of the eternally unanswered questions of the living is, "what
happens when we die?"
infinite array of beliefs on this ponderance has been written
over many millennia. Cultural belief and tradition concerning
death and the passage into the afterlife can vary considerably.
originating from far and near give us a tapestry of multi-faceted
views on passing over, the afterlife and reincarnation. Many
cultures in the world today still adhere to some piece of their
particular myths concerning death and that which is associated
with it. To follow I have included various examples of the cultural
and traditional beliefs that have been passed down from many
areas of the world.
is the jackal-headed, Egyptian god of death. He also presides
over the ritual of embalming. Myth states that he performed
this service on the great god Osiris. His Egyptian names were
Inpu and Wepwawet, which mean, "opener of the ways".
It is believed that he led the souls of the dead into the west
to the Hall of Judgment.
the Greek ruler of the Underworld, was the brother of the Olympian
god Zeus. Passage in Greek myth was processional. The Greek,
Hermes Psychopompos led the dead down into Hades. The ferryman,
Charon, took the dead across the infernal rivers. The infernal
rivers are the River Styx (river of hate), Achoron (river of
woe), Lethe (river of forgetfulness), Cocytos (river of wailing)
and the Phlegthon(river of fire). Traveling these rivers represented
leaving each of the ill feelings behind you, a purifying before
entering the afterlife.
great many myths surrounding the dead come from Celtic cultures.
One transformation theme, stemming from Celtic belief, is that
of turning into a bird upon one's death. The raven is a strong
of Northern Europe who died in battle might go to the god Odin's
Great Hall of Valhalla. The goddess Freya received slain warriors
as well as the souls of women. Those dying of age, illness or
accident went to Hel, overseen by the God Loki's daughter, also
named Hel (not to be confused with the Christian "Hell").
Those who were chosen to die in battle were done so on Odin's
behalf by the Valkyries. The name Valkyrie means "chooser
of the slain". The female spirits went to the battlefields
and claimed the slain, bringing them back to Valhalla.
Ireland, Badb, "the boiling one", presides over the
great cauldron. The great cauldron is, in myth and modern pagan
belief, a place to which all life goes upon death and from which
it waits to be reborn.
lore provides that "willing" a dying loved one to
live, traps their spirit and prevents them from passing over,
thereby prolonging their suffering. The author and poet Thomas
Campbell wrote "to live in the hearts we leave behind is
not to die".
ones’ earthly forms may leave us but within our hearts
and memories their spirits live on. The common denominator in
most myths associated with death is that their is always a "higher
being" to welcome and guide you into the afterlife - but
that is just a pagan's perspective.