I would like to talk today about death and afterlife in paganism, but from my own perspective. There is an article in patheos from a more universal view here. So what I will expose is just my point of view and it does not represent the pagan community at all.
I have not much experiences of the death of a beloved person. But even with my short experience I can identify some believes at the core of myself.
As a seeker of the Isle of Avalon, I believe in this place, the Isle of death, the Summerland, where all souls are guided after death, no matter how they behave during life. The Morgens guide the soul in a journey through the waters and the mists of the outer world, for some this journey would be easy, for some others it could be painful and difficult, some souls may event get lost in the mist and remain trapped until they are able to find their way home. Because this place is a home, is a home of the soul, a kind of paradise where holeness can be experienced at every moment, it could be a kind of pleroma and ideal place, sort of Buddhist Dewachen, or the world of Beriah, heaven, just closed to Azilut. I belief death have a face, or personification in the outer world, and I consider her face feminine, as a Beansidhe, a kind of wife that come after one, and call us to our journey. As in physical birth we cross the Yoni gate and one of the Morgens cut with her sickle the cord that connect our psyche to our physical body, so the body start to decay. As a walker between worlds I have some experience of that place spetially during Samhain celebration. It may sound as a fantasy or fairy tale, but none of those woman-like-creatures look friendly the first time. As in the Tibetan book of the deaths, the experiences out of the body may be of horror or may be of ecstasy; both of them shall be transcend in order to move forward in the journey.
And what about transmigration of souls? For me the part of the souls that past from one body to the other is not the psyche, but a subtle piece of the soul, that lack of identity, I could call it the pneuma, the spark, or seed. So even if I have remembered some of my past life I do not identify this with my ultimate truth, but just with one of the many facets of myself. I believe, that we are never separated from this Isle of Death, we are always here and there, at the same time, is just our consciousness that journey, in fact in this Isle there is no time. So a part of me is forever there, and my passed personalities are there too for me to remember, it is an archetypal world, as the higher planes of Briah get in contact with Azilut. Psyche is for me another robe of the soul, as it is the body ant will not remain from one life to the other.
A personal experience…
My grandmother died about 8 years ago, she was kind of a witch, but a Christian one, from charismatic renovation, when she was younger, she used to practice hypnosis and other things she never tell, but after time she conclude that all this was evil. However she continues to practices healing with her hands and prayers, she used to have premonition experiences, she interceded between people and the Christian God, and used her will so people could get some results, and people got them, I saw that happening many times. So for me, she was a ‘witch’, even if she called it other way. We have never been closed during life, but she always told me that I had inherited her gifts. During my teenage years this did not make any sense to me, I was looking for my own spiritual path, I was very disappointed on Christianity and I was feeling very attracted to oriental though, especially Budhism. I took refuge in Mahayana Budhism at the age of 17 and continue practicing for 7 years. She never accepted my religious choice, she told me I was not like that, she also never approved my use of the Tarot, because she considered it ‘from the other side’. The year my grandmother dyed I was in a difficult moment, I was living far from my country and I was ill, suffering physical pain and an emotional imbalance. At that time I was doing my practices three times a day almost everyday, but this was far from taken me out of the darkness I was living in. I decided to come back to my country and my grandmother dyed the same week I arrived, she had lung cancer and her body was completely deteriorated when I saw her, but she smiled and died the next morning. I wasn’t sad, we’ve never been closed, and I was suffering my own pain, so it was difficult to relate to this event. I practiced the Phowa for her while she was in the coffin and that was all I could do at the moment. This year I had some acupuncture treatment and psychological support and I slowly come back to the centre of myself. It took me years to heal, but most things started to change. I stop all my spiritual practice and took a break, following the advice of my therapist, as my psychic defence was so weak that I suffered often from hallucinations. When I started to feel better, I wanted to come back to my Buddhist practice, I got enrol in a two years program with the purpose of being able to teach. I went to the first class and I knew I was in the wrong place, and never came back. So the Buddhist nun inside myself died, and the witchy priestess was born. I came back to my first love, the Tarot, and started to study kabbalah and witchcraft. And after some time, it made sense to me to get again in contact with my grandmother, to visit her in my journeys to the Isle of Death and to ask for her support and blessings in my practice. I read once from a medium that death people are beyond duality, and do not judge in the same way as incarnated do, and I know she does not reject what I do anymore, and I feel free from our conflicive past.