We often hear people say “I was stuck in the subway for fifteen minutes, it was hot and crowded, it was really hell” but is this really a realistic representation of what our ancestors or fellow believers of various religions regard as Hell? Not really. Quite surprisingly, however, we find this principle of the world of the beyond where souls who do not deserve their place in Paradise go in many religions and mythologies and we decided to do a little overview of it, just to see what was the least bad and therefore what religion to adopt just before our death.
1. The Mesopotamian Hell, version 1.0 of the concept
Historically, we can speak of the Mesopotamian Hell as the “first” to have existed, or at least the oldest listed. The place is underground (a feature that is often found) and is often represented as a large gloomy citadel where life is not necessarily good. The dead find themselves there when they leave their earthly envelope and remain there for eternity without affection, without purpose and without joy.
Small notable particularity, among the Mesopotamians EVERYONE goes to Hell except for the kings and princes, which is rather severe. This small plot of land is managed by Ninazu, King of the Underworld and his wife Ereshkigal, Queen of the Dead, two important deities of Mesopotamian religions. If you want to learn more, we advise you to read the myth of the descent into the underworld of the goddess Inannaa story that can be described as several things but not joyful, unlikely to be adapted by Pixar.
2. The Greek Hell (also works for the Romans since they pumped it all up)
The kingdom of Hades is probably the mythological Hell that we know best as its representation in popular culture is extensive. The Greek Hell is the world of all the dead but is divided into several places: the Champs Elysees where do heroes and good people go, Meadows of Asphodel where do more common people go to spend eternity without real flavor, the Fields of Punishment where are the culprits going and especially the Tartarwhich takes its name from the God who keeps it and concerns criminals and very bad people.
Tartarus is a place where no plants grow, foggy, marshy, smelly and with dirty and sticky waters. It is also the place where Hades lives, in order to properly freak out the prisoners and the sinful souls who are kept captive there. To pass the time there is no real occupation, it is above all a question of undergoing continuous tortures for eternity and of never being able to leave the place. Overall a very poor average on HellBnB.
3. The Egyptian Beyond
Egyptian mythology had a different view of death, in summary the deceased are still considered alive but go through several stages and places during their “journey”. Death is considered a stage of life but not its end point. We can find this concept in the God Rê, creator of the universe and solar divinity who “dies” at the end of each day to go and recharge his batteries in the Duât and come back alive in the morning, perpetuating a cycle of eternal life and that of the sun. at the same time. Another peculiarity, the Egyptian Beyond is located in several places: underground, on the ground and in the sky.
If we find certain places where the good souls (the Blessed) can live pleasant days like the Pure mounds and the Field of Offerings, there are also less friendly places. This is the case of Burning Pits for example, where the damned have their hands tied and are gutted and burned every day by wrathful gods and devoured by lions, crocodiles or hippos. After the weighing of the heart which defines if a deceased has sinned (his heart must be lighter than a feather) the evil souls find themselves in this part of the afterlife and their remains grow the barley which nourishes the Happy. Nice, right?
4. Hell of Hinduism
Several places divide the world of the dead in the Hindu religion, sometimes called the Naraka (also the name of hell in Buddhism) is the one that comes closest to Hell in the pejorative sense of the term. Some people stay there only before reincarnating into a lesser creature, but the biggest fishermen stay there for a period close to eternity. Already to get there, you have to go on a long hike that would make the GR20 look like a playground for children: crossing marshes, desert, rivers of pus, urine and blood.
Several hells divide the Naraka, each possessing their own torments and sufferings that correspond to the actions of the damned. You can have yourself burned, cut, frozen, eaten, pricked, quartered and many other hobbies that are not really friendly. One of the hells of Naraka is for example a forest whose trees have extremely sharp leaves, the deceased therefore advance there by being cut permanently. And the ground is covered with embers too. Ah, and when the deceased falls to the ground because of his suffering and he really can’t take it anymore, there are obviously dogs who come to eat him.
5. Yomi, the Japanese hell
Halfway between Chinese and Shinto mythology, Yomi is the world of the dead and is also called the world of the impure. Unsurprisingly it is found underground, because it usually is. Here it is the goddess Izanami who pulls the strings, both goddess of creation and death, a sort of project manager of your life who is herself forced to reside there. The other inhabitants of this rather unwelcoming place (in addition to the other damned) are the shikomeliterally translated as “ugly old women”.
The peculiarity of this hell is that there is not necessarily torture or torture perpetrated on the deceased except the fact of living there for the rest of his eternity. It is a dark, cold and colorless place where the bodies of the dead lie. This is the other particularity of Shintoism: only the body goes to hell because the soul automatically rises to the afterlife at death, it already saves half of the person.
6. Buddhist Hell (Jigoku or Naraka)
Difficult to explain in a few lines the nuances of the vision of Hell of this religion knowing that there are nearly thirty different hells and that aspects are shared with Hinduism and Jainism. The Buddhist hells are divided into categories, there are for example eight freezing hells and eight burning hells which are themselves adjoined by sixteen other hells. A beautiful mess.
Each hell has its own sufferings and torments, which adds another similarity to Hinduism. Generally the damned suffer horrors there before reincarnating and finally reaching Nirvana. If you want to walk in the biting cold watching wounds devour your skin we recommend one of the frozen hells, but if you prefer to be reduced to ashes in a gigantic pot or be trampled by giant iron elephants then book rather in the hot underworld, it’s à la carte.
7. The Chinese hell, the Diyu
The Diyu is a mixture between the Buddhist and Hindu Naraka and certain Taoist beliefs. It is therefore also a question of a temporary passage of the soul before its eventual liberation by reincarnation. This is presented as a gigantic labyrinth on several levels whose parts are related to the sin committed by the deceased. Theft, murder, adultery and other crimes then have a “dedicated space” where the soul is purified.
On the leisure side, the Diyu is not to be outdone, you can be cut with a saw, be forced to climb thorny trees, be reduced to powder, be dismembered by carts, climb a mountain covered with knives or even to peel the skin. Each punishment is intimately linked to a crime and when the deceased has expiated his sins, an old woman comes to give him a drink that makes him forget everything. Then, he returns to the world of the living being reincarnated. Sometimes it’s better not to remember.
8. Helheim, the Nordic Hell
The Vikings had a very binary vision of death: the heroes, warriors and brave had the honor of going to stay in Valhalla if the Valkyries chose their bodies on the battlefields but for the rest of the dead it was the kingdom of Helheim. Basically almost everyone went to Hell: dead of old age, children, sick people, peasants and generally normal people had no other choice because only a heroic death made it possible to go to paradise.
The place is ruled by one of Loki’s daughters, the goddess Hel whose body is half that of a young woman and that of a putrefied corpse. You get there by a river (whose symbol is close to the Greek Styx) and you never leave. Inside it is cold, there is little light and souls wander aimlessly, waiting for the deliverance that will be the final battle of the Gods, Ragnarök. It’s not the dream place to spend eternity, we’re not going to lie to each other.