What is the Summerland?

Headstones in a cemetary
Image © Patti Wigington 2008

In some modern magical traditions, it is believed that the dead cross over into a place called the Summerland. This is a predominantly Wiccan and NeoWiccan concept and is not typically found in non-Wiccan Pagan traditions. While there may be a similar concept of the afterlife in those traditions, the word Summerland seems to be generally Wiccan in its use.

Wiccan author Scott Cunningham described the Summerland as a place where the soul goes on to live forever.

In Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner, he says,

"This realm is neither in heaven nor the underworld. It simply is: a non-physical reality much less dense than ours. Some Wiccan traditions describe it as a land of eternal summer, with grassy fields and sweet flowing rivers, perhaps the Earth before the advent of humans. Others see it vaguely as a realm without forms, where energy swirls coexist with the greatest energies: the Goddess and God in their celestial identities."

A Pennsylvania Wiccan who asked to be identified as Shadow says,

"The Summerland is the great crossover. It's not good, it's not bad, it's just a place we go where there is no more pain or suffering. We wait there until it is time for our souls to return in another physical body, and then we can move on to our next lifetime. Some souls may be finished incarnating, and they stay in the Summerland to guide newly arriving souls through the transition."

In his book The Pagan Family, Ceisiwr Serith points out that belief in the Summerland—reincarnation, Tir na nOg, or ancestor rites—are all part of the Pagan acceptance of the physical state of death. He says these philosophies "help both the living and the dead, and that is enough to justify them."

Does the Summerland Really Exist?

Whether Summerland truly exists is one of those great existential questions that's simply impossible to answer.

Just like our Christian friends may believe heaven is real, it can't be proven. Likewise, there's no way to prove the existence of a metaphysical concept like the Summerland, Valhalla, or of reincarnation, and so forth. We can believe, but we can't prove it in any way, shape, or form.

Wiccan author Ray Buckland says in Wicca for Life,

"Summerland is, as we might expect, a beautiful place. What we know of it is what we have gleaned from people who have returned from near-death experiences, and from accounts obtained by genuine mediums who communicate with the dead."

Most reconstructionist paths do not adhere to the notion of the Summerland—it seems to be a uniquely Wiccan ideology. Even among Wiccan paths who accept the concept of the Summerland, there are varying interpretations as to what the Summerland actually is. Like many aspects of modern Wicca, how you view the afterlife will depend on the teachings of your particular tradition.

There are certainly other variations of the idea of life after death among various religions. Christians believe in heaven and hell, many Norse Pagans believe in Valhalla, and the ancient Romans believed that warriors went to the Elysian Fields, while ordinary people went to the Plain of Asphodel.

 For those Pagans who don’t have a defined name or description of the afterlife, there is still typically a notion that the spirit and the soul live on somewhere, even if we don’t know where it is or what to call it. 

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Wigington, Patti. "What is the Summerland?" ThoughtCo, Mar. 19, 2018, thoughtco.com/what-is-the-summerland-2562874. Wigington, Patti. (2018, March 19). What is the Summerland? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-the-summerland-2562874 Wigington, Patti. "What is the Summerland?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-the-summerland-2562874 (accessed March 21, 2018).