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Author Topic: Celtic Reincarnation  (Read 755 times)

Donal2018

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Celtic Reincarnation
« on: August 19, 2019, 06:28:36 pm »
Caesar wrote that the Gaulish Druids believed in transmigration of the soul, ie reincarnation. This also jibes with Celtic Mythology somewhat as often times the heroes, gods, and goddesses in those myths transform into various animals, maybe an indication of reincarnation beliefs or maybe the practice of spirit workers connecting to non-human beings, ie various animal forms and a metaphorical transformation into an animal form.

So I am wondering what people here think of the idea of Reincarnation in Paganism in general and Celtic spirituality in particular. I would also be interested to hear what folks from outside of Celtic Traditions think. How do some forms of Wicca or Religious Witchcraft deal with Afterlife beliefs? What do Pagans in general tend to believe, or is there just too much diversity to boil it down to a simple answer?

I have seen some self-described Atheist Pagans (Atheopagans) on Facebook who mostly agree that there is no Afterlife. I wonder if one can believe that and still be considered a Pagan? But maybe death of the body and cessation of consciousness is a natural process, and Pagans are known for embracing nature. So, what are the metaphysics of Afterlife for various Pagan Folks?


Darkhawk

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Re: Celtic Reincarnation
« Reply #1 on: August 23, 2019, 10:50:24 am »
What do Pagans in general tend to believe, or is there just too much diversity to boil it down to a simple answer?

This is one of those questions that's founded on pagans having some sort of theological commonality and which makes no sense when one realizes that there is no reason to believe that people practicing a wide variety of theologically unrelated religions have no particular reason to have agreement on any specific thing.

Quote
I have seen some self-described Atheist Pagans (Atheopagans) on Facebook who mostly agree that there is no Afterlife. I wonder if one can believe that and still be considered a Pagan?

What could possibly be the conflict?
as the water grinds the stone
we rise and fall
as our ashes turn to dust
we shine like stars    - Covenant, "Bullet"

Donal2018

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Re: Celtic Reincarnation
« Reply #2 on: August 23, 2019, 01:48:59 pm »
This is one of those questions that's founded on pagans having some sort of theological commonality and which makes no sense when one realizes that there is no reason to believe that people practicing a wide variety of theologically unrelated religions have no particular reason to have agreement on any specific thing.

What could possibly be the conflict?

I have met some types of Pagans who get offended when someone asserts that the Gods and Goddesses are imaginary, or symbols, or archetypes. I have come across some Atheists who also call themselves Pagans who assert this about the Gods/Goddesses- that they are imaginary. Some Theistic Pagans have taken offense at that. So that is possibly the conflict.

Also, I recognize that "Pagan" is an umbrella term, but I use it anyway as a shorthand. I wonder if it gets so broadly defined as to become kind of useless as a term. More might be said, but maybe it is a topic for another thread. I am reluctant to get into it though, because frankly I am here for discussion, not conflict. I am trying to be more constructive and not open negative topics. I recognize that controversy can not always be avoided, but I would like to avoid it anyway, if I can.

Donal2018

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Re: Celtic Reincarnation
« Reply #3 on: August 23, 2019, 02:36:13 pm »
This is one of those questions that's founded on pagans having some sort of theological commonality and which makes no sense when one realizes that there is no reason to believe that people practicing a wide variety of theologically unrelated religions have no particular reason to have agreement on any specific thing.

What could possibly be the conflict?

All right, so my question is-  what do Wiccans believe about reincarnation or afterlife? Does it vary with each tradition? Or each individual? I could ask likewise about Norse Pagans, Hellenic Pagans, Kemetic Pagans. I realize it is a big topic.

Darkhawk

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Re: Celtic Reincarnation
« Reply #4 on: August 23, 2019, 03:01:30 pm »
All right, so my question is-  what do Wiccans believe about reincarnation or afterlife? Does it vary with each tradition? Or each individual?

