Sooner or later, time is up for everyone. It would be ridiculous to think that after such a life we will be able to somehow penetrate through the heavenly gates or deceive the archangel guarding them. It is worth accepting the inevitable: not booths and houris are waiting for us, but the gloomy landscape of hell. And in order not to get confused at the grave board, you should prepare for this in advance. Moreover, you can find a whole bunch of authoritative evidence on how to navigate in hellish terrain. The main thing is not to panic.
Where is it, the underworld? Some ancient peoples burned the deceased: this is a sure sign that the soul must ascend to its new abode in heaven. If he was buried in the ground, then she will go to the underworld.
If sent on the last journey by boat, it sails to the country across the sea, at the very edge of the Earth. The Slavs had a variety of opinions on this, but they all agreed on one thing: the souls of those people who are not kept near their former dwellings enter the afterlife, and they lead about the same existence there – they harvest, hunt …
Those who, due to a curse, or an unfulfilled promise, or something else, cannot leave their bodies, remain in our world – either settling into their former shells, then taking the form of animals, natural phenomena, or simply ghosts of failure. We can say that the afterlife of such souls is our own world, so this is not the worst option for a posthumous existence.
Everything will turn out much worse if you find yourself in the afterlife of the ancient Egyptians, where Osiris reigns. During his earthly incarnation, he was killed and dismembered by his own brother Set. This could not but affect the character of the lord of the dead.
Osiris looks repulsive: he looks like a mummy, clutching the signs of pharaoh’s power. Sitting on the throne, he presides over the court, which weighed the actions of the newly arrived souls. The god of life Horus brings them here. Hold on tightly to his hand: the hawk-headed Chorus is the son of the underground king, so it may well put in a good word for you.
The courtroom is huge – this is the entire firmament. According to the directions of the Egyptian Book of the Dead, a number of rules should be observed in it. List in detail the sins that you did not have time to commit during your lifetime. After that, you will be offered to leave a memory of yourself and help your relatives by depicting a court scene on a papyrus scroll.
If your artistic talent is at its best, you will spend the rest of eternity here, participating in the affairs of Osiris and his numerous divine relatives. The rest await a cruel execution: they are thrown to be devoured by Ammatu, a monster with the body of a hippo, paws and mane of a lion and a crocodile mouth.
However, the lucky ones may find themselves in his jaws: from time to time there are “cleansings”, in which the affairs of the wards souls are again reviewed. And if relatives have not provided the appropriate amulets, you will most likely be eaten by a ruthless monster.
It is even easier to get into the afterlife kingdom of the Greeks: you will be carried away by the god of death Thanatos himself, who brings here all the “fresh” souls. During big battles and battles, where he, apparently, cannot cope alone, Thanatos is helped by winged Kerrs, who carry the fallen to the kingdom of the eternally gloomy Hades.
In the far west, at the edge of the world, stretches a lifeless plain, in some places overgrown with willows and poplars with black bark. Behind it, at the bottom of the abyss, the muddy quagmire of Acheron opens. It merges with the black waters of the Styx, which encircles the world of the dead nine times and separates it from the world of the living. Even the gods are wary of breaking the oaths given by the name of Styx: these waters are sacred and ruthless. They flow into Cocytus, the river of weeping that gives rise to Lethe, the river of oblivion.
You can cross the river Styx in old man Charon’s boat. For his labor, he takes a small copper coin from each. If you have no money, you just have to wait for the end of time at the entrance. Charon’s boat crosses all nine streams and drops passengers into the abode of the dead.
Here you will be greeted by a huge three-headed dog Cerberus, safe for those entering, but ferocious and merciless to those who are trying to return to the sunny world. On a vast plain, under a chilling wind, wait quietly among other shadows for your turn. The uneven road leads to the palace of Hades himself, surrounded by the fiery stream of Phlegeton. The bridge over it rests against the gate, standing on diamond columns.
