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The Most Famous Guidebooks about Death

Ars Moriendi

Death is the greatest unknown in all of human life. For thousands of years, people have tried to unravel its mysteries. In the process, they've created mind-boggling works dedicated to it that have remained unparalleled in time and culture.

These books detailed everything a person would need in their journey to the afterlife. One can read about the extreme details therein, starting from what the deceased should carry with them to the beyond and getting into how to prepare for the transition while still alive.

These works are like guidebooks through the psychology that remind of human mortality.

Some of the more famous ones we've gathered below.

Arda Viraf

Ars Moriendi or the Art of Dying

Ars Moriendi is a chronicle from the 15th century, written in Latin. At the time, the Black Plague, war and death were everywhere in Europe. People needed some kind of comfort.

And they were given it by an anonymous Dominican friar, who wrote the text, providing directions on how the dying can resist the temptations of the Devil. The main message of the book is that the afterlife is a labyrinth of temptations on the road to Heaven. The Art of Dying was one of the first books printed in Europe. It contains illustrations and diagrams and became the world's first bestseller.

Book of Arda Viraf

The Book of Arda Viraf is seen as the Iranian version of Dante's Divine Comedy. It is holy to followers of Zoroastrianism, its author wise and legendary. The book describes the journey of his soul in the underground kingdom. After 7 days of wandering, his soul returned to his body and he wrote the work.

Although the book has been famous since ancient times, it received its finishing touches in the 8th and 9th centuries, with contributions from Arabian authors. According to the divine text, the deceased is judged in the afterlife. If their deeds had been good, he ascends to Heaven amidst the company of beautiful women, if not he is sent directly to Hell. The book also served as a foundation of the Quran.

Orphic Gold Tablets

In the mid-20th century, mysterious gold tablets, written in ancient Greek, were discovered in Thessaly. The unusual artifacts were dated to 300-350 BC. Later, it was found that the texts described a kind of trip through the afterlife, with exceptionally detailed instructions on what the deceased should do after they begin their journey.

The texts are considered Orphic because they were holy to followers of Orphism - a religion whose central figure was Orpheus, who was able to go to the underground kingdom and return.

Bardo Thodol

Bardo Thodol - Tibetan Book of the Dead

The Tibetan Book of the Dead is another guidebook to the afterlife and rebirth. First mention of it dates back to the 8th century and it was originally titled Liberation Through Hearing During the Intermediate State. It describes the horrors on the journey through the beyond - demons, evil spirits and ghosts, as well as that the person must not fear these.