Reincarnation and Honoring Ancestors


I have a question about ancestors that’s been troubling me. I keep reading about how to honor/invoke/work with ancestors, but if Pagans believe in reincarnation, won’t our ancestors’ spirits already be somewhere else in their new life/lives and be unavailable to us? In essence, they won’t really be our ancestors anymore, they’ll be new so-and-so. All Pagans I know of believe in reincarnation, so where is this place that our ancestors are hiding, waiting for us to honor/invoke/work with them before they can move on to their next life? Do you see my conundrum? Thanks for any insight here.

First, it’s important to note that not all Pagans believe in reincarnation. The term “pagan” encompasses a very broad range of religions and spiritual paths and about the only thing all of them have in common is that they are non-Abrahamic (meaning not Christian, Islamic or Jewish). Also, there is a difference between working with ancestors and honoring them. Even if one believes in reincarnation, one can still honor one’s ancestors, without their spirits needing to be physically present.

However, in terms of invoking and working directly with our ancestors, that is not necessarily an issue even within religions that believe in reincarnation. There is nothing that says we die and are instantly reincarnated, and many Pagan religions have afterlife realms where our loved ones go to await their rebirth. Keep in mind too, that time and distance tend to function differently within sacred spaces, and not everything is always linear. So assuming one’s ancestor has already reincarnated, it’s still not impossible for us to connect with that energy during ritual. Even if, in some cases, we have to reach back through time to a point before they were reborn.

Another small personal thought on this (my own two cents for what it’s worth)… that energy never goes away and even though a person normally isn’t conscious of their previous life, that spirit is still a part of them (it’s why you can sometimes remember those memories via regression work). So it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility that we could be accessing our ancestor’s spirits more directly, even after rebirth (and without their new life being aware of it).

Advertisements

Consequences of Suicide within Pagan Religions


TRIGGER WARNING: discussion of suicide

NOTE: If you are depressed and contemplating suicide, please, please get help. If you have a trusted friend or family member, counselor, teacher, etc… that you can talk to, do so. Otherwise (in the US) you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at  1-800-273-8255 or chat online with someone who can help via IMAlive or CrisisChat. For international assistance you can check the International Suicide Prevention wiki for resources. No matter how bad things may seem right now, they will eventually get better. Taking your own life is not the best solution, and there are people out there who can help.

~*~

Hello, I’ve had this question for a few months now and I’m still trying to find the right way to ask about it. I’ve been looking up people to ask, but it never seems to work. When I found you, I got excited. If you commit Suicide, will you not be welcomed in by the Great Mother and Great Father? I’ve been told that if you commit suicide out of Deep Depression, you wont be loved or forgiven by the divine. I’m sorry if the question makes you feel uncomfortable, but I had to ask.

Thank you.

 

Within Abrahamic religions (and potentially others as well) the main issue that many will cite in terms of “forgiveness” is that you have to, not only ask for it directly, but also be truly repentant – neither of which one can do if they have already passed beyond the mortal/physical world. However others feel that in the end, it is one’s actions during their life (outside of that final moment), which will better determine whether or not there is love and forgiveness when they are received by God.

As many have come to Paganism from an Abrahamic religion, they will often carry over some of these beliefs, even if they are not necessarily relevant to their current path. The more relevant issue within Paganism though, is which Pagan religion? As, not all believe the same things, or may even have a particular stance on suicide. In general, in terms of NeoPaganism, you will probably find a very wide variety of personal opinions on the subject – ranging from it’s your life, do what you want, to extremely strict interpretations of the “rede” which equate an it harm none to mean don’t harm anything ever (including yourself).

Keep in mind too though that Wicca, and those paths that are inspired by Wicca are often about taking responsibility for one’s actions in the “here and now”, rather than preaching the concepts of “Hell” or divine retribution. So what we do on Earth, during our life (including ending such life), has little bearing on the afterlife. For those who believe in reincarnation – it may set the course for additional lessons that one may need to “learn” in a future life (if one believes in such things).

Within other Pagan traditions, again it varies. For example, Norse lore offers multiple examples of suicides occurring, and typically those who committed such would go to Helheim in the afterlife. As this is where most of the dead would go (outside of those killed in battle – who went with Odinn and Freyja), it was clearly not any sort of punishment or lack of love/forgiveness that got one sent there. Within Kemeticism, when one dies, their heart is weighed against Ma’at’s feather, and those who are found unworthy would stay in Duat, while the others would move onto the afterlife in Aaru. There are no specific prohibitions against suicide within the lore though, and again it’s more about having lived a virtuous life in general. Within Greek and Roman traditions, suicide was generally only condemned if done for petty reasons. Keep in mind too that for thousands of years some cultures upheld the practice of Sati, in which it was perfectly acceptable (or even encouraged/forced) for wives to kill themselves via immolation when their husbands died.

In the end (literally and figuratively), it’s really going to depend on your own beliefs on the subject. There is no clear rule or opinion, and even within the same traditions if you ask 20 people, you’ll probably get 20 different answers. My personal thoughts on the subject are this – any God or Goddess that one is devoted to, or has spent time serving or honoring, is not going to forget that devotion. So unless one spends their final days/hours completely repudiating said God/Goddess, when the time comes they will be welcoming. It’s entirely possible that they may express disappointment, if they don’t agree with the choice, but I do not think that they would withhold love because of it. The Gods know what is in our hearts, and particularly in the case of someone who has struggled with severe depression, or other mental illness for many years, it doesn’t follow they would punish someone for losing that battle.

 

ADDITIONAL NOTES: Suicide has been a hot topic the last few weeks in the wake of Robin Williams’ death. This question was actually submitted a day or so before that tragic event and I had been in the process of writing it up when I saw the news. The original intention, when we’d gotten the question, was to post the reply immediately, however with the flood of suicide and depression/bipolar related commentary that was suddenly going around, we felt that it would be better to wait (at least a little bit). It was an emotional time for many people, and this would give everyone a chance to process their grief and/or any feelings on the topic of suicide, without bombarding one more thing on top of it all. However, we also don’t want to let too much time pass, as it is a timely topic and for some people an important one. It’s also a sensitive subject for many though, so if you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to let us know.

If anyone knows of more specific myths or lore which directly speak to the topic, relating to a particular culture or religion, please feel free to comment as well so that we can add it.

And again if you need help, never hesitate to ask for it. Particularly when one is depressed, it can often seem like there is no one who cares, but this is often just a symptom of the illness. There are people that care, and who can help. You are not alone.