The Antikamnia Chemical Company created these morbid calendars in the late 19th century and early 20th century to promote their pain killers to druggists. While their products were effective, they were revealed to contain a banned—and poisonous—ingredient, acetanilid. Images: Wellcome Library
Catacomb saints are the lavishly decorated bodies of early Christians that were exhumed from the catacombs of Rome by the Vatican and placed in towns throughout Europe between the 16th and 19th century. The bodies were covered in gold and precious stones and acted as relics. Images: Neitram, Dalibri & Dbu (wikimedia commons)
The Ancient Egyptians believed that the soul was comprised of 9 parts, one being the human body that was left behind. This is partially the reason for mummification, to preserve this piece of the soul and act as conduit to deliver offerings to the rest of it. Photo: Gary Todd (modified)
The Black Aggie is the unauthorized—and cursed—copy of the funerary sculpture for Clover Adams (of the presidentially famous Adams family) who died by suicide. Legends say her eyes glow at night and make men go blind, that her shadow causes miscarriages, that sleeping on her lap causes death, and even that she tore her own arm off, giving it to a local metal worker. After enough incidents, the statue was removed from the cemetery and sequestered in the basement of the Smithsonian. She’s currently installed in the courtyard of the Howard T. Markey National Courts Building in Washington D.C. Photo: dbking on Flickr
Erlik or Erik Khan is the pig-faced god of death and rulers of demons in Siberian mythology, and the first creation of Ulsan the creator god. He judges the dead and is assisted by evil spirits that cause misfortune, sickness, and death, including 9 sons and daughters. Image: Dictionnaire Infernal
Apep was the Egyptian god of chaos and the greatest enemy of the Sun god Ra. This god appeared as a giant snake and was much feared by Egyptians, even in their death—as he’s known to eat souls. To ward off Apep, they would defile effigies and bury the dead with protective spells.
Tuberculosis, syphilis, breast cancer, and diphtheria from Richard Tennant Cooper’s series of symbolic paintings depicting death and disease, 1920s. A official war artist, Cooper painted these after returning from World War I before moving to commercial work.
Emblems from a German Alchemical Manuscript, Fidelis Werner, 1794. Source: University of Freiburg
Emblems from Sammlung Alchymistischer Schriften (Collection of Alchemical Writings), 18th Century. The different colors and symbolic images represent stages of the alchemical process, and the composition acts as a guide for the process as a whole. Source: John Rylands Library
In Welsh culture, professional sin-eaters attended funerals to ritualistically eat a meal over the corpse to absorb the deceased’s sins. Every sin stayed with them until their own death, and they were often social outcasts because of the spiritual uncleanliness they accumulated. One has to wonder if sin-eaters would eat the sins of other sin-eaters, passing the spiritual debt down for generations. Image: Two Old Ones Eating Soup, Francisco Goya, 1819
The Hellmouth is an entrance to hell that manifests as the open jaws of an infernal beast. Depictions of Hellmouths were common during the Middle Ages and Renaissance in manuscripts, and even as dramatic mechanical set pieces in theatrical productions.
- Detail of The Mouth of Hell, from the Book of Hours of Catherine of Cleves, 1440
- Vision de l’Enfer (Vision of Hell), from Les Visions du chevalier Tondal, 1475
- Ludolf of Saxony, Inferno, from Speculum Humanae Salvationis, 1455
- Lambert of Saint-Omer, Liber Floridu, 1250 – 1275
- Detail of Jugement Dernier – Damnés (Last Judgement – The Damned Souls), 1492