Congratulations! You’re dead and you’re not in Hell, but that probably means you’re in Purgatory where your wounds of sin will be cleansed. With punishment.
Dante’s Mt. Purgatory is arranged in an awesomely symbolic way, especially once through St. Peter’s Gate. The two terraces at the bottom of the mountain are your most likely way into Purgatory: being an excommunicate or one of three types of late-repentants (indolent, unshriven, or pre-occupied). If you’re not a Christian (like me) or didn’t repent at all…then you are in Hell. Rowan Atkinson will greet you at the welcome barbeque held here.
Once you do your time on the terraces (or if you repented earlier and were able to skip the line), you can hope to be allowed access through St. Peter’s gate with a twist from both the silver and the gold key. You get 7 P’s stamped on your forehead that you will have to work off during your purgative punishment for the Seven Roots of Sin. On each cornice, souls are faced with a punishment (or “penance”) while meditating on both a “whip” (examples of a virtue to counter the vice) and “bridle” (stories of the vice itself so you can learn from the mistakes of others). If you overcome the vice, you have a P removed by an angel, and you can move on to the next level. (Dante was the first dungeon-crawler video game designer).
The three cornices of Lower Purgatory are devoted to Love Perverted: the love of harming one’s neighbours.
Cornice 1 – The Proud
Punishment: Carrying a giant rock on your back to humble your cocksure arrogance and wipe that douchebag grin off your face. (I’d be stuck here a while, were the whole Christian requirement thing to be dropped).
Cornice 2 – The Envious
Punishment: Your peeping-tom eyes are wired shut so you can’t desire anything your neighbour has because you can’t see it.
Cornice 3 – The Wrathful
Punishment: The smoke monster from Lost. No, really. I wouldn’t want to hang out here for long.
Then on to Middle and Upper Purgatory for your Disordered Love of Good. Sloth is all alone in Middle Purgatory for Love Defective. The last three are Love of Secondary Goods.
Cornice 4 – The Slothful
Punishment: Running. The lazy bastards. I punish myself with this almost every day!
Cornice 5 – The Covetous
Punishment: Prostration. You’re laid on your belly without your possessions. And forced to watch episodes of Hoarders.
Cornice 6 – The Gluttonous
Punishment: Starvation and learning what calories are and how to count them (for future reference once you move on to the next cornice).
Cornice 7 – The Lustful
Punishment: Fire, and everyone has to go through it. If you were given a free “Get Out of One Sin” card back at the gate, it’s not working for this punishment. You either jump through the wall of fire, or you sit around listening to erotic stories for all eternity. Wait… why am I leaving?
There! You made it! Earthly Paradise is your reward where you get to watch…a bunch of boring pageants. On second thought, send me back to Lust. They told some pretty raunchy stories there.
(I was using the Penguin Edition of The Divine Comedy translated by Dorothy Leigh Sayers)