Are you having a crisis of faith? Bored with the same old gods telling you to live well and love your neighbor? Would you like to worship a deity not because he created the universe but because he could beat you up and steal your girlfriend, possibly while riding a thunderstorm across a field of his enemies’ broken corpses? If so, please consider the following options:
One of the Loa spirits of Haitian voodoo, Baron Samedi is the Loa associated with the dead. When a person dies, he is said to dig their grave and lead them to the underworld. It is even said that one cannot die, even if afflicted by black magic, if Samedi refuses to dig their grave.
Generally depicted as a skeleton clothed in a dark tuxedo, a top hat, and dark glasses, Samedi is undoubtedly the most fashionable deity on the list. He is also probably the one you would most like to invite to a party, as he is known for his fondness for rum, tobacco, and lewd jokes. He is also the Loa of sex, and despite being wed to Maman Brigitte, a fellow Loa, he is known to frequently run off for dalliances with mortal women or, occasionally, mortal men. As a sex-crazed skeleton, Samedi is probably the most obvious setup for a “boner” joke in human history.
Another of Samedi’s duties is to ensure that corpses rot, thus preventing them from returning as zombies. Yeah, that’s right; Samedi protects us from zombies. If that doesn’t qualify a guy for badass status, nothing will.
The Vikings had what is arguably the most badass pantheon in human history, so it should come as no surprise to see them represented on the list. Skadi, the goddess of winter and hunting, is a relatively minor figure in Norse mythology. And yet her badassery stands out even with competition like Thor, the famous hammer-wielding thunder god, and Loki, a trickster who eventually caused the destruction of all nine worlds.
Skadi was not born a goddess and only gained that status by marriage. Originally, she was an ice giantess of Jotunheim, the mountainous world of the giants. Her father, Thiassi, was slain in battle with the gods, and Skadi, enraged, gathered her weapons and traveled to Asgard, the world of the gods, to do battle with them. The gods—who, as previously noted, were as badass a collection of individuals as had ever been seen—were actually intimidated by Skadi and opted to acquiesce to whatever demands for restitution she made rather than face the mighty giantess in combat.
Skadi demanded three things: that her father’s eyes be made into stars, that she be able to pick a husband from among the gods, and that they make her laugh, something she hadn’t done since her father’s death. Odin, lord of the gods, enacted the first, hurling Thiassi’s eyes into the night sky. Loki fulfilled the third demand by tying his testicles to a goat’s beard, resulting in much struggling, bleating, and pain from both. Skadi chose Njord, god of the sea, as her husband, but apparently he wasn’t badass enough for her, because she eventually dumped him and married Odin.
Skadi makes few appearances in myth after that, but she does once again prove her monumental badassery in the myth of Ragnarok—the Norse apocalypse. After Loki brought about the end of creation by orchestrating the death of the god of beauty, Baldr, the gods chained him to a rock with “the cold entrails of his son,” and Skadi hung a venomous serpent above him to drip venom upon his flesh, causing him great agony.
The lesson here: don’t piss off Skadi.
One of the chief gods of ancient Egyptian mythology, Osiris was said to be a kind and just ruler of the land together with his sister-wife, Isis. However, things turned bad for Osiris when his brother, Set, became jealous and decided to murder him through trickery. Set cut Osiris’s body into dozens of pieces and then scattered them across the land so as to take his place as ruler of Egypt.
Isis, not being one to give up easily, then set out to recover the pieces of her husband. She succeeded in finding all of them but his penis, which she replaced with a prosthetic made of wood. Which is also a very obvious place for a joke. She then resurrected her remade husband and proceeded to have sex with him. I don’t know about you, but I think all guys would like to be the sort of man who can get lucky immediately after having their mutilated corpse stitched back together by their wife.
This coupling led to the birth of a Horus, a falcon-headed god of justice and a notable badass in his own right. Horus eventually grew up to kick Set’s ass halfway up the Nile and take his father’s place upon the throne.
Meanwhile, Osiris, apparently not satisfied with beating death and birthing one of the most popular gods of the Egyptian pantheon, decided to add a final metaphorical feather to his cap of badassery by becoming the lord of the afterlife, where he helped preside over a judgment ritual in which good souls were granted admission to paradise and the hearts of sinners were fed to jackals.
The Norse pantheon makes its second appearance on the list with Odin, god of wisdom and lord of all gods.
Odin was a god who ate, slept, and breathed badassery, pretty much 24/7. At the beginning of time, he and his brothers slew an enormous giant and carved his body up to create the world. The giant’s skull became to the dome of the sky, his bones were used to form mountains, and his blood became the oceans.
That might have been enough badassness to satisfy most people, but Odin wasn’t finished. In order to gain the knowledge of runes, Odin hung upon the world tree, impaled with his own spear, for nine days and nights. That’s right; Odin hung himself and stabbed himself with a spear just so people could learn to read and write. Think about that the next time you’re complaining about college being hard. He also sacrificed an eye to gain “knowledge of the past, present, and future.”
Among his possessions were the enchanted spear Grugnir, a golden ring that each night created eight more rings (making him the original Lord of the Rings), a throne that granted him vision of the entire universe, and two raven spies called Hugin and Munin (Thought and Memory) though why he needed spies when he had the all-seeing chair is unclear. He also had a cohort of women warriors/messengers called Valkyries, whose armor shone as the rode across the night sky, creating the aurora borealis. Oh, and did I mention he subsisted entirely on mead and wine?
Wife of the god Shiva, Kali, often known as the Black One, is the Hindu goddess of death, rebirth, and change.
Easily the most frightening god on the list, Kali is depicted as a black-skinned, many-armed woman with fangs and wild red eyes wearing nothing but a skirt of human arms and severed heads. Personally, we think Samedi’s tux is a little more stylish, but hey, who are we to judge an all-powerful and unbelievable violent goddess?
Although sometimes represented as a kind mother figure and an important part of the creation of the universe, Kali is usually portrayed as slaughtering large numbers of people or demons, drinking their blood, and going into a frenzied dance which often caused even further destruction. The most prominent example of this is a myth in which people sought to slay a demon named Raktabija but could not because a copy of him appeared every time a drop of his blood was shed. They decided to call in Kali, who neatly solved the problem by—you guessed it—drinking all of Raktabija’s blood. Maybe demon blood is just really tasty, a pre-history version of Red Bull, we don’t know. As per usual, Kali went into a frenzy and started dancing uncontrollably, even going so far as to trample her husband, poor Shiva.
We’ve met some mean drunks in our day, but we’re pretty sure Kali takes the cake.