Before we continue our discussion of magical practices, let us pause to briefly consider the age old question of death. In many different sects of Wicca, death is viewed as a transition to an afterlife in a location known as the Summerlands. The Summerlands are a place of rest and respite for the soul. Reunion with beloved dead who had passed before you is considered a common element of one’s passage to the Summerlands. It is also believed that all forms of life pass on to the Summerlands when they die.
The most predominant belief in modern Wicca is that reincarnation is possible and happens fairly regularly. This, in conjunction with the belief in the Summerlands (or something similar) provides the theological foundation of how modern Wicca approaches death. It is, in short, a natural transition to another phase in life that is no more fearful then birth or growing older.
Within my tradition of witchcraft, it is a touch more complex then this. Reincarnation is possible and does happen. It is also equally likely that one will choose to remain within the spiritual realms. A phenomenon which I refer to as the Veil acts as a subtle barrier between the living and the dead. The Veil tend to be more resistant to penetration in locations where there is a great deal of live activity. Places traditionally associated with the dead are places more permeable because there is a greater concentration of this energy in conjunction with the thoughtforms that associate the dead with this location. As such, the Veil is thinned and communication with the dead or other spiritual beings is easier.
If one chooses not to reincarnate upon their passage to the spiritual side of things, they have their choice of places of rest and habitation. Some choose to remain close to the physical world, thus there are hauntings and people who have spirits about them. Others move to places traditionally associated with the dead, for the thoughtforms are far more cemented and ‘physical’ in the spiritual realm.
There is not strictly only Heaven or Hell for where the dead might go. There are many, many different locations. Every spiritual abode of the dead that has been conceptualized exists in the spiritual realms. In my practice, I have traveled to several different locations by way of a trance journey. (The general response to a living soul visiting is one of pleasant surprise. In a few locations I was firmly invited to leave.) The thing that I find is the most consistent with all of the locations I have traveled to is that those who had lived a life that was virtuous and in accordance with the beliefs of their chosen faith were treated well. Those who had especially proven to be outstanding examples of such traits were held with honor and had a higher status among the others.
Those who failed to do so were of lower status and, when applicable, punished in accordance with the traditions of their faith. The most telling thing about this arrangement was that there were many people who chose to put themselves into the lower status conditions because they had felt that they deserved them. It was an interesting discovery, to be perfectly frank. Some, however, were not permitted to take on lower status then what they had earned. These spirits were frequently bewildered by their good fortune. It was explained to me that it took a measure of time for these souls to acclimate to their surroundings and unlearn the habits of self criticism. Some may ask, how do people who operate in a mixed religion situation fare upon death. In this, I have found that they spend time in the places accorded to them by their mixed religions with a portion of time for each location.
The many deities of death are varied and of different minds with respect to their charges and of visitors. If one wishes to trance journey to a specific spiritual realm, it is wise to study the mythology and lore of that realm. This helps to make one familiar with the ‘architecture’ of the realm and makes it easier for them to interact with the denizens of those locations. I also advise to leave an offering for all deities and spiritual beings involved in the trance journey. It is simply a matter of good manners to express your gratitude for their assistance.