|“||Hell isn't a kingdom. It can be, but it's not. It's a prison. It's punishment. The worst kind of prison you can imagine; and even then, whatever you imagine pales in comparison to it. It is hell even for the demons. A punishment made of blood, bone, flesh, and fear.||„|
|“||And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where ‘their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.||„|
|~ Matthew 5:29|
Hell, also known as Hades, the Underworld, Gehenna, Sheol, the Netherworld, the Abyss, the Demon Realm, the Burning Hells, Chaoplasm, Inferno, along with countless other names is the spiritual realm of evil, along with being the domain of Lucifer and Satan their legions of demons and damned souls within Abrahamic religions.
Hell is described as the most terrifying, horrible plane of existence where the wicked and sinful are punished for eternity (or at least for immensely long periods of time) for their sins and often in the most horrific of ways. Hell is believed to be a realm larger than the human world, housing a myriad of different regions or kingdoms where various demon lords and devils rule much like the global hierarchy of Earth. Hell is said to be so terrible that even demons despise it with many losing their sense of self and become nothing but mindless spirits.
In Christianity the suffering of hell is generally envisioned as hellfire, which is a type of spiritual flame that is capable of burning the very soul of those who committed wrong and caused grief in life. Those sentenced to Hell must endure an eternity of hellfire while also being tormented day and night by the minions of Satan. However, Hell can also be seen as a metaphor for a life without God (or other benevolent force) and some religions do not see Hell as a physical place but rather a state of mind caused by sin or darkness.
The Underworlds of various mythologies have also become part of the modern conception of Hell. Various non-Abrahamic deities are believed to rule over various sectors of the Underworld and Hell. In opposition to the demonic forces of Satan, the Council of Godheads has established kingdoms within the Underworld, where the sinners of non-Abrahamic faiths are punished by the deities and demons of their own religions and theologies, such as Osiris, Hades or Izanami.
Circles of Hell
One infamous account of Hell comes from Dante Alighieri, an Italian poet, writer, philosopher and demonologist who notably traveled through Hell, Purgatory and Heaven, meeting the souls of the damned and saved, as well as demons, angels and even God Himself. He wrote his experiences down as the Divine Comedy, a three part poem recounting his experiences. Besides the play, he also wrote down countless amount of notes describing the afterlife, and the various beings that inhabit those realms, which has served as important lore for all those who investigate the supernatural, occult, demonic or divine.
Limbo is the First Circle of Hell along with being the edge of Hell, is the place that it was speculative about the afterlife condition of those who die in the original sin without being assigned to the Hell of the Damned and also the burning place. It is also connected to one of the doors of Heaven.
At the end of Limbo where the souls of the damned are sentenced to their suffering by King Minos. Limbo is also revealed to be the Circle that is connected to the various pagan Underworlds.
In the second circle of Hell are those overcome by lust. These "carnal malefactors" are condemned for allowing their appetites to sway their reason. These souls are buffeted back and forth by the terrible winds of a violent storm, without rest. This symbolizes the power of lust to blow needlessly and aimlessly: "as the lovers drifted into self-indulgence and were carried away by their passions, so now they drift for ever. The bright, voluptuous sin is now seen as it is – a howling darkness of helpless discomfort." Since lust involves mutual indulgence and is not, therefore, completely self-centered, Dante deems it the least heinous of the sins and its punishment is the most benign within Hell proper. The "ruined slope" in this circle is thought to be a reference to the earthquake that occurred after the death of Christ.
In the third circle, the gluttonous wallow in a vile, putrid slush produced by a ceaseless, foul, icy rain – "a great storm of putrefaction" – as punishment for subjecting their reason to a voracious appetite. Cerberus, not the three-headed dog, (described as "il gran vermo", literally "the great worm"), the monstrous three-headed beast of Hell, ravenously guards the gluttons lying in the freezing mire, mauling and flaying them with his claws as they howl like dogs.
The gluttons grovel in the mud by themselves, sightless and heedless of their neighbors, symbolizing the cold, selfish, and empty sensuality of their lives. Just as lust has revealed its true nature in the winds of the previous circle, here the slush reveals the true nature of sensuality – which includes not only overindulgence in food and drink, but also other kinds of addiction.
The Fourth Circle is guarded by a figure known as Plutus, the deity of wealth in classical mythology.
Those whose attitude toward material goods deviated from the appropriate mean are punished in the fourth circle. They include the avaricious or miserly (including many "clergymen, and popes and cardinals"), who hoarded possessions, and the prodigal, who squandered them. The hoarders and spendthrifts joust, using great weights as weapons that they push with their chests.
