Death, the Summerland & Reincarnation
Though Wiccans don’t view death as an ending, we don’t celebrate it either. We see death as a transition from one form of existence to another. Yes, we mourn the death of loved ones and friends as we will miss them but we recognize that they will be back on this earthly plane again someday. This is why death isn’t an ending but a part of the cycle of our spiritual and physical existence; birth, life, death and rebirth.
In most Wiccan traditions, it is believed that the dead crosses over to a place called the Summerland and then at a later point reincarnate in a new physical body. The Summerland is the place where those that have crossed over review their past lives and plan their next incarnation. The word Summerland seems to be a predominately Wiccan word and belief for the place where our spirit goes when we die. Others have names for where their dead go and whether or not they reincarnate. The Summerland is neither heaven nor hell. It is a place that has nothing to do with either of them, though it is not purgatory either. Purgatory is a place where those that are not quite fit for heaven or hell go to wait while their loved ones pray them up to heaven. Like heaven and hell, purgatory is a part of Christian belief systems and thus does not apply to the Wiccan belief systems.
The Summerland is described by some as a place that is not within our physical realm. It is sometimes described as being within the astral plane and other times described as being in a spiritual universe near the Deities. It is a place sometimes said to be of green fields, rivers, flowers, forests, etc. Others say it is a vast indistinct place with nothing visually specific to see. And there are other descriptions of the Summerland. Either way it is said to be a place where we contemplate our past lives, our failures and our successes, and the lessons we have learned in our journey to Deity. This is where we decide what our next incarnation will be, when, where, what sex, the circumstances of that life that we will be born into and what we hope to learn in the next life in the physical realm. However, the lessons we learn are not limited to what we plan ahead of time while in the Summerland. In the Summerland, we are not quite in a substantial existence. We are spirits while there.
Reincarnation is a part of many religions. Some believe that we progress in our reincarnations from a lower form to higher forms. Thus, we would start as say a rock and then progress to plants then insects and animals and then finally to human form. However, most Wiccans believe that we start out as humans and reincarnate as humans. We might, however, be a man in one incarnation and then a woman in another. This is because it is believed that the spirit has no sexual orientation in itself. Some believe that we many times reincarnate with the same people. Thus, continuing the relationships in some manner. Sometimes to correct a mistake that was made in the relationship. However, I don’t believe that we always reincarnate with all the same people all the time. We need variety to grow spiritually advanced. Our experiences make us who we are. We might repeat a set of experiences but free will means we may make different choices and thus learn new things. Thus, we may be different in personality in each life.
Many Wiccans believe that we are not bound to a set course in our lives, but are free to decide how to make the most of it or not. So, though we might be born in a setting that is not favorable to what most would say would be a good life, we are free to try to except the challenge and change whatever we wish to work at to change in our physical lives and our spiritual selves. And obviously, if we are born in a favorable setting it is still up to us to except that challenge as well and make something of our physical lives and our spiritual selves. So, being born rich doesn’t automatically make our spiritual journey easy and likewise being born poor doesn’t automatically make it harder. It is said by some that adversity can bring greater spiritual growth. Thus, some will succeed at a greater level in their spiritual growth than others in their current life, and some will fail miserably. But in the end, it’s up to us as to how we spiritually grow. This is Free Will.
It is believed that we are come here to this physical existence to learn a certain set of spiritual lessons and it is up to us to learn them or not. However, we are destined to face all the spiritual lessons a person needs to face and to learn to the point to not have to go through that lesson again. Thus, once we have learned all that there is to learn and have evolved to the point of a spiritually higher self then we will join with Deity in the spiritual universe. Others say that once we have reached that spiritually higher self that we stay in the Summerland to guide others who are still on that human physical journey, and to also help them in the transition between life in the physical plane and life in the Summerland. And still others say that those who have reached that spiritually higher self has the option after that last incarnation to return to the physical plane to be great spiritual teachers. These great spiritual teachers, it is said, have been few and far between.
Most people believe that we have a spirit. But what is the spirit that we are supposed to have. This spirit is the essence of who we are. It cannot be destroyed but it can be created by the Deities. This spirit is believed by some to be a form of energy that has a consciousness to it. It exists in not only humans but in all animals and plants. Some say it exists in all things of nature, thus the rocks as well as the ground we walk on and the waters of the Earth. If it is of nature then it has a spirit within it. However, the spirit that is within humans is of a different level of consciousness than those that are not human. But why do I say that it can be created if it is energy when we know that energy is neither created nor destroyed? The energy itself isn’t created but the consciousness that is put into it was created by the Deities.
As for the practice of talking to the spirit of those that have passed on, I believe that in light of reincarnation that that would be very difficult to do. Yes, we spend time in the Summerland and while there someone can talk to us but once we have reincarnated then how does someone talk to our spirit? Is this a source of mental problems that some people have? Are they hearing these attempts at communication? This is an interesting question and hard to answer. But for me, I feel that once someone has reincarnated, we can no longer talk to their spirit. Yes, I honor my ancestors and ask for their wisdom, but I don’t call on them by name. Instead I feel that those that are in the Summerland that wish to will answer.
How much time we actually spend in the Summerland between incarnations is unknown, maybe a few months or maybe many years or decades. We return to the physical plane when the time is right for us and not before. This is something that can’t be rushed by those of us still in the physical plane. We must accept that.
Not all Wiccans believe in the Summerland or reincarnation and it’s not a requirement to being Wiccan to believe in them. Like it has been said before, Wicca is a personal spiritual path and thus it is up to you to decide what you believe and what you don’t. Just remember that what one person believes isn’t necessarily what another believes. Weigh the different theories against each other and see which fits within you. This is a personal choice and no one should push their beliefs onto you. Blessed Be.