General - The place to which the dead (or the souls of the dead) are said to go. Each culture has its own version of what happens to humans when they die. Many postulate a place where departed souls receive reward or punishment based on their conduct on earth. Some of these are -African (1) The Bantu say that the souls of the dead go to Ku-zimu, an underground world and, if they cause a commotion, an earthquake results. (2) In Dahomey, some say that the land of the dead is in the sky, others that it is under the earth. (3) In Ethiopia the underworld is known as Ekera. (4) For the Swahili, Kuzimu is variously described as a place where waiting souls shiver in the dark, a pleasant realm where the inhabitants look down on earth or an underwater realm where the inhabitants live like fish on the bottom. -Armenian The Armenian underworld, Dzokhk, is envisaged as a fiery abyss below the earth's surface. A bridge known as Maze leads from hell to heaven. This bridge is very fragile and collapses under the weight of sin, casting the soul back into torment. -Assyrian The Assyrian underworld is called Ekurra. -Babylonian Arulu, a kingdom ruled by Ereshkigal. In another story it is called Cuthah. -Buddhist The Buddhists envisage a hell on seven levels, the lowest of which is Avici. -Central American (1) The Aztecs envisaged a ninelayered underworld, Mictlan, the land of the dead, as a gloomy place at the centre of the earth. To reach the underworld, the dead had to cross eight forests, eight deserts and eight mountains, each full of great dangers, and finally cross a river into the first layer of the underworld itself. Included in the hazards of the journey were the fierce alligator, Xochitonal, the demon Izpuzteque and the fiend Nextepehua. Souls who survived the journey finally found rest in the last of these underworld realms, Chicuauhmictlan. (2) The Maya envisaged hell not as a place of permanent torment but as one stage in the progress of each individual between birth and finally reaching heaven. This region was called Xibalba. The place reserved for the punishment of the wicked is Mitnal. -Chinese In China, the underworld was known as Ti-yĆ¼, Earth Prison, and was ruled by Ti-ts'ang. -East Indian The Papuan underworld, ruled by Tumudurere, is known as Hiyoyoa and lies under the sea. -Egyptian The underworld, Amenti, is divided into twelve provinces containing a Hall of Judgement where souls were weighed in the balance by Anubis against a feather in front of Osiris and forty-two judges. Those who pass the test proceed to the paradise Aalu; those who fail are condemned to everlasting torment. -Inuit (1) The home of the good dead is known as Qudlivum as opposed to Adlivum, the undersea world for sinners, some of whom suffer less torment in the lower section known as Adliparmiut. (2) The souls of the dead of the Caribou Inuits go to the house of Pana, a realm in the sky which is full of holes to allow rain to fall. Here they are born again and brought back to earth by the moon and live out another life, sometimes as humans, sometimes as animals or birds. -Greek Tartarus, ruled by Hades, had three sections, the Asphodel Fields, Erebus and Elysium. -Hindu In Patala, the record of each soul is read out by Chitragupta and judged by Yama. As a result, the soul may be sent to heaven, to one of the many hells or back to earth for reincarnation. Hell itself has twenty-eight (or twenty-one) regions, each reserved for a particular type of sinner. Some of these regions are: Asipatravana for heretics Avichimat for liars Kalasutra for those who have killed a Brahmin Krimibhoja for the selfish Kumbhika for the cruel Raurava for sadists Suchimikha for misers Sukramukha for tyrants Tamusra for adulterers and robbers Vajrakantaka for those who married into another caste The river Vaitarani is used to punish religious dissidents. -Irish The underworld is variously Tech Duinn, the home of Donn, The Land of Women when regarded as ruled by a goddess or Sid, the Land of the Fairies or Dun Scaith, ruled by Midir. -Jain The Jain hell has seven layers, the lowest of which is Mahatuma. Another, filled with hot sand, is known as Valuka, home of the Valu. Fiendish tortures are applied by various underworld gods known as Ambas, Ambaras, Asipalas, Dhanu, Kala, Kharasvara, Kumbha, Mahakali, Maharudra, Sabala, Sama, Valu and Vetarani. -Japanese (see Shinto) -New Zealand The Maori home of the ordinary dead is Lua-a-Milu under the earth or the sea; the souls of the exalted go to an island in the sky, the home of the gods. Other accounts refer to the nether world of Reinga or Uranga-o-te-Ra. -Norse Niflheim, said to be beneath the earth and bounded by the river Giall. Spirits of the slain warriors went to Valhalla in Asgard, home of the gods, or were taken by Freya to her palace, but others entered Niflheim by crossing the bridge over the Giall guarded by Modgud to whom they had to pay a tribute of blood. Next came the area of Ironwood where the trees had metal leaves and then the entrance gates guarded by the dog Garm. Inside, in the cold and darkness, was Elvidnir, the hall of Hel, ruler of Niflheim, where spirits were judged. Criminals were consigned to Nastrond and were eaten by the serpent Nidhogg. -North America (1) The Cherokee envisage a world below which is the exact counterpart of their own world except that the seasons are reversed. (2) The Klamash underworld is known as the Place of the Dark. (3) Some tribes, including the Navaho, regard the underworld as the place where their ancestors came from, rather