Wiccan Views on Life After Death
What Happens After We Die?
Many religions try to answer the question of what happens when we shuffle off the ol' mortal coil. Some think they have the answers on this topic, but it's no surprise that not everyone is in agreement.
Wicca is one of those religions that does not pretend to have the answers to this particular mystery. We have no scripture, no widely-accepted revelations nor doctrines about what the afterlife might be—if one exists at all.
There are differing views found within Wicca when it comes to life after death, none of which are 'official' stances. That is, there conclusions that maybe many Wiccans may share, but came to on their own. There's no overseeing authority in Wicca that tells us to believe in any particular version of life after death. Let's explore some of these ideas commonly found among Wiccans.
The most widely accepted concepts of an afterlife held by Wiccans is that of reincarnation—the idea that we will eventually be born again in a new life. Wiccans also tend to view everything in nature as cyclical—from electrons revolving around a nucleus to planets revolving around the sun, the changing of the seasons and the phases of the moon, life seems to continually come full circle before moving on again. In this sense, reincarnation spiritually fits. Besides, if the soul is immortal/eternal, then one single life seems like such a waste—a drop in the bucket of eternity.
Even among reincarnation believers, there are different ideas about how it works. Some Wiccans believe in transmigration of the soul—we start out as lower-order creatures, evolving through the ranks as we learn and grow, working our way up some spiritual life pyramid. Other Wiccans believe we reincarnate only as humans (or at least humanoids, if you want to get into the supposition that there's life on other planets).
Some see our journey as spiritually progressive. They may even believe we choose what life to come back to, the same way you might pick the courses you need in college to gain credits and advance toward graduation. Others think what we come back as dependent on our karma. Some see our return as completely random—you spin the wheel of fate and see what comes. Life simply moves on and the future is not set for anyone.
Some people mistakenly believe Summerland is the Wiccan word for 'Heaven', but that wouldn't quite be accurate—at least not in terms of the Judeo-Christian Heaven.
Some Wiccans who believe in life after death believe there is another plane of existence—the spirit world, which exists behind 'the veil', where spirits go to rest and reunite after death. Summerland is just a common name for the spirit world—though no one really knows what it might be like.
Some imagine it like the afterlife is portrayed in Robin William's film, What Dreams May Come or the 'Nexus' in the film Star Trek: Generations. You essentially create your own reality there and it becomes what you want it to be—you can look how you want to look, be with whomever you want to be with at any time. There's a bit of a caveat there—be careful of how you think; a negative, pessimistic soul could easily turn his own afterlife into his own personal 'hell'.
Others see it a little more literally as a beautiful rest stop; a regular Elysian Fields where everyone—the good and the bad—go to take stock of their lives before moving on to a new incarnation.
Wicca and the Summerlands
Edain McCoy is not an author who is generally concerned with accuracy, sad to say. But this is a creative writer and there are some comforting ideas in here... I just would take any historical cultural claims with a grain of salt.
Some Wiccans believe that our souls are immortal and free from our bodies when we die. There is no particular place to go, and reincarnation—if it exists at all—is purely optional. Once we're unshackled from our physical body, the non-corporeal spirit is free to explore the vast expanses of time and space, completely unfettered.
It's a little like permanent astral travel. One minute you can go back in time and witness the building of the pyramids, the next second you can blink yourself to Pluto sometime in the future when it's being colonized by aliens. You can watch your progeny throughout generations, or you can just 'go to sleep'... and never wake up unless you want to.
How Would You Like to Travel the Universe?
One idea that can overlap with other ideas is that some spirits become 'trapped' on Earth. This might be because they have unfinished business, experienced a trauma, don't know they're dead or maybe they're just too trapped by their own negativity. Either way, some souls don't move on to the Summerlands, or to roam the universe, or even to be re-incarnated until they can be freed from their Earthly prison.
These would be the ghosts and entities that many believe haunt certain places, be it poltergeists or more threatening entities.
The End of The Line
Not all Wiccans believe in an afterlife or in ghosts. There are many who simply are of the opinion that death is the end. These Wiccans will see the leaves fall from the tree in the autumn, but the ones that return in the spring are not the same leaves. When we fall, the life energy is re-consumed by the universe and we move on. The body becomes worm food and is consumed by the Earth. Life after death is considered nothing more than wishful thinking, or a fear of one's own mortality. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. As far as any consciousness goes, it's light's out for us—permanently.
Could Death Be The Eternal Sleep?
Being Re-Absorbed By The Divine Source
A final possibility that some Wiccans believe is the end of a long cycle of reincarnation, or after we're done with the spirit world, is that we simply are reabsorbed into the Divine Source. There's a popular Wiccan chant:
We all come from the Goddess; and to Her we shall return
Like a drop of rain flowing to the ocean.
At some point, when we're ready for rest, we return to the Divine Source of all things and become part of it forever.
As you can see, there is a lot of diversity there, and much room for personal interpretations. One of the few things Wiccans tend to agree on is that death is not something we need to fear... it is a natural part of life cycle.
Overall, Wicca is a religion that is not highly concerned about what may come after life. We may all be curious or have our theories—we're human—but our religion is mainly about how we live our lives, not what might happen to us after we die. Embracing this life, here and now, making the most of it—that's the journey that Wicca is about.
What Do You Believe?
What do you think life after death will be like?
© 2013 Mackenzie Sage Wright