Afterworlds and Otherworlds

We take a little trip to the afterlife this time!  Lynnette Lounsbury is currently writing her PhD in Creative Practice in the School of Arts at UNE.  Her thesis is a science fiction novel that allegorises key moments in Australian history.  As a writer and a historian, Lynnette continually explores the role of belief, myth, and story in her work for young readers, and soon, young viewers as well.

— Elizabeth Hale

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Philippe de Champaigne, Vanitas

My favourite mythologies are death mythologies. I think it arises out of a religious upbringing that meant from a very early age I was completely convinced that life didn’t end at death. As it turns out, most people through history agreed with me, though their version of events was far more exciting than the one I was given of heaven and hell. Tales of beasts and mazes and boatmen and malevolent spirits – they make for riveting reading and, as a child, easy believing.

At university, I studied mythology, and in particular the writing of ancient mythologies, in my history degree but the idea of my novel Afterworld didn’t completely gel until I literally knocked a book off a shelf in the bookstore and took it back to my table to read over coffee (remember bookstores with coffee shops? What a magical era that was).

It was an older book, a bestseller from 1996 called Conversations with God, by Neale Donald Walsch, and – to cut a very complex philosophic and theological treatise very short  it brought to my attention the idea of global consciousness, particularly when it came to belief systems. It was something I had already noticed in my study – creation myths and afterlife myths are remarkably similar across cultures that are centuries and oceans apart.

There are of course, many explanations as to why this might happen. We are the same species in the end.  Perhaps we simply biologically arrive at the same conclusions about our origins and our place in the universe. Or it could be the result of trade and the sharing of ideas. Or perhaps they all arose from one original tradition. . . .

Or, perhaps… we share a type of global consciousness where on some subconscious level we connect with each other. I don’t have an answer, of course, but I liked that last idea and I let it evolve into the novel, Afterworld,, a story about a boy who finds himself in an afterlife that is a result of our global consciousness, a belief in life after death that is so strong and has been believed for long, that it exists in a physical way.

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Lynnette’s novel, Afterworld, was shortlisted for the 2014 Australian Aurealis award in science fiction for young adults.

Most of the afterlife mythologies cross each other in some way. There are stories of judgement in most; there are ideas of journey, danger and potential loss; there are spiritual guides, guardians and of course, those who would trick or trap the hapless or complacent. I simply brought them together where they intersected and created what I hoped would work as a complete universe, one with recognisable characters – gods and angels, boatmen and guardians – some classical, some Christian, some Eastern.

My afterworld is an attempt to guess and what might happen if humans across Earth’s history were all correct in our beliefs about what awaits us after death. Not everyone liked this idea. It does, after all, suggest that your personal beliefs are only as valid as everyone else. Not less, but certainly not more. But a lot of readers have told me that they feel very comforted by the idea that we might have some sort of input, however small, into our final journey and that our belief is powerful and creative.

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Orpheus in the Underworld, by Jan Brueghel the Elder [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Perhaps that’s just the basic human desire to control everything – or perhaps it is a little bit of the Egyptian hope to avoid chaos, the Classical desire to see people rewarded or punished, the Eastern desire to keep learning and growing towards enlightenment and the Christian desire to meet an infinite source.

After Afterworld, Lynnette takes us to The Piazza


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A statue of Dante Alighieri, in the Italian Forum at Leichhardt, Sydney, given a menacing tint by Jim and Lynnette Lounsbury

My current project, a web and television series co-written with and directed by my partner Jim Lounsbury is also an exploration of the afterlife – this time exploring the cross-over between life and death and the idea of fate and pre-destination. Co-writing about imagined spaces was an even more challenging and interesting experience as every writer has such different ideas of what could be waiting “on the other side”. In our story Charon the boatman is determined to save his human lover but offering alternative sacrifices to the beasts of the underworld. Of course, this isn’t what the beasts want. Death is not something we can negotiate with!

Titled ‘The Piazza’ and filmed in the piazza of the Italian Forum in Leichhardt, Sydney, with its Dante Alighieri fountain, the series is a collaboration with the Acting Centre of Australia and features their talented young acting students.

The Italian Forum by day, in Leichhardt, Sydney. Note the statue of Dante in the lower left.


The series has started production and will be finished in late 2017. You can watch the trailer here and there will be more news on our website as the project continues.


— Lynnette Lounsbury




Persona: Figures of the Underworld Fight the Shadows

One of the highlights of the Our Mythical Hope conference was the poster presentations by Philology students from the Belarus State University.  Under the direction of Dr Hanna  Pauloskaya, they produced posters about the manifestation of classical mythology in contemporary popular culture.  I asked them to modify their presentations for Antipodean Odyssey.   Below is the text, of a presentation on some of the figures from classical mythology who appear in the role-playing game PersonaThe pdf of the poster is attached also.

— Elizabeth Hale


Greco-Roman mythology is one of the most famous mythologies all over the world. It has a huge influence on the development of culture and art. In our research we explore the Persona game series.

Persona is a role-playing game, developed since 1996 by the Japanese game company Atlus. In this game players use Personas, who are the embodiment of the soul, the mind and the identity of a person, taking the form of demons, gods or ancient heroes, to fight the shadows.

Persona games often use classical figures: in our research we explore Hades, Prometheus, Orpheus, Thanatos and Nyx, which are key personas in the second and third episodes of the game.

