Friday, March 18, 2011

Hell here

No-one seems to know what Hell is made of. I'm curious because the story I am working onSoil profile 236x288 38.76 KBImage via Wikipedia opens with someone being buried alive in Hell. In the interest of versimilitude I wondered what the soil is like there and how easy, or difficult, it would be for him to dig his way out.

Matthew 25:41 suggests that it was a place that God made for the devil and his angels so it may share some properties with Earthly matter given the common created. And there is another hint in Isaiah 14:12 which talks about the devil being cast down to earth. So there will be soil. Good.

There are plenty of people on the net who claim to have been to hell, but older accounts of what Hell is like are hard to find. The logic of the story dictates that I need those older accounts. There's Dante's Divine Comedy, of course, but that feels a bit, well, obvious. There is, in the writings of Roger of Wendover, the story of a peasant called Thurkill who claimed that Saint Julian took him on a tour of purgatory.

Full text versions of his writings are hard to find. But I did find this which has mentions some of the various tortures meted out to the classes of sinners. The proud, for instance, are bound with hooks to vast iron wheels which spin them round "with the most violent impetuosity".

The gluttonous are held in a loathsome pool and "perpetually crammed with toads" by devils that snatch the amphibians from tables set on the bank. If the toads perpetually renew is there a part of hell that is all toads? And how are you crammed with toads?

So not only is there soil, there are toads, flying serpents, venomous creatures and lots of devils. Though I'd guess that natural materials, wood and water to name but two, are in short supply. Hmm.

Even older are the stories from the Srimad Bhagavatam - one of the key texts of Hindus - in which the location and punishments of entire hellish planets are detailed. Some of the punishments are fairly light. For instance, those who steal another man's wife, money or children are chastised so harshly that sometimes they faint.


Mike Keyton said...

check out James Joyce's 'Portrait of an artist as a young man'. He gives a brilliant picture of the duration of hell via a sermon from a jesuit preacher. It still makes me shudder cos I couldn't be doing with all that time
Like you, I also enjoyed Roger of Wendover's story of Thurkhill :)

markb said...

Good thought. Joyce is always worth a look. Being a godless atheist I lack that bred-in-the-bone familiarity with hell.