Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.
Julius Caesar Act II, scene 2, line 33.

Most Wiccan books don’t have much info on death. One or two that I’ve read have a chapter on reincarnation, but most make a point of stating that Wicca, in particular, and paganism as a whole, isn’t really concerned about what happens after- the concern is to live a good life now.

This view, in my opinion, is understandable but short-sighted. One of the goals of any religion is to give people an answer to the question, “What happens after we die?” After all, it is life’s one great certainty. I don’t know when I’m going to die; I only know that each second that ticks from the clock brings my death closer, and so it’s very important for me to be prepared, as much as I can be, for something like that. I certainly don’t want to fear it, seeing as its possibility is an everyday reality. It also ignores the reality that many who enter paganism come from religions with a heaven/hell system, and they need something to put in its place.

This statement also is unhelpful to those who can’t live their “good life now” due to poverty, a lack of physical safety, illness, or any number of causes. Some die too young. Some die before they’ve done what they wanted to. Some die after they have lost everything.

I’m writing this in 2023, with the COVID-19 pandemic still hanging over us. I think everyone has been thinking about death a little more since COVID. It’s not so easy to write off the possibility of death when we have seen it happen on such a massive scale.

Various forms of paganism have different beliefs regarding the afterlife (surprise, surprise). What a Druid or a Celtic pagan believes may be different than what an eclectic Wiccan or a Norse pagan might believe. However, many Pagans believe something along the same lines as Wicca, even if they use different names to describe things.


  • Believes in reincarnation
  • Believes in a soul
  • Believes in the death of the ego*, but not the self
  • Believes that souls rest between incarnations in a place called the Summerlands
  • Doesn’t (usually) believe that human souls reincarnate in other species
  • (Often) believes that at one point, you unite fully with the Source, with the God and the Goddess, and the cycle of reincarnations stops. However, reincarnation is not a “punishment” or something to avoid, as it is in Buddhism and Hinduism. Being back in this world is part of the circle of life and is something to be celebrated.
  • Believes (often) that you have a choice as to whether or not to incarnate, and if you do, how you do it
  • Does not believe in a judgment, at least not in the same sense that conservative monotheists do.

* Ego in this context means personality, who you would view as your ‘self.’ In religions that believe in reincarnation, the ego, things such as likes and dislikes, being introverted or extroverted, being gay or straight, etc.- all these kinds of things make up the ego, and, for some, it is believed that the essence of who you are is behind all of that.

Many Wiccans find comfort in hearing the experiences of those who have died briefly and then have come back (Near Death Experiences, or NDEs). There is a great deal of scientific evidence supporting the validity of NDEs (for great information, read this book). It can be helpful to read about them, or read people’s stories who have had one, because it’s as close as we’ll get to the ‘inside scoop’, so to speak. People who experience NDEs almost always say it completely removed their fear of death- even those who had what we would call “negative” experiences. (I hope to cover NDEs more completely in a future post). Others find comfort in reading about studies of those who have memories of their past lives.

Reincarnation is the default Wiccan belief, but it’s not the only one. Some believe that the Summerland is a permanent place, or at the very least, you can choose it to be such. Some hold to traditional views on the afterlife, like the ancient Egyptian or ancient Greek views. The Wiccan belief is shaped heavily by ancient Celtic beliefs on the afterlife; the Celtic Otherworld, and reincarnation. Its view of reincarnation is, as mentioned above, different from the Eastern view of it.

Many Wiccans believe that when you die, your soul goes to the Summerlands. There you will evaluate your life with the God and the Goddess to see what you have learned, what you did right and wrong, etc. This is not a judgment- there is no punishment at the end of this. It’s more like…a performance evaluation. Then there is time spent in the Summerlands recuperating and being reunited with lost loved ones and continuing to learn and grow until you feel you are ready to return again; then you choose your incarnation for the next life- it’s not handed down to you with no choice given you, like karma- and then you reincarnate.

Many also believe that there is a point at which you no longer need or desire to incarnate. At that point, you cease incarnating and mystically unite with the God and the Goddess. It’s impossible to expand on that. There is maybe a sentence or two on what happens when you no longer need/desire to incarnate. That aspect of death in particular, is something that each person is going to come to a different understanding about.

Buddhists and Catholics meditate on death to “practice”, if you will, for the real thing. Whether this would be comforting to you or whether it would just induce a massive anxiety episode is wildly different depending on each person. However, death is part of the shadow we confront and seek to integrate when we do shadow work. I, personally, find meditations on death quite helpful. It’s a safe way to face that fear, to examine it, to dissect why it is there and whether that fear serves me or not.

A lot of people who came from fundamentalist religions have a lingering fear of going to hell. They rationally know it can’t be true, they no longer believe in it, and yet they still fear it. This fear can be quite intense. While discussing religious trauma syndrome is a separate article, what I will say is that the fear of hell is a conditioned belief. Most non-Muslims are not afraid of going to the Muslim hell. They don’t even see it as a possibility- because it’s not what they’ve been conditioned to believe in. And if a belief is conditioned, it can be unconditioned. It takes time, and it takes conscious effort. And like any reconditioning, it is much easier if you can put something in the place of what you’re removing. A smoker who doesn’t replace smoking with healthier habits and just sits there and tries not to crave cigarettes probably isn’t going to succeed. The person who just tries to get rid of their fear of hell out of sheer willpower probably will not succeed either.

It is the unusual person who can completely remove their fear of death. After all, fear of death serves a biological purpose. Fear of death keeps us alive- it keeps us from engaging in behaviors that are more likely to result in death. While there is a wide variety in terms of what one would consider a risky behavior, people in good mental health aren’t going to engage in activities that they see as potentially causing their death. However, I believe death can be seen, not just as something to avoid, but as something to explore, something that can give life deeper meaning.

I’m going to end this article with a link to a pagan song written by Velvet Hammer called “We Do Not Die”.

For further information, check out these resources:

The Pagan Book of Living and Dying

Do I Have to Wear Black?: Rituals, Customs & Funerary Etiquette for Modern Pagans

As the Last Leaf Falls: A Pagan’s Perspective on Death, Dying & Bereavement

Morbid Magic: Death Spirituality and Culture from Around the World

Dying Pagan– This is an article that is about the practical things Pagans can do to prepare for death. I highly recommend reading it.

Death Witchcraft– A website by a witch that focuses on magick surrounding death. Some might find that engaging the topic of death in their magickal practice is very comforting or useful to them. While I disagree with some things on this website (i.e., the existence of demons and the prevalence and/or presence of malicious spirits), there is still some good information on here.