In the case of religious witchcraft in general, there is extremely little prescribed belief about anything, because belief is not a focal point for those categories in the first place.  (There is an aphorism that you can have a half-dozen witches in a circle, all formally acknowledged initiates of the same tradition, and none of them will have the same belief about the nature of the gods they are calling in; there is absolutely nothing preventing an archetypalist from doing religious witchcraft with a hard polytheist, and both of them being full representatives of their tradition.)

You've commented elsewhere that you're wrestling with the legacy of a Catholic upbringing; this is one of the hands-down hardest things for a lot of converts from Christianity to grasp: beliefs are not the point. They are rarely mandatory, and when there are expected beliefs for participation, they tend to be only touching a fraction of possible metaphysical topics one might believe something about.

Quote
I could ask likewise about Norse Pagans, Hellenic Pagans, Kemetic Pagans. I realize it is a big topic.

I've literally written and gotten published an entire book about the Kemetic Duat (underworld/afterlife/dreamworld/etc.) according to historical interpretative texts and I genuinely don't have beliefs worth going into, because even in the reconstructions there are both multiple recorded ancient beliefs and people who disagree, or have more modern beliefs, or don't think it's a terribly interesting topic.

So basically while you might find people who state some historical line of approach, it fundamentally comes down to individuals.
as the water grinds the stone
we rise and fall
as our ashes turn to dust
we shine like stars    - Covenant, "Bullet"

Donal2018

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Re: Celtic Reincarnation
« Reply #5 on: August 23, 2019, 03:32:21 pm »
In the case of religious witchcraft in general, there is extremely little prescribed belief about anything, because belief is not a focal point for those categories in the first place.  (There is an aphorism that you can have a half-dozen witches in a circle, all formally acknowledged initiates of the same tradition, and none of them will have the same belief about the nature of the gods they are calling in; there is absolutely nothing preventing an archetypalist from doing religious witchcraft with a hard polytheist, and both of them being full representatives of their tradition.)

You've commented elsewhere that you're wrestling with the legacy of a Catholic upbringing; this is one of the hands-down hardest things for a lot of converts from Christianity to grasp: beliefs are not the point. They are rarely mandatory, and when there are expected beliefs for participation, they tend to be only touching a fraction of possible metaphysical topics one might believe something about.

I've literally written and gotten published an entire book about the Kemetic Duat (underworld/afterlife/dreamworld/etc.) according to historical interpretative texts and I genuinely don't have beliefs worth going into, because even in the reconstructions there are both multiple recorded ancient beliefs and people who disagree, or have more modern beliefs, or don't think it's a terribly interesting topic.

So basically while you might find people who state some historical line of approach, it fundamentally comes down to individuals.

I wrote a more detailed reply, but my computer ate it.

I appreciate the distinction between belief and practice that you make. I am trying to get out of the Catholic/Christian headspace.

I also appreciate that in some paganisms it gets down to individual choice. I have a strong secular streak, and a big part of that for me is Freedom of Religion.

So, I am drawn to religions that are not dogmatic and allow for individual choice. I am drawn away from religions that are dogmatic and authoritarian.

I will maybe write on this topic more at some later point. I am interested in the contrast betwend freedom of thought and dogmatism and cultural authoritarianism. It is part of what drew me to the various paganisms in the first place.

Donal2018

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Re: Celtic Reincarnation
« Reply #6 on: August 23, 2019, 03:47:20 pm »
All right, so my question is-  what do Wiccans believe about reincarnation or afterlife? Does it vary with each tradition? Or each individual? I could ask likewise about Norse Pagans, Hellenic Pagans, Kemetic Pagans. I realize it is a big topic.

So I think based on Darkhawk's reply it might be that there are many different views historically. Modern views may not be as important as practices, and ultimately it gets down to the choice of each individual. So I can accept all of that.

