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Inscriptions do make clear, however, that sometimes the Gidim could mischievously slip out of Irkalla for visits to the earth, where they would harass the living for no good reason.

These spirits would be punished by the sun god Shamash by having their funerary offerings taken from them and awarded to Gidim who had no one to remember them on earth, and so no one to provide them with offerings for their continued existence.

Special dispensation, however, was given to souls who needed to complete some kind of mission.

Ghosts could appear to people on earth if it was thought that they needed to right some kind of wrong.

This existence was the final end for all the living, no matter how great or poor a life they had lived, and it was ruled over by the dark queen Ereshkigal.

No soul was permitted to leave Irkalla for any reason, not even a goddess, as exemplified in the poem , in which even the Queen of Heaven (and Ereshkigal's sister), Inanna, must find a substitute to take her place once she ascends back to the world of the living.

In Mesopotamian culture, death was the final act of life from which there was no return.

The land of the dead was known by many names; among them was the Irkalla, the realm beneath the earth known as the "land of no return", where the souls of the dead dwelt in a dreary darkness, fed off dirt, and sipped from mud puddles (though there were other visions of the afterlife, such as that expressed in the work ).

One would enjoy the house one knew, the stream by that house, one's favorite tree and dog, and so there was no reason for a soul to want to return to earth unless that soul had a very good reason for doing so.

For the Egyptians, non-existence was an intolerable concept, and it was believed that, at death, the soul traveled to the Hall of Truth where it was judged by Osiris and the 42 Judges by having its heart weighed in balance with the white feather of truth; if the heart was found lighter than the feather, the soul proceeded on to the afterlife, while if it was heavier, it was thrown to the floor where it was eaten by a monster and the soul would cease to exist.

One's heart would be lighter if one had lived a good life and heavier if one had not.

These appearances usually manifested themselves in some kind of sickness among the living. Biggs writes, “The dead – especially dead relatives – might also trouble the living, particularly if family obligations to supply offerings to the dead were neglected.

Especially likely to return to trouble the living were ghosts of persons who died unnatural deaths or who were not properly buried - for example, death by drowning or death on a battlefield” (4).