I always say only that I incline strongly to believe in reincarnation. But if they've been reported accurately, some of the documented cases are compelling. And it seems like the most plausible possibility of survival.

I like this Buddhist concept: that which reincarnates is not an individual being but a wave of being. It can be compared to a wave in the sea. On the one hand, a wave in the sea is made up of constantly changing drops of water; on the other, it's always part of the sea. And yet, there is something we can call a "wave."

Many years ago I consulted a number of psychics by mail. I received some nonsensical past-life readings, but others rang true and/or contained fascinating parallels. The psychics couldn't have been in contact, had never seen me in person, and hadn't been given any hints of what I might expect or hope for. One requested a photo showing the eyes. But the one from whom I received the most interesting readings, a Rev. E. Hessel (a woman, now deceased), asked for only a button from a frequently worn garment. I consulted Rev. Hessel three times, seeking to go further back; I always reminded her of what she'd already told me, didn't try to trap her into giving conflicting readings for the same time period.

Rev. Hessel (in New York) and Sybil Howarth (in England) both told me my last life was a female incarnation in 19th-century England. While they differed on names, dates, and specifics - the more precise psychics try to be, the more likely they are to be wrong - they both mentioned a sea captain as having been important in that life. Rev. Hessel said he was an uncle to whom I was close; Ms. Howarth said that after my first husband's death, I married a retired sea captain. (Note that they could have been picking up the same image and interpreting it differently. A beloved uncle might well have lived with me after he retired.)

While I hadn't mentioned it to the psychics, my longtime favorite film was "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" - in which an Englishwoman in the late 19th century falls in love with the ghost of a sea captain! I'd seen that old film on TV at least five times, and cried my eyes out every time. Did the psychics unconsciously pick that up and weave a fantasy around it, or did the movie have such an effect on me because of similarities to my past life?

This gets stranger. Rev. Hessel said my name in that life (before marriage) was Katrina Moorehead, and my uncle's name was Lewis. It was unclear whether she meant it as his first or last name, but that was the spelling.

I looked up the name "Moorehead," and discovered its original spelling was "Muirhead." It means "end of the moor."

A sign Rev. Hessel was really picking names up psychically rather than inventing: she reached a bit to explain "Katrina," saying I was named for a German grandmother. Maybe so. But the name "Moorehead" is Scottish, and "Katrina" can also be Scottish (it's the correct pronunciation of the Gaelic "Caitriona"). So the names go together very well, and the psychic clearly didn't realize it. I didn't know "Moorehead" was Scottish either, till I looked it up.

More. In my present life, my mother had a first cousin named Kathryn Moore (nee Morrissey), and the two cousins had an uncle whose surname was Lewis. I knew Kathryn (a woman old enough to be my grandmother) only slightly, the long-dead Mike Lewis not at all.

Was the psychic plucking names out of my subconscious and weaving fantasies? Or could some strange synchronicity really lead to this kind of name recurrence? Could the names of our kin be triggers that might wake buried memories, if we were open to the possibility?

Addendum, 5/29/11:

Amazingly, I had another thought about this yesterday. Rev. Hessel also told me that my uncle took me on a trip to France when I was a young woman, and I stayed there for a while. I married a Frenchman whose first name was Adrien, we went back to England together, and he worked in my family's business. A happy marriage, no "drama."

I didn't give much thought to that. Neither France nor the name "Adrien" meant anything to me at the time.

But considering that some details she mentioned matched my favorite film...

Years after I'd received Rev. Hessel's reading, Highlander: The Series became one of my two or three all-time favorite TV series. I've written a great many fanfics based on it, and will probably write more. The star of HL:TS was Adrian Paul. And more than half the show's episodes were set, and filmed, in France! (No, I never had romantic fantasies about Adrian Paul. But I admire him tremendously, as an actor and director. And I have seen him in person, at conventions.)

End of this "Addendum"...

Addendum, 2/17/13:

This only recently occurred to me. When I first received that reading, I did try briefly to imagine what "Adrien's" surname might have been. A French name...I let my imagination drift, and the first name that came into my head was "La Piere."

