The nameless-ness of Death, how old ?

#1
Does anyone have an idea of how far back the idea goes of Death being something without a name, or not to be named ? Any attestations of this topos that you can think of in literature ? (or anywhere ?) - If someone could prove that the idea goes back at least as far as the twelfth century, JMD, I would be very happy. Grin.

Re: The nameless-ness of Death, how old ?

#2
My initial guess would be that this superstition arose only in France, in connection with the Tarot image, so 16th century at the earliest. This is coincidentally the earliest time we find evidence of a superstition about the number 13 - 13 at a table being unlucky, mentioned by Montaigne. See my post on the subject here -
http://ludustriumphorum.blogspot.fr/200 ... -card.html

For documentary evidence, I'm not sure what you might be looking for. Something like a text that contains a personification of Death, with a note that reads something like "He/She who shall not be named", "He without a name", etc.?

Excepting Tarot de Marseille style packs from the 17th century onward, there seems to be no reticence to name death, "Death", that I recall.
Image

Re: The nameless-ness of Death, how old ?

#3
firemaiden wrote:Does anyone have an idea of how far back the idea goes of Death being something without a name, or not to be named ? Any attestations of this topos that you can think of in literature ? (or anywhere ?) - If someone could prove that the idea goes back at least as far as the twelfth century, JMD, I would be very happy. Grin.
hi firemaiden,

I've read, that already the old Greek avoided to name "Hades".

For instance here:
"Perhaps a less prominent protagonist in the tales of Mythology than the other Olympian gods, Hades, nevertheless, must have been held in superstitious awe by many ordinary Greeks. Indeed, even to speak his name was avoided; instead epithets were used such as Eubuleus (giving good advice)."
http://www.ancient.eu.com/Hades/
Huck
http://trionfi.com

Re: The nameless-ness of Death, how old ?

#4
I have no idea how old the superstition is, but I believe it is Italian/Roman not to name Morte, for if the dead person hears they are dead their spirit will try to come back- so euphanisms were used and still today we use terms like Passing, or gone to heaven, with the angels, etc. Along with not naming Death/Morte, were rituals still today- like not returning home the same way as you went to the Cemetary- so to confuse the spirit. You will find Catholic Cemetaries have more than one entrance/exit. You also cover mirrors so there is no way back.
As to the number 13, aside for the usual like Judas being number 13 or 13 witches in coven (or twelve and a cat), I was told that the reason 13 was unlucky was from Romans :13 where Jesus said we have to pay our taxes!
~Lorredan
The Universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.
Eden Phillpotts

Re: The nameless-ness of Death, how old ?

#9
Look folks, it's an old nickname amongst friends. :D

Lorredan, I don't believe that there is a prohibition about calling the death card death, I think it's a 'modern' invention. There's a thread on it here somewhere, I'll see if I can find it later.
The Tarot will lose all its vitality for one who allows himself to be side-tracked by its pedantry. - Aleister Crowley

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