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Visions of Hell

"Demons Armed with Sticks"
Mathias Grünewald (1455-1528)
Many cultures throughout time have ascribed a Hell or netherworld as a possible location for the afterlife, typically where the less-than righteous might end up. But the specifics of such a place show a fair amount of variety. Here is brief rundown on some of the conceptions:

  • Ancient Egypt: The Duat or underworld was inhabited by disbelievers of Ra (the sun god), and their fate was to be dismembered each evening and then put back together in the morning when Ra rose.
  • Ancient Greece: Ruled by Pluto, Hades was a place of ingenious tortures, such as the endless pushing a rock up a hill endured by Sisyphus. A fate even worse than Hades, for the most egregious sinners, was the bottomless pit of Tartarus ruled by Kronos.
  • Aztec: It took four years to arrive by boat to the underworld known as Mictlan, and during this travel one might be beset by hideous demons. A dark and gloomy place, Mictlan was said to be more restful than torturous.
  • Buddhism: Some branches of Buddhism believe there are eight types of hell between death and rebirth. These include Raurava 'The Great Screaming Hell,' a 4,000 year long pit stop for drunkards and Avici 'The Hell of No End,' for murderers.
  • Chinese: In Taoism, eighteen levels of hell have been described. The fate of a person's soul is squabbled over by various gods, but sinners can bribe their way out by getting living relatives to burn paper money.

--L.L.(1)
Source: Hell: An Illustrated History of the Netherworld(2) by Richard Craze

1. http://archive.coasttocoastam.com/info/about_lex.html
2. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1573240591/ctoc/

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