Create a new article
Write your page title here:
We currently have 2,416 articles on Monstropedia. Type your article name above or click on one of the titles below and start writing!

File:Document stub.png This article is a stub. It may be incomplete, unfinished, or have missing parts/sections. If the article can be expanded, please do so! There may be suggestions on its talk page. (Date?)

Hell, according to many religious beliefs, is a place or a state of pain and suffering. The English word "hell" comes from the Teutonic "hel", which originally meant "to cover". "Hel" later referred to the goddess of the Norse underworld, Hel. Compare Anglo-Saxon helan, Greek kalyptein and Latin celare="to hide, to cover" (all from PIE *kel-).

According to many religions, the afterlife affords evildoers to suffer eternally. In some monotheistic doctrines, Hell is often populated by demons who torment the damned. The fallen angel Lucifer in Christian theology, otherwise known as Satan, is commonly portrayed in popular culture as the ruler of Hell. Others portray Hell as the final resting place of the Devil, prepared as his punishment by God Himself. Hell is also defined as an utter absence of God or redemptive force. Purgatory, as believed by Catholicism, is a place of penance for sinners who have ultimately achieved salvation but have not paid penance for the sins they have committed in their previous lives. Hell on the contrary is commonly believed to be for eternity with no chance of redemption or salvation for those who suffer there. Christian faith teaches it is a domain of boundless dimension, scope, and torment. Many monotheistic religions regard Hell as the absolute ultimate worst-case-scenario, per se. For some Gnostics including the Cathars hell was none other than this present life on earth.

In polytheistic religions, the politics of Hell can be as complicated as human politics. Many Hellenistic Neopagans believe in Tartarus, which may also be considered a version of Hell.

Religious accounts


File:Dore woodcut Divine Comedy 01.jpg
A vision of hell from Dante’s Divine Comedy. Illustration by Gustave Doré.

Hell appears in several mythologies and religions in different guises, and is commonly inhabited by demons and the souls of dead people.

Numerous fictional accounts, most probably deriving from Dante's Divine Comedy, describe Hell as a series of numbered layers or levels.

Rabbinic Judaism

Gehenna is defined in rabbinic literature. It is sometimes translated as "Hell", but this doesn't effectively convey its meaning. In Judaism, Gehenna is not hell, but rather a sort of Purgatory where one is judged based on their life's deeds. The Kabbalah describes it as a "waiting room" (commonly translated as an "entry way") for all souls (not just the wicked). The overwhelming majority of rabbinic thought maintains that people are not in Gehenna forever; the longest that one can be there is said to be 12 months, however there has been the occasional noted exception. Some consider it a spiritual forge where the soul is purified for its eventual ascent to Olam Habah (heb. עולם הבא; lit. "The world to come", often viewed as analogous to Heaven). This is also mentioned in the Kabbalah, where the soul is described as breaking, like the flame of a candle lighting another: the part of the soul that ascends being pure, and the "unfinished" piece being reborn.

Ancient Greek religion

Another source for the modern idea of 'Hell' is the Greek and Roman Tartarus, a place in which conquered gods, men and other spirits were punished. Tartarus formed part of Hades in Greek mythology and Roman mythology, but Hades also included Elysium, a place for the reward for those who lead virtuous lives, whilst others spent their afterlife in the asphodels fields. Like most ancient (pre-Christian) religions, the underworld was not viewed as negatively as it is in Christianity.


main article: Hell in Christian beliefs

Christians generally see Hell as the eternal punishment for those who have not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, as well as for the Devil and his demons. Exceptions are sometimes made for those who have failed to accept Jesus but have extenuating cirumstances (youth, not having heard the Gospel, etc.). Most Christians believe that damnation occurs immediately upon death (particular judgment), others that it occurs after Judgment Day.


The Muslim belief in jahannam (in Arabic: جهنم) (similar to Hebrew ge-hinnom and resembles that of other Abrahamic religions). In the Qur'an, the holy book of Islam, there are literal descriptions of the condemned in a fiery Hell, as contrasted to the garden-like Paradise enjoyed by righteous believers.

The meaning of jahannam is to do with hotness (whereas in Hebrew Gehenna is said to mean a narrow deep valley). The word for paradise is jannah which means garden.

