A Pale Rider or The Headless Horseman?

I thought I’d save the best for last. ‘Death’, the fourth horseman AND my favourite (or one of them, at least) subject, is one controversial fellow.

I mean, for years I believed him to be minus his cranium in its proper place – instead having it tucked under his arm – riding around decapitating people. For what reason? One could assume his actions were retribution for what had happened to him OR we could take the politically correct viewpoint, that he didn’t like being a minority and so was trying to boost the numbers! Either way, why did I believe him to be headless? Perhaps the ‘Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ by Washington Irving and, more recently, the TV series ‘Sleepy Hollow’ had something to do with it.

As a child, before I became obsessed with the dark side (hard to believe such a time existed, I know), death was always in the form of a hooded figure with glowing eyes wielding a scythe. The figure would come calling when your number was up and there was no escaping it, though many have tried. But, as the ‘Final Destination’ franchise drummed home, over and over again, when you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go!

I remember pondering how this ‘grim reaper’ picked his targets and how exhausting his job must be, having to cover the whole world population single-handedly. These musings kept me occupied on dark nights and could well have been the seeds from which my dark mind grew. I never wondered whether I’d be getting an unexpected visit from a shrouded friend, mind you, like most people would!

‘When the lamb broke the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, “Come”. I looked, and behold, on ashen horse, and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following with him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth.’ (Revelations 6:7-8)

It would seem, however, based on the book of Revelations, that all this in untrue. Whether you choose to believe the Bible, dear reader, is entirely up to you. For me, it stands as the greatest work of fiction ever written (gasp!). However, it is the viewpoint held by many.

According to Revelations, Death not only had a head, but he also had a friend – Hades. Now, Death is seen as the strongest of all the four horsemen, maybe because his job is to clean up after the rest of them – disposing of what they’ve left behind in their wake, if you will. Is this the reason he is given a name – Death – when the others are not? Is this also the reason he comes with a companion?

An analogy popped into my mind as I was writing that last paragraph – that of a broom and a dustbin. Death is the broom, cleaning up the dead and the dying, left behind after the war, the conquest and the famine, while Hades is the bin, disposing of the bodies into a place for departed souls – hell, the realm of the dead. Is this a good way of looking at it, dear reader?

The comparative strength of Death is touched upon in Revelations 4.7, when the fourth horseman is said to ‘fly like an eagle’. As we know, eagles are magnificent noble creatures that are extremely powerful and lethal. They also feed on carrion. Could the eagle, therefore, be a symbolic reference to Death?

As with the other horsemen, Death comes forward riding a horse – a pale one. The colour of the horse is written as Khloros, which has been translated in many ways to represent colour as vague as pale or ashen through to more specific colours, such as pale green, greenish-yellow and yellowish-green (depending on your angle). Stepping back and looking at all these interpretations, it can be agreed that the colour, more likely, is supposed to convey the sickly tinge of the deathly ill or the recently deceased.

Whatever your viewpoint – headless or not; alone or with a friend – it can be agreed that Death, in all his guises, is no laughing matter. For, when Death touches upon you, there is nowhere left to turn. You have, dear reader, reached the end of the road.

As Joe Black once said, ‘Nothing is certain in this world, but death and taxes.’

I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I used to like pale coloured horses. I tend to check who they are travelling with now, though!

May fear protect you when the darkness comes.

Til next time.