A Portrait of Hell: Vignettes from Various Mythologies regarding the Darker Side of Death

A Portrait of Hell: Vignettes from Various Mythologies regarding the Darker Side of Death

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In all religions key elements exist, cornerstones of their belief system, upon which everything else builds (Wilkins 22). These elements explain the world around us, from the fabrication of the universe to the meaning of life, imparting knowledge of the social mores and customs of the times (Wilkins 3). These myths testify to the moral and ethical code of the society that first conceived them (Wilkins 5). As with all systems of rule, an attempt to force the peoples governed by them into obedience creates possibilities for positive and negative reinforcement via religious beliefs (Wilkins 12). Good and bad, or in more common terms, heaven and hell. Punishment on earth is often short lived and quickly forgotten, but a threat of eternal punishment is well, eternal. From ancient Egyptians to current Judeo-Christian religion, there is always an eternal punishment for infractions of the religious law though the punishments and crimes may vary.
Take for instance the Egyptians, whose well known elaborate burial chambers, coffins and practices form the basis of the first story I want to relate to you. These coffins, or sarcophagi, were often very elaborately inscribed with paintings and carvings, spells against the perils the deceased would face in Duat, the underworld (Hart 18). These spells would help protect them and guide them to the throne room of the underworld, where their soul would be judged (Hart 18). The decedents’ epic travels involved placating gods, overcoming demons, traversing lakes of fire, escaping executioners and surviving poisonous snakes on their journey to reach Duat (Hart 18). Only with the proper spells and maps, placed on and in the sarcophagi, could one hope to arrive in the throne room unharmed (Hart 1...


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...cape her judgment nor argument with her edicts will sway her. Hell is an absolute, and all the more forbidding because of it. Though the violence depicted in these myths varies, the overall story remains unchanged. Disobeying the laws and strictures set forth by the government and religious doctrines will exact a hefty price, perhaps eternally.



Works Cited
Hamilton, Edith. Mythology. Boston: Back Bay Books, 1998.
Hart, George. Ancient Egypt. New York: Dorling Kindersley Publishing, 2000.
Leeming, David Adams. Mythology The Voyage of the Hero. New York: Harper Collins, 1981.
Morford, Mark P.O., Robert J. Lenardon and Michael Sham. Classical Mythology 9th Edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.
Wilkins, Ronald J. "Religions of The World." Wilkins, Ronald J. Brown-ROA, 1995.
Willis, Roy. World Mythology. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

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