In addition, Heaven and Hell are split into many levels depending on the actions taken in life, where punishment is given depending on the level of evil done in life, and good is separated into other levels depending on how well one followed God (Arabic:Allah) while alive.

There is an equal number of mentions of both hell and paradise in the Qur'an.

The Qur'an also says that some of those who are damned to hell are not damned forever, but instead for an indefinite period of time. When Judgement Day comes, the formerly damned will be judged as to whether or not they may enter into Paradise. In any case, there is good reason to believe that punishment in Hell is not meant to actually last eternally, but instead serves as a basis for spiritual rectification.<ref> 1, William C. Chittick, Imaginal Worlds: Ibn al-‘Arabī and the Problem of Religious Diversity. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1994. 2. See Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah. Hādī al-Arwāh, ed. M. ibn Ibrāhīm al-zaghlī. Al-Dammām, Saudi Arabia: Ramādī lil-Nashr, 1997.</ref>

Chinese and Japanese religions

main article: Di Yu, the Chinese Hell and Japanese Hell

The structure of Hell is remarkably complex in many Chinese and Japanese religions. The ruler of Hell has to deal with politics, just as human rulers do. Hell is the subject of many folk stories and manga. In many such stories, people in hell are able to die again.

See Di Yu for more information on Chinese Hell.

The Chinese depiction of Hell doesn't necessarily mean a long time suffering for those who enter Hell, nor does it mean that person is bad. The Chinese view Hell as similar to a present day passport or immigration control station. In a Chinese funeral, they burn many Hell Bank Notes for the dead. With this Hell money, the dead person can bribe the ruler of Hell, and spend the rest of the money either in Hell or in Heaven.


Ancient Taoism had no concept of hell, as morality was seen to be a man-made distinction and there was no concept of an immaterial soul. In its home country China, where Taoism adopted tenets of other religions, popular belief endows Taoist Hell with many deities and spirits who punish sin in a variety of horrible ways.


In Hinduism, there are contradictions as to whether or not there is a hell. For some it is a metaphor for a conscience. But in Mahabharata there is a mention of the Pandavas and the Kauravas going to hell. Hells are also described in various Puranas and other scriptures.

It is believed that people who commit 'paap' (sin) go to hell and have to go through the punishments in accordance to the sins they committed. The god Yama, who is also the god of death, is the king of hell. The detailed accounts of all the sins committed by an individual are supposed to be kept by Chitragupta who is the record keeper in Yama's court. Chitragupta reads out the sins committed and Yama orders the appropriate punishments to be given to the individuals. These punishments include dipping in boiling oil, burning in fire, torture using various weapons etc. in various hells. Individuals who finish their quota of the punishments are reborn according to their karma. All of the created are imperfect and thus have at least one sin to their record, but if one has led a generally pious life, one ascends to Heaven, or Swarga after a brief period of expiation in hell.

Tour of Vedic universe


As diverse as other religions, there are many beliefs about Hell in Buddhism.

Most of the schools of thought, Theravāda, Mahāyāna, and Vajrayāna would acknowledge several hellsTemplate:Citation needed, which are places of great suffering for those who commit evil actions, such as cold hells and hot hells. Like all the different realms within cyclic existence, an existence in hell is temporary for its inhabitants. Those with sufficiently negative karma are reborn there, where they stay until their specific negative karma has been used up, at which point they are reborn in another realm, such as that of humans, of hungry ghosts, of animals, of asuras, of devas, or of Naraka (Hell) all according to the individual's karma.

There are a number of modern Buddhists, especially among Western schools, who believe that hell is but a state of mind. In a sense, a bad day at work could be hell, and a great day at work could be heaven. This has been supported by some modern scholars who advocate the interpretation of such metaphysical portions of the Scriptures symbolically rather than literally.

Zen does not really focus or use the idea of Hell. Rather, consider this koan:

A roshi meets two students in the garden. To them, he asks, "where is Hell?"

"In Heaven," the first student replies.

The roshi humphs, disappointedly. He then looks at the second.

"In the flower by your foot," the second replies. He then bends down and kisses it. The first student bows, enlightened.