Nope. I realized that was a name I'd seen or heard recently. I thought, rightly or wrongly, that it was associated with the entertainer Cher.

I tried again, and came up with "Poirier."

Nope again. Another name I'd seen in print recently, an author's name.

I gave up the attempt. But now it's struck me that I was imagining last names beginning with the letter P...when the real connection, years later, would be with actor Adrian Paul!

When I gave up trying to imagine my "husband's" name, I tried to let some other "meaningful" name from that lifetime pop into my head. And the name that immediately did was, of all things, "Cruikshank."

I'd encountered that name only once before, years before, in connection with a local homicide case. I didn't even know whether its ethnicity was English.

I put it out of my mind. But at some later date - how much later, I have no idea - I was reading the New York Times, and was struck by a large illustration. It was a reproduction of a 19th-century illustration, representing the fairy tale "The Elves and the Shoemaker." It caught my eye because I'm a Wagner buff, and it made me think of Wagner's opera Die Meistersinger, whose hero is 16th-century poet and shoemaker Hans Sachs (a real person).

That's why I read the article accompanying the illustration. I learned from the article that the artist was a famous British illustrator from the 19th century, best known for his illustrations for Dickens' novels. His name was George Cruikshank. He would have been as well-known in the England of his day as Norman Rockwell was in the USA in the mid-20th century. And...Sybil Howarth had told me my father in that era was some kind of printer or publisher!

I've learned Cruikshank (1792-1878) was a racist and anti-Semite. Ugh. But he was also an illustrator of fairy tales: an English translation of Grimm's German Popular Tales (1824-1826), and Fairy Library (1854-1864). I'd like to think those were "classics" my previous incarnation loved as a child, and his unusual name stuck in her mind. She probably would have read Dickens as well.

End of this "Addendum"...

What Rev. Hessel saw as my "life before last" was a male incarnation in the U.S., in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. She said my name was Harry Brewster. My brother (the only sib she mentioned) was named Charlie. My employer and best friend - who became my brother-in-law when I married his sister - was named Joseph, and my only child was named for him.

In my real, present life, my father was named Joseph. My maternal grandfather was named Harry, and a beloved cousin was named Charlie. ("Harry" and "Charlie," in particular, aren't that common.) My father and grandfather were long dead when I received the reading; I think it was after my cousin's death, too.

"Brewster"? No connection...except for the fact that my mother had told me several family stories having to do with her father's beer drinking! I didn't think of that as a possible connection until recently.

On to something else. I also consulted - by mail - the best-known psychic in my own city, Ann Fisher. Aside from telling me my "aura" was the color I believed and hoped it would be, she gave me only one useful tidbit: that she saw me as "a monk in the 15th century." When an American psychic says that, without more elaboration, I think it's safe to say she means a Christian monk in some part of Europe.

Rev. Hessel told me I was a priest, in Italy, in the 1500s (16th century). An Italian priest assigned to clerical (i.e., "monklike") duties at the Vatican. And I was influenced by an uncle who was also a priest. (Another sign she was really giving me what she "picked up," sensible or not: she told me my name was Tony Pepperoni! I chose to interpret that as Antonio Petreonni - I'm not sure whether "Petreonni" is a real name.)

Sybil Howarth described a life as a happily married woman - in Italy, in the 1600s. And she said my father was a painter of church frescoes.

In other words: In the same rough time period, two of three psychics saw me as a European cleric performing monklike duties. At the same time, two of three psychics placed me in Italy and mentioned an older male relative connected with the Church.

This only occurred to me recently. I received Sybil Howarth's "Italy" reading before Rev. Hessel's. I never thought in any detail about those church frescoes my father was supposedly painting. When I thought about that reference at all, I imagined myself standing in the church doorway, looking up at a man on a distant scaffold. But later, Rev. Hessel told me that in my life as a priest, my uncle - and I myself - experienced deathbed visions of Jesus. I've realized now that both psychics may have picked up the image of an older man face to face with a conventional representation of Jesus; one thought the man was painting Jesus, the other that he was having a vision. And the second psychic can hardly have plucked the image from my memory of the first reading, because I'd never thought of it in that way.

