Honest Myth:Etruscan- Orcus

Orcus Mouth in Parco dei Mostri by Herbert List (1952)

Orcus Mouth in Parco dei Mostri by Herbert List (1952)

The eighth day in our Mini Marathon introduces a very cool death deity that originated in the Etruscan society. Orcus is the God of the Underworld (which is conviniently named Orcus) and Punisher of Broken Promises.

Orcus was usually seen as a large, bearded giant. He was associated with the Greek demon Horkos Personification of Oaths and son of Eris the Goddess of Strife. He was mostly worshipped in rural areas of the Roman Empire. When the Greek Pantheon was brought into the Roman religion, Orcus began to be merged with Pluto/Hades. When this occurred though, Orcus was seen as the evil, punishing aspect of the underworld god.

His role was to torment any soul that was evil and broke their oaths. So, I cannot really see him as being evil and bad since he punishes those who do evil (not out of pleasure, but to punish their evil). Anyways, Orcus has an ugly appearance and that lends to his evolution into a role of being the more brutal aspect of Pluto in later Rome. This evolution led to the creation of the words Ogre and Orch which refer to fairy-tale monsters that usually eat human flesh.

In earlier accounts in Rome, he was considered son of Mars (who was believed to be a part of the creation of Rome). Then his appearance changed, and he was depicted as an angel like Eros or Thanatos. This portrayal did not last long, and they opted for his Etruscan appearance again.

As a punisher of those who broke their word, Orcus was extremely scary. He was described as carting men by force into the underworld and imprisoning them. He was often shown as having his mouth open, probably connected to the idea of oaths and promises. Also, like the picture above, his mouth was used as entrance ways probably to the underworld.

To learn more read here: www.princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve/wiki100k/docs/Orcus.html

-Blog Barista

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