Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

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Name War
Actor Titus Welliver
James Otis
Matt Frewer
Julian Richings
Dates War: ???? - 2009 (neutralized by Sam and Dean Winchester)
Famine: ???? - 2010 (neutralized by Sam Winchester)
Pestilence: ???? - 2010 (neutralized by Castiel)
Death: Pre-Creation - 2015 (killed by Dean Winchester)
Location No fixed address
Occupation Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
Episode(s) 5.02 Good God, Y'All (War)
5.10 Abandon All Hope... (Death; unseen)
5.14 My Bloody Valentine (Famine)
5.15 Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (Death; unseen)
5.19 Hammer of the Gods (Pestilence)
5.20 The Devil You Know (Pestilence; unseen)
5.21 Two Minutes to Midnight (Pestilence and Death)
6.11 Appointment in Samarra (Death)
7.01 Meet the New Boss (Death)
9.01 I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here (Death)
10.23 Brother's Keeper (Death)

The things the Horseman represent in pestilence, famine and war are like forces of nature and are states that humans experience all the time. So it isn't as though when Lucifer comes on the scene he brings these monsters with him that are unleashed that we haven't been experiencing the effects of throughout history. It's more that he gathers them to him.

Sera Gamble, Supernatural: The Official Companion Season 5


The Horsemen are powerful, immortal beings that act as instruments of chaos and destruction during the Apocalypse, which is triggered by Lucifer's release. War, Famine, and Pestilence are loyal to Lucifer's plans, whereas Death serves Lucifer's agenda only while he is bound to him by a spell.[1] Each Horseman appears human, and drives a car that reflects the color of his horse as described in lore. Each possesses a different ring that is somehow tied to their powers, and their rings prove integral in ending the Apocalypse.

The Horsemen's origin remains unclear and has yet to be presented. Their actual ages remain unknown, however Death is the oldest Horseman as he existed during the creation of the universe, Pestilence implied to have been around since sickness first entered the world, Famine was believed to have existed since the Leviathans started to devour each other, and War was believed to have existed since the first conflict between man. War refers to the other Horsemen as his "siblings,"[2] and Pestilence calls War and Famine his "brothers." Pestilence is so distressed that War and Famine fell into an impaired state due to the actions of Sam and Dean that he disobeys Lucifer's commands and attacked the Winchesters and attempted to kill them.[1]


War was the first Horseman to appear, Famine was the second, Pestilence was the third, and Death was the final Horseman. Their abilities vary, but all appeared capable of causing widespread destruction in one form or another.[2][3][1] They read human thoughts and emotions.[2][4] The Horsemen can teleport themselves,[1] move objects telekinetically,[4] and be invisible to humans when they choose to be. Sam's powers do not work on the Horsemen, though they can have an indirect impact.[4]

In addition to these powers, the Horsemen each possess unique abilities that coincide with their apocalyptic roles. War can alter human perception, making people see enemies where there are none. Famine can affect people's urges and addictions, causing an insatiable hunger to anyone in his vicinity. Pestilence can create and manipulate deadly diseases in humans. Death has full control over life and death itself, and is able to kill with a touch or dramatic event. War, Famine and Pestilence cannot fully manage and maintain their powers or their roles in the Apocalypse without their rings. Ruby's knife can damage War, Famine and Pestilence enough to remove their rings, though Death's Scythe has been shown to kill them.

The Horsemen


War, also known as the Red Horseman, wears a pure gold ring that enables him to channel his ability to create conflict where none existed previously, which is his contribution to the Apocalypse. War travels in a red Mustang which represents his red steed.

For other details see War's Mustang and Wormwood.


Famine, also known as the Black Horseman, wears a sliver ring that enables him to focus his core ability, which is affecting his victim’s inner urges, desires, and needs, which causes them to go insane for what they crave, to further the Apocalypse. Famine travels in a black Cadillac Escalade.

For other details see Famine's Car and Souls


Pestilence, the third Horseman to appear, wears a ring with a green emerald that helps him to manipulate infections, infestations, sickness and other deadly diseases, all of which is essential in advancing the Apocalypse. Pestilence travels in a green Hornet Wagon. He is occasionally accompanied by a swarm of flies.[1]

For other details see Pestilence's Car and Croatoan Virus.


