Hell Texts

Hell texts appear within the literatures of many religions and cultures. There are definite concentrations of these texts in certain places and at certain times. The Christian European Middle Ages is particularly replete with hell descriptions, which usually occur in visionary otherworld descriptions. These apparently derive from earlier European and particularly Mediterranean descriptions that are scattered throughout Roman and Greek literature and through early Christian Apocalypses. After a certain point they may also have been influenced by Eastern texts and notions of hell.

There is very little evidence of a tradition of hell from any surviving materials from many religions and cultures, including Africans, Native Americans, people of the Arctic regions and Pacific Islanders. Any traces among them are often associated with the influences of later Christian missionaries.

For specific lists of texts, follow the links at left. Texts can range from a few lines to extended descriptions and even to entire works devoted to hell. The texts identified here all present a description of hell as a geographical — or perhaps psychological — location with physical features, inhabitants and activity. Texts about devils and sins, which do not actually concern themselves with a topographical description of hell, have not been included.

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rev. 10/10/2020