Sermon: The Underworld

Each religion has its concept of the Underworld; but what is this dark and mysterious plane, exactly? In popular culture, it’s usually pictured as a dark, nightmarish world that exists underground, and which is filled with tormented ghosts and demons. In fact, this notion of the Underworld seems to have influenced the Christian idea of hell, except that only “bad” (i.e., non-Christian) people are thought to go there. In ancient Paganism, however, almost everyone was thought to go to the Underworld, save for heroic warriors and kings (who reigned with the gods in heavenly places like Valhalla). Going there had nothing to do with whether you were good or evil in life; it was basically a matter of social status. Important people were noticed by the gods and welcomed into their various heavens, while common working class folk were expected to eat mud, drink tears, and gnash their teeth down there in the darkness forever.

Or were they?

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One thought on “Sermon: The Underworld

  1. The maps that the ancients left us demonstrate that the Duat is a world more complex and fascinating than a simple heaven and hell, and I look to translations that are mindful of this. I remember reading that not all Egyptologists agree on the translations we have been given for the 42 confessions, and specifically the “not laying with a man” was in dispute.

    Given that Egyptology emerged during the Victorian era Christian principals were regularly overlayed on ideas that were otherwise ambiguous or alien to our modern understanding of ancient spirituality. I have not bothered to investigate that negative confession further as the trend for a while to Christianize everything non-Christian (sometimes even unwittingly by New Age do gooders) became so commonplace I decided it wasn’t worth it.

    The idea that any god would be caught up in revulsion for a human’s sexual proclivities is Abrahamic and not resonant with ancient ideas. And as you pointed out, who cares when Set is your Netjer anyways?!

    Liked by 1 person

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