Death, also known as the Pale Horseman, is affiliated with Famine, War and Pestilence, although he is far more powerful than them. Death wears a ring with a white stone; unlike his brothers, Death's powers do not come from his ring. Death can kill by creating massive storms, tsunamis and hurricanes, or, by using a simple gesture, stop someone's heart. Death can also resurrect dead people. According to Bobby, Death has been kept restrained prior to the Apocalypse, and the last time Death was free, "Noah was building a boat." Death is released from his cage in 5.10 Abandon All Hope... by Lucifer's spell. Death acts under Lucifer's direction for most of season five, but resents the archangel's control over him. He willingly gives his ring to Dean to stop the Apocalypse. After Lucifer's defeat, Death remains free, directing the reapers and maintaining the natural order. It is he that eventually returns Sam's soul and helps return the souls to Purgatory. After he demands Sam's death in exchange for his help with the Mark of Cain, Dean kills Death with his own scythe to save his brother, destroying his ring and his scythe in the process.

For other details on Death see Death's Scythe and Death's Cadillac.


The Rings

Each of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse wears a single ring. The color of Famine, Pestilence and Death's rings respectively match that of their cars. The Horsemen, except for Death, can focus their core abilities via these rings, and losing their rings has a serious impact on their ability to function. According to Brady, while they are still alive, War and Famine are in a debilitated state after their rings are taken, and even getting the rings back to them would not soon make them active. Pestilence also appears ineffective after the loss of his ring. Death, on the other hand, seems unfazed by giving Dean his ring, suggesting that the ring is not essential to his nature. Death is likely more powerful than the other Horsemen, having been present since the beginning of time itself, and being one of the only constants in the Universe.

War wears a simple gold ring, which is the only ring without a colored stone. His ring allows him to affect the perception of humans. Sam and Dean get War's ring after cutting off his finger using Ruby's knife.[2] Famine wears a ring that is silver, engraved, and has a black stone. His ring affects human urges (lust, hunger, and addictions). Sam and Dean get Famine's ring after Sam exorcises demons out of Famine's body, crippling him from the inside out.[4] Pestilence wears a silver ring with a green stone.[3] He uses the ring to trigger any number of diseases in his victims. Sam and Dean get the ring after Castiel cuts off Pestilence's finger using Ruby's knife.[1] Death wears a silver ring with a white stone. After letting Dean borrow it to imprison Lucifer, it was shown that Death's powers are not completely derived from his ring.

War's ring.
Famine's ring.
Pestilence's ring.
Death's ring.

The rings have another function, which is first revealed in a hidden message recorded on a Casa Erotica DVD by Gabriel just prior to his death.[3] The message explains how Sam and Dean can trap Lucifer in Lucifer's Cage. The keys to the cage are the rings worn by the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Without me, you got zero shot at killing Lucifer. Sorry. But... you can trap him. The cage you sprung Lucifer from, it's still down there, and maybe, just maybe, you can shove his ass back in. Not that it'll be easy. You got to get the cage open, trick my bro back into it, and oh yeah, avoid Michael and the God Squad. But hey - details, right? And here's the big secret, Lucifer himself doesn't even know. But the key to the cage, it's out there. Actually it's keys, plural, four keys. Well, four rings from the Horsemen. You get 'em all, you got the cage.

Gabriel, 5.19 Hammer of the Gods

The Four Horsemen rings conjoined, forming the key to Lucifer's Cage.

After acquiring the rings of the first three Horsemen, Dean seeks out Death, hoping to take his ring by force. To his surprise, Death willingly hands over his ring, and instructs Dean on the use of the rings in exchange for Dean's promise to re-imprison Lucifer's by ensuring that a possessed Sam jumps into Lucifer's Cage.[1] In order for Lucifer's Cage to open, the current holder of the rings must place them on a surface and recite an incantation, "Bvtmon Tabges Babalon". The portal can be closed by a counter-incantation, as Lucifer demonstrated by reciting "Chdr Bvtmon Tabges Babalon," and also closes if something passes through the opening. Later, Dean is seen working with all four rings. By placing them on a table, they all join together to form a triangle-shaped design, with War's ring in the middle, and the other three surrounding it.

