Meet Maltese folklore’s scariest creatures: Ċensa l-Mewt

Ċensa l-Mewt is Malta’s answer to the Grim Reaper. A hag dressed in all black, she carries a scythe through which she collects the final payment from her victims.

In the lead up to Halloween, we have dipped into Stephan D. Mifsud’s The Maltese Bestiary to discover some of the most frightening characters from Maltese folklore.

In this article, we take a look at Ċensa l-Mewt, a stalking, dark figure whose name remind everyone that life is leased.

Name in Maltese: Ċensa l-Mewt

Name in English: Death aka The Grim Reaper

First mentioned: Death in Maltese is female, similar to the Latin death goddess Morta and the Mexican Santa Muerte. The figure of a psychopomp who gathers the souls of the recent dead is an ancient mythological archetype. Death’s euphemistic name is Ċensa, from the word ċens means ‘ground rent’. Life is said to be leased out to mortal humans and Ċensa is their final rent collector.

Description: She walks among the living but is visible only to the very old and the moribund. She appears as a skeletal hag dressed in black.

Most frightening qualities: People try to escape or keep her distant, but she eventually catches up with everyone. Once she does, she is ‘blind and deaf’ to the pleas of the doomed. With one swing of her scythe, she cuts the last threads of life, before moving on to her next victim.

Find out more
Discover Maltese folklore’s scariest creatures and supernatural entities, as well as magical plants, ancient gods, and legendary beings in Stephan D. Mifsud’s The Maltese Bestiary. This 137-page, hardbound book was published by Merlin Publishers in 2014 and remains one of the definitive works on the subjects.

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