Death . . . punishment, oblivion, or release? Or perhaps something else altogether?
To a culture which fears failure, resists natural balance of cycles, and lacks spiritual connection with the Divine, dying is a terror to be avoided at all costs.
But what does death mean to witches? What is a Wiccan perspective on life and the afterlife?
Unlike most religions, Wicca does not fear mortality.
While a loved one's passage is always painful, witches don't shrink from the natural processes of life. The Wheel turns, and sometimes things must be let go.
We also know the Wheel will turn again, and things that have been lost will be returned to us. The form may change, but nothing is ever really lost.
The Veil of Tears
Wicca also has a different relationship than many modern religions to people who are dead.
Death is not a wall, to witches, but a veil. We may not be easily able to see and touch our beloved dead, but they are not entirely gone.
We may grieve the distance between us, but we still perceive an enduring connection with our beloved dead.
The Spiritual Perspective on Death
From a spiritual perspective, death is not an ending. It is simply a transition. . .
Mortal beings pass through a door to another realm of existence.
And the door has a window. We can sometimes see the other side through it. And the other side, with greater perception, can always see us.
Relationships with the Dead
So it is natural that friendships can endure past death.
Many people, even non-Wiccans, have experienced communication with their beloved dead.
How many stories have you heard about a loved one appearing to family members, at the moment of death? So many of us have had dreams and whispered words and half-glimpses of loved ones who have died.
Some of those may be simple imagination, but not all can be so dismissed.
One Witch's Story
In my own family's experience, there has been lots of interaction between the living and those on the other side. (Sometimes I think my genetic line isn't interested in staying dead. )
My mother, for example, has hung around long after her death, playing little games to let us know she is here, and intervening to help protect her children and grandchildren.
On a personal level, my relationship with my mother has improved greatly since she died!
That sounds like a joke, but it's true. The first time she appeared to me after her death, I didn't know who she was. I didn't recognise her because she looked as she did when she was a young woman, and I'd never seen her like that (since I came along late in her life).
She let go of a lot of prejudices, when she let go of her body. And we were finally able to find common ground, mutual respect, and love.
The relationship I now have with my mother is such a gift to me, healing much childhood anguish. This would never have happened if I didn't know that communication after life is possible, even commonplace.
I am grateful that my training as a witch taught me to accept that this could be real, rather than wishful thinking.
And my experience as a witch allows me to distinguish the difference between my dreams of my mother, and actual communication with her.
So What Is A Witch's Relationship With Death?
One of acceptance. Even of honouring.
Even though Wicca celebrates life on Earth, most witches are aware that mortal existence is limited and limiting.
Death is a freedom from the burdens and blindness that come with a physical body.
And it is an inevitable part of life. Without death, birth would be a disaster. Without death, new life must remain unmanifest.
In the turning of the Wheel, it is the periods of rest that empower growth.
This doesn't mean that a witch neglects to do what she can to preserve and improve life, within reason.
But it is pointless - even harmful - from a Wiccan perspective to keep someone alive at any cost, or without an enjoyable quality of life, or against a person's wishes.
So the things that our culture fears most about dying has no meaning in Wicca.
Do Witches Go To Heaven?
Well, "Heaven" was a Christian word for a mostly-Christian concept. Its refers to a literal, physical place up in the sky where Yahweh lives with Jesus and angels and all good Christians.
So . . . no. Thank goodness!
The Christians probably wouldn't want us, and we certainly don't want their idea of heaven. (Most of us are not impressed with Yahweh.)
An Expansive Heaven
But the word Heaven is shifting in meaning, as human consciousness shifts from religious dogma to spirituality.
Sometimes now Heaven refers to being in the presence of the Divine, without the illusions of separateness that flesh creates.
As a state of expanded consciousness and Oneness with the Divine, then certainly all witches go to Heaven. If not after this incarnation, after some future one.
Life After A Witch's Death
Words confuse an issue for which we have no vocabulary.
As a culture, we lack even the understanding and concepts to talk about life in a meaningful way, let alone death.
But here's what I've read, and believe to be true.
The afterlife is very different than the Christian ideas of heaven and hell, at least for many people.
For some people, it seems that there is a sort of life on another plane, where people are free of pain, and their thoughts immediately create the world they live in. They all seem very happy there.
But for most, there is a transition to another state of existence. They pass through a "barrier" that's described like a cloud, or a filmy veil, or a field of light. They are cleansed of the pain and suffering from their time on Earth, and then they rejoin their soul-friends to discuss their lives and how far they came on their journey.
Sometimes we feel a sense of peace when someone passes, like they've opened a window to the other side and the sweet breeze blows through... and for just a moment we feel it along with them.
I think we can trust that feeling... I think it's far more TRUE than all the mumbo-jumbo that many religions put out.
Is There Life After Death?
This is a question that can be answered only once we figure out what we mean by life.
Is life consciousness? Is it the physical processes of body and brain? Is it the "me" we think of as ourselves?
Like everything else in Wicca, it's impossible to state The Wiccan Viewpoint. Every witch has her own.
But commonly, witches believe that there is more to existence than the physical plane we now inhabit. And that when we die, we are opened up to expanded levels of existence.
Do Witches Reincarnate?
One possibility for life after death is reincarnation.
Many witches accept at least the possibility of reincarnation - that is, that the spark which is "me" comes back to life in another body, possibly throughout eternity.
What this really means, though, is unknowable. How can I be "me" if I'm somebody else? What is the "me" that comes back? These are questions that can't fully be answered.
The Mystery of Life After Life
The mystery of death is certainly not going to be solved by any one article, or even any one religion.
Wicca Spirituality has a certain philosophy, which inspires Wiccans to have certain perspectives on death. But we don't claim to have all the answers, and not every witch would agree with any one viewpoint.
It's probably safe to say that all witches believe that consciousness continues after death, and that no one really knows how or in what form.
As witches, we're comfortable with this kind of ambiguity.
We can't know all the answers of life. And we don't need to.
We only need to find what is true for ourselves. And then live it.
When you're really living, you don't worry so much about death anyway.
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