Heaven and Hell – the two afterlife abodes waiting for us once we pass over. Will we be welcomed by haloed angels into the house of all that’s good or be thrust into the cage that awaits us in the fiery depths of this universe?
Only time will decide. But will it?
While some claim heaven can be found on the earth, others are more than convinced that accessible gateways to hell actually exist! Throughout the chapters of history, one can find tales of legends that prove this even more strongly. Come, let’s course through these.
1. The Mayan Cenotes
The word ‘cenote’ is the translation of the Mayan word ‘tz’onot’ which means ‘sacred well’. The Mayan Cenotes are the underlying waterways flowing across Central American and Mexico that were formed by corrosion of limestone rock by subterranean water. People believe that the cave is a gateway to the Mayan underworld called Xibalba.
Cenotes were used by the Mayans to make sacrificial offerings. Anyone who was suspected of witchcraft was thrown into the dark abyss of this place. One of the most recent discoveries made here was that of an 18-year-old ‘Crystal Maiden’ who was believed to have been sacrificed in a ritual to pacify the gods of the underworld.
2. The Masaya Volcano
While the natives took the volcano to be an abode of a siren – who also doubled as a God – the Spanish travellers did indeed conclude that the volcano led to hell. In 1529, people held the opinion that the volcano was active with demonic activities when a priest named Francisco de Bobadilla actually hiked up to the ‘hell mouth’ of this portal to rid it of whatever monster it housed.
3. St Patrick’s Purgatory
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Situated in Lough Derg, St Patrick’s Purgatory was founded in the 15th century. The legend says that when it was visited by St Patrick, he was tormented by Jesus’s visions of the torture he had experienced on the island. St Patrick was sent on a trail to a cave that housed a portal to purgatory. The saint saw a barrage of visions where he witnessed souls being punished before being led to heaven and hell.
The monastery, which is located on Station Island, became a rage among Catholic pilgrims who would throng here to pray and fast before shutting themselves in the cave for a full day. The monastery was eventually shut down in 1632 but today, a three-day pilgrimage is still being allowed.
4. The Acheron
Also known as the ‘River of Woe’, the Acheron is a river coursing through northwest Greece. Ancient Greeks believed that there were not one but several entrances to Hades and Necromanteion of Ephyra on the Acheron was one of those.
In Greco-Roman mythology, there are many references to the river especially in Homer’s Odyssey and Dante’s Inferno. Souls would be left on the banks of the Acheron forever for being indecisive about which afterlife to choose.
5. Mount Hekla
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Located in the southern mountains of Iceland, Mount Hekla has been known to hold the door to hell. In the 12th century, numerous accounts of predatory birds hovering over mount Hekla were recorded and first published in a book called ‘Flatey Book Annal’.
It was claimed that these birds were nothing else than the souls of the damned themselves. In another poem, Hekla has also been described as the “eternal prison of Judas” after his betrayal of Jesus.
6. Fengdu Ghost City
The inferno in Chinese mythology is known as ‘naraka’. The Fengdu City of Ghosts is lined with sculptures of demons, ghosts, and other mythical creatures that reside in the underbelly, waiting to punish the bad. They stand tall and ready to pronounce their judgment.
In fact, the legend states that the dead have to cross the Bridges of Helplessness to receive their judgment. After this, they have to face the Mirror of Retribution before being reincarnated. Others still have to go through torture before they can reach the final stage, the Wheel of Birth.
7. Houska Castle
Houska Castle in the Czech Republic is believed to have been built on a pit that leads straight to hell. The castle has no kitchen, no water, and no humans as its sole purpose was to keep the unknown monster caged and not make the castle inhabitable.
According to legend, in the 13th century, King Ottokar II wished to inquire about the inhabitants of the pit below. He announced to pardon any prisoner who would agree to go underground to find the secrets it held. As soon as the first volunteer went in, his murderous screams had him pulled back up. The prisoner’s hair had turned white and he could scarcely talk. Since then, the King took some obnoxious creature to be the inhabitant of the inferno.
Pray tell, would you be ready to visit these places and believe the truth that makes them so sinister?
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