So I’ve been thinking about things, because October is a rough month. And I know it is almost December yet, but things sometimes take a while to process for me.
When I first became a pagan, back when I was about 10-11, I read about the “Summerlands”. Or, an afterlife of sorts. Before I became interested in paganism and magic, I had never believed in anything. I was not raised Christian like so many pagans were–so I had no lingering concept of heaven or hell…or any afterlife of any sort. I was really unsure of anything like that, I never thought too much on people and where they went after death. I knew I could hear ghosts, but I was not sure about everything else, where other people went if they were not lingering as ghosts around our plane. But because I did not grow up learning about heaven and hell, I grew up without the ingrained ideas, perhaps even fear of hell, I never put much thought into after death. I also had a tendency to piss off my friends’ families, because I would tell my very fundamental Christian friends and their parents, when their parents brought up hell while I was at their houses, that hell as described by these people was not existent in the Bible. I would point out the fire and brimstone hell, the levels always cited, were Dante’s invention. (That never goes over very well with strongly Christian adults, especially when it is a child pointing out that there is information to their faith that they do not know.)
So when I became interested in paganism, I was kind of ambiguous on the whole “Summerlands” or afterlife thing. I knew that an idea of heaven was not right–especially considering how every branch of Christianity has at one point or another made claim that all the others are heretics and going to hell (slight exaggeration there, I know, but this was how I thought at that young age). And I could not believe in a Hell one went to just because they did not believe in God and “accept Jesus Christ as their savior”. Because it reminded me of something that I heard said once to my super fundamental Christian uncle. What of those people who work for the good of mankind but do not believe in God? Are they automatically committed to an eternity in hell being punished? For me, I could never reconcile that one would be punished, even if one did the right things, just for not believing the same thing as another person.
I remember reading an article (I don’t remember anything else about it at this point now, just that it was an article I came across online, and it actually had resources listed, a major shock considering most articles online that I was able to access at the time) that mentioned a pagan afterlife. It talked about how paths did not matter. What was important was the good deeds and honorable acts of the individual. That fascinated me, because I was so used to my friends screaming their heads off about heaven and hell…and how if you weren’t the right kind of Christian you would go to hell. The idea that a person’s own acts determined on how their afterlife proceeded, that was novel and brilliant to me. So I was fascinated and intrigued. And the thought that there was no predetermined path one had to have–well that was massively appealing.
Now, I know that the article I read was probably terribly fluffy and ignoring all academic proof on what the real truth was. Not to mention, each pagan path has its own ideas about death and what happens afterwards. So ever since then I’ve learned to recognize that a generality article like what I read back when I was a young newbie (as opposed to an older newbie comparative to some members of the extended online pagan-witchcraft-polytheist community) is not the best source.
Even though I no longer believe in the ultra-general idea of an afterlife that is somehow idyllic for allowing every path and everyone being welcome, it did teach me one thing.
I believe in the deeds we make determining our fate after death. Should you do the best you can to be a good person, I believe in a good afterlife, with family and friends. For those who are dishonorable or commit breaches in trust regarding the human condition, them I expect are not given the pleasure to be with those that they cared for in life. That is general enough. I’m still kind of fuzzy on the specifics. And honestly my opinion is constantly changing depending on what new things I learn and experience.
I still don’t know where ghosts are chosen, how one person will become a ghost, but another will not. I am still not sure what happens to these things, or how exactly it happens. I still wonder if ghosts are people who chose to remain as a ghost, or if something in circumstances forces a ghost to stay that way. That’s a mystery I’ve yet to understand, and I suspect I might not understand it until I am dead myself.
So it’s been a bit of a growing period for me, learning how my ideas on death and the afterlife continue to grow and change.∗