Greek Afterlife Beliefs

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What Comes Next?
Afterlives, Culture, and Philosophy

The afterlife is a constant mystery throughout human history. Many different cultures have created religions that attempt to explain what happens after we leave this mortal coil, up to today. While many reach a similar conclusion, such as several modern religions, what do religions and mythologies of past cultures say about them? What does modern religion say about modern humanity?
The Greek afterlife is overseen by Hades, the god of death, and is split into three basic sections, the Asphodel Meadows, Elysium, and Tartarus. They can be easily paralleled to our perceptions of purgatory, heaven, and hell. After being judged by a series of judges, souls were sent away to one of these
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They drink from the River Lethe that runs through the Underworld, removing their identities, leaving the dead to wander aimlessly for eternity, unless a hero, such as Odysseus in the Odyssey, gives them the blood of a slain animal. Elysium, on the other hand, is where heroes such as Achilles and Perseus, and the “blessed dead” go. It’s described as a place of perfect happiness, where those favored by the gods or who lived a particularly righteous life live forever. Finally, there is Tartarus, where demons and the damned dwell. Specifically, there are two main parts to Tartarus; the Fields of Punishment and the prisons of Tartarus. The Fields are where those who were wholly wicked in their lives are sent, who took pleasure in murder, stealing, and so on. Most souls sent here merit a special punishment from the gods, such as Tantalus, who stands in a pool that receeds every time he tries to take a drink, and a tree that has fruit just out of his grasp. The prison is not for mortal souls, but instead is where Zeus trapped his father, Cronus, and the other titans after he and the other Olympians revolted against them…show more content…
However, their version of heroism is more geared toward efforts on the battlefield. Specifically, according to the Prose Edda, those who died in battle went on to Valhalla, the hall of the gods. There, warriors Odin deems worthy fight each other in order to sharpen their skills for the inevitable fight against Fenrir, which the gods are doomed to lose. The Prose Edda is the only thing that separates Valhalla from the rest of the afterlife, similar to how it treats Folkvangr, a place similar to Valhalla, but without the endless fighting. It’s generally described as a field where those who don’t go to Valhalla are taken by Freya, and is more peaceful. However, it is not as well-described as Valhalla, leaving much to speculation. The third part of the Norse afterlife is the morally neutral Hel, which, unlike the torturous connotation the Christian Hell has, Hel actually means “hidden or concealed” (McCoy). How one dies or how one lived their life doesn’t have anything to do with going to Hel or not. All souls end up there regardless. Valhalla and Folkvangr are just two particular parts of Hel. In modern religions, what comes after death generally falls under one of two categories; either a soul is sent to a final resting place (similar to Norse Hel), or it is allowed to reincarnate (much like a possibility in Greek mythology). Christianity, Judaism, and Islam tend
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