Along with the related goddess Ker, the Keres (or Kerai) were the Greek personification of various violent deaths - there were thousands of them.

The Keres' job was to rip the souls of the wounded from their bodies, and afterwards feast on the gore. Contrast and compare with Thanatos.


The Keres, or Fates, were spirits which played an important part in the Iliad. They appeared generally in scenes of battle and violence and controlled the destiny of each hero. They were said to be horrible, black, winged creatures, with big white teeth and long pointed nails. They tore corpses into pieces and drank the blood of the wounded and dead. Their garments were stained with human blood. Some allusions made by Homer show that the Keres were Destinies co-existing with each human being and personifying not only how her would die but also what kind of life would fall to his lot. For example, Achilles had two fates to choose from: one would give him a long and happy life in his native land, far removed from glory and war, and the other, which in fact he chose, would earn him eternal renown at Troy at the price of early death. Similarly, Zeus weighed the fates of Achilles and Hector on scales in front of the gods to determine which of them should die in the duel which faced them. The scale containing the fate of Hector descended towards Hades and therefore Apollo immediately abandoned the hero to his unavoidable destiny.

The Keres are given a genealogy in the Theogony of Hesiod. There they appear as 'daughters of Night'; but in the same passage some verses later the poet names a Fate, a sister of Thanatos and Moros (Death and Doom), and several Fates, sisters of the Moirai (in Latin Parcae).

In the classical era the Keres seem to have existed chiefly as literary memories; they tend to be mixed with other similar dieties, the Moirai and even the Erinyes, whom they resemble because of their diabolical and savage character. In a poetic passage Plato considers that they are evil genii which, like the Harpies, sully everything which they touch in human life. Popular tradition eventually identified them with the evil spirits of the dead which had to be appeased by sacrifices, such as, for example, took place at the festival of the Anthesteria.


The Keres are a native people of New Mexico. In the 1990 census somewhat over 8000 speakers of Keres, a language isolate (one not related to any of its neighbours), were reported. They live in seven adobe pueblos, two in the west being Acoma and Laguna, and those in the east being Cochiti, Santo Domingo, and San Felipe on the Rio Grande, and Santa Ana and Zia on its tributary the Rio Jemez.

Acoma has been called the oldest continually inhabited settlement in the United States, first mentioned by Friar Marcos de Niza, discoverer of the Zuni towns in 1539. (See Zuni for details about him.) It sits on a mesa over a hundred metres above the valley, and is also known as Sky City. It now only has fifty permanent inhabitants, but others congregate there for ceremonies.

They are exogamous and matrilinear. The head shaman of the "Flint" society holds office for life, and appoints the two war chiefs, who have responsibility for ceremonies. Warriors who have taken a scalp a called ope. Some shamans performed magic such as swallowing wooden wands and extinguishing fire in the mouth; there were also rattlesnake handlers. -- This paragraph is distilled from the Curtis website cited below, so is unlikely to apply in the same way to modern Keres society.

As with the Zuni, the owl is respected as a symbol of wise elders who have departed the world. The feathered sky snake Avanyu often occurs on pottery and is associated with storms and change of season. has old photographs of them from the Curtis Collection. for more about Acoma Pueblo.

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