The Grim Reaper is Death with a capital D. He is perhaps the most recognized entity of all time, neither ghost nor god; the Grim Reaper is a psychopomp who’s job is to conduct the souls of the recently dead into the afterlife. He is often depicted as a tall pale skeletal figure shrouded in a long, dark, black hooded cloak wielding a scythe which he uses to harvest souls with, although some accounts say he just touches the person to pop their soul so they don’t feel pain when they die. When he moves, he seemingly glides rather than walking. The Grim Reaper is known for not saying much, always having a grin on his face, and of course being the main focus of attention in whatever room he is in. He is able to turn his head completely around a la Linda Blair so that he can survey his domain; The Reaper must be vigilant lest someone try to cheat him.
He rides in a rickety old coach drawn by white horses that makes a god awful noise due to the stones he carries in it. When he takes someone’s soul, he drops off a stone. The Grim Reaper is not an omnipresent personification of death in charge of the entire world, but rather each area has their own Grim Reaper who serves as the Grim Reaper of the area until such a time as they find a replacement.
Decorations of him haunt tombs and graves, often with the engraving of “Rich Man, Poor Man, Beggar and Thief…You will one day be were I am.” In some artwork the Grim Reaper is portrayed locked in embrace of Life (often pictured as a young woman.) The point is that life and death are connected and that life is as fleeting as the sweet bloom of youth.
The origins of the Grim Reaper go back far into the past and he was known by many names. In old Celtic folklore he was known as L’Ankou, sometimes called Father Time. To the Greeks he was known as Cronus and the Romans called him Saturn.
The Grim Reaper can teach us much. He serves as a reminder that life is short and to make the best of every day (eat dessert first and dance now), to cut away the dead wood and move ahead. The Grim Reaper also reminds us to care for out dearly departed. Go to the cemetery and care and lovelying tend a grave; go to a funernal and speak. Remember those you miss, however painful.
You can be a king or street sweeper, but everybody dances with the Grim Reaper.
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