The Devil’s Atlas: An Explorer’s Guide to Heavens, Hells and Afterworlds

Chronicle. Aug. 2022. 256p. ISBN 9781797214474. $29.95. REF
Examining one aspect of culture across different societies is intriguing, but it becomes fascinating when the facet under the microscope is each place and time’s view of the afterlife. Brooke-Hitching (The Madman’s Library) explains in his introductory essay that the idea for the book came to him from a 1650 French map, Map of the Kingdom of Heaven, with the Way to Get There. The map is one of the items reproduced in full color and crisp detail, alongside a wealth of other imaginings of paradise, hell, and everything in between, from books, pamphlets, and all kinds of art. These complement facts about the images and the strange and fascinating ideas they represent. Christian beliefs get a slightly longer treatment than philosophies and histories from other religions, but this is still a great entry to a study of spirituality worldwide. Chapters cover, for example, “The Hells of Ancient India,” “Jahannam: Islamic Hell,” “Mesoamerican Heavens,” and “Mapping the Garden of Eden,” in sections on heaven, hell, and “Limbo, Purgatory, and Other Midworlds.” A lengthy index and robust selected bibliography add scholarly value.
VERDICT A great choice for public libraries and high school and undergraduate art, history, and religion collections.
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