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The Land of the Righteous - Descriptions of Heaven

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 2

Just as there is no one true religion (that we know of), there is no one true description of heaven. Heaven is described by various other world religions in different ways. Sometimes it is a place that transcends Earth, while others believe it is an actual place on Earth where gods dwell.

Of course there are the traditional descriptions of heaven in the big three religions of the world—Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. Christian heaven with pearly gates dwelling somewhere in the clouds, home of the devout and righteous, Gan Eden of Judaism described much like the garden of Eden except has never been beheld by human eyes, home of the devout and righteous, and Jannah the eternal dwelling of Muslims where everything one wants for in this world will be provided, home of the devout and righteous.

However, all religions have things in common and the various descriptions of heaven are no different. In all religions, no matter where or what the texts says heaven is, it is always the same kind of place—a home for the devout and  righteous after they die.

Folkvangr, Valhalla and Helgafell

Folkvangr, Valhalla and Helgafell

Norse Religion

Norse mythology and Scandinavian pagan religion did not have one heaven but three (at least). There was Valhalla and Folkvangr where the good warriors who died in battle went and Helgafell were women and everyone else went.

Why do warriors need two heavens? Well, as the story goes, Odin and Freya struck a deal in which Freya gets first pick of the warriors to come to her hall of Sessrumnir while Odin gets the leftovers (most of which were berserkers, which Freya did not want, and those devout to Odin). Those who dwell in Folkvangr are something similar to ancestral spirits who watch and protect over their tribe of still living folks. Those who dwell in Valhalla are there for the singular purpose of staying fit warriors for the day of Ragnarok in which they must fight.

The aforementioned Helgafell is for everyone else. Translated as 'holy mountain' those who were not warriors in life go there when they die and live the lives they lived when they were living. So if you were a farmer, you farm. If you were a washerwoman, you wash. A rather mundane afterlife, but the Norse were a warrior culture so the warriors get the best afterlife. Though Helgafell is a normal life safe from the suffering of war, poverty, and death so it is better than nothing.

 

Vaikuntha

Vaikuntha

Hinduism

There are a few different versions of heaven in Hinduism, however these different sections are more akin to levels. Each one getting better than the next depending on how you lived your life. The highest level of heaven is called Vaikuntha, roughly translated, meaning the land without worries. It is a heaven for those who have obtains moksha, or liberation, from the cycle of death and rebirth.

Vaikuntha is composed of several different planets, but is the supreme abode of Vishnu. The planets are thick with forests, in which wish-giving trees grow primarily for the inhabits, to give them their every want and need. The plants that grow are the beautiful ones that can be found on Earth, but infinitely more fragrant and lush. Everyone in Vaikuntha appears young and beautiful, especially the women who are compared to the beauty of Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune.

The biggest perk is the denizens of Vaikuntha fly around on airplanes of lapis lazuli, emerald and gold with their various wives and consorts.

Elysium

Elysium

Ancient Greek Religion

Elysium or the Elysium Fields of ancient Greek religions has a tendency to change over the years. Sometimes it was a tiered place for mortals of various virtues. In which morals would have to gain access three times in order to get to the top tier of the Islands of the Blessed. Before that, it was a special place where only mortals who had the favor of the Gods could enter. Later it was then changed so that the invitation extended to all good morals.

During the time of Homer, Elysium did not exist within lore yet, with all mortals—good or bad—resigned to the realm of Hades. However, Hesiod and poets during his time described it only as a paradisal realm reserved for heroes.

Later Greek writers attempted to rationalize the myths identified the mythical White Island with one located near the mouth of the river Danube on the Black Sea. The Islands of the Blessed, on the other hand, were sometimes identified with the islands of the eastern Aegean, or with islands located in the Atlantic Ocean.

Fields of Aaru

Fields of Aaru

Ancient Egyptian Religion

The Fields of Aaru occasionally shares the name of the Elysium Fields of Greek mythology. Regardless of what it is called, Aaru is the land where Osiris dwells. The ultimate goal in life is to nourish the seeds of the divine within us all, after death your heart is weighed. if you succeeded in nourishing the seed, you get to walk among the gods in Aaru. However, if you failed you were reincarnated and forced to try again.

Aaru is described as being similar to the mortal world except better. Humanity lives in bliss, growing crops as high as a man with a great many canals of fresh water surrounding his farms. Within the world they would enjoy the bread and beer of eternity, which would never grow stale and take as many wives and concubines as they wished. No word here or there on if women had a place in this afterlife or not.

The Otherworld

The Otherworld

Celtic Religion

Unlike other heavens, the Otherworld is said to be located somewhere on Earth. In the Atlantic ocean, apparently. It is most often described as an island or a chain of islands in the sea. Sometimes, they are thought to exist beneath the sea itself. It is described as a mirror image of the Earth above but immune to sickness, old age, famine, war and all of the many different evils of the Earth. Like most heavens, the various gods and goddesses of Celtic mythology call this Otherworld home and the souls of righteous mortals get to interact with them for eternity.

What with it being a supposedly physical location on Earth, there are some stories in Celtic lore in which mortals have visited Otherworld.

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Comments

Nov 22, 2013 5:00am
CreativeDesign
Do a YouTube search for the movie "God of Wonder". (Run time is about 84 minutes, uploaded by Rachel Lubbe). It is an amazing film. Watch it and see what you think.
Nov 22, 2013 6:52pm
Imprimatur
To paraphrase Christopher Hitchens, all religions are different versions of the same untruth.
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