Behind the gates is a huge hall made of bronze, where Hades himself and his assistants, judges Minos, Eak and Radamant, are seated. By the way, all three were once people of flesh and blood, like you and me. They were just kings and ruled their nations so well that after their death Zeus made them judges over all the dead.
With a high probability, just judges will cast you even lower, into Tartarus – the kingdom of pain and groans, located deep under the palace. Here you will have to meet three old sisters, goddesses of vengeance, Erinnias, whom Hades put to watch over sinners.
Their appearance is terrible: blue lips from which poisonous saliva drips; black cloaks like the wings of bats. With balls of snakes in their hands, they rush through the dungeon, lighting their path with torches, and make sure that everyone fully drinks the cup of their punishment. Among the other “indigenous inhabitants” of Tartarus are Lamia, the stealing child, the three-headed Hecate, the demon of nightmares, the corpse-eater Eurynom.
Here you will also meet many mythical figures. Tyrant Ixion is forever chained to a wheel of fire. The chained giant Titius, who offended the tender Leto, is pecked by two vultures. The blasphemer Tantalus is immersed up to his throat in the freshest clear water, but as soon as he, tormented by thirst, bends down, it retreats from him. The Danaids who killed their husbands are forced to endlessly fill the leaky vessel. The quirky Sisyphus, who once deceived the spirit of death Thanatos, and the intractable Hades, and Zeus himself, rolls a stone up the mountain, which breaks down every time he approaches the top.
The images of Christian hell are largely inspired by the ancient Greeks. It is among Christians that the geography of hell has been studied in most detail. Getting there is a little more difficult. Already in the apocryphal books – those that were not included in the Holy Scriptures or were excluded from it later – different opinions were expressed about the location of hell.
Thus, the “Book of Enoch” places the devil himself in the eastern lifeless desert, where Raphael “makes a hole” into which he lowers him, bound hand and foot, and rolls him over with a stone. However, according to the same apocrypha, the soul will go in the opposite direction, to the west, where it will “groan” in the depressions of the high mountain range.
At the end of the 6th century, Pope Gregory the Great, distinguishing between two hells – upper and lower – placed one on the ground, the second under it.
In his 1714 book on the nature of hell, the English occultist Tobias Swinden placed hell in the sun. He motivated his assumption by the then existing ideas about our light as a ball of fire and a quote from the Apocalypse (“The fourth Angel poured out his bowl on the Sun: and it was given to him to burn people with fire”).
And his contemporary and follower, William Whiston, declared all celestial comets to be hell: when they get into the hot regions of the sun, they fry souls, and when they move away, they freeze them. However, you should hardly hope to get on a comet. The most widely accepted idea is that hell is located in the center of the Earth and has at least one exit to the surface.
Most likely, this exit is located in the north, although there are other opinions. So, an old poem about the wanderings of the Irish saint Brendan tells about his journey to the far west, where he finds not only heavenly places, but also places of torment for sinners.
And in heaven, and under the earth, and on the earth itself, hell is placed in the apocryphal “Walk of the Mother of God through torment.” This book is replete with detailed descriptions of punishments. Asking God to disperse the complete darkness that envelops the suffering in the West, Mary sees a red-hot tar pour out on the unbelievers. Here, in a cloud of fire, those who “sleep like the dead at dawn on Sunday” are tormented, and those who have not stood in church during their lifetime are sitting on red-hot benches.
In the south, other sinners are immersed in the river of fire: those cursed by their parents – up to the waist, fornicators – up to the chest, and up to the throat – “those who ate human flesh,” that is, traitors who abandoned children to be devoured by beasts or betrayed their brothers before the king. But deepest of all, to the crown, are the perjurers.
The Mother of God sees here other punishments due to lovers of profit (hanging by the legs), sowers of enmity and Klchristian adepts (hanging by the ears). In the “left side of paradise”, in the raging waves of boiling tar, the Jews who crucified Christ are suffering.
