Summerland - the concept and the path

The pagan transition of the soul is not instantaneous, but rather occurs after a brief rest in the spiritual realm of Summerland. Within this concept of belief, Summerland is the first of three realms on the spiritual or ethereal plane. Here the soul embarks on a restful plane of self-created reality, where the soul can review it's accomplishments, and failures, without the emotional or physical pains that went along with the events of the physical life.

Eventually, the soul moves to the next level of the ethereal plane where it prepares for the next steps of spiritual evolution. Upon this plane, a soul can decide if it wants to return now to a new incarnation, or if it would rather perform spiritual service on this plane of existence for a brief time. You can think of this plane as the Land of Spiritual Guardians. Those spiritual beings who work with those in physical incarnations as personal spiritual guides, or teachers.

The last realm of the pagan ethereal world is the plane of divine energies. When a soul has reached it's pinnacle of spiritual evolution where it no longer needs to return to the physical world, it has the option of moving to the divine plane of existence.

All religious systems have a place where the soul ascends (or descends) when the physical body can no longer function. In Craft belief, we call this place the Summerland. This is the resting place- the way station, if you will- for souls to recover, and categorize information and lessons we have learned. We have no Hell, or place of terror or damnation.

Reincarnation- the logical process of living, dying, and living again on the earth plane. Some religions also believe in transmigration, where an individual's soul may enter not only the body of a human, but the body of a plant or animal.

In most Witchcraft Traditions, reincarnation is the accepted theology for dealing with the subject of death and rebirth. We move with the seasons, the cycle of the Wheel, the turn of birth, death, and rebirth. That part of it usually isn't questioned because it is logical.

What is questioned is the space between the living experiences, the number of lifetimes, and the reasoning for going through each one. Also intriguing is "who we were," with whom, and when.

Reincarnation is one of Wicca's most valuable lessons. The knowledge that this life is but one of many, that when the physical body dies we do not cease to exist but are reborn in another body answers many questions, but raises a few more.

Wicca teaches that reincarnation is the instrument through which our souls are perfected. one lifetime isn't sufficient to attain this goal; hence, the consciousness (soul) is reborn many times, each life encompassing a different set of lessons, until perfection is achieved. No one can say how many lives are required before this is accomplished.

In Wicca, we seek to strengthen our bodies, minds and souls. We certainly live full, productive earthly lives, and we do so while harming none. The soul is ageless, sexless, non-physical, possessed of the divine spark of the Goddess and God. Each manifestation of the soul (i.e., each body it inhabits on Earth) is different. No two bodies or lives are the same.

What happens after death? Only the body dies. The soul lives on. Some Wiccans say that it journeys to a realm variously known as the Summerlands, Land of the Faerie, the Shining Land, and the Land of the Young. This realm is neither in heaven nor the underworld. It simply is- a non- physical reality much less dense than ours. Some Wiccan traditions describe it as a land of eternal summer, with grassy fields and sweet flowing rivers, perhaps the Earth before the advent of humans. Others see it vaguely as a realm without forms, where energy swirls coexist with the greatest energies- the Goddess and God in their celestial identities.

The soul is said to review the past life, perhaps through some mysterious way with the deities. This isn't a judgment, a weighing of one's soul, but an incarnational review. Lessons learned or ignored are brought to light.

After the proper time, when the conditions on Earth are correct, the soul is reincarnated and life begins again.

The final question- what happens after the last incarnation? Wiccan teachings have always been vague on this. Basically, the Wiccans say that after rising upon the spiral of life and death and rebirth, those souls who have attained perfection break away from the cycle forever and dwell with the Goddess and God. Nothing is ever lost. The energies resident in our souls return to the divine source from which they originally emanated.

Because of the acceptance of reincarnation, the Wicca don't fear death as a final plunge into oblivion, the days of life on Earth forever behind them. It is seen as the door to birth. Thus our very lives are symbolically linked with the endless cycles of the seasons which shape our planet.

Reincarnation is as real as a plant that buds, flowers, drops its seed, withers and creates a new plant in its image.

Summerland & Time

 Pagan Beliefs about the Afterlife

Every spiritual path has it's own belief in what happens once you pass on from this world. One thing all of these beliefs have in common is that the soul leaves the body and moves on into some type of divine spiritual realm or through a divine realm into a new incarnation.