In the swampy, stinking waters of the river Styx – the Fifth Circle – the actively wrathful fight each other viciously on the surface of the slime, while the sullen (the passively wrathful) lie beneath the water, withdrawn, "into a black sulkiness which can find no joy in God or man or the universe". At the surface of the foul Stygian marsh, "the active hatreds rend and snarl at one another; at the bottom, the sullen hatreds lie gurgling, unable even to express themselves for the rage that chokes them". As the last circle of Incontinence, the "savage self-frustration" of the Fifth Circle marks the end of "that which had its tender and romantic beginnings in the dalliance of indulged passion."
Entrance to Dis
In the distance, there are high towers that resemble fiery red mosques, which is later revealed to be the City of Dis. Dis, itself surrounded by the Stygian marsh, contains Lower Hell within its walls. Dis is one of the names of Pluto, the classical king of the underworld, in addition to being the name of the realm. The walls of Dis are guarded by fallen angels, the Furies, and Medusa.
In the sixth circle, heretics are trapped in flaming tombs. A damned soul known as Farinata explains that what the souls in Hell know of life on earth comes from seeing the future, not from any observation of the present. Consequently, when "the portal of the future has been shut", it will no longer be possible for them to know anything.
The Seventh Circle, divided into three rings, houses the Violent where sinners whom have committed violence against others and themselves.
- Ring 1: Against Neighbors: In the first round of the seventh circle, the murderers, war-makers, plunderers, and tyrants are immersed in Phlegethon, a river of boiling blood and fire. Ciardi writes, "as they wallowed in blood during their lives, so they are immersed in the boiling blood forever, each according to the degree of his guilt". The Centaurs, commanded by Chiron and Pholus, patrol the ring, shooting arrows into any sinners who emerge higher out of the boiling blood than each is allowed.
- Ring 2: Against Self: The second round of the seventh circle is the Wood of the Suicides, in which the souls of the people who attempted or committed suicide are transformed into gnarled, thorny trees and then fed upon by Harpies, hideous clawed birds with the faces of women; the trees are only permitted to speak when broken and bleeding.
- Ring 3: Against God, Art, and Nature: The third round of the seventh circle is a great Plain of Burning Sand scorched by great flakes of flame falling slowly down from the sky, an image derived from the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah. The Blasphemers (the Violent against God) are stretched supine upon the burning sand, the Sodomites (the Violent against Nature) run in circles, while the Usurers (the Violent against Art, which is the Grandchild of God) crouch huddled and weeping.
In the lower portions of the Circle and by the gates of Fraud is the Monster of Fraud, Geryon. Geryon, meanwhile, is an image of fraud, combining human, bestial, and reptilian elements: Geryon is a "monster with the general shape of a wyvern but with the tail of a scorpion, hairy arms, a gaudily-marked reptilian body, and the face of a just and honest man".The pleasant human face on this grotesque body evokes the insincere fraudster whose intentions "behind the face" are all monstrous, cold-blooded, and stinging with poison.
The Eighth Circle, called Malebolge ("Evil ditches"), is the upper half of the Hell of the Fraudulent and Malicious. The Eighth Circle is a large funnel of stone shaped like an amphitheatre around which run a series of ten deep, narrow, concentric ditches or trenches called bolge (singular: bolgia). Within these ditches are punished those guilty of Simple Fraud. From the foot of the Great Cliff to the Well (which forms the neck of the funnel) are large spurs of rock, like umbrella ribs or spokes, which serve as bridges over the ten ditches. Dorothy L. Sayers writes that the Malebolge is, "the image of the City in corruption: the progressive disintegration of every social relationship, personal and public. Sexuality, ecclesiastical and civil office, language, ownership, counsel, authority, psychic influence, and material interdependence – all the media of the community's interchange are perverted and falsified".
Fraud is divided into ten trenches, called Bolgia. Each Bolgia holds a different kind of fraudulent souls:
- Bolgia 1: Panderers and seducers march in separate lines in opposite directions, whipped by demons.
- Bolgia 2: Flatterers are steeped in human excrement, which represents the words they produced.
- Bolgia 3: Those who committed simony are placed head-first in holes in the rock with flames burning on the soles of their feet.
- Bolgia 4: Sorcerers, astrologers, and false prophets here have their heads twisted around on their bodies backward, referring primarily to attempts to see into the future by forbidden means.
- Bolgia 5: Corrupt politicians are immersed in a lake of boiling pitch, which represents the sticky fingers and dark secrets of their corrupt deals.
- Bolgia 6: Hypocrites listlessly walking along wearing gilded lead cloaks, which represent the falsity behind the surface appearance of their actions.
- Bolgia 7: Thieves are pursued and bitten by snakes and lizards. The full horror of the thieves' punishment is revealed gradually: just as they stole other people's substance in life, their very identity becomes subject to theft here, and the snake bites make them undergo various transformations.
- Bolgia 8: Fraudulent advisers or evil counselors are concealed within individual flames. These are not people who gave false advice, but people who used their position to advise others to engage in fraud.
- Bolgia 9: A sword-wielding demon hacks at the Sowers of Discord, dividing parts of their bodies as in life they divided others. As they make their rounds the wounds heal, only to have the demon tear apart their bodies again.
