All Our Relations: Pagans and the more-than-human world.

For aware Pagans the Sacred encompasses us all, rivers and mountains, oceans and deserts, grasses and trees, fish and fungi, birds and animals. Understanding the implications of what this means, and how to experience it first hand, involves our growing individually and as a community well beyond the limits of this world-pathic civilization. All Our Relations exists to help fertilize this transition.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form

Abortion and spirits seeking birth, part II.


There is a quite different argument against abortion I have heard from several Pagan women.  I am more sympathetic to it than to the usual “fetus is human” claim that I demolished in my previous post.   Even so, I think it ultimately fails, though it does complicate a woman’s decision.

Before I can explore the real motivations behind so-called ‘pro-life’ movements, I want to address it.

Does abortion murder spirits?

During an earlier discussion of the abortion issue I received an email from a woman who wrote me: “. . . you don't have to be Christian to have found out that abortion does in fact feel like murder - those fetuses' spirits were already talking to me and yes I feel duped by the feminists and like a murderess.”

I have spoken with many women who, like her, are convinced spirits that intended to become their children had been in contact. One woman told me that during a Brigid ritual she had been contacted by the spirit who would have been born had she not had an abortion. Another told me a spirit had given her the name she wanted to be known as when she was born. When the baby was born she received that name.

I believe them. I have no trouble believing that some, maybe all, births have a reincarnational dimension.  I think there is considerable evidence this is so. (Wikipedia has an good overview of research on the issue.)

In addition, the evidence for consciousness surviving death seems to me overwhelming­­­­­­­ Such departed beings might wish to be reincarnated. Having an abortion definitely deprives a spirit of incarnation in that particular instance. And perhaps there are spirits seeking their first human incarnation as well.

But what is the moral weight of this fact?

What is murder?

In my view my email correspondent overreacted.  Her abortion was not murder.

These spirits were already centers of awareness, relationship, and future plans without being incarnated in the flesh. In these accounts  the spirits evidenced far more sentience and awareness than one could expect from a tiny bunch of cells that had just came into existence.

If spirits can communicate with potential future mothers, they pre-exist the egg’s fertilization. Given that they do not have a physical body, and they apparently continue afterwards as they had previously, there is no reason to think what happened was murder.

Murder is of a human being, or as my alien example argued in my previous Witches and Pagans post  of the moral equivalent of a human being.

In that post I argued whatever else it might be, a zygote and at least many fetuses are not human beings in the moral sense because they cannot enter into any human style relationship.

From my present spirit centered perspective a zygote is growing into a future home that a otherwise separate spirit will inhabit. But the home is not the dweller, and particularly a future home is not the dweller. 

Do such spirits have a right to being birthed by the woman of their choice?

I think an analogy helps clarify the issues involved.

An Illuminating analogy

Suppose a woman is approached by a man who tells her he is in love with her and cannot live without her. She is that important to him.  She does not know this man but he says he selected her because of qualities of hers that he admires.  Perhaps he also tells her in a previous life they agreed to become lovers or were otherwise involved.  She cannot remember this previous life. Does she have an ethical duty to marry him?

I can’t imagine anyone saying she does. And many would say she is asking for trouble if she did because he does not love her, he loves his image of her, if he understands love at all.

If in deep despair the man then killed himself, it would be a misfortune; but no reasonable person would hold the woman responsible. She might feel badly for him, but we would regard her as foolish if she then blamed herself for his death and believed she should have acceded to his wishes.

I think the parallel is strong with the spirit issue except that in the case of the abortion, no human died. We could easily argue a spirit needs to make sure it is welcome before choosing a potential body. Why should its desire for being born be more important than the woman’s view of the matter?

In my opinion arguing a woman must give birth to a preexisting spirit because it has chosen her to be its mother is one more example of turning women into being primarily servants of others out of a sense of duty or fear. In this case to a currently immaterial other. Someone else’s needs and wants have preempted and subordinated the woman’s. If she chooses to give birth she should be honored, but if she does not, she should not be condemned. We do not walk in her shoes.

 In my view nothing is more important than the relationship between a child and its parents. These relationships shape the rest of their lives, for both good and ill. Loved children are vastly better off than those who do not experience love, or experience it intermittently. For there to be solid love the relationship between a mother and child must be completely consensual. Neither would have it any other way.

