Posted on February 14, 2012 by


In Greek mythology, Hades was the Lord of Death, Thanatos was Death itself – son of Nyx, goddess of night and Erebos, god of darkness – daimon of non-violent death who lived with his twin brother, Hypnos, the god of sleep, in a cave surrounded by opium poppies. The hour was always twilight, the only noise the slow trickling of the river Lethe, the river of forgetfulness. Thanatos was sometimes portrayed as a winged, bearded man; other times as a beautiful winged boy. His touch was gentle, likened to that of his brother who lay on his soft couch, surrounded by his many sons, who were the bringers of dreams.

Sometimes we can’t tell the twins apart: comforting ourselves by saying the dead look like they’re sleeping. Praying, as we fall asleep, that we don’t die before we wake.

On the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, British Columbia, home to the city’s most vulnerable citizens, Thanatos has been working the streets since 2008. Dressed as a super hero, his dark costume is a mix of The Green Hornet, The Shadow, Doc Savage and Batman. Along with a black and green mask he wears a long trench coat, a skull and crossbones tie and a wide-rimmed black hat. A former military man, Thanatos moved to Canada from the States in 1973, naming his alter ego after the Greek God of death. In a cemetery in Vancouver, Thanatos talked to a reporter from the Globe and Mail about how he tries to help the homeless; along with the water, food and blankets he hands out, he also gives white strips of paper with the word “friend” written on them.

From a cave on the river Lethe to Hastings and Main. From the river of forgetfulness to the forgotten. Try as I might, I could not make this up.