Today is the first day of my year-long self-imposed druidry study. And it’s also Monday, and I’ve dubbed it “Metaphysical Monday!” Metaphysical Monday! is a series of “essays” I’ll be writing on certain topics, figuring out where I stand on the topic, and discussing it in general. These are all topics that intrigue me and ones that I feel I should be aware of and have beliefs or opinions on as a Druid Pagan. These days will happen every four weeks, meaning once a month, and therefore twelve in the whole year.
This months topic is “Death & the Afterlife”. Pretty deep stuff right off the bat, but that’s okay! This question is asked early on in life anyways when children wonder “what happens when we die”. Maybe if you don’t have kids, you’ve never been asked this, nor asked it yourself and now you have to think… What DOES happen when we die?
I myself believe that all living organisms have a spirit, or soul. The fly that pisses you off when it’s buzzing around in class- it has a soul. We humans, we have souls. And everything in between does too, including plants! But the discussion of souls/spirits and what it may be is another topic down the road. Stay tuned and we’ll get there eventually.
In any case, when a person or creature dies, what happens? If you believe in souls, depending on your religion or personal beliefs, the soul leaves the body when the body breaks down and dies, and ascends to ‘heaven’, one name for an afterlife. If you don’t believe, then there is no soul and the body just dies and becomes food for the earth. I believe in recycling of souls: reincarnation. An experience when I was younger made me certain that reincarnation was real, and that my soul had been recycled before from a previous life. How many times? I have no idea. Also, have I always been human? Most likely not. In my thinking, and some druidry teaching, souls are reincarnated into new forms to teach lessons. There’s always room for learning, even after life. “Tradition has it that each human failing copies the natural behavior of some animal or plant, and a human who can’t outgrow a behavior is reincarnated as that animal or plant…” (Greer, pg 56) This isn’t punishment, but part of the learning process. I don’t know how long it takes for a soul to leave the body and put itself into a new one, and I don’t pretend to know how exactly that happens either, but I do believe that it happens. There are accounts from people who think they are reincarnated too, or their children, after strange and unexplainable circumstances, and it really pushes the idea.
Death is something I fear, I admit. But maybe it’s because I’m young still and possibly have a long life ahead of me- so many experiences to have, things to do, and I’m not satisfied with what I’ve done yet. Maybe when I get older I’ll be more accepting. But I do know that death is necessary, and in reality isn’t a bad or scary thing. It’s simply moving on. Moving along. The next life, the next destination, the next lesson! Who knows when my soul will pop up again! When someone dies I am sad, yes, but I also hold onto the notion that we could see each other again someday, far in the next life, and we won’t recognize each other, but maybe our souls will.
I’m not afraid of losing my body, though if I was suddenly no longer physical I would probably freak out for a while, because this body doesn’t define me. I’m afraid of losing my memories, my relationships, my thoughts. I don’t know if they will transfer over in any shape in the reincarnation of my soul, and it scares me. But next time, next life, I won’t know the difference. I do like the thought of my body going back to the world though, and I have always thought traditional coffins were counter to that. I always wanted to have a natural burial, straight into the ground. There are shrouds or covers that can be used instead. Plain, thin wood coffins that degrade easily and quicker than the lacquered and satin kind. Woven coffins. People have even developed an interesting and environmentally friendly coffin alternative- a burial pod from Capsula Mundi. At the moment, I think only urns are available, but think of the possibilities! I for one am stoked to think my body could be useful after my death, feeding a tree, because we really need more of those.
So is there an afterlife, an actual place to go and run free like Heaven or the Summerland? I don’t really know… It seems like there should be some place, plane, some form of existence that is the ‘waiting room’ of the next life. But what does it look like? What does the soul look like? Can we all interact? The afterlife might even be soul-specific in what it may look like. It could be the place one goes when they meditate, or when they ground themselves. It’s an interesting thought. One day I might figure it out, find my missing piece that says ‘yes! OMG yes I found the afterlife!’ or think ‘jeez I’m stupid, there’s nothing there’. I guess we’ll see.
Citing: The Druidry Handbook by John Michael Greer