Here's another small oddity. In the "Harry Brewster" reading, which she intended as my "life before last," Rev. Hessel said my wife's name was Theresa. She also saw the name "Joseph" as important in that life. In the supposed Italian female incarnation she saw as my "life before last," Sybil Howarth said my name was Teresa and my husband's name was Giuseppe (Joseph)!

Addendum, 2/17/13:

Incredibly, after all these years, this only struck me today. Sybil Howarth may have thought my Italian incarnation was female because she "saw" me in what she mistakenly took to be a long dress, when it was in fact a priest's cassock!

I should mention that despite having a very Irish name, I'd been an Anglophile since childhood. I'd hoped my most recent previous incarnation - and many others! - had been in England. Also, even though I'm an agnostic, I'd believed I had a previous incarnation as a Catholic priest (I'd guessed it was in late-Colonial Latin America). But as I said before, I hadn't given the psychics any hints as to what I hoped or expected.

End of this "Addendum"...

And now for something completely different...

One psychic I consulted was Rev. Noel Street. Crabby and self-important - ugh! But he mentioned two interesting lives.

First, he said I had a male incarnation in a specific province of China in the 10th century A.D. I no longer remember the name of the province, but I looked it up at the time and learned it's on the coast.

Going further back, he saw me as "the wife of a Carthaginian statesman" at the time of the fall of Carthage, which he wrongly placed in the "first century B.C." (It was actually the second century B.C., though I didn't know that till I looked it up.) He also said I was "fluent in a number of languages" in that lifetime.

I consulted yet another psychic, someone calling himself or herself "Trifon." This person had just heard about the concept of genetic memory and fallen in love with it - seemed to think he was dealing with genetic memories rather than past lives, when I couldn't possibly have had ancestors where he claimed. But he described two lives - going back in rough thousand-year jumps, which was also what Rev. Street had evidently tried to do.

First, a life in "a seacoast region of Asia, a thousand years ago."

Then, in the "first years A.D.," a life in "a coastal region of North Africa" during which my people, whom he described as a "nomad tribe," suffered a "major military defeat." He mentioned that "the lot of women was difficult," seeming to imply that I was a woman. And in a very brief reading, he included something that might have been taken for granted: that I "spoke a language no longer spoken today." Rev. Street had also felt it necessary to mention the concept of language.

Despite the whopping difference between a "nomad tribe" and Carthage, I think the parallels here are startling.

At the very least, the readings I've received prove the reality of telepathy. If the psychics were not accessing past lives, they must have been plucking ideas from my mind, including my memories of other readings. And possibly, in one case, an interest (Highlander) that was still in my future.

A final note: my own personal evidence. When I was a small child, I had a little ritual with my mother. She'd tell me, "You're my pettyskin." That sounds like routine, made-up baby talk on her part. But what I'd say to her was, "You're my heart of gold." That sounds strange. We may say someone has a "heart of gold," but I can't recall ever hearing anyone else say another person was their "heart of gold." In later years, Mom said she had no idea where I could have picked up that phrase.

When I was in my thirties, I heard the original lyrics of the old English song "Greensleeves" for the first time. It includes the phrase "Greensleeves [a woman's name] was my heart of gold" - using it as a term of endearment, just as I had! I'm American, and I don't think that usage is still current even in England.

Addendum, 5/29/11:

About 35 years ago, on one of several trips I've made to England, I had an eerie experience in Westminster Abbey. I looked at the inscription on a monument, and thought I saw: "He that, being within me, though he be dead yet shall live."

Stunned, I blinked...and when I looked at the stone again, I saw the conventional Bible quote that reads something like this: "He that believeth in me, though he be dead, yet shall he live."

I never forgot that experience. But I certainly didn't imagine I was the reincarnation of anyone buried in the Abbey. I'd been so shocked that I hadn't even noticed whose monument it was. And if the vision itself was of any significance, my not remembering the name probably means that the name wasn't important.

