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Is death really the end, or do we linger on?
Witches are natural philosophers. I think as a group we tend to be stuck in our own heads, considering the different natures and aspects of things. When it comes to the big questions of life, every witch is going to have a different thought or perspective.
When a witch considers, “What is death?” or “Where do we go when we die?” there will be a different answer for every witch. Since witchcraft isn’t a religion and paganism isn’t organized like, say, Christianity, there is no real guide to what the ‘correct’ answer is.
As the old joke goes, ask 5 witches what they believe and you’ll come away with 6 answers.
I don’t really have a developed belief about death and the afterlife. If I’m being honest, I am terrified of death. No version of the afterlife brings me peace, but I am a work in progress.
Based on my experience with pagans and witches, most that I have spoken to don’t believe that death is the end. There are, of course, some that take the atheist view that death is final and there is nothing after. But from what I have heard, that’s actually a rare position.
Will we become ghosts? Will we be reborn? Or will it all cease after death?
Many, but not all, pagans and witches believe that there is an afterlife. Some believe we will be judged in that afterlife, as with Egyptian paganism where the heart is weighed once one enters the underworld (Duat). Anubis, the god of the dead, weighs the person’s heart on a scale against the feather of Ma’at.
Unlike in Christianity, however, there was no set list of “sins”. Each person had a different list of things they were meant not to do. A farmer and a king’s list of Negative Confessions would be quite different indeed.
And so it goes with all pagans and witches. There is no set in stone belief about death. There is only what comforts you, what seems to be the truth, and what your personal religion holds.
Some NeoWiccans, for instance, believe in the Summerland. This is a land described by author Scott Cunningham as a place where the soul goes to live forever. But what the Summland is for each Wiccan will again be seen differently.
Reconstructionist pagans often see the afterlife as it was described in their myths. The Egyptian example above is one such myth, but there is also Valhalla in the Norse belief system and Hades for the Hellenic pagans.
And there are some that take the Hindu / Buddhist / Jainist belief of reincarnation, in its many forms. Whether someone will be reborn a human, an animal, or an insect may depend on how they behaved in life. Or maybe the witch or pagan believes that we are only reborn as humans.
In the end, what a witch or pagan believes about death and the afterlife will vary greatly between different sects and groups. But those differences can create lively discussions that help bring everyone involved closer to the truth, and isn’t that what is most important in the end?