In mythology the underworld generally refers to a place beneath the earth’s surface or under the sea, the afterlife realm of the deceased, or a hellish zone filled with demons.
The mythological underworld is usually separated from everyday life by an expanse or an abyss.
The gates of the underworld are often guarded by menacing creatures, like snakes or the Greek underworld’s Lord of Death, Cerberus (giant three-headed dog). In legend, the Greek Orpheus used his melodious lyre to try to liberate Eurydice from Cerberus. But like Lot’s wife, Orpheus ignored a dire warning to “not look back” during the escape. And while looking back over his shoulder, Orpheus lost Eurydice to the underworld forever.
In ancient Egypt the sun god Re (or Ra) was said to pass through the underworld on a nightly basis. David Leeming notes that Re (Ra) was attacked by his enemies, particularly Apep, but defended by Seth and other benevolent afterlife spirits.†
The Egyptian Osiris was the ruler of the underworld, as a sort of death and resurrection figure—an elevated status that came about from his dismemberment and subsequent reassembly.
A similar belief to the Egyptian Re (Ra) myth is expressed in India at the sun temple at Konark. Architecturally, the Konark temple is a chariot of 24 wheels, where the sun god Surya begins the day as Brahma, enters midday as Siva, and spends the night as Visnu.
A 2003 film about vampires and werewolves is called Underworld and its sequel is Underworld: Evolution (2006).
And urban legend associates the underworld with organized crime groups, and even corruption in general. These depictions are usually highly stylized, as in comic books and video games.
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† David Leeming, Oxford Companion to World Mythology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), p. 337.