Last Updated on 2023/03/17
Examining the different attributes and symbols associated with Vanth, and the various ways in which she is depicted in Etruscan art, to shed light on her possible roles and functions in Etruscan belief systems
Table of Contents
Vanth is a significant figure in Etruscan mythology, particularly in the realm of death and the underworld. She appears in various forms of funerary art, such as tomb paintings and sarcophagi, where she is often depicted as a winged female demon. She is accompanied by additional Vanth figures or the underworld demon Charun, who later becomes known as Charu.
Unlike Greek mythology, Vanth has no direct counterpart. Some older publications compare her to the Greek Furies or Erinyes, but this is an unlikely association as she is usually depicted as a benevolent guide rather than an avenging spirit. She is typically shown with a torch, key, or scroll and is often bare-chested with cross-straps across her breast, fur boots, a rolled short chiton, and unattached sleeves. Her attire has been attributed to that of a huntress.
Vanth is associated with death and the journey of the deceased to the underworld in various ways. She is present during occasions of slaughter and murder, including scenes from the Trojan cycle. Sometimes she is depicted as rising up out of the ground, and at other times, she is a solitary figure decorating the sides of ash urns. In other scenes, Vanth is present during the meeting and escort of the dead as a psychopomp, either walking or being transported on horseback, wagon, or chariot.
As a guide in the underworld, Vanth is identified as carrying a torch to light the way and a key to unlock the doorway. The scroll she carries may reveal more about her, as one instance displays her name inside. Vanth has been interpreted as a goddess of fate, and the scroll may contain the destiny of the deceased.
Vanth is depicted as a youthful, vibrant chthonic figure who assists with the journey of the deceased to the underworld. Her role is different from that of the menacing Charun, her occasional companion.
Featured image source: wikimedia
Weird Italy, Guide to Unusual & Amazing Places to see in Italy. Italy’s news in English: Art, History & Facts