In many mythological, folklore and religious traditions, hell is a place of suffering and punishment in an afterlife, often after resurrection. Religions with a linear divine history often depict hells as endless. Religions with a cyclic history often depict a hell as an intermediary period between incarnations. Typically these traditions locate hell under the Earth's external surface and often include entrances to Hell from the land of the living. Other afterlife destinations include Heaven, Purgatory, Paradise, and Limbo.
Other traditions, which do not conceive of the afterlife as a place of punishment or reward, merely describe hell as an abode of the dead, a neutral place located under the surface of Earth (for example, see sheol and Hades). Modern understandings of hells often depict them abstractly, as a state of loss rather than as fiery torture literally underground, but this view of the concept of a hell can, in fact, be traced back into the ancient and medieval periods as well. Hell is sometimes portrayed as populated with demons who torment those dwelling there. Many are ruled by a death god such as Nergal, Hades, Hel, Enma or the Devil.
The Squirrel Nut Zippers are a band formed in 1993 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina by James "Jimbo" Mathus (vocals and guitar), Katharine Whalen (vocals, banjo, and ukulele), Chris Phillips on drums, Don Raleigh on bass and sideman Ken Mosher.
While the band's eclectic fusion of Delta blues, gypsy jazz, 1930s-era swing, klezmer, and other styles makes them hard to categorize, their unique music found a niche in the late 1990s, when the band met with national recognition and commercial success, sometimes associated with the Swing Revival of the same period. They found their greatest success with the 1996 single "Hell", penned by Tom Maxwell.
They played the last night of The Voodoo Experience held at City Park in New Orleans, Louisiana over Halloween weekend 2009.
In the afterlife
You could be headed for the serious strife
Now you make the scene all day
But tomorrow there'll be Hell to pay
People listen attentively
I mean about future calamity
I used to think the idea was obsolete
Until I heard the old man stamping his feet.
This is a place where eternally
Fire is applied to the body
Teeth are extruded and bones are ground
Then baked into cakes which are passed around.
Beauty, talent, fame, money, refinement
Top skill and brain
But all the things you try to hide
Will be revealed on the other side.
Now the D and the A and the M
And the N and the A
And the T and the I-O-N
Lose your face, lose your name
Then get fitted for a suit of flame
--song written by Tom Maxwell
An infernal bit of more than slightly subversive off-kilter klezmer.
I never realized Hell could be such a humorous space...?
THE OLD WOMAN
Excuse me; but I am so lonely; and this place is so awful.
DON JUAN A new comer?
THE OLD WOMAN Yes: I suppose I died this morning. I confessed; I had extreme unction; I was in bed with my family about me and my eyes fixed on the cross. Then it grew dark; and when the light came back it was this light by which I walk seeing nothing. I have wandered for hours in horrible loneliness.
DON JUAN [sighing] Ah! you have not yet lost the sense of time. One soon does, in eternity.
THE OLD WOMAN Where are we?
DON JUAN In hell.
THE OLD WOMAN [proudly] Hell! I in hell! How dare you?
DON JUAN [unimpressed] Why not, senora!
THE OLD WOMAN You do not know to whom you are speaking. I am a lady, and a faithful daughter of the Church.
DON JUAN I do not doubt it.
THE OLD WOMAN But how then can I be in hell? Purgatory, perhaps: I have not been perfect: who has? But hell! oh, you are lying.
DON JUAN Hell, senora, I assure you; hell at its best: that is, its most solitary - though perhaps you would prefer company.
THE OLD WOMAN But I have sincerely repented; I have confessed-
DON JUAN How much?
THE OLD WOMAN More sins than I really committed. I loved confession.
DON JUAN Ah, that is perhaps as bad as confessing too little. At all events, senora, whether by oversight or intention, you are certainly damned, like myself; and there is nothing for it now but to make the best of it.
THE OLD WOMAN
[indignantly] Oh! and I might have been so much wickeder! All my good deeds wasted! It is unjust.
[from the "Don Juan In Hell" section of Man and Superman - Act III by George Bernard Shaw]