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Have A Tuchulcha Morning

Answer quickly: Who is the Roman god of the dead? It’s Pluto, right?

Yes, and no. Pluto is a Roman god of the dead, but it turns out that he’s not the only one.

Pluto was inspired by the Greek Hades, who had the nickname Pluton. The Romans also recognized an Etruscan god of the dead, though, who went by the name of Orcus.

Orcus is the source of French legends of the ogres, and also the orcs of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of The Rings books.

With orgres and orcs as his folkloric descendents, Orcus must have been a really beastly looking god, right?

orcus

Actually, not so much. Modern images of Orcus depict him as a wicked looking demon with horns, but the ancient images of Orcus show him looking quite human.

If you want to see a nasty looking creature of the underworld from the Etruscan and Roman tradition, check out Tuchulcha, who carried a serpent, had blue skin, wings and spoke with a beaky face. Tuchulcha is a sketchy figure in Mediterranean mythology, but is known from a painting in a tomb, where he is shown watching the hero Theseus play chess in the land of the dead.

tuchulcha

In our own time, Orcus is referred to as the anti-Pluto, astronomically speaking. Orcus is a candidate for recognition as a dwarf planet in our solar system, with characteristics quite similar to Pluto, but in a different plane.

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