Life-death-rebirth deity

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In comparative mythology, a life-death-rebirth deity (also often called dying-and-rising god) is a common motif present in many different cultures around the world. It is represented by the figure of a deity which, after his or her death, resurrects or is reborn, either literally or symbolically. This resurrection is often cyclical in nature (an example of this is the Egyptian God Ra, who dies and resurrects on a daily basis), or will happen in the future (the Norse God Baldr, who will resurrect only after the Ragnarök); in some other cases, however, death and resurrection have both happened in the past and won't happen again (this is the case of Jesus in most Christian doctrines[1]).


In diverse civilizations around the world, the myth of a death-rebirth deity can be found in various forms. As explained above, the nature of the deity's death and rebirth can vary greatly. In many examples, the deity is violently killed through either subterfuge or outright murder (the Egyptian Osiris in the former case, the Greek Adonis in the latter); in a few cases, however, in which the god in question willingly decides to sacrifice himself (such is the case of the Aztec Quetzalcoatl in one of the myths surrounding him, in which he sets himself on fire).

The death and rebirth of the deity is often considered a metaphore for the cyclical ages or seasons of the world. The famous Greco-Roman myth about the Rape of Persephone/Proserpina describes how the goddess's time in the Underworld coincides with the season of winter on the Earth: winter is seen as the "death" of nature and the Earth, and spring (when Persephone/Proserpina returns to her mother Demeter/Ceres) as its "rebirth". In Norse mythology, the death of Baldr was the beginning of the events that would eventually lead to Ragnarök, thus symbolizing the death and rebirth of this world.

List of dying and rising deities

  • Baldr/Baldere/Balþaz (Norse/Germanic)
  • Dionysus/Bacchus (Greco-Roman)
  • Persephone/Proserpina (Greco-Roman)
  • Apollo (Greco-Roman)
  • Quetzalcoatl (Aztec)
  • Osiris (Egyptian)
  • Ra (Egyptian)
  • Lemminkäinen (Finnish)
  • Jesus (Christian)
  • Adonis (Cananiite/Greco-Roman)
  • Tammuz/Du'zu/ (Assyrian/Akkadian/Sumerian)
  • Jarilo (Slavic)

See Also


  1. It could be argued, however, that Jesus's ascension was the beginning of an "absence" of Jesus from the world, which shall be ended only by his second coming: thus the cyclical nature of the myth can be found in Christian mythology as well.