The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are a quartet of immensely powerful entities that personified the four prime concepts that drive the Apocalypse.
Each use a special ring that channels their core ability, without which, their physical forms are lost, excluding Death. Also, they each travel in a car (colored to resemble their steed's color in lore), having gotten in "with the times".
After Lucifer rises from his cage in Hell, he takes command of the Horsemen and directs them in enacting his genocide against humanity. Their rings, unknown to all but a few select individuals, are the keys to Lucifer's Cage in Hell, and thus the Horsemen collectively hold the key to sending him back.
History of The Horsemen
|“||I'm waiting to hook up with my siblings; I've got... three. We're gonna have so much fun together.||”|
The Horsemen are mysterious beings that exist in creation, each representing a different attribute. In Death Takes A Holiday Alastair remarks the Horsemen are well aware of Lilith's plans and are "jonesing for the Apocalypse". Despite this, Anna claims they have day jobs they carry out around the world when not taking on physical form.
The Horsemen have a very slanted view of humanity, and some see themselves as just bringing out the evil that is already in humans. Both War and Famine have said humans "only need a little push" in order to do horrible things, and both have shown a level of disgust and contempt toward how easily corruptible humans are, and what they can do. Pestilence prefers spreading diseases to people, claiming that belief of disease being a bad thing is just because of sick people, and he can never understand why God has such love for humanity.
Each Horseman possesses a ring that allows them to channel and focus their power through their physical form (similar to angels and their grace). While it doesn't kill them, separating them from their rings is the only known way to drive them off. In Hammer of the Gods, Gabriel reveals the rings are actually the keys to Lucifer's Cage.
In Two Minutes to Midnight, it is shown that the Horsemen cannot be properly filmed, as when Dean and Sam are watching a camera for Pestilence, they find him because his face and ring are hidden with static.
In The Devil You Know, Dean and Sam are instructed to find Death and Pestilence's handlers in order to acquire their rings. Lucifer states in Abandon All Hope... that the Horsemen (Death in this case) are very demanding. Their handlers are revealed in The Devil You Know to be more like personal attendants seeing to each Horseman's personal needs and overseeing some of their interests. Brady, for example, had been overseeing Pestilence's Croatoan Virus trials while the Horseman himself has been setting the stage for the virus's release.
The Horsemen also have a very deep loyalty to one another that supersedes any allegiance to Lucifer. For example, Pestilence wanted to kill Sam and Dean in revenge for what they did to his brothers. When a minion warned him they were under orders not to harm the brothers, Pestilence raised his voice and stated if the Devil wanted them so badly he could "glue them back together".
|“||And there fell a great star from Heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell upon the river, and the name of the star was Wormwood, and many men died.||”|
In "Good God, Y'all", War kills a well-known resident named Roger and assumes his form and buries him in a ditch. Using this form, he drives a red 1966 Ford Mustang Fastback as his "red horse." He parks his car after destroying the town's only exit and then gets to work on the townspeople by using his ring to generate hallucinations, making the people believe that others around them have been possessed by demons. War hates acting directly because in his opinion the best way to cause chaos is to induce panic and let humans take care of the rest. Realizing that they cannot kill War, the Winchesters instead cut off his ring finger, breaking the spell he cast over the town and forcing him to depart. In The Devil You Know, Brady reveals that the Winchesters have reduced War and Famine to near catatonic states by removing their rings. War's ring is gold and is the only ring that does not have a stone in it.
|“||And then will come Famine, riding on a black steed. He will ride into the land of plenty. And great will be Horseman's hunger, for he is hunger. His hunger will seep out and poison the air.||”|
In "My Bloody Valentine", Famine is in a decrepit, weak condition due to massive agricultural improvements. Because of this, Famine can barely infect anyone by himself, forcing Lucifer to send lower level-demons to care for him until his powers are fully regenerated. Like his brother War, he too possesses a ring that allows him to focus and direct his powers. His ring is silver with a black stone.
In "Hammer of the Gods", Pestilence goes into a drugstore to buy flu medicine. He spreads some mucus over everything. He drives a sickly green/white car with a license plate that spells "sick and tired". He is accompanied by a swarm of flies and has the appearance of a man suffering a heavy cold, though this appears to be a ruse since, after leaving the drugstore, he straightens up and laughs while throwing the medicine away. His ring is gold with a pale green stone.
|“||And through the fire stood before me a pale horse, and he who sat atop him carried a scythe. And I saw since he had risen, they too shall rise. And from him, and through him.||”|
Death, unlike the other Horsemen, doesn't naturally appear to aid in the apocalypse. He is freed from the confines of a cell into the physical world in "Abandon All Hope..." with a ritual and his presence is felt at times, but doesn't physically appear until "Two Minutes to Midnight". He arrives in Chicago to destroy it with a titanic storm. After getting out of his white car, he walks down the sidewalk, where a man on his cell phone rudely bumps into him and collapses dead soon thereafter. Crowley later helps Dean track Death to a pizzeria, where Death makes a deal with Dean to give him his ring in exchange for him to do all in his power to put Lucifer back into his cell. His ring is silver with a white stone.