Of course love could develop even when it is initially absent. This was the case within some arranged marriages of the past and I am confident it remains true for some today. Fortunate couples developed loving and satisfying relationships no matter how they might have begun.  However I cannot imagine these happy outcomes constituting justifications for forcing marriages on couples who otherwise would not have gotten married.

Given that the spirit that would have entered the fetus still exists and hopefully will find a willing mom, the woman who wrote me that email committed no murder in any sense.  The at least somewhat different child who embodied that spirit after being born to a future and more willing woman would never have come into existence if the first woman had been forced to give birth.  One possible being came into existence and another did not, no matter which choice was made. But one outcome also enabled a woman to exercise control over her life whereas the other would have demeaned her to a womb with legs and a brain to serve it.

Not giving birth to that child with that spirit constituted a road not traveled and perhaps it would have been a good one if she had.  Or perhaps not. Or perhaps the one the woman ultimately traveled was better for her, either in terms of this life, or spiritual lessons, or both. 

Our lives are filled to the brim with such forks in the road, with paths not taken, paths quickly disappearing over a hill or around a bend.  Giving birth or not is one of life’s larger forks, but it is still a fork.


Someone might argue I am ignoring possible karmic relationships between a spirit and its potential mother.  But if they exist neither I nor anyone else has the slightest idea what they are.  It could also be that the spirit was an unloving person and its karma is to spend some time without a body until it learns to be a better being. Perhaps it needs to learn to take the desires of others than itself into consideration, and will be frustrated until it does.  To use the language of karma, that may be its lesson rather than her giving birth to it being the woman’s lesson. She might be helping the spirit learn its lesson by not having it as her child.   We do not know. We do know the woman has a life to live.  The choice should therefore be hers, and no one else has more than an advisory status. Including the spirit.

Summing up

These two columns have made several points.  First, those who equate the biologically human with the morally human confuse two different categories, one of which clearly lacks the moral weight to override a pregnant woman’s choice and the other of which is not linked to biological humanness. Those arguing a fetus is morally a human being because it is biologically human are arguing nonsense.  Worse, it is dangerous nonsense because it undermines the insight most fundamental to human morality: that no one is simply a tool for another.

In addition, the pre-birth reality of a spirit that could become a child gives us no convincing reason why its interests should override the views of the woman it chose to be its mother. Presumably like the rest of us, she was once such an entity.  Having been born human, it is up to each of us to live that life and learn and accomplish what we believe to be best for us.

But as I wrote at the beginning of my first essay, the real issue here is not abortion. Something much deeper is going on, and the current passions for outlawing all abortion are, for a great many, simply surface expressions of these deeper issues. 

These issues have nothing at all to do with being “pro-life,” as my next post will demonstrate.  Further, we as modern Pagans, have much to contribute here to the challenge of increasing this society’s reverence for life.


Last modified on
Gus diZerega DiZerega combines a formal academic training in Political Science with decades of work in Wicca and shamanic healing. He is a Third Degree Elder in Gardnerian Wicca, studied closely with Timothy White who later founded Shaman’s Drum magazine, and also studied Brazilian Umbanda  for six years under Antonio Costa e Silva.

DiZerega holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from UC Berkeley, has taught and lectured in the US and internationally, and has organized international academic meetings.

His newest book is "Faultlines: the Sixties, the Culture Wars, and the Return of the Divine Feminine (Quest, 2013) received a 'silver' award by the Association of Independent Publishers for 2014. It puts both modern Pagan religion and the current cultural and political crisis in the US into historical context, and shows how they are connected.

His first book on Pagan subjects, "Pagans and Christians: The Personal Spiritual Experience," won the Best Nonfiction of 2001 award from  The Coalition of Visionary Resources. 

His second,"Beyond the Burning Times: A Pagan and a Christian in Dialogue" is what it sounds like. He coauthored it with Philip Johnson. DiZerega particularly like his discussion of polytheism in Burning Times, which in his view is an advance over the discussion in Pagans and Christians.

His third volume, "Faultlines: The Sixties, the Culture War, and the Return of the Divine Feminine," was published in 2013 and won a Silver award from the Association of Independent Publishers in 2014. The subject is obvious, and places it, and the rise of goddess oriented spiritual movements and our "cold civil war" in historical context.

His pen and ink artwork supported his academic research in graduate school and frequently appeared in Shaman’s Drum, and the ecological journals Wild Earth, and The Trumpeter. It now occasionally appears in this blog.


Additional information