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IE Mythology 2, Requirement 2

Describe the image of the Otherworld and/or afterlife in three different IE cultures. How may these images impact your understanding of your own afterlife beliefs and those of Neo-Pagans in general? (400 words min.)

Bruce Lincon's essay, "On the Imagery of Paradise," makes an astute observation: when it comes to images of the afterlife, it is pretty clear that the Ancient's defined it less by what is there, than what is not there.

Generally speaking, the world the Dead are introduced to is one where no pain, toil, or sorrow exist. Pindar mentiones a life without working the land, without tears, and without need to work the seas for food in the Greek afterlife, and echoes Homer who says that no snow or cold awaits Menelaos in the afterlife. Hesiod mentions that the earth simply gives of itself to the blessed dead.

The Voyage of Bran describes similar things from a Celtic standpoint: no sickness or sorrow, no wailing or trechery. Apparently the only thing in the afterlife is sweet music that plays gently upon the ear.

A Norse depiction of Ódáinskar speaks of a realm ruled by the giant Guðmund. This field or meadow seems to have no sickness or death or old age.

In Rgveda IX.11.7, we hear of an endless, deathless world of inexhaustable light, and in the later Hindu text, the Mahabharata, Yama's palace is described again as deathless, bright, lacking in hunger, thirst, and "perversity."

Lincoln mentions that the use of negative imagery correlates with a notion that the Otherworld is simply impossible to describe using our normal decriptive terms. We are thus forced to define what it is not rather than what it is. In many ways, the image of the afterlife can probably best be described as something like the hobo's paradise in "Big Rock Candy Mountain": there, you find a bright world where toil is non-existant, where there is no adverse weather, and there aren't even other hobos to take your spot in the train car. Of course, we can only hope that there's a lake of whisky.

My own understanding of the afterlife is somewhat complicated, in that I have always been generally averse to the Neo-Pagan norm of reincarnation, karma, and other concepts of the like. I do not think on the afterlife as affected much by this life, but I work hard to leave this life better than I found it. It is, to me, generally like the above: a place of quite simplicity, and very, very boring. I suspect this might be why many in the Neo-Pagan community have gone with other forms of afterlife: the ancient IE one is poorly-described enough that it disinterests most people, which is also why I don't think that ancient IE beliefs have much affect on the way Neo-Pagans see the afterlife.

I also consider the role of memory in my afterlife formulations, likey influenced by my readings in Norse lore: that which people remember about me is vital to my own continued existance (you only die when your name is forgotten). I have no illusions that I will be remembered in sixty or seventy years, even, but my aim is always to ensure that I've left the world a better, more navigable place for those who follow me. It has occurred to me at times that living on in the stories of this world, even for a short time, is better than living in a place that has none of the sorrows or toils of this life. I intend to ensure that my parents are remembered, as well, by my children, should I have any, and to tell them stories about our family so that those who went before me are not forgotten. This is the least I can do for them.



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