Bahá'í Faith

The Bahá'í Faith regards the conventional description of hell (and heaven) as a specific place as symbolic.<ref name="lafd">Template:Cite book</ref> Instead the Bahá'í writings describe hell as a "spiritual condition" where remoteness from God is defined as hell; conversely heaven is seen as a state of closeness to God.<ref name="lafd" /> Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, has stated that the nature of the life of the soul in the afterlife is beyond comprehension in the physical plane,<ref name="lafd" /> but has stated that the soul will retain its consciousness and individuality and remember its physical life; the soul will be able to recognize other souls and communicate with them.<ref name="lafd" />

Bahá'u'lláh likened death to the process of birth. He explains: "The world beyond is as different from this world as this world is different from that of the child while still in the womb of its mother."<ref name="gwb">Template:Cite book</ref> The analogy to the womb in many ways summarizes the Bahá'í view of earthly existence: just as the womb constitutes an important place for a person's initial physical development, the physical world provides for the development of the individual soul. Accordingly, Bahá'ís view life as a preparatory stage, where one can develop and perfect those qualities which will be needed in the next life.<ref name="lafd" /> The key to spiritual progress is to follow the path outlined by the current Manifestations of God, which Bahá'ís believe is currently Bahá'u'lláh. Bahá'u'lláh wrote, "Know thou, of a truth, that if the soul of man hath walked in the ways of God, it will, assuredly return and be gathered to the glory of the Beloved,"<ref name="gwb2">Template:Cite book</ref>

The Bahá'í teachings state that there exists a hierarchy of souls in the afterlife, where the merits of each soul determines their place in the hierachy, and that souls lower in the hierarchy cannot completely understand the station of those above.<ref name="lafd" /> Each soul can continue to progress in the afterlife, but the soul's development is not dependent on its own conscious efforts, but instead on the grace of God, the prayers of others, and good deeds performed by others on Earth in the name of the person.<ref name="lafd" />

Hell in Literature

Many of the great epics of European literature include episodes that occur in Hell. In the Roman poet Virgil's Latin epic, the Aeneid, Aeneas descends into Dis (the underworld) to visit his father's spirit. The underworld is only vaguely described, with one unexplored path leading to the punishments of Tartarus, while the other leads through Erebus and the Elysian Fields.

In his Divina commedia ('Divine comedy'; set in the year 1300), Dante Alighieri employed the conceit of taking Virgil as his guide through Inferno (and then, in the second cantiche, up the mountain of Purgatorio). Virgil himself is not condemned to Hell in Dante's poem but is rather, as a virtuous pagan, confined to Limbo just outside its gates. The geography of Hell is very elaborately laid out in this work, with nine concentric rings leading deeper into the Earth and deeper into the various punishments of Hell, until, at the center of the world, Dante finds Satan himself trapped in the frozen lake of Cocytus. A small tunnel leads past Satan and out to the other side of the world, at the base of the Mount of Purgatory.

The 1976 novel Inferno by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle is set in Dante's Hell with 20th century protagonists.

John Milton's Paradise Lost (1668) opens with the fallen angels, including their leader Satan, waking up in Hell after having been defeated in the war in heaven and the action returns there at several points throughout the poem. The nature of Hell as a place of punishment, as portrayed by Dante, is not explored here; instead, Hell is the abode of the demons, and the passive prison from which they plot their revenge upon Heaven through the corruption of the human race.

C.S. Lewis's The Great Divorce (1945) borrowed inspiration from the Divine Comedy as the narrator is likewise guided through Hell and Heaven. Hell is portrayed here as an endless, desolate twilight city upon which night is imperceptibly sinking. The night is actually the Apocalypse, and it heralds the arrival of the demons after their judgement. Before the night comes, anyone can escape Hell if they leave behind their former selves and accept Heaven's offer, and a journey to Heaven reveals that Hell is infinitely small; it is nothing more or less than what happens to a soul that turns away from God and into itself.

In the play "Man and Superman", George Bernard Shaw pictures Hell as a place of idle worship of youth and beauty.

The idea of hell was highly influential to writers such as Jean-Paul Sartre who authored the play "No Exit" about the idea that, "hell is other people". Although not a religious man, Sartre was fascinated by his interpretation of a hellish state of suffering.

19th century French poet Arthur Rimbaud alluded to the concept as well in the title and themes of one of his major works, "A Season In Hell". Rimbaud's poetry portrays his own suffering in a poetic form as well as other themes.

