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The image of The Grim Reaper sprang forth from the reports of dozens of peasants recounting their experiences during the Black Death, the great plague that devastated medieval Europe, eventually killing off 40% of the total population.

Dozens of surviving peasant accounts state that shortly before the plague swept through their community, black-robed, hooded strangers were seen in the grain fields. The strangers were observed swinging what appeared to the peasants to be "hissing scythes" over the fields.  The peasants also noted unusual, foul-smelling mists and the appearance of strange, bright lights and craft in the sky immediatley preceeding the outbreak of plague in many areas.

The image of what the peasants saw, the dark-robed, hooded strangers and their "scythes", became so strongly associated with death that this image became known as The Grim Reaper, still surviving today as a powerful symbolic harbinger of death and dying.
copyright Glenn Boyle
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