The topic of past lives is a vexed question. In some circles, you'll be regarded as a nutter if you acknowledge that it might be possible. In others, you're dismissed as unevolved if you don't constantly recount tales from your past lives, and claim memories from Egypt or Atlantis. Flat-Earthers and conspiracy theorists similarly jeer at the idea of lunar landings. I suppose that, ultimately, you can only know the truth of something if you have experienced it yourself. Ultimately, what I say is my own experience - I can't make it real for anyone else.
It's the deaths I remember, mostly. With the exception of one life, I remember only the deaths and the lead-up to them. Most of them, with one notable exception, were horrific.
One was in an American city, to judge by the clothes (and I am no expert) in the 1940s or 1950s. I was living in a dingy concrete block of flats, alone. I had some kind of job, and I walked to and from work. I lived upstairs, and there was a single narrow starwell between the bulk of the building and one of the outside walls which twisted and turned twice between each floor, with little landings where people could barely pass each other.
There was a girl in her twenties with curly black hair living there too, and I met her on the stair sometimes. She seemed to dislike me - I don't remember why. One day she pinned me against the wall and gouged at one of my eyes with an old-fashioned corkscrew. I tried to keep my face away, and in my struggles she gouged a chunk out of my left cheek. It was very painful and bloody. I can't remember how we separated on that occasion, but I do remember frantically looking for somewhere else to live the next day. That evening, I was coming home up the same stairwell, and she was coming home. She met me in the stairwell, and pointed some kind of a small handgun right at my face. I remember a very long moment looking right into the muzzle of the gun, knowing that this small, black hole would be the last thing I would ever see.
When in my early thirties I got introduced to the sister-in-law of my then-partner, she was the spitting image of the girl in the stairwell.
Another memory is also set in America, on the Mississippi on a paddle-boat. I was very young, perhaps a teenager, and wearing one of those old-fashioned dresses with lots of layers and wooden hoops in them to keep their shape. They were very difficult to move in. There was a party of some kind happening inside the riverboat, with a small band playing in the corner, and a table with lots of food, and small glasses of sticky wine. I was slightly drunk and very hot; I went on deck alone to get some air. The music seemed a long way away, and the air was nice and cold on my cheeks. I leaned against the rail, and watched the reflections of the lights from the cabin reflecting on the ripples as the water slipped away behind the boat.
Suddenly someone grabbed me with two hands around the waist, and made me overbalance over the rail and fall in the water. I was a Lady, and of course, had never learnt to swim. Even if I had, my dress filled with water quickly, and dragged me down. I kicked and struggled and tried to call out, but every time I did, I got a mouthful of water and no one inside could hear me anyway. As I sank, I could see a man, the one who had thrown me over, watching coldly as I struggled, his face slightly blurred by the sting of water in my eyes.
The surface got further away, with him still watching, and I couldn't hold onto my breath any longer. I drew a deep lungful of water. It burned all the way down and felt ironically very dry. It hurt like nothing I'd ever experienced, and I was still feeling that pain as I started to lose consciousness. The man in question was a generation older, perhaps in his early fifties, and I recognised him immediately with a shock of horror when I did a Reiki seminar in the 1980s. And although I can swim, I'm not keen on it, and absolutely hate to immerse my face in water.
There was one death that was completely different, peaceful and even lovely. I was again female, and very, very old, small and frail. I lived in a small village, I believe in a mainland European country - which, I don't know. I was being looked-after by my grandson, who was old enough to have grey hair himself. I wasn't in any pain, but I somehow knew I was dying and didn't have much time, and I prevailed upon him to take me into the forest, because if I died in the village they would have had a Christian funeral-rite performed over me, and I didn't want that.
Eventually he agreed, and we walked out of the tiny, smoke-filled cottage and out of the village. We passed a stone well, and suddenly we were in the forest, surrounded by deciduous trees wearing all of their leaves but all in Autumn colours. I got tired and started having pain, so he picked me up and carried me in his arms like a child. I was very tiny and he was quite solid - it wasn't so bad for him. Cradled in his arms, I looked around.
We were looking for a fallen tree, and we checked a few before I found the right one, one riddled and rotten with termites or something. He put me down gently, took up a stone, and started scraping away at the wood to create a hollow. It took a long time. When it was ready I lay down in the hollow and looked up at his face above me. He made eye contact and held it. Dying took a long time. We didn't speak, we just watched each other. I could feel myself slowly ebbing away, slipping further and further from life. He just watched. I reached a point where breathing was too much effort, so I stopped. He bent down, picked up a handful of fallen leaves, and scattered them gently over my body as a symbolic burial, then turned around, his face full of sadness, and walked out of my field of vision. As far as I know, he never looked back. I lost consciousness shortly afterwards, feeling happy and satisfied.
Yes, it's mostly the deaths I remember. I also have a fleeting recall of walking over a cobblestone road in London (don't ask me how I know it was London, I just knew), and sitting in a dark, dirty cafe somewhere, eating hot smoked eel.
And on an occasion when I was washing dishes, I recalled everything except the first seven years of the life of one of my blood-ancestors, giving the lie, incidentally, to a number of family fables concerning her. But that's a little bit personal for a blog, frankly, and it was only the once.
Generally, it's just the deaths I remember.