The Old Religion of Britain: Reincarnation
It is sometimes assumed that the idea of reincarnation is alien to British and western thought. This website investigates the possibility that, on the contrary, such a belief is in the very blood of the soil.
If you have ever stood in the middle of an English forest and felt that the trees know something that you don't, then this quest is for you. Perhaps there was an ancient Bronze Age barrow nearby, an old burial mound containing the cremated remains of someone who may once have thought just like you and who died nearly four thousand years ago. Or perhaps you live on the other side of the world from Britain and feel the same way sometimes in the pine woods or the mountains; a sense of wishing to peel back the perplexing Christianity that has puzzled you since you were a little child and to rediscover a truth that may once have lain at the very heart of Christianity. A magic which seems to hide itself near the banks of a woodland lake or at the end of a hard climb, but never in the harsh echoes and soft carpeted aisles of a church.
The landscape of the British Isles remembers an ancient belief; a belief that existed before the birth of Christianity and Islam. But what was that belief? It must be that nearly two thousand years of Christianity have eradicated it completely - right? Can we really try to cast a line across waters muddied by two millennia and reel in a doctrine that British and Gallic druids of the first century BC forbade even to be written down? A belief that was guarded with absolute secrecy and spoken of as 'the mysteries' by ancient Athenians in the fifth century BC? Can we try to reconstruct a system of religious belief whose core values may once, in the European Bronze Age, have stretched from Sicily to Sweden, from Britain to the Balkans and beyond? Where can we possibly begin to look?'
In ancient Athens a festival was held every year in celebration of the god Dionysus. The raison d'être underlying this festival may have been understood fully only by those who had been initiated into the mysteries of Dionysus, or of Demeter and Persephone at Eleusis. Its initiates were sworn to secrecy, in the same way that British druids in oak groves on the banks of the River Thames only twelve hundred miles from Eleusis were reluctant to make their core understandings explicit. Pythagoreans in Italy were inclined not to explain their beliefs. But miraculously, clues to the nature of this lingering belief system may exist to this day, sometimes in the most unexpected places. The mythology of Ireland and Wales, of course, and stories that look back to pagan times in the Medieval literature of Iceland. But less expectedly, perhaps, in Medieval Christian writings and hagiography. Archaeology. The plays of ancient Athenian dramatists. Hints given by classical authors; more than hints, possibly, as you will see. And then there are the really unexpected places: the Medieval Arthurian literature of England, Wales and France. Breton Lais. Medieval romance in general. And there are even intriguing hints that these ideas have always managed to survive in an undercurrent of transmission, as shown by the probing insights of London-born poets like Geoffrey Chaucer, Edmund Spenser and William Blake.
Medieval Romance preserves a tradition that is definitely not Christian, despite the best efforts of the Medieval Church to Christianise some of it, such as the story of the Holy Grail. And our own quest will be to explore the significance of a ubiquitous literary motif in these old tales that is truly endemic.
Hannah Scot was burned alive by the Christian Church in 1509 for reading Medieval Romance in her step-father's library and guessing at the truth. A student in a druid College fifteen hundred years before Hannah's birth might have spent up to twenty years in such intensive study, memorising hundreds of tales, allegories and metaphors in order to facilitate her understanding. And we know from the Roman writer and Eleusinian initiate Cicero (106 - 43 BC) that at its heart lay a revelation which, if divulged to those not ready and prepared for it, would seem so ridiculous as to be laughable.
Laughable - or frightening?
Come on a journey of discovery and take a trip through the soil beneath the British Isles.