Similarly to the mythologies of other Finno-Ugric peoples, in Mordvin mythology the world has three levels: the upper world or the heaven (mdE&M Menel’), the middle world or the earth (mdE&M Moda), rimmed with the ocean, and the lower world or the underworld – the domain of coldness and darkness. In the Moksha tradition there was also a world pillar joining these three levels – a birch (mdM Kelu).
In the Erza tradition the world arrangement is patterned on a beehive and divided into four: the upper, the lower and two middle parts. Humans live in one of the middle hives; the other middle hive is inhabited by all kinds of living creatures. Each hive is under the rule and protection of a god who rules there as a ‘queen bee’. The ruler of the hive heaven Ineshkipaz (Nishkepaz) creates stars, which the Erza believe to be the souls of happy people. They live in shiny houses illuminated by sunbeams. The god is depicted as a man who keeps bees, souls twirling around him like bees. The god’s home is Ursa Major or the Balance (Mainof 1889: 109).