Jenett

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Re: Celtic Reincarnation
« Reply #7 on: August 23, 2019, 09:11:40 pm »
In the case of religious witchcraft in general, there is extremely little prescribed belief about anything, because belief is not a focal point for those categories in the first place.  (There is an aphorism that you can have a half-dozen witches in a circle, all formally acknowledged initiates of the same tradition, and none of them will have the same belief about the nature of the gods they are calling in; there is absolutely nothing preventing an archetypalist from doing religious witchcraft with a hard polytheist, and both of them being full representatives of their tradition.)

Seconding this.

I have a useful example, actually, of the distinction between belief and practice, or rather how the interplay works.

A lot of religious witches particularly honour the beloved dead (people they love who have died) and ancestors (more generally). Some people do it mostly at Samhain, others do it more often. (My tradition, for example, invites the ancestors in some form at every ritual.)

Now, one way to read that is that honouring the beloved dead and ancestors could be about our own (entirely internal) reaction to that - remembering the people who shaped us, which doesn't imply anything much about what happens after we die.

But alternately, it might imply some things. But it's not very specific. It could be reincarnation. It could be 'some part of us survives, but most of us goes away'. It could be that there are different parts or kinds of the soul, and different things happen to them (some go back into the stream of living souls, some continue as the spark of essential personality, some maybe go off and hang out in whatever afterlife you want to consider.) It could be something else - there are probably dozens of options.

So, on the one hand, the practice probably doesn't make a lot of sense if you feel that when we die, boom, that's it (especially in practices like ours, where it's not just people we knew, but more distant ancestral connections.) But it also doesn't have a strong underlying belief about what happens instead - just that there *is* an 'instead'.

In a lot of ways, I like that approach a lot, because it allows me to deepen my understanding and my practice as life continues. (There are certainly ways to deepen understanding in a creedal religion, for example. But having done both in my lifetime, I think I prefer my current practices and what that implies about renewing and deepening and recommitting to my choices.)
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Donal2018

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Re: Celtic Reincarnation
« Reply #8 on: August 23, 2019, 09:43:40 pm »
Seconding this.

I have a useful example, actually, of the distinction between belief and practice, or rather how the interplay works.

A lot of religious witches particularly honour the beloved dead (people they love who have died) and ancestors (more generally). Some people do it mostly at Samhain, others do it more often. (My tradition, for example, invites the ancestors in some form at every ritual.)

Now, one way to read that is that honouring the beloved dead and ancestors could be about our own (entirely internal) reaction to that - remembering the people who shaped us, which doesn't imply anything much about what happens after we die.

But alternately, it might imply some things. But it's not very specific. It could be reincarnation. It could be 'some part of us survives, but most of us goes away'. It could be that there are different parts or kinds of the soul, and different things happen to them (some go back into the stream of living souls, some continue as the spark of essential personality, some maybe go off and hang out in whatever afterlife you want to consider.) It could be something else - there are probably dozens of options.

So, on the one hand, the practice probably doesn't make a lot of sense if you feel that when we die, boom, that's it (especially in practices like ours, where it's not just people we knew, but more distant ancestral connections.) But it also doesn't have a strong underlying belief about what happens instead - just that there *is* an 'instead'.

In a lot of ways, I like that approach a lot, because it allows me to deepen my understanding and my practice as life continues. (There are certainly ways to deepen understanding in a creedal religion, for example. But having done both in my lifetime, I think I prefer my current practices and what that implies about renewing and deepening and recommitting to my choices.)


I like that view. It seems like agnosticism in some ways, but with respect for ancestors and ritual. I find open ended views and practices better than religions that assert one idea over another. I don't trust religions and ideologies that are too certain of themselves.

I think being able to say "maybe" and "I don't know" is better than the false certainty that you get from some dogmatic religions.I think a hopeful agnosticism is my best personal posture regarding this sort of stuff. I think it is more intellectually and spiritually honest.

Thanksfor sharing information about your practices and beliefs. I find them to be encouraging. This is part of what has drawn me to the various paganisms. A certain freedom and maybe a more honest view of certain aspects of spirituality. A toleration for uncertainty and appreciation of mystery, perhaps.
« Last Edit: August 23, 2019, 09:47:02 pm by Donal2018 »

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