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What Happens if I Die as a Wiccan?

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There’s a running joke among my close friends that after this year is over, once I die, I’ll have my bases covered for the afterlife. I hope the divine has as good a sense of humor as my friends…

Every religion/philosophy has their version of the afterlife. For some of our Abrahamic monotheists, there’s a sort of waiting period before Last Day judgement of Christ. Whoever makes the cut prescribed by that particular faith, makes it to Heaven/Paradise. Those who don’t, go to Hell. In many Eastern traditions, reincarnation or rebirth is the name of the game. Depending on your karmic debt in this life, you will be reborn in the next with a new opportunity to reach enlightenment and secure liberation. Others still maintain that once you die, that’s it. No afterlife. You’ve expired and your experience in existence ends.

The interesting thing about Wiccans and Pagans is that no two may believe in the same afterlife. Did you know that there are even Wiccan atheists? Variety is the spice of life. But there is one concept, one place that many modern Wiccans believe the soul at least visits upon death. The Summerland.

Artist's idea of Summerland

Gerald Gardner, the founder of modern Wicca, described Summerland as the “ecstasy of the Goddess.” It is a place of splendid, perpetual summer. Full of majesty, beauty, wonder, there is no pain or sadness here. Summerland is an endless garden of bliss, life, and light.

But what is one’s place in Summerland?

Because Wicca is a faith based on nature and its cycles, many Wiccans (and other Pagans) believe in some form of reincarnation. Life, just like energy, recycles itself. Some believe that “once a witch, always a witch” so that every lifetime is a reincarnation of a previous life as a witch. Others still insist that we move from species to species, learning new lessons and developing new qualities along the way. For this reason, the Summerlands act as a waiting station between lives. Perhaps here, we commune with other souls on their own journeys. Maybe we trade advice, lessons, stories, a few laughs and ales. It is believed that the Summerlands is also where those finished with the rebirth cycles come to rest. Here, they abide forever, basking in the “ecstasy of the Goddess.”

From the Goddess we all proceed, to the Goddess we must return.

As pleasant as this place sounds, you won’t find too many Wiccans or Pagans focusing on the afterlife. The purpose of life for them is to connect with the divine in their unique way, and to gain knowledge/communion with nature around them. If each life is a chance to learn something new, why focus on anything else? In this way, the general attitude is to remain in the moment.

Because the Summerlands is a spiritual plane of existence, Wiccans and Pagans in this life believe communication with the resident spirits is possible. This is one important aspect of Sabbats such as Samhain, when the veil between our world and the spirit world is thinnest. Here, we can commune with the dead (or at least ask to) and be in their presence. Some within the Wiccan community find this practice abhorrent, maintaining that the dead are at peace, why bother them? At this point I suppose it comes down to one’s personal experience. If you’ve contacted passed spirits and they didn’t seem particularly keen on conversation, take the hint. Honor the dead, but leave them in peace, in that case.

What are your ideas about the afterlife? Is there one? Every faith I’ve studied this year has some idea of the afterlife involving vast, beautiful natural expanses such as gardens and light. Is there a common thread here coming from truth or wishful thinking?



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abowen

posted October 25, 2011 at 6:49 pm


Rose,

Beautiful.



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Rose

posted October 25, 2011 at 5:51 pm


Being a Christian, my idea of the afterlife is of course heaven. But I am not so closed minded or stubborn as to think my religion or belief is the right one, maybe only to me, but that’s because I feel like my faith in God is strong. But to rule out other possibilities in a world so large and diverse, can be in some ways for me complicated. I don’t doubt God’s existence, or Jesus for that matter, but who’s to say which one can actually get you to heaven? No one has ever come back from the dead and said what was on the other side, so this is where the role of having faith comes into play. All you can do is live for yourself in the end and do what you think is best for you, if that entails being Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, etc. then so be it. Religion to me is about faith. My faith lies in Christianity, my God, and whatever He has in store for me, including death.



