Celtic Beliefs in the Afterlife and Rebirth: an Introduction for Kids

Below (the non-italic parts) is a narrative that I used to explain a Celtic view of rebirth to my kids- it’s from a book of prayers and information I made for them when they were little. There are many contrasting views on what the Celts did or did not believe about life beyond death, so if this explanation doesn’t fit with your research/beliefs, keep in mind that this is just my interpretations and personal beliefs that I wanted to pass on to my descendants. Perhaps some of it will prove useful for you.
circle of life

All life is connected and moves in cycles- unending circles.
The seasons move in a circle,
as do the sun and moon and stars and earth.

So it is with all life… food chains, weather systems, all life cycles- everything.

Nothing truly ends, but just begins again anew.

Sometimes we can’t see the circles Mother Nature makes, but we know they’re there. When water turns to gas, this is called evaporation. What happens to water after it evaporates? It rises up into clouds. Although we don’t always see this happening, we know that the particles of water are rising, invisibly, up through the air to form clouds, to later come back down again as rain.

Reincarnation means to be born again into another body. The belief in reincarnation goes along with what we know about the circle of life.

Our spirits are like those drops of water. When we die, our spirits will go, invisibly like water vapor, to join with other spirits for a while in an Otherworld place before returning to earth in a new life. This is because the energy of spirit, like water, moves in a circle.

***Pointing out examples of unending life cycles is a great way of demonstrating the logic of a belief in rebirth/reincarnation. You can use the popular Neopagan chant “We All Come From the Goddess” (adapted as needed) to reinforce the idea and tie in the water cycle analogy. A great picture book illustrating the unending cycles of life is “When the Wind Stops” by Charlotte Zolotow.***

Celtic Otherworld

There are many names for the place our spirits go after death. In Irish legend, some of the names of the islands of the Otherworld are Tír na nÓg- ‘The Land of Youth’, Tír N-aill- ‘The Other Land’, and Tír Innambéo- ‘The Land of the Living’. It is a beautiful world, a place of peace, harmony, and endless banquets, where souls live in the presence of the gods, goddesses, and ancestors.

Yet one might not wish to stay in the Otherworld forever. Longing for this world brings souls back to reincarnate, possibly into their own family line or into animals or trees that are close to places they loved in a previous life.

The soul is on a journey that never ends.

***One of the best descriptions of the Otherworld can be found in the story “The Princess of Land-Under-Waves” from “Classic Celtic Fairy Tales” by John Matthews. “The Other World: Myths of the Celts” by Margaret Hodges has another version of the same story titled “Dermot in the Land-under-Wave”. Many more descriptions of the Otherworld may be found in Celtic myths, legends, and fairy tales.***

Celtic Beliefs in the Afterlife and Rebirth


2 responses »

  1. Really interesting post! One or two points though, Tír Anam Beo probably makes more sense-as a native Irish speaker Innambéo makes no sense to me, and the fada would not be used there. Tír Anam Beo (which would be pronounced similarly) means “Land of the live soul”. Also Tír na nÓg means “land of the young” not land of youth (sorry now I’m being pedantic here), and Tír na nÁill means land of beauty.

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