Sam allows Lucifer to possess him, and Dean uses the four rings to open a portal to Lucifer's Cage. The first time, Sam is unable to overpower Lucifer. However, the second time, in Stull Cemetery, Sam manages to regain some control and throw himself and Lucifer into the cage. While trying to stop him, Michael, using Adam as a vessel, is also trapped.

The fate of War, Famine, and Pestilence's rings following the final confrontation with Lucifer were revealed to have been buried beneath the grounds of Singer Salvage Yard. Death's ring is shown to have been recovered at Death's request for Dean to use the ring to act as Death for 24 hours. In return, Death will retrieve Sam's soul from Lucifer's Cage.[5] While Dean doesn't keep his side of the deal, Death does return Sam's soul, and Dean returns the ring to Death.[5] After Death's death in 10.23 Brother's Keeper, the ring was destroyed along with himself and his scythe. It is later revealed that when one incarnation of Death dies, the next reaper who dies takes their place. Billie takes Death's mantle and carries the restored and altered versions of Death's Scythe and Death's ring.

The Briefcases

Both Death and Famine own black briefcases that can house human souls. A demon uses Famine's briefcase to transport human souls to Famine. Death uses his briefcase, an old-fashioned doctor's bag, to hold Sam's soul, which he has freed from Hell, before returning it to his body.

Famine's briefcase, containing human souls for his sustenance.
Death's medical bag, containing Sam's soul.

The Cars

Each Horseman owns a car and uses it to travel to locations around Earth. Each car symbolizes a horse and mirrors the color of its owners steed in lore. See War's Mustang, Famine's Car, Pestilence's Car, and Death's Cadillac.


5.02 Good God, Y'All

War causes havoc in a town when he convinces the townspeople that some of them are being possessed by demons, when in fact none are. He is banished when Sam and Dean remove a ring from him that seems related to his power.

5.10 Abandon All Hope...

Lucifer undertakes a ritual to release the most fearsome Horseman, Death. It involves killing all the women and children in a town, and then the men, who are possessed by demons, sacrifice themselves. He then performs an invocation. Death rises, but is not seen.

5.14 My Bloody Valentine

Famine arrives in town and causes everyone's cravings to turn rabid. People start killing each other and themselves. He infects Sam, who craves demon blood, and Castiel, whose vessel had a fondness for red meat, but Dean is unaffected. Famine says this is because Dean is already "dead inside." Famine is stopped when, after consuming demons that Sam had exorcised from their hosts, Sam exorcises those demons from his body. The brothers take his ring.

5.15 Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid

In Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Death causes previously dead townspeople to come back to life, including Bobby's wife, Karen Singer. These zombies then turn and attack the town, but are stopped by Sam, Dean, Bobby, and Sheriff Mills. Death sends Karen back with a warning: that because Bobby is helping Sam say "no" to Lucifer, Death has his eye on him. Karen describes Death as, "A really thin man, almost like a skeleton," but he is not seen in this episode.

5.19 Hammer of the Gods

Pestilence arrives at a small store, and enters, coughing and spreading germs and phlegm everywhere. He buys some flu medication and leaves. As he drives, his car fills with flies.

5.20 The Devil You Know

Sam and Dean begin the episode on the trail of Pestilence, posing as CDC agents at a hospital hit with a swine flu outbreak.

Crowley offers to help Sam and Dean find Pestilence by tracking down and cutting a deal with Brady, who Crowley calls "the Horsemen's stable boy." Brady is in charge of the plan at Niveus Pharmaceuticals. He uses the goblet of blood ritual to communicate with Pestilence about the progress on the vaccine. At one point, Brady comments that War and Famine aren't dead, but they have been taken out of the game, telling Dean

Brady: See, War and Famine, even if I could cram the rings back on their bony fingers, I doubt it would do much good. They're withered husks right now, fetal position on the floor, all thanks to you. So I don't want the rings. What I want is retribution. And I'm going to rip it right out of your ass!

Brady eventually gives up Pestilence's location to Crowley, Sam, and Dean.

Later, Bobby is talking on the phone with Rufus Turner discussing possible omens for locating Death when Crowley appears in his home. Crowley tells Bobby he can help them find Death, but he needs to make a deal for Bobby's soul to pull it off. Bobby is resistant to the idea, but Crowley assures him that it will be temporary and that he will give Bobby back his soul after it's done.

5.21 Two Minutes to Midnight

Using the alias "Dr. Green" Pestilence is working at the Serenity Valley Convalescent Home, and experimenting on the patients. Using information from Brady, Sam and Dean arrive at the home, but are incapacitated by Pestilence's diseases. While writhing on the ground from their illnesses, Pestilence tells them they're suffering from scarlet fever, meningitis and syphilis, and gives them a condescending lecture about God, disease and humanity. Castiel, now human, enters the room and falls to the floor, struck by the effects of Pestilence's epidemic. Pestilence mocks him for being a powerless occupied vessel, noting that "there's not a speck of angel in you." Castiel picks up Ruby's knife and cuts off Pestilence's ring finger. A possessed nurse rushes at Castiel, but he kills her with the knife. Sam and Dean immediately recover from their illnesses and get up from the floor. Pestilence, clutching his hand bleeding, tells them "It doesn't matter. It's too late," before vanishing.

Props for Pestilence's fingers.

Later in the episode, Sam and Dean figure out what Pestilence's plan was after a talk with Crowley. Brady was vice president of distribution at Niveus Pharmaceuticals. The first part of the plan was for Pestilence to start a swine flu epidemic, which set the stage for the second step: mass nationwide distribution of the Niveus vaccine which contains the Croatoan virus.

Bobby tells Sam, Dean and Castiel that he's figured out that Death is going to cause a storm and a series of natural disasters that will kill three million people in Chicago. He is eventually forced to admit that he sold his soul to Crowley to get the information on Death. The group splits up: Sam, Bobby and Castiel go to Niveus to destroy the samples of the vaccine and the distribution center to prevent the outbreak of the Croatoan virus, while Dean and Crowley head to Chicago to try and defeat Death, save the city, and get the last ring. Crowley gives Dean Death's scythe to use in Chicago, saying that in addition to killing angels, demons, and reapers it's rumored to be capable of killing Death himself.

Death arrives in Chicago to start the disaster. Dozens, if not hundreds, of reapers arrive too, and are later seen by Crowley.

Death stops in a pizzeria for lunch, killing everyone inside (possibly unintentionally) and is found by Dean, who attempts to sneak up on him with Death's scythe. However, the scythe begins to burn hot in Death's presence, forcing Dean to drop it and alerting the Horseman to his presence. Rather than showing hostility toward Dean, the Horseman thanks him for returning the scythe before asking Dean to join him at the table. Death then reveals that he has been waiting for a while to talk with Dean.

When Dean asks him how old he is, Death admits he can't really remember anymore and guesses he is as old or older than God himself and neither can remember anymore. He surmises that he has been alive since life itself began and someday he will even reap God, to Dean's surprise. Death just states God is a living being like any other and someday he too will die; its just the way things work.

Death explains that Lucifer, whom he describes as "a bratty child," has him bound by a spell and is using him to create apocalyptic chaos.

Death offers his ring to Dean on the condition that Dean must do everything in his power to assure that Lucifer is put back in his cage, even if that means sacrificing Sam. Dean reluctantly agrees, and Death warns him to hold true to his word, reminding him that he can't cheat Death. The Horseman then gives Dean the instructions on how to operate the rings, which combine to form a key-like device.

Later, Dean and Bobby discuss the plan, and while Dean is skeptical, Bobby says that Death probably has a larger view of things than they do and they should have more faith in Sam.

6.11 Appointment in Samarra

Dean tries to make a deal with Death to get Sam's soul back. Death agrees on the provision that Dean wears his ring and performs Death's duties for a day. Dean retrieves the ring from where he had buried it at Bobby's place. While Dean doesn't keep his side of the deal, Death does return Sam's soul, and Dean returns the ring to Death. Death says he wants Dean to keep investigating Purgatory.

7.01 Meet the New Boss

Dean, Sam and Bobby (through a ritual provided by Crowley), plan to bind Death to their will and have him put a stop to Castiel, who has absorbed all the souls in Purgatory and declared himself the new "God." Before they can convince him, Castiel appears and threatens to kill them all, but Dean reminds him that Death is under their control. During their standoff, Death confronts Castiel about his deteriorating state telling him that it is because he absorbed things from Purgatory - specifically the first beasts: Leviathans. Castiel scoffs at Death's warnings and threatens to kill him, Death ignores his threats, telling him that he isn't God.

Eventually Dean orders Death to kill Castiel, but Castiel breaks the bonds tying Death to their will and then flees. Instead of turning on them, Death admonishes Dean for dropping the ball regarding the souls, but declares that Castiel's arrogance is annoying and decides to help them yet again. He tells Dean that the things Castiel absorbed can be returned to Purgatory: they just have to open another door, and convince Castiel to give up his new power. So, Death agrees to create another eclipse at 3:59 AM on Sunday.

9.01 I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here

When Sam is near death from the damage he took from the trials, Death himself comes to reap him, appearing to him in his coma dream and saying that he considers it an honor and that while he usually doesn't pass judgment, he tells Sam "well done, my boy." Sam is ready to come with him and asks if Death can make it so that he dies permanently this time and can't be brought back which Death confirms. However, before Sam can agree to go with Death, Ezekiel shows up in Dean's form to try to convince Sam to not give up and say "Yes" to him which will allow him to possess him and heal him from the inside. Death doesn't interfere saying that its Sam's decision and he ultimately says yes after which Death disappears from Sam's mind.

10.23 Brother's Keeper

Deciding that he can't fight the influence of the Mark of Cain anymore, Dean sets-up shop in an empty bar where he proceeds to summon Death, believing he's the only thing powerful enough to kill him. When Death arrives, Dean offers him some Mexican food that he prepared himself, which Death gladly dines on. As Dean makes his case to Death to kill him, Death tells him that the Mark won't allow for that, but tells him he can remove the Mark, but Dean must first give it to someone else before he will. Death explains that the Mark was created by God to bind the Darkness, an ancient evil that existed before life or even the Earth. If the Mark is removed without being passed on, the Darkness will be released. The Mark initially belonged to Lucifer who was corrupted by it, which led to his fall and it being passed it onto Cain who passed it onto Dean. When Dean refuses to pass the Mark on, Death offers him another option: Death can transport him so far away he's no longer a threat to anyone, but he demands Dean kill Sam in exchange so Sam won't try to get him back. Dean calls Sam and gives him his location, when he arrives, Death waits idly as the two brothers confront and fight each other, until Sam finally acquiesces and allows Dean to kill him for the greater good. A defeated Sam remains kneeling at his brother's feet, when Death approaches and hands Dean his scythe. As Dean is hesitating delivering the death blow to Sam, Death tells him to do it, or he will. As Dean tells Sam he is sorry, he takes the scythe and swings it over Sam's head, turning around and driving the blade into the side of Death, killing him. Death and his scythe crumble to ashes. However, Death's warning comes to pass when Rowena removes the Mark and the Darkness is released.

Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in Lore

Left to Right: Death, Famine, War and Conquest.

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are described in the last book of the New Testament of the Bible, called the Book of Revelation, at the beginning of Chapter 6. The chapter tells of a scroll in God's right hand that is sealed with seven seals, and when Jesus Christ opens the first four of the seven seals, four beings are summoned forth. They ride on white, red, black, and pale horses and, although some interpretations differ, the four riders are commonly seen as symbolizing Conquest, War, Famine and Death, respectively[6] The show substitutes Pestilence for the biblical horseman Conquest.


  • Alastair refers to them as "amigos."
  • Anna Milton states that the Horsemen will revert back to their "day jobs" without Lucifer.[7]
  • The "human soul in the briefcase" device is a reference to the urban legend of the 1994 movie Pulp Fiction where the mysterious shining object in the briefcase (which is never seen or identified) is said to be the soul of Marsellus Wallace.

See also