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abowen

posted October 23, 2011 at 8:54 pm


Joy,

Thanks for sharing that! Do you mind sharing one of those experiences?



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Joy R

posted October 23, 2011 at 6:41 pm


You are dead on as far as what Wiccans in general believe as far as what happens after we die. Or at least, that’s been my experience of us so far as well.
As for me personally, I think that some of us somehow inexplicably get “stuck,” (causing what we know as ghosts). I do say inexplicably because I have no idea how it happens. I also believe in reincarnation… I have memories of things that can’t be explained by ancestral memory, and there are things I have experienced in my life that can only be explained as reincarnation being real. However, I also like to believe in a Summerland as well… it’s more of a “hopeful wish” though.



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abowen

posted October 23, 2011 at 4:20 pm


Zia,

I like the way you laid that out there!



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Zia

posted October 23, 2011 at 3:48 pm


Afterlife? Reincarnation? I remember being here before, whether it is actual memories or “delusion”. I don’t know when I’m getting off the wheel, but I’m sure I have a lot more to learn :)

One thought is that “you get what you expect” — that if you expect Heaven, you get Heaven, if you believe in Hell, that’s where you go.
And a further version of that which says once you’re learned what you needed to from being there, you can come back for the next set of lessons :) In that view, even Hell isn’t a final destination, nor Heaven.



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Nick

posted October 21, 2011 at 3:45 pm


Mary’s comment brings to mind the following:

“O MY FRIENDS! Have ye forgotten that true and radiant morn, when in those hallowed and blessed surroundings ye were all gathered in My presence beneath the shade of the tree of life, which is planted in the all-glorious paradise? Awe-struck ye listened as I gave utterance to these three most holy words: O friends! Prefer not your will to Mine, never desire that which I have not desired for you, and approach Me not with lifeless hearts, defiled with worldly desires and cravings. Would ye but sanctify your souls, ye would at this present hour recall that place and those surroundings, and the truth of My utterance should be made evident unto all of you.”
-Baha’u’llah (HWP#19)



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abowen

posted October 21, 2011 at 1:54 pm


Mary,

Could be. That, or everyone just likes hearing about gardens…



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abowen

posted October 21, 2011 at 1:54 pm


Dan,

Boom.



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abowen

posted October 21, 2011 at 1:53 pm


B,

I like this practice of yours, however cemetaries have always made me uncomfortable. Not in the creepy way, but in that I feel like I’m intruding…



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Mary

posted October 20, 2011 at 7:43 pm


What if the reason all belief systems talk of a garden existence after this life is because in the beginning of the human race (Adam and Eve), God revealed the whole truth to his children and they taught it to theirs? Then through generations of time, the truth was corrupted through revisionist thinking? So all systems have a little of the truth in them now. It would do us well to find the authentic system as taught by the Creator Himself.



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Austin Faux

posted October 20, 2011 at 3:33 pm


Very Interesting

Austin-



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Dan Jensen

posted October 20, 2011 at 3:29 pm


I believe in massively parallel incarnation. I don’t believe that a single soul jumps from body to body, but rather that common traits are embodied throughout the vastness of time and space. Though I don’t believe in an individual soul, yet I believe that I am living in many places at once, and that I have lived many times in the past and the future. And karma? Karma, like Hell, is for children.



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Editor B

posted October 20, 2011 at 3:17 pm


At first, from the title, I thought you were going to reveal you had some terminal condition and might kick off at any moment. I’m glad that’s not the case — though obviously the end could come for any of us at any time. It’s good to reflect on that from time to time, I think.

I don’t particularly believe in an afterlife, but I do find this a good time of year to honor ancestors. It’s a good time to say thank you to our living ancestors as well. Don’t forget them! But the dead outnumber the living. This is a good time for me to do some genealogical research, and it’s fascinating to contemplate the lives of my progenitors.

Since we are all one global extended family, I also honor all the dead. That includes visiting local cemeteries and doing some volunteer work for requests on findagrave.com. Of course we will also pay a visit to the neighborhood shrine to Santa Muerte.



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