- Bolgia 10: Various sorts of falsifiers (fake alchemists, counterfeiters, perjurers, and impostors), who are a "disease" on society, are themselves afflicted with different types of diseases.
Central Well of the Malebolge
By the end of the Malebolge is the Central Well, at the bottom of which lies the Ninth and final Circle of Hell. The classical and biblical Giants – who perhaps symbolize pride and other spiritual flaws lying behind acts of treachery – stand perpetual guard inside the well-pit, their legs embedded in the banks of the Ninth Circle while their upper halves rise above the rim and can be visible from the Malebolge. Among the Giants, there is Nimrod (who tried to build the Tower of Babel; he shouts out the unintelligible Raphèl mai amècche zabì almi); Ephialtes (who with his brother Otus tried to storm Olympus during the Gigantomachy; he has his arms chained up) and Briareus (who is claimed to have challenged the gods); and Tityos and Typhon, who insulted Jupiter. Also here is Antaeus, who did not join in the rebellion against the Olympian gods and therefore is not chained.
Treachery, also known as Cocytus or Ice Hell, is the Ninth Circle of Hell where lies the souls of those who betrayed that which matters most.
Treachery is the deepest part of Hell that is the only connection to the Realm of the Dead of the Greek Underworld. It acts as a prison for powerful and dangerous figures such as Samael and Kokabiel. It is also serves as a home to many rare and dangerous creatures such as the Pale Horse. It’s for those who committed the gravest sins or those who perpetrated betrayals were eternally bound in the cruelest depths of Hell.
There are four concentric zones, or "rounds", to Treachery, each in descending order of seriousness, from betrayal of family ties, to betrayal of community ties, betrayal of guests, and betrayal of liege lords.
- Round 1: Named Caïna, after Cain, who killed his brother. Traitors to kindred are here immersed in the ice up to their chins.
- Round 2: Named Antenora, after Antenor of Troy, who according to medieval tradition, betrayed his city to the Greeks. Traitors to political entities, such as parties, cities, or countries, are located here and imprisoned in the same way as the traitors in Caïna.
- Round 3: Named Ptolomaea, after Ptolemy, son of Abubus, who invited Simon Maccabaeus and his sons to a banquet and then killed them. Traitors to their guests are punished here, lying supine in the ice, which covers them, except for their faces. They are punished more severely than the previous traitors, since the relationship to guests is an entirely voluntary one.
- Round 4: Named Judecca, after Judas Iscariot, Biblical betrayer of Christ. Here are the traitors to their lords and benefactors. All of the sinners punished within are completely encapsulated in ice, distorted in all conceivable positions.
Purgatory is similar to Hell but differs in the fact that Hell is usually seen as a permanent state of suffering and evil opposed to Purgatory, which is traditionally seen as a place of temporary punishment before being admitted into either Paradise or the Inferno.
Purgatory, however, is also revealed to be another form of Hell for the monsters of Earth. Purgatory is generally considered the midway point (described as a "waiting room" or lobby) between the eternal punishment of Hell and the unending paradise of Heaven, it existing to purify the Souls of those who are deemed too sinful to be admitted directly into Heaven but not evil enough to be condemned to Hell.
The Abyss is an unfathomably deep, boundless space, believed to have presumably existed before Creation had taken form, and the darkest realm in all of the lower planes. The term comes from the Greek ἄβυσσος, meaning bottomless, unfathomable, and boundless. In the original sense of the Hebrew tehom, the abyss was the primordial waters or chaos out of which the ordered world was created. It is believed that from the abyss flows the ocean of metaphysical yet non-existential matter which Chaos reigned over for eons before the creation of primal matter by God.
The Abyss is said to contain entrances within the Nine Hells and throughout the Lower Planes, and is revealed to be a place where most of the Ogdru Hem reside. Sir Edward Grey also states that the Abyss serves as the outer edge of the cosmos and is bordered by the bottomless depths of chaos. Demons who rebel against the leadership of Satan are banished to this realm.
There are also other underworlds that, while are not part of the Biblical Hell, are instead connected to Hell via colossal gateways that lead towards those mythological after lives and are tied to the many other faiths of the world. These areas are usually governed by underworld/chthonic deities or local demons instead of the Biblical Fallen Angels.
- Bulu (Fijian Underworld)
- Hades (ruled by Hades)
- Diyu (ruled by Yanluo Wang)
- Duat (ruled by Osiris)
- Irkalla (ruled by Nergal)
- Naraka (ruled by Yama)
- Nav (ruled by Veles)
- Patala (ruled by Danavas, Daityas, Yakshas and Nagas)
- Tamag (ruled by Erlik)
- Tuonela (ruled by Tuoni)
- Yomi (ruled by Izanami)
- Mictlān (ruled by Mictlantecuhtli)
- Helheim (ruled by Hel)