Death is the eldest of the Horsemen and is older than most creatures can understand; he explains to Dean that the entire galaxy is still "in its diapers" in comparison to him. In a conversation with Dean he claims to know God, and states that he doesn't remember his age, and it is possible that he could be as old as God. Death claimed once the end of time approaches, he would reap God as well. Due to his age, Death is very detached from the rest of the world and does not really care that much for The Apocalypse and those involved, thinking them to be little more than bacteria. Dean, who is an important tool for the war, is highly insignificant to Death in the grand scheme of the universe, and he (like Pestilence) openly despises Lucifer, who has him under his control through the use of a binding spell. In a similar manner to Gabriel, Death compares Lucifer to a spoiled, bratty child throwing a tantrum, and despises the fact he is using Death as a weapon. After he tries to get Dean to kill Sam, Dean kills Death with his own scythe in the season finale of season 10.
One of the rules of reality is that when one incarnation of Death is killed, the next Reaper to die will take his place. After being killed by Castiel in First Blood, the reaper Billie was reincarnated as the new Death.
Powers and Abilities
The Four Horsemen are among the most powerful entities in existence; however, they require their rings to channel their powers through their physical forms.
- Indestructibility - While Horsemen can take damage in their human forms, they are difficult to destroy.
- Immortality - They can live forever.
- Invisibility - The Horsemen are naturally invisible, unless they choose to take form.
- Manifestation - The Horsemen can take on any human form they so desire while possessing their rings (excluding Death who can take a human form with or without his ring).
- Superhuman Stamina - The Horsemen don't possess the capacity to tire, and furthermore, do not require food, water, sleep, or oxygen to sustain themselves. Nevertheless, Death seemed to enjoy eating "cheap food", as Dean puts it.
- Telekinesis - The Horsemen can manipulate physical matter through power of will.
- Teleportation - The Horsemen can travel from place to place instantly, without occupying the space in between.
- Cosmic Awareness - The Horsemen process incredible amount of knowledge and understanding of the universe and its workings.
- Illusion Casting - War could create illusions and hallucinations, which drove people to violence.
- Super Strength (possibly) - War can exert tremendous physical force, enough for him to destroy a bridge. However, he didn't use it when Dean and Sam grabbed him because he thought they were trying to kill him, and because he knew he couldn't be killed being a concept, he put up no resistance.
- Telepathy - War can read the thoughts of other beings.
- Electrokinesis - War managed to disable all forms of electronic communication in a town.
- Demonic Exorcism - Famine could forcibly remove a demon from its vessel.
- Gluttony Augmentation - Famine could enhance the sense of hunger in other beings, causing them to seek whatever it is they crave most until it resulted in their destruction.
- Soul Reading - Famine can determine the state of a soul.
- Soul Absorption - Famine can eat souls in order to gain his original strength. It doesn't matter if the soul is corrupted or not.
- Telepathy - Famine was able to enter Dean's subconscious, telling him "inside, you're already dead".
- Biokinesis - Pestilence can create, manipulate, and control diseases, plagues, infestations, molds, and other ailments. He can also cause instantaneous illness in another being. Pestilence possesses dominion over ailments. His sickness powers doesn't work on angels, as he was fascinated when they affected near-human Castiel.
- Insect Manipulation - It has been seen that where ever Pestilence goes there are flies around.
- Necrokinesis - Death can kill anything, except the Darkness. He once caused a man to collapse after simply brushing shoulders with him. He stated he will reap God but this remains unclear.
- Nigh-Omniscience - Death has an almost absolute awareness of the universe, rivaled only by God.
- Nigh-Omnipotence - Death has almost absolute power. He was even able to alter the cosmos to cause an eclipse.
- Resurrection - Death can bring anything back to life. He even retrieved Sam's soul from Lucifer's Cage, without being hindered by the supernatural barriers strong enough to keep Michael and Lucifer locked inside. He could even bring multiple people back to life just with his passing.
- Weather Manipulation - It is said that Death is responsible for Noah's flood. He was also going to wipe out Chicago with a massive storm before Dean found him.
Binding and Weakening
- Binding - Death states that he is bound by Lucifer to work for him and he is later bound by Sam, Dean and Bobby.
- Physical attacks - The Horsemen's bodies are vulnerable to physical attacks as shown when Sam cuts off War's finger to remove his ring, and then when Pestilence gets his finger cut off by Castiel. However, physical attacks cannot kill a horseman.
- Ring Removal - The Horsemen won't be able to manifest a form if they lose their rings. However, Death wasn't affected by it.
- Death's Scythe - It can kill anything as shown when Dean uses it to kill Death himself.
- Season 1
- Season 4
- Season 5
- Sympathy for the Devil (Pestilence, hidden visage)
- Good God, Y'all (War)
- Abandon All Hope... (Death, unseen)
- My Bloody Valentine (Famine; War, mentioned only)
- Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (Death, unseen)
- Hammer of the Gods (Pestilence; Famine and War, flashback)
- The Devil You Know (Pestilence, unseen; Famine and War, mentioned only)
- Two Minutes to Midnight (Pestilence and Death)
- Season 6
- Season 7
- Season 9
- Season 10
- Season 11
- Season 13
- Bobby Singer's Guide to Hunting (non-canon, mentioned only)
- Before Brother's Keeper, all of the Horsemen but Death had been defeated by the Winchesters. Death was never defeated and just negotiated with before that.
- War's "red horse" is a 1966 Mustang because the 1964 1/2 year didn't have a "fastback" option. A floating "corral" around the Mustang horse on the grill and the lack of chrome on the sides indicates that it's not a 1965 model, the lack of "forks" on the sides indicates it's not a 1967 model, the presence of the "air scoops" indicates it's not a later than 1966 model.