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I see both but Google shows more results for nine hells, though I can't find definitely what those nine are supposed to be, whereas a list pops up for the seven different levels of hell.

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  • People using expletives are not usually careful to comply with the details of the literary/cultural tradition! Oct 20, 2021 at 7:46

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It's both, depending upon your preference.

Nine hells is doubtlessly related to Dante's Inferno with its nine circles. It has been popularised in fantasy and gaming scenes by Dungeons & Dragon's use of the Nine Hells as a dimension inhabited and ruled by devils (demons inhabited the 666 layers of the Abyss). [Player's Handbook, TSR, 1977, p.120] While I can't cite any hard sources, several online sources believe that D&D's use was inspired by Dante. D&D included an appendix of sources of a broad range so it's highly believeable the authors were aware of Inferno which isn't exactly an obscure work.

Seven hells has recently been popularised by A Song of Ice and Fire or its Game of Thrones derivatives. Why the author chose 7 I don't know but it's likely it's because of a long standing human interest with the number 7.

The concept of "seven heavens" goes back to Mesopotamia at the latest. It is seen in Judaism and Islam. Christianity does not explicitly mention 7 in in its canonical scriptures but it does occur in extra-canoncal works (Book of Enoch). Some people marry these seven heavens with the seven virtues/graces.

In opposition there are seven deadly sins and so a natural correspondence with seven hells is easy to infer, no?.

The Mesopotamian goddess Inanna (elsewhere called Ishtar) travelled through seven hells to find her lover Dumuzi (Tammuz), shedding one item of her royal clothing at each gate. Following on from there, Judaism has seven hells (Sheol, Abaddon, Beër Shahat, Tit ha-Yawen, Sha'are Mawet, Sha'are Zalmawet, Gehenna). Islam notes seven gates to the hell realms and uses seven names for hell in the Koran and there has developed a system of seven hells (Jahannam, Laza, Hutama, Sa'ir, Saqar, Jahim, Hawiya). Again, Christianity doesn't specify 7 hells.

While Buddhist cosmology typically depicts 8 hell realms there are various numbers used by various sources including 7 and 10 but not 9. , Jainism has 7 hell realms which one is born into after performing bad actions, though eventually, as in Buddhism, one will leave them and be reborn elsewhere.

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    This would benefit from citing your sources.
    – livresque
    Oct 21, 2021 at 0:23
  • Final Fantasy FXIV also has seven hells and many characters use that idiom. Or rather, they say "seven hells" as an expletive.
    – Domino
    Jan 24, 2023 at 22:05
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In Dante's Inferno - the first part of his epic poem Divine Comedy - there are nine circles of Hell:

Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Wrath, Heresy, Violence, Fraud and Treachery.

I've only ever heard them referred to as the nine circles of Hell, not the nine Hells.

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