Top 5 Weirdest Versions of Hell
Posted on Sep 01, 2011

5. Kasyrgan

In Mongolian shamanism, departed souls are judged before Erkil Khan, the prince of the underworld. If their bad deeds are more numerous than their good ones, they’re sent to a hell known as Kasyrgan, where they are boiled in black tar inside a giant cauldron. The worst sinners are stuck there forever, but a person who had done at least some good in life might gradually rise towards the surface of the tar, until the crown of his head reaches the surface. People in heaven who benefited from his good deeds in life can then send a special spirit to grasp the sinner by the hair, and pull him up towards paradise.

4. Black Thread Hell

In Tibetan Buddhism, ‘Black Thread Hell’ is reserved for slanderers, liars and people who mistreat their parents. Sinners are marked with black lines, and then cut up along these lines with burning saws. But if you sinned in a different way, don’t worry! The book this hell is featured in describes a total of sixteen hells, eight ‘cold’ and eight ‘hot.’ The other versions have similarly descriptive names, like ‘Crushing Hell’ (punishment for cruelty to animals) and ‘Loud Screaming Hell’ (the penalty for theft.)

3. Swedenborg’s Hell

Emanuel Swedenborg, a Swedish philosopher born in 1688, had a series of visions from the age of 53 in which he ‘visited’ Heaven and Hell. His vision of the Christian hell was unique: according to Swedenborg, it looks like a filthy, rundown city. The damned can leave at anytime, but do not want to. Their suffering is based not on external punishment, but on the fact that they’re full of cruel desires. Churches based on Swedenborg’s vision and philosophy exist to this day.

2. Mictlan

After death, Aztecs en route to this underworld went on an epic four-year journey, facing deadly mountains that tried to crush them, demons, and icy winds that cut them like knives. Again, it’s hard to tell why they tried so hard, because the place they eventually reached was a gloomy realm ruled by the god Mictlantecuhtli, a blood-splattered skeleton who wore a necklace of human eyeballs. His cheery home was surrounded by bats, spiders and owls.

Worse, Mictlan was a bit like Helheim and Irkalla, in that you didn’t even have to be evil to go here. Warriors and women who died in childbirth went to an Aztec version of paradise, as did those who died by drowning or hanging. In other words, if you were an Aztec concerned about your afterlife, it probably wasn’t wise to learn how to swim.

1. Tartarus

According to the ancient Greeks, Tartarus was as far below the ‘normal’ Greek underworld, Hades, as heaven was from Earth. In Tartarus, people who had committed especially awful sins were given suitable punishment. A famous example is Tantalus, who when he was alive killed his own son and served him to the gods, among other crimes. As punishment, he was forced to sit next to appetizing food and water that he was unable to eat or drink.

This hell was not eternal for everyone: by one account, people whose sins were bad but not that bad were punished for a year, and then washed out of Tartarus in one of the great rivers that ran through it. They’d end up in the Akheronian Lake, whose shores reached other, less hellish parts of the underworld, and from its waters beg the people they had harmed in their lives to allow them to leave. If their victims agreed, the sinners joined them on the shore; otherwise they were swept back in to Tartarus, and the situation repeated until their victims finally relented and let them out. Kind of like a parole hearing.


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