Some years ago - after I'd posted this essay in its original form - I had an odd dream. It wasn't "realistic." But I seemed to be fighting in a medieval battle. So I was presumably male, though I wasn't thinking about gender. I was horrified to learn that the leader I idolized had been felled by an arrow that struck him in the eye! (I think I also saw a fleur-de-lis symbol in the dream.)

Years after that, I learned there really is a famous battle in which such a thing is believed to have happened. The Battle of Hastings, in 1066. A tapestry - the Bayeux Tapestry - shows the English King Harold II being struck in the eye by an arrow. He died, and his foe William the Conqueror, ruler of Normandy, claimed the throne of England.

I don't know whether the fleur-de-lis symbol, associated mainly with France, would have been used by the Normans at that time. But Normandy is now part of France. So even if the symbol didn't appear (on banners?) during the battle, my present-day mind could have inserted it to identify "our" opponents as Normans.

King Harold II had been crowned, only a few months before the battle, in an earlier Abbey on the site of the present one. That earlier Abbey is also depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry, the only known portrayal of it.

Is it possible that in a previous incarnation, as either a minor noble or a career soldier, I fought under King Harold...and months before, attended his coronation? Might I have picked up that eerie "message" - "He that, being within me, though he be dead yet shall live" - because in terms of latitude and longitude, I was standing exactly where my former incarnation had stood, albeit in a newer building?

Thoughts added 12/12/12:

How cool it is to type that date!

I want to stress that I don't "believe in" astrology. The basic idea makes no sense at all. And the "Sun-sign" predictions in columns are laughable.

But...strangely, things that shouldn't make sense sometimes do make sense. The explanation may be that our minds influence external realities in ways we don't understand.

Years ago, I drew up my horoscope and found that it did reflect the person I am. Partly in the sign locations of the Sun and Saturn...and especially when I took into account the "Sabian Symbols" (images visualized by a psychic, for every degree of the Zodiac). Those symbols have been published in many books, with variations in the wording and interpretations.

One of the more arcane uses of the Sabian Symbols is to associate them with your "progressed Sun": start with your Sun in the degree it occupies in your birth chart, and imagine its "progressing" one degree for every year of your life.

I tried that once. And in 1975 - only that one year - there was a surprising correlation.

I don't remember whether I read about the symbol for that degree before or after I traveled to England that summer. But the image I read about was described as "A peacock parading on a castle wall." The interpretation given in the book I consulted was favorable: indicated that it referred to pride of ownership or heritage, but a justified pride, not offensive.

In England, I took day tours to a number of castles. At one of them, the woman guiding us said, "Keep your eyes open - you may see peacocks on the grounds here." Sure enough, we did see a peacock (on the lawn, not the wall). The guide was surprised. She said, "I come here often, and I've been told to include that in my spiel, but we never have actually seen one before!"

Ordinary Americans don't see either peacocks or castles frequently, let alone see them in combination. So I found it remarkable that I did see such a thing, in the year my "progressed Sun" referred to it. And since I undoubtedly have some English ancestry - didn't need to be told that! - I couldn't help imagining the cosmos had been "sending me a message" confirming that I've had previous incarnations in England.

Over the years I've seen other wordings of the symbol for that degree, placing the peacock on the castle lawn - or merely on a lawn, with no mention of a castle. But the first wording I saw definitely mentioned a castle wall.

I often wished I'd remembered the name of that castle...

And this year, among some old papers, I found it. It was Warwick Castle!

I rushed to Wikipedia to look up more about Warwick Castle. And I learned William the Conqueror had it built for one of his supporters, a few years after the Battle of Hastings. Four residences that had been on the property were demolished to make room for it.

Combining that with what I'd already come to believe - that I'd fought under King Harold in that battle - I think I may have been the owner of one of the demolished homes! That may be why I didn't see the peacock, symbolizing "pride of ownership," on the castle itself.

I've learned from Wikipedia that the cadre of professional soldiers defending King Harold fought to the death. Perhaps they were bound by oath to do so. But many nobles escaped. Could I have been one of those nobles, who returned home to endure more humiliation?