John Milton, author of the poem “Paradise Lost”, is in the realm of the eternal chaos. According to his concept, Satan was overthrown even before the creation of the earth and heaven, which means that hell is outside these areas. The devil himself sits in Pandemonium, the “brilliant capital”, where he receives the most prominent demons and demons.
Pandemonium is a huge castle with halls and porticoes, built by the same architect as the palace of the Heavenly King. The angel architect, who joined the army of Satan, was expelled from heaven with him. Myriads of spirits rush along the corridors of the palace, swarming in the earth and air. There are so many of them that only satanic sorcery allows them to be accommodated.
Even more confusing is the medieval Christian theologian Emanuel Swedenborg. He distinguished three different hells, corresponding to the three levels of heaven. And since God has dominion over everything, all three hells are ruled by him through specially delegated angels.
In his opinion, Satan does not exist at all as the ruler of the kingdom of evil. The devil in Swedenborg’s understanding is a collective name for the most dangerous “evil geniuses”; Beelzebub unites spirits striving for dominion even in heaven; Satan means “not so evil” spirits. All these spirits are terrible to look at and, like corpses, are deprived of life.
The faces of some are black, in others they are fiery, and in others they are “ugly with pimples, abscesses and ulcers; many of them don’t see their faces, others have only teeth sticking out. ” Swedenborg formulated the idea that as heaven reflects one person, and hell in aggregate is only a reflection of one devil and can be represented in this form. The devil’s mouth, leading to the fetid underworld – this is the path awaiting sinners.
Do not overly trust the opinion of some authors who argue that the entrance to hell can be locked. Christ in the “Apocalypse” says: “I have the keys of hell and death.” But Milton claims that the keys to Gehenna (apparently on behalf of Jesus) are kept by a terrible half-woman, half-snake. On the surface of the earth, the gate may look quite harmless, like a pit or a cave, or like a mouth of a volcano. According to Dante Alighieri, author of The Divine Comedy, written at the beginning of the 14th century, souls can go to hell by passing through a dense and gloomy forest.
This poem is the most authoritative source about the hellish device. The structure of the underworld is described in all its complexity. The hell of the Divine Comedy is the torso of Lucifer, inside it has a funnel-shaped structure. Starting a journey through hell, Dante and his guide Virgil descend deeper and deeper, without turning anywhere, and in the end find themselves in the same place from which they entered it.
The strangeness of this hellish geometry was noticed by the famous Russian mathematician, philosopher and theologian Pavel Florensky. He proved very reasonably that Dante’s hell is based on non-Euclidean geometry. Like the entire Universe in the concepts of modern physics, hell in the poem has a finite volume, but has no boundaries, which was proved (theoretically) by the Swiss Weil.
It looks like a Christian hell and an underworld that awaits Muslims. Among the stories of The Thousand and One Nights, seven circles are told. The first is for the faithful who have died an unjust death, the second is for apostates, the third is for the pagans. Jinn and the descendants of Iblis himself inhabit the fourth and fifth circles, Christians and Jews – the sixth. The innermost, seventh circle is waiting for the hypocrites.
Before getting here, souls await the great Doomsday, which will come at the end of time. However, the wait does not seem long to them.
Like most other sinners, visitors to the Islamic Hell are eternally roasted on fire, and every time their skin is burned, it grows again. The Zakkum tree grows here, the fruits of which, like the heads of the devil, are the food of the punished. Do not try the local cuisine: these fruits boil in the stomach like molten copper.
Those who eat them are tormented by intolerable thirst, but the only way to quench it is to drink boiling water so foul-smelling that it “melts the insides and skin.” In short, this is a very, very hot place. In addition, Allah even enlarges the bodies of the kafirs, increasing their torment.
Honestly, none of the described hells arouses good feelings in us, especially in comparison with our small, but generally comfortable world. So where exactly to go is up to you. Of course, it is not possible to give a complete information about the structure of hell on the pages of the magazine.
However, we hope that our quick overview will help everyone who finds themselves there to quickly navigate and greet their new eternity with the words of John Milton:
“Hello, sinister world! Hello, Beyond Gehenna! “