
“You killed my brother. Pluto’s dead.”
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Stay tuned for Part II, which I'll post on Sunday.
K.M. Randall writes fantasy and paranormal for both a general and young adult audience. Her debut novel, an epic fantasy called Fractured Dream, launched in June 2014, and her second book, The Reaper's Daughter, launched May 2015. Randall also published Fairytale Lost, a prequel to Fractured Dream, as an exclusive on Wattpad. She blogs about dreams, female heroines, and activism and its relevancy to the literary and fictional world. And when in the season, sometimes she just likes to talk about Halloween. She is currently hard at work on the second book in the Dreamer Saga series, Shattered World.