How rare is a dead god?

  • Someone was telling me about deicide and I wondered, because gods are so powerful by definition, which of them are killed or from what culture are mortal gods prevalent. The only example I could think of other than Jesus was Norse gods being killed at Ragnarok and beforehand. Are there other mythologies in which gods can be killed finally? I do not think I would count the death of Ouranos or Kronos as real deaths, because they are said to still be alive but incapacitated. Gods in general, using Greek gods as an example, can be hurt but not killed, like Hephaestus and Prometheus. Are there any gods or cultures that are more mortal?

    Do you count gods who can be resurrected, even briefly, like Osiris?

    @LaurenIpsum I feel like Osiris is similar to Kronos in the chopping up of the body and not really dying. Nevermind, I think he counts

    If we are to believe Plutarch, Pan is dead.

    The Irish smith-god Goibniu and the healer-god Dian Cecht died of plague in the Lebor Gabála Érenn, a mythical history of Ireland. In fact, the section on the Tuatha de Danann, the Irish gods, ends with a long list of the ones who died. (Mainly minor characters, admittedly.)

    In norse mythology all (most) the gods die "will" die at Ragnarök (but it is in the future).

  • indigochild

    indigochild Correct answer

    6 years ago

    tl;dr: Not rare at all.


    The answer to this is fairly soft, as it will depend considerably on what you consider a 'god' and what constitutes 'dying' - neither of which are particularly straightforward.

    First of all, what is a god? This is not trivial; in some circles the idea of a god dying is nonsense, because the definition of a god includes being immortal. In other groups, gods are typically mortal and the idea of one being immortal sounds amazing.

    Second (and maybe more interesting) is what counts as 'dying'? Many deities have been killed, only to be resurrected. Certainly that makes them mortal, but it doesn't make them 'dead'. If the body is destroyed, but their consciousness remains (for example, you mention Jesus, who now resides in the Kingdom of Heaven) does that count?

    Dying God Mythology

    In The Golden Bough, anthropologist James Frazer analyzed (among many other things) myths about dying gods. Below is a quick list from the first few pages alone:

    1. An Inuit deity who can be killed by wind, or touching a dog.
    2. An unnamed native American creator-deity who died long ago.
    3. A Filipino creator deity, also deceased at the time Europeans arrived.
    4. Heitsi-Eibib, patron of hunters in the San religion. His funeral stones can apparently be found throughout southern Africa.
    5. Zeus's grave was allegedly at Crete, although I am not sure what myth surrounds his death.
    6. Dionysus was buried at Delphi.

    And that list is all from page 3. Footnotes contain his references, should you want to know more about any of those myths.

    Many (maybe even most) mythologies contain stories about gods dying. This is often done as part of a death-rebirth story (The Dying God or Goddess in "The Mythology of Native North America covers this well)

    A Note About Mythology

    Your question references several things - Ragnorak, the death of Kronos, etc. - as if they were singular stories. It's important to remember that with mythology, stories change over time and across cultures. Expect a variety of interpretations of any given story.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM