Persona is a game that’s cemented self into the zeitgeist of 2000’s JRPGs, offering beautifully and oftentimes strange depictions of monsters, gods, and urban myths worldwide. These entities become “Personas” of the Hero, or masks that he wears, allowing him to overcome the Shadows that seek to destroy him and his friends.
But not all of these Personas or entities are noble. Many of them are outright disturbing. Here are some of the best ones.
The 10 Most Disturbing Personas in Persona 4
Mada, of the Magician Arcana
Originally from Hindu Mythology, Mada is described in Persona 4 Golden as, “A giant monster in Hindu myth. Its mouth is so enormous that it can swallow all of space, along with all gods. Its name means ‘intoxicator.’”
The idea of there being an entity that can swallow all the known universe, including the gods, is terrifying enough. But in Hindu theology, Mada is a gigantic demon that actually has two sets of mouths. One large enough to engulf the earth, the other the heavens.
Jack Frost, of the Magician Arcana
Jack Frost is technically a European spirit that’s found his way into mainstream media. But in Persona, Jack Frost has taken on a life of his own, becoming the unofficial mascot of the entire series. And while that makes sense, he’s pretty cute; his bio has this to say: “A winter fairy of European descent. Normally an innocent creature, but if provoked, he will kill his victim by covering him in snow.”
This is particularly disturbing because of how mischievous, and childlike Jack Frost is. It doesn’t seem like it’d take much at all to get him to bury you in a mountain of snow.
Tzitzimitl, of the Priestess Arcana
Born of Aztec myth, Tzitzimitl is described in Persona 4 as, “Goddess of Aztec myth who governs night and fear, she symbolizes death and evil. Her war with the sun god caused a catastrophic solar eclipse. She seeks a sacrifice every 52 years.”
But this is just a small glimpse into how terrifying Tzitzimitl (which actually refers to multiple female deities) can be. Though it’s important to note that much of the surviving history surrounding Tzitzimitl is likely influenced by the colonizers who came after their myth was established.
Depictions of Tzitzimitl show them as a skeletal female figure wearing skirts with skulls. But despite this morbid depiction, Tzitzimitl and her sisters were worshipped by midwives and were associated with the stars. In fact, it’s believed that as stars, they attacked the sun, causing solar eclipses. During these eclipses, the Tzitzimitl would descend and possess men, demanding sacrifice. If that sacrifice weren’t appropriately given, the sun would end, and they would devour the last of men.
Hariti, of the Priestess Arcana
A Buddhist deity of the Mahayana tradition, Hariti is described in Persona 4 as, “Also known as Kichimojin. She used to eat others’ children, but Buddha changed her ways. She eats pomegranates now and is a goddess of parenting.”
Hariti has two major mythos but the one that inspired the Persona 4 description is likely the one in which Hariti was a demon. As a demon, she had hundreds of children but struggled to feed them. With no other recourse, she stole the children of other women and fed those children to her own offspring. The now childless mothers asked the Buddha for help, and the Buddha taught Hariti compassion and empathy for those she wounded. After this encounter, she became a protector of all children and women.
Personally, I think the Persona 4 lore is far more disturbing. Without context, it’s just a woman who likes to chow down on kids and has begrudgingly replaced them with pomegranates.
Cybele, of the Lovers Arcana
It’s messed up that Cybele is part of the Lovers Arcana. But anyway, Cybele is a Phrygian goddess, and her Persona 4 description describes her as, “Phrygian goddess of the earth. Attis was her son and consort, but she drove him mad, and he castrated himself. Her orgiastic cult spread to Greece.”
Looking at Attis’ description in Persona 4, we learn that he was then resurrected as a pine tree. But I’m not sure if that makes it better. What does help is knowing that he might not have actually been her son. Attis’ true identity is much disputed. He might have been a mortal, beloved by the Great Mother goddess. He might have been a minor god.
But no matter who he was, he always gets castrated and dies from it.
Nidhoggr, of the Hermit Arcana
Nidhoggr is a monster of Norse mythology, and its Persona 4 description states, “An evil dragon that gnaws on the roots of Yggdrasil, the World Tree. It rules over the evil snakes that live there. Capable of surviving Ragnarok by feeding on the slain corpses that drift to it.”
Look, I’ll be honest. Nidhoggr made it onto this list because of those massive chompers. Look at those teeth. Those teeth chased me through my nightmares. Horrifying. But Nidhoggr also has the same horrifying appeal as Mada, in that it’s slowly attempting to topple the universe and all the dimensions connected to it.
Alice, of the Death Arcana
Alice is immediately recognizable as the protagonist from the children’s book Alice in Wonderland. Her Persona 4 bio states, “A ghost who appears as a young blonde girl. She seems young, but has formidable magic powers. Some say she’s the ghost of a poor English girl who died an unfortunate death.”
What makes Alice’s persona so disturbing is that it implies that she died quite young. Perhaps while tumbling down a rabbit hole all those years ago? Or was it an unfortunate Jabberwock incident? Whatever the case, Alice has been stuck in the land of shadows for what must have been decades, if not centuries, if time even has meaning for a Persona. And in that time, her ghost has become a powerful magic user. It’s likely that she’ll never escape this realm in between realms and will forever be a Persona of Death.
Ghoul, of the Death Arcana
Born in Islamic mythology, the Ghoul’s Persona 4 description describes it as, “[A] Cannibalistic demon from Islamic lore. It feeds on the flesh of both the living and the dead. It is indistinguishable from normal humans and prefers to prey on children and travelers.”
When you think of Ghouls, you likely think of a ghastly, rotting, shambling mess of a creature, right? Or something equally hideous. You don’t think of it as being your neighbor, your friends, your beloved barista. And that’s the horror of the Ghoul. They’re essentially serial killers, skulking around in the daylight, their stomachs forever yearning for the flesh of both the living and the dead. You might know someone your whole life and never really know what dark desires are in their head. That makes the Ghoul one of the most disturbing Personas in the list.
Beelzebub, of the Devil Arcana
Originally a Philistine god, Beelzebub has become popularized in Abrahamic mythology. Its Persona 4 description describes it as, “Demonic Lord of the Flies, whose insect minions carry souls for him to control. Mentioned in the Bible as a leader of evil spirits and thus seen as a powerful demon in Christianity.”
While Beelzebub has been twisted into many forms over the centuries, the Persona 4 take is both unique and disturbing. Imagine you die, and your soul is whisked away by a fly so that you’re eternally bound into service for a giant, monstrous fly.
Trumpeter, of the Judgement Arcana
My favorite of the hierarchy of Angels, the Trumpeter, is drawn from Abrahamic mythology. In Persona 4, it’s described as, “Angels said to sound the trumpets at the apocalypse. Each trumpet brings more plagues and disasters, turning the earth into a land of death and suffering.”
Yes, there are few angels as devastating as the Trumpeter. While they’re essentially messengers, these skeletal creatures herald the doom of those left behind, and with each blow of their trumpet, they draw the world closer to a hellscape. There are few things as disturbing as not only being forsaken by your chosen god but also being brutally punished for not being good enough.