Hell in entertainment and other popular culture

Hell is often depicted as a place underground, with fire and molten rock where the devil lives. The devil is popularly depicted as a being or creature who carries a pitchfork (which in turn is actually a trident), has flaming red skin, horns on his head, a black goatee beard, and a long thin tail with a triangle shaped barb on it.

  • What Dreams May Come, a 1998 movie that won an Academy Award for its depiction of heaven and hell as the subjective creations of the individual, was an essentially new age model of heaven, hell and reincarnation. It was based on the eponymous novel by Richard Matheson.
  • In the film Big Trouble in Little China, there are continuous references to the Chinese version(s) of Hell. The specific references are interspersed throughout the movie ("Chinese have a lot of hells," "Hell of boiling oil," "Hell of the upside-down sinners," "Hell where people are skinned alive," etc.).
  • In the Family Guy movie Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story, Stewie Griffin is being a bad boy, so when a lifeguard chair collapsed and "killed" him, he wakes up in "Hell" - a bedroom with a headboard sign that said "Welcome to Hell". Steve Allen greets him and takes off his shirt in an apparent sexual advance, scaring Stewie back into life. Allen then puts his shirt back on, wondering why Stewie would be frightened at a request to fix a button on it. Allen then turns on the TV, curious as to what's on TV in Hell; the opening theme from Who's The Boss? begins playing, and when he tries to change the channel, the TV won't respond. In the episode "Holy Crap" Peter Griffin imagines being in Hell when he was depressed after having his father say what a failure he is to him; imagining criminals like Al Capone, Adolf Hitler, John Wilkes Booth and Superman. When Peter asks what he's doing in Hell, Superman responds that he killed a hooker for making a joke about him being "faster than a speeding bullet".
  • Matt Groening's comic strip Life in Hell shows a satirical look on our society, based on all the bad things that can happen, thus the title. Groening claimed his move to Los Angeles inspired the title.
  • In the television show Futurama, the characters go to Robot Hell on occasion, where the Robot Devil and other evil robots reside. In "Hell is Other Robots" Bender was put in there to be tormented in a series of ironic punishments such as being rolled into a giant cigar for smoking. In "The Devil's Hands Are Idle Playthings" Fry and Bender go to hell to make a deal for Fry to get robot hands so he can play the holophonor. The robot whose hands Fry will get is determined by a large wheel with every robot on it. Fry winds up with the Robot Devil's hands (I just put my name on there as a show of good faith to the other robots). The Robot Devil proceeds to use a "circuitous plan" involving Bender and Leela to convince Fry to trade hands back.
  • In a deleted scene from the 1999 theatrical theological comedy Dogma, the ex-Muse Azrael (played by actor Jason Lee) explains that there have been past and current "versions" of Hell. When Hell was first formed it was meant to hold Lucifer and the rebel angels and was merely a place devoid of the presence of God. To those who had previously been in the presence of God, this was punishment enough. Azrael goes on to say that when humanity was created, Hell was infected with a disease of sorts. Believing that God could never forgive their sins, many humans came to Hell and subconsciously demanded to be actively punished, although that was not their due. Slowly but surely (and reminiscent of the doctrine of responsibility assumption), Hell became a "suffering pit" to contain all these gluttons for punishment. According to Azrael, Hell is far more horrifying for the fallen angels residing there than for the Damned themselves, as the angels not only have to endure the absence of God, but also the unending howls of the Damned as they undergo torture essentially at their own hands. This concept of Hell, originally found in DC Comics' Swamp Thing, as written by Alan Moore, also appeared in Neil Gaiman's successful Sandman series of graphic novels.
  • The video game series Devil May Cry features Hell as a location to battle through. The name of the main character Dante is a reference to The Divine Comedy, as is his twin brother Vergil.
  • The first Fear Effect game deals extensively with the Chinese concept of hell, replete with its aforementioned political ramifications. Several of the later levels actually take place in the Chinese hell.
  • The famous PC game series Doom also involves the concept of Hell, but with a science-fiction twist, as a future teleportation experiment accidentally opens a gate to Hell, releasing demons. Hell is treated in the Christian conception, replete with Satanic symbols and corporeal demons, as a parallel universe of crimson skies, black mountains and oceans of fire.
  • The first game in the Quake computer game series involves an invasion by forces from Hell. Note however, that the rest of the series has nothing to do with this concept.
  • In the comic book series Hellboy by award-winning artist Mike Mignola, Hell is shown in the two page story "Pancakes" (1999 Dark Horse Presents Annual) to be a dark, alternate dimension filled with flames and demons and where the infernal capital city of Pandemonium resides. In issue one "Seed of Destruction" the Nazis with aid of the mad monk Rasputin successfully breach the transdimensional boundary of Hell via magic and call forth the infant Hellboy so that he may bring about the end of the world. They are stopped, however, by the Allied Forces who also rescue Hellboy and raise him.
  • The 2005 Warner Bros. film Constantine depicts as graphic a version of the traditional Christian version of Hell as can be found in cinema: it shows a parallel plane with many of the same buildings and structures as the normal world, but twisted, ruined and perpetually engulfed in hellfire. This movie is based on the DC/Vertigo comic series Hellblazer.
  • In the first of the Diablo series of games, hell is portrayed as a pit deep under the ground largely characterized as a place of suffering, as the bodies of hundreds of apparently tortured people reside there. The game manual refers to this place as actually part of the mortal realm whose barriers with the metaphysical Hell have weakened, causing it to take on hellish attributes combined with more worldly ones. None of the apparently tortured bodies show any signs of life or torment, and as such may simply be the Decor that Diablo, the lord of Terror, has chosen for his home in the mortal world. This fits with the view of the actual Hell as portrayed in Diablo II, which features Hell as a bleak landscape populated by grotesque monsters and souls in active torment.
  • Lobo in the DC Universe was banned from hell, as he caused too many problems there, thus achieving immortality, as he was also banned from heaven for much the same reason. Incidentally, God apparently got some mirth from watching Lobo's antics.
  • In the game Tony Hawk's Underground 2, there is an unlockable level (within 2 others) that depicts Hell. Little Demons, rural citizens, and a jazz dancing Satan are in the level.
  • In Doctor Who, the 10th Doctor comes across a being which identifies itself as 'the Beast', resembles popular interpretations of the Devil, and makes numerous references to Hell. In a later episode, "Hell" is said to be a synonym for the Void, the coordinates of which are all sixes
  • In the fourth edition of the game series Elder Scrolls, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, the main quest in the game involves preventing and stopping monsters from coming through gates linking to a place called Oblivion. It is widely believed that this is synonymous with Hell.