Persona is a RPG game, which means that a player should be a part of the game, a game that often offers a player to use his/her judgment in different situations. Because of this you can feel that you’re a part of the game and other characters have their own opinions about different situations. Every part of the game has its own story, where the characters fight against demons, shadows and evil Personas. If a player wants to create a strong Persona, (s)he should make social links or talk to demons to get some cards to summon Personas. Social links can be done with protagonist`s teammates or other people, who help the main character at the end of the game. There is a Velvet Room, where a player can summon any Persona, and Igor is the master of the room, who helps the protagonist. The main aim of all characters is to save the world from destruction, symbolized in Persona 3 by Nyx, the goddess of the night.

Some of the Personas who fight the shadows


In a Persona game Hades’ appearance is devilish, donning a dark, gothic fashioned robe and his head is completely covered, a tribute to his origin. His right hand carries a tri-skull ornament, which is a symbol of Cerberus and his lordship over the dead. His skills in battle are related to water and darkness elements.  Hades is the king of the dark realms who is fearsome to behold, but is actually benevolent.

When Hades is summoned, he says: “I’m Hades. King of the underworld who judges the evil and the righteous alike. I am thou. Thou art I. Let us walk this path together!”

Prometheus is a Persona with large rocks attached to his body. These rocks represent the rock, which trapped Prometheus in his originating lore. The red lines on the rocks represent the energy of fire stolen by Prometheus. In the game he is invincible to light and dark, but vulnerable to lightning because Zeus bound him to a rock for disobeying. Ironically, he also possess one of the strongest thunder attacks in the game.

When Prometheus is summoned, he says: “Even if I’m to be chained to a rock, my duty is to love you and give you wisdom. The fire I have given you is your indomitable spirit!”

According to mythology, Orpheus was ripped apart by Maenads for not honoring Dionysus, leaving his head untouched, this is the reason why his body in Persona is entirely mechanical and why his voice is processed through a device embedded in his “stomach”. He uses his famous lyre as his weapon. Orpheus and the main character have the same faces because they have similar fates.

When Orpheus appears he says: “Thou art I. And I am thou. From the sea of my soul I cometh. I am Orpheus, master of strings”.


The depiction of Thanatos in a Persona game seems to be derived more from the earliest mythological accounts, being characterized as a grim warrior surrounded by a mantle of metal coffins. Thanatos is shown from the beginning of the game where he emerges from Orpheus. He looks like a shadow with white cloth on his arms and legs and he wields a long sword. His helmet resembles a skull. He wears generally dark clothes with a belt. On his belt plate can be seen a cranium with crossed bones. He is chained with coffins that can also be his wings by his back. In a battle he uses his sword and also light, dark and fire attacks.

Thanatos occurs as the ultimate persona of the death arcana and 6 death personas are needed for his summoning.


Such personas are needed, to fight the shadows, who are symbolized by the figure, Nyx.

Nyx, the goddess of the night in Greek mythology, is the personification of death, shadows, apathy. She is the final boss in Persona 3.

Nyx is explained as the personification of death in Persona. In ancient times Nyx bestowed Death and Night to the world, where she is destined to bring the Fall. Her son, Death, was responsible for summoning Nyx, and became the harbinger of the Fall. After the protagonist manages to fend off the Avatar of Nyx, the Avatar shrugs the damage away and proceeds to connect to Nyx’s true physical body, the moon. As she descends to earth, leaving only protagonist immune to her effect. Then protagonist ascended to the Moon and battled Nyx.

Nyx is in fact a living being outside reality the size of a celestial body known as “The Star Eater”, that drifted space in a dormant state. This being collided with the Earth, and ended up entering Earth`s orbit becoming its moon, but leaving its psyche on the surface. The “wave-like psyche” stood a contradiction to the already existing life on earth. In order to resist the contradiction, the life forms in Earth developed a collective subconscious in which the life forms locked away the psyche of Nyx by suppressing its psyche with their own thoughts. Nyx’s physical body entered a healing process after the colliding with the Earth form within Earth`s moon. The Fall is the process in which Nyx’s psyche reenters its physical body, giving back its original form, meaning a paradox for life on earth, and thus the end of the world.

It’s later revealed that Nyx herself is neither hostile nor malevolent, she was awakened from the sorrow, depression and apathy of humankind, believing that humans were tired of living.  The guidebook to the game says that Gods and Demons emerge from humans as another means to defend their psyche from Nyx.

Every persona has its own moral and judgments. All personas are born from human hearts and souls, and every person can learn from personas their thoughts and words. Our personas symbolize justice (Hades doesn’t divide good and bad actions, he judges by justice), love and wisdom (it can be useful for the youth), talent and skills (in your hobby you can achieve mastery easier, and it’s useful to do something to which lies the heart). The images of characters condemn apathy, a theme that is clearly directed towards young people.


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The poster that Yauheni, Khrystsina and Aliaksandra presented at the Our Mythical Hope conference. A link to a pdf is below.


the pdf of the poster (for easier viewing)


Authors of the project: Aliaksandra Stabredava, Khrystsina Hunko, Yauheni Pipko, Belarus State University, Faculty of Philology, 4th year students. Scholarship holders of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Republic of Poland, trainees at the Faculty of “Artes Liberales”, University of Warsaw.  All images reproduced with permission of Atlus.  With thanks to Dr Hanna Pauloskaya (Faculty of Artes Liberales, University of Warsaw).