than as the home of the dead. underworld by way of the Milky Way, directed by an old man who sits there. -Pacific Islands (1) The Banks Islanders called the underworld Panoi. (2) In the Carolines, the good dead go to Pachet, a paradise under the sea; the others go to Pueliko, a gloomy hell under the earth. Another version says there is a heaven in the sky for those who can reach it in the form of sea birds, another reserved for warriors where they can carry on their profession and a third for women who die in childbirth. This last one is situated where earth and sky meet. (3) The Fijian underworld is Bulu and only the married can go there - single men are smashed to death on the rocks by Nangananga. The married man must be provided with the tooth of a whale which he must throw at a particular tree. Hitting it, he is allowed to proceed; if he misses, he is sent back to the grave. Those that pass now meet their former wives and they travel on together. If he defeats the demon that attacks them, they can proceed; if not, he is eaten by the demon. Passing through the two caves, Cibaciba and Drakulu, couples are taken by boat to Nabangatai and then before Dengei who acts as their judge. (4) In Hawaii, the underworld is known as Hawaiki or Poluta and is the home of the spirits of the dead, either in the sky or under the earth. (5) In the Marquesas, they envisage one superior heaven for gods and three lower ones for the rest, graded from the top (the harshest) to the most pleasant at the bottom. Where the soul ends up depends on the number of pigs sacrificed by the dead man during his lifetime. (6) In Melanesia, the afterworld is Bwebweso, ruled by Sinebomatu and Kekwage. Most spirits reach this hill of the dead when sufficiently rotted, though some are condemned to roam the hill of lice, Koiakutu, and those who have been mutilated in life become fish with human heads living in a swamp at the foot of the hill. Others refer to Kibu which is envisaged as an island, home of the dead, far off to the west. (see also Dokanikani) (7) The people of Mindanao call their underworld Gimokodan. One part contains the spirits of slain warriors, the other contains all the other dead. A giantess with many nipples suckles the spirits of dead infants. (8) In the New Hebrides, the underworld is known as Banoi or Abokas. (9) In some parts of the Philippines the underworld is known as Maglawa, in others it is Kilot, the home of the left hand kalaloa (soul). The right hand one goes to a heaven in the sky. (10) The Polynesian underworld is known as Hawaika. (11) In Samoa the underworld is known as Poluta. (12) In the Society Islands, some versions say that Po is the underworld where the soul is deified after being eaten three times by a god, rather than a deity, son of Ilu and Mamamo. (13) In Tahiti, the underworld is known as Kahiki. (14) The Tongan underworld is also called Poluta. -Persian Souls were assessed by three judges, Mithra, Rashnu and Sraosha. The worthy crossed a bridge to heaven, the unworthy fell into a place of torment known as Druj. -Shinto Yomi, a hell with two entrances, containing a huge chasm into which all the waters of the earth discharge. Yomi-tsu-kuni, 'land of gloom'. -South American (1) In Bolivia it is said that the soul travels to the land of Grandfather. First it must cross two rivers, one by ferry, the other by a floating log. Those who fall off are eaten by fish. Next they are judged by Izoi-tamoi who splits evil ones in half. Those who pass the test journey through a land of darkness using as a torch a small straw which had been placed in the grave. Gathering feathers from the humming-bird to give to Tamoi (Grandfather), they then must pass between the clashing rocks known as Hacaru. Having been tested by a gallinazo bird, tickled by a monkey and passed the speaking tree, they finally reach the land of Tamoi where they live happily, much as they had done on earth. (2) In Brazil, the Caingang Indians say that the dead are instructed by the tribal shaman on how to survive the dangerous journey to the underworld where it is always day, youth is restored and the forests are full of game to be hunted. But first the soul must avoid the path that leads to a giant spider's web, a trap in the form of a boiling pit and a slippery path where one false step will throw the soul into the lair of a giant crab. The happy life ends in a second death when the individual becomes some form of insect. When that insect dies it is the final end. (3) The Incas believe that their ancestors came from the underworld which many tribes regard as the source of life on earth. -Sumerian The underworld is known as Kurnu- gi-a or Makan. -Taoist Yellow Springs, sited on the sacred mountain of the east, T'ai Shan, was divided into ten hells for different types of sinner. (see also Ten Yama Kings) -Thai The underworld realm, Patal, is ruled by Maiyarab. Entering it through the hollow stalk of the lotus, souls must cross a lake guarded by Machanu before being judged. -Welsh The underworld is known as Annwfn and is ruled by Arawn. (see also Caer Feddwid.hell) Also known as underworld, afterworld, afterworld, Bwebweso, Bwebweso, Land of the Dead, Land of the Dead, Amenti, Otherworld, Mictlan, Mictlan, Mictla, Mictlancaleo, Apochquiahuayan, Mictla(ncaleo), Navel of the Earth, Tlalxicco, Chicunauhmictlan, Nai Thombo Thombo, Nai Thombo Thombo, Patala, Patala, Nitala, Put, Thai Patal, paradise, paradise, heaven, Dar el-Jannah, Fortunate Islands, Taoist, Taoist, also Patala or also Patala.

Nearby Myths