The concepts of life after death are clearly laid out in many cultures and religions through books. Such as the Egyptian or Tibetan Books of the Dead, the Torah, The Holy Bible and so on. The Celtics however, did not have books in the same fashion, but rather a rich and colorful oral tradition. These stories were kept alive by poets, story-tellers and druids who recited traditional lore within a collection of verses or legends.

What happens to us after we die? Although no-one really knows, all of us, Pagan or non-Pagan have wondered what happens to our spirit, our soul or essential being, when our body gives up the ghost.

Additional Information

Pagans, almost without exception, believe in reincarnation, but the form that it might take varies widely. Our earliest ancestors seem to have understood this concept, since many ancient bones have been found that are smeared in ochre, a red earth, symbolising re-birth, and the simple existence of grave goods indicates a belief in either the actual or spiritual continuation of life after death, requiring earthly marks of rank and/or tools to help the dead in the afterlife. Perhaps the most sophisticated of these graves belong to the Pharaohs.

The oldest long barrow, or tomb, in Britain, built at the same time as the earliest Egyptian pyramids, is a long, narrow shape, a shape associated with death but inside, the tomb itself is divided into 5 rounded chambers, uncannily resembling the shape of a woman: birth within death.

A unifying factor in Pagan philosophy is a disbelief in a tortuous hell-like environment. Whilst many of us understand the need for judgement, it is seen as a time to learn from our mistakes and successes rather than something to anticipate with dread.

Historically, Odinists believed that the souls of women who die in labour and warriors who die in battle are cared for by the Valkery, a band of warrior women, who accompany them to Valhalla, or a land of contentment. Recognising that the life of a modern Odinist may not have as much to do with war and childbirth ending in death that the tribes of Northmen had to deal with, Odinists now share much in their beliefs about the afterlife with other Pagans; that death is not an end, but simply another beginning.

Dianics, women who worship the Goddess alone, as well as many Pagans of all faiths, hope for a return to the source, to the Ultimate Mother. "Mother" may be a representation of a Goddess, Diana, Kali, Brigde, but it is more likely to be The Goddess Herself, an all-embracing feminine creative and destructive power to which we all return to become a part, part of the power. This is very close to the Native American traditions, which explain that everything is simply an expression of a Holy energy; buffalo and grass and human are blobs of divineness from the same source to which we return at death to replenish, which will, in turn, create us again.

Some Pagans trust in the Summerlands, a peaceful and enjoyable place of rest where they can recover from their past life, be helped to assess it and prepare to be reborn.

Amenti, the ancient Egyptian land of the Gods, would be the preferred destination of Pagans following the Egyptian Mysteries. To get there, they are accompanied by Anubis, the jackal-headed God of the death, to a place of judgement. Their heart is weighed against a feather and they are asked 42 challenging questions about the way they behaved in life, another way of assessing it. If they really were very bad and just about to give up hope of Amenti, the final question by the 42nd Assessor is "Is there one upon the earth who is glad that you lived?" Of course, there is almost always one, a stranger perhaps, who benefited from this person's existence, and this will allow the dead person, having learned something about how to live, to move on to the next life, to be with the Gods.

Most Pagans believe in a reincarnation of their physical body too, through decomposition or a returning of ashes to the land. Our decay feeds the land and we become part of it. The land feeds plants, the plants are eaten by animals and so, we are reborn by helping to sustain new life.

Samhain, the Celtic New Year on, is the time of year when Pagans celebrate our ancestors and our dead. The mortal and other worlds are very close, and we can ask for advice, talk with our dead to tell them how their descendents are getting on, and appreciate our long personal heritage and wider community. Samhain is also the season when the first stirrings of Winter approach. Winter still means death for many elderly and infirm people, and the land appears to die too along with the weakening of the sun itself, appearing feeble and bleak for a good part of winter. But again, we trust the seasons to move round, for the Sun to begin its ascent in the sky again around the winter solstice, or Yule.

Pagans do not particularly relish the thought that they must die. It is still a painful and difficult reality to come to terms with, but the knowledge that we are not going to suffer hellish torment and that death is simply another life helps us bow gracefully to the inevitable.

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