Visions of Hell and Other Underworlds
Presented by Sharonah Fredrick, Assistant Director, ACMRS
Part of the ACMRS Global Mythologies Series
From the Mayan Indian Xibalba, which incarnates a psychological conception of fear more than a physical reality, the Jewish Cabalistic Other world, the Sitra Ahra, and the Celtic Underworld of Prince Dyffed, both of which often merges with the human Middle Worlds, the Underworld has been transmitted in religion and folklore as a sometimes concrete, sometimes vague, but almost always frightening concept. This may have been so for the Spanish Counter-reformation vision of Hell in Escorial, designed by Phillip II to remind himself and his subjects of the wrathful sentence of God…..but was it so for the original Hel, the cursed but tragic daughter of the Norse jester-god, Loki? Hel was herself an embodiment of life and light and death and decomposition, the duality evident in the Aztec Mictlan, where life and death crossed on the obsidian razor’s edge. What does the underworld, or the parallel world, mean for humanity, and why have different cultures struggled for so many centuries to define it? Dr. Sharonah Fredrick will present these competing visions of a complex afterlife by looking at how these ideas were interpreted in the Early Modern period, though many of these ideas-such as the Norse, the Mayan and the Celtic-date back to a far older time.