Aizsaule

In Latvian mythology, Aizsaule (loosely translating as the World Beyond) was the land of the dead, described as a place with beautiful forests, mountains and rivers. The name had a close association with the sun goddess, Saule, who collected the souls of the deceased during the day, carrying them to Aizsaule as the sun set beyond the horizon.

Irij

Irij was the name of the Underworld for the Southern Slavs (also known as Vyraj to the Western Slavs, or Vyriy to the Eastern Slavs). Stemming from the Old Slavic term “Rai” or “Raj”, it loosely translates as “paradise”, and was specifically associated with godly wealth. Irij was considered to be where the souls of every person who had ever lived, or every person yet to be born, dwelled. In cosmological terms, it was located at the roots of the World Oak Tree, and described as forested wetlands, or even being underwater. This is a stark contrast, however, to earlier beliefs that it was a luxurious garden at the summit of the Oak, an image that would be later reinstated by converted Christians.

Irij was ruled by the god Veles, guarding its gates and determining where each soul should be sent. While the Slavs did not perceive there to be a hell in the afterlife, there was a section of the Underworld known as Peklo, a type of intense purgatory where sinners would temporarily go to obtain the learning and redemption they needed to return to paradise. As the dominion of Veles, who among other things represented the cyclical nature of the world, Irij was also closely associated with spring and the coming of new life. It was said that birds flew there for winter, and played an important role for pregnant women. These birds would carry the soul of an unborn baby from Irij to Zemlja (Land of the Living), placing it inside the child while still in the womb. This is where the myth about storks delivering babies to expectant parents comes from.

Svarog

Until about 1,000 years ago, Svarog was a name for the celestial abode of the gods according to the Eastern Slavs, often associated with the Western Slavs’ eternal paradise of Rai (however, the latter was actually closer to an underworld). Very little is known about Old Slavic culture in general, but some details of their cosmologies and pantheons have been preserved in medieval texts. Like the Norsemen and Saxons, they believed in a World Tree, though it was only separated into three realms: Heaven (Svarog), Earth (Zemlja) and the Underworld (Irij). Svarog – also the name of the East’s chief deity (similar to the West’s Perun) – was described as a bright place filled with joy, very much mirroring the field-, forest- and river-based topography of the mortal world. Here, the air was never too hot or too cold, there was a floral scent on the breeze, and airborne chariots could often be seen. The word “Svarog” itself is derived from the Vedic “Svar” (literally meaning “Heaven”), thus sharing a root with the Svarga of Hinduism.