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GiltinÄ—: A Mythical Creature of Lithuanian Folklore

Giltinė is a goddess of death in Lithuanian mythology. Her name is derived from the words “gelti,” “geluonis,” and “geltonis,” which all mean “to wither” or “to fade.” She is one of the oldest deities in Lithuanian mythology and is often depicted as a woman dressed in white.

According to legend, Giltinė is responsible for taking the souls of the dead to the afterlife. She is said to be accompanied by an owl, which serves as her sacred bird. In some stories, Giltinė is considered to be the sister of Laima, the goddess of fate and luck.

Despite her association with death, Giltinė is not typically portrayed as an evil or malevolent deity. Instead, she is seen as a necessary part of the natural order of life and death. Her role in Lithuanian mythology reflects the importance of death and the afterlife in traditional Baltic culture.

Mythology and Origins

Lithuanian Mythology

Giltinė is a goddess of death in Lithuanian mythology. She is known for her long, venomous tongue which she uses to lick the poison from gravestones and then use it to stab those who are bound to die. Giltinė is the sister of Laima, the goddess of fate and childbirth. According to some legends, she was once a beautiful woman who was deceived and trapped in a coffin for seven years. After she emerged or escaped from the coffin, she was no longer beautiful but became a hideous woman with a long nose and a long, venomous tongue.

Historical Context

Giltinė’s origins can be traced back to the pre-Christian beliefs of the Baltic peoples. The worship of death goddesses was common in many ancient cultures, and the Baltic region was no exception. The goddess of death was often associated with the end of life, but also with the beginning of a new cycle. In Lithuanian mythology, Giltinė was one of the most important goddesses, and her cult was widespread throughout the country.

The Christianization of the Baltic region brought about significant changes in the religious beliefs and practices of the people. The worship of pagan gods and goddesses was gradually replaced by the Christian faith, and many of the old beliefs and practices were either forgotten or adapted to fit the new religion. However, the memory of Giltinė and other pagan deities has survived to this day, and their stories continue to fascinate and intrigue people all over the world.


Depictions in Art

Giltinė has been depicted in various forms of art throughout history. In Western Christian iconography, she is often portrayed as a skeletal figure holding a scythe and an hourglass, symbolizing the inevitability of death and the limited time of human life. In Lithuanian folklore, she is depicted as a beautiful woman dressed in white, holding a poisonous tongue.


Giltinė’s symbolism is closely tied to her role as the goddess of death. Her sacred bird, the owl, is often depicted alongside her, symbolizing wisdom and the ability to see in the dark. Her poisonous tongue is also a significant symbol, representing the power of words and the ability to bring about death through speech.

In Lithuanian mythology, Giltinė is often associated with fate and the idea that death comes for everyone eventually. Her depiction as a beautiful woman dressed in white also represents the idea that death can come unexpectedly and without warning.

Overall, Giltinė’s iconography reflects the somber and inevitable nature of death, as well as the power of words and the importance of wisdom in the face of mortality.

Cultural Significance

Folklore and Tales

Giltinė is a prominent figure in Lithuanian mythology and folklore. She is often depicted as an old, ugly woman wearing a white cloak, and is said to have a long, poisonous tongue. According to folklore, Giltinė’s duty is to determine when a person’s time has come to die, and to take their soul to the afterlife.

In Lithuanian tales, Giltinė is often portrayed as a frightening figure who punishes those who have committed sins. Her presence is associated with death and the end of life. Despite her fearsome reputation, Giltinė is also seen as a necessary figure in Lithuanian mythology, as she ensures that the natural order of life and death is maintained.

Modern Interpretations

In modern times, Giltinė has become a popular figure in Lithuanian art and culture. She has been portrayed in various forms, including in literature, music, and film. Her image has been used to represent death and mortality in a variety of contexts.

One famous example of Giltinė’s modern interpretation is the Lithuanian band, G&G Sindikatas, who dedicated a song to her. The song is titled “Giltinės Dvasia” (The Spirit of Giltinė) and features lyrics that describe her as a powerful and dangerous figure.

Overall, Giltinė remains an important figure in Lithuanian culture and mythology. Her image and story continue to be passed down through generations, and her presence serves as a reminder of the inevitability of death in life.

Rituals and Traditions

Giltinė is a goddess of death in Lithuanian mythology, and as such, there are many rituals and traditions associated with her. One of the most common is the belief that Giltinė has a long, poisonous tongue that she uses to take the lives of those she deems worthy. As a result, many people avoid speaking ill of her or her deeds, lest they invoke her wrath.

Another tradition associated with Giltinė is the belief that she has a sacred bird, the owl. It is said that the owl is her messenger, and that if one hears an owl hooting at night, it is a sign that someone close to them will soon die. As a result, many people are afraid of owls and avoid them whenever possible.

Despite her fearsome reputation, Giltinė is also associated with the cycle of life and death. It is believed that she is responsible for guiding the souls of the dead to the afterlife, and that she takes great care to ensure that each soul is treated with respect and dignity. As a result, many people honor her with offerings of food, flowers, and other gifts, in the hopes that she will look favorably upon them and their loved ones.

Overall, Giltinė is a complex and multifaceted figure in Lithuanian mythology, and her rituals and traditions reflect this complexity. Whether one fears her or reveres her, there is no denying her power and influence over the lives of those who believe in her.

Comparative Mythology

Comparative mythology is the study of myths from different cultures in an attempt to identify shared themes and characteristics. It has served a variety of academic purposes, including the exploration of human thought and behavior, the study of cultural evolution, and the identification of universal human experiences.

In the case of Giltinė, the Lithuanian goddess of death, comparative mythology can shed light on her significance within Lithuanian culture and her potential connections to other death deities from around the world. By comparing Giltinė to other death deities, researchers can identify similarities and differences in their roles, attributes, and symbolism.

For example, Giltinė is often depicted as a white-clad figure with a poisonous tongue who brings death to those she touches. This bears some resemblance to the Hindu goddess Kali, who is also associated with death and destruction and is often depicted as a dark-skinned figure with a long tongue.

Comparative mythology can also help researchers understand the cultural context in which Giltinė was worshipped. By examining the myths and rituals associated with Giltinė, researchers can gain insight into Lithuanian beliefs about death and the afterlife. They can also explore how these beliefs changed over time and how they were influenced by other cultures.

Overall, comparative mythology offers a valuable tool for understanding the significance of Giltinė within Lithuanian culture and the broader context of world mythology.