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by Micha F. Lindemans

The Otherworld in Hmong belief is harsh, mountainous landscape. It can be entered through holes or underground caves. Where the natural world and the Otherworld meet there is a large body of water, crossed by a bridge, and it is here that the souls of men can meet with the spirits and communicate, although none can tell which is men and which is spirit. There might also be a marketplace on or near the bridge where men and spirits can trade and bargain.

There are twelve great mountains, each one higher than the preceding one, and they lead into the heavens, to the great mountain where Ntxwj Nyag resides. After death, each soul must traverse these mountains in order to be judged by Ntxwj Nyug. The passage is not without dangers: one of the mountains is made out of poisonous hairy caterpillars and can only be crossed by those who wear hemp slippers (which are placed on the feet of the dead). When the soul comes before Ntxwj Nyug it is judged; if it is found worthy it may pass through the great gates and continue its journey to the village of its ancestors, where it may dwell for a while before it is reincarnated.

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