Non-religious context

The word "Hell" used away from its religious context was long considered to be profanity, particularly in North America. Although its use was commonplace in everyday speech and on television by the 1970s, many people in the US still consider it somewhat rude or inappropriate language, particularly involving children.[1] Many, particularly among religious circles and in certain sensitive environments, still avoid casual usage of the word. In British English and some parts of North America, the word has fallen into common use and is not considered profane; often considered to be a safer and less offensive alternative to swearing.

Euphemistic ways of saying hell

"Hell" is sometimes used as a minced oath, as "H-E-double-hockey-sticks", "H-E-double-toothpicks", "heck" or "Sam Hill" ("What in the Sam Hill is going on here?"). Another common euphemism for Hell is "The Other Place" (which is also the formal term used in the UK parliament to refer to the House of Lords by a member of the House of Commons, and vice-versa and was used by Hamlet, both as a silent threat addressed to Claudius and as a hint to Polonius's location). Example: "Gosh darn you to heck and tarnation" in place of "May God damn you to hell and eternal damnation."

Cold day in hell

Another example of common use of "hell" in daily language, a Cold Day in Hell is a paradox and an idiom, since most imagery of hell depicts it as hot and fiery, such as in the Bible in Revelation, where sinners are cast into a lake of fire. Therefore, an event that will transpire "on a cold day in hell" will never occur. Similar or related phrases include: "Over my dead body," "When hell freezes over," "A snowball's chance in hell," "When the devil goes ice-skating," and "When pigs fly."

Interestingly, Cocytus, the bottom circle of Hell, which held traitors, in Dante's Divine Comedy, is depicted as an ice-covered lake.

See also



External links

Template:Wikiquote Template:Commons

Part of this article consists of modified text from Wikipedia, and the article is therefore licensed under GFDL. (KEEPING IT AS IT IS, PERIOD, OR CREATING DIFFERENT ARTICLES DEPENDING ON THE BELIEFS AS IN WIKIPEDIA?)