As 2020 Spirals Into the Abyss, TikTok Teens Are Reaching Into Their Past Lives

As 2020 Spirals Into the Abyss, TikTok Teens Are Reaching Into Their Past Lives
Image: Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Legend holds that there are seasons and locations where the spiritual veil is thinnest, a passage for restless spirits to cross into the mortal realm. Because we can’t visit Stonehenge on Midsummer’s Eve, the next best thing for homebound seekers is TikTok, where witches rule, and thousands flock in search of an escape from the infernal present. We’ve learned hexing, divination, astral projection, and now, #pastliferegression, which currently has over 1,000 videos attached, 11.5 million views, and testaments to spiritual time travel.

The latest standard method derives from a resurfaced YouTube video from way back in 2013. Dr. Brian Weiss, a psychologist, hypnotist, and leading reincarnation savant — more importantly, a mollifying voice in a sweater vest and an armchair — guides the audience through a meditation exercise following the light to forgotten memories. While Weiss’s guidance isn’t new to knowing readers of his bestselling books and attendees of convention centre workshops, he seems to have found a fresh audience on TikTok’s “for you” page; the YouTube video’s view count has doubled to 1.8 million views since May. (We were unable to reach Dr. Weiss via his website, but we’ll update the post if we hear back.) I won’t spoil it, but even with ear-splitting ad breaks, the New Age track and soft incantation will leave even the most sceptical multi-tasking brain feeling a little stoned.

TikTokers have emerged from the other side of the 36-minute experience, mascara streaming down their cheeks or eyes bugging out with excitement, gushing about lives as a Medieval villager, Jack the Ripper, a Native American witch, and even an alien guarding another world’s Area 51.

One enthralled tarot reader whisks through a lightspeed description of the portal-crossing: a black door, a blast of cold air, a cottage on an icy isle, a maybe-19th-century red-headed man, a family, and antiquated ribboned shoes (which they later identified in a black-and-white photo on google). “I felt myself drown in a still, dark sea,” they say, adding that it was “peaceful, actually.”

…I felt myself drown in a still, dark sea.

It’s stated off-handedly, but it’s spookily ancient for TikTok (echoes Homer’s “wine-dark sea”) and if it’s fiction, it’s vivid and lyrical. Does it matter whether this ginger man lived since the point is only to recreate a memory, which is so mutable and fleeting anyway that a colourful mental image is just as good? That’s something for the psychologists to debate.

But if you do go along with past life regression, then you have to confront the main hazard of mucking around in the memories of the dead: you might remember dying.

Leslie Rodriguez, a fashion influencer in her 20s, tells TikTok viewers that she can no longer wear turtlenecks after men on black horses, calling her a witch, slit her throat. (Rodriguez, who’s Mexican, had been a white mother in Medieval dress, harvesting fruit, maybe, at the time of death with her young daughter.) “It’s not for everybody to tap into because it did set me back a couple of days,” Rodriguez told Gizmodo. “It definitely triggered something. It’s not for the light-hearted.”

Another TikToker, weeping, said they’d died as a child in the hospital while their father held their hand. Yet another person stares at the camera, stoney-faced, with an all-caps overlay: “YALL I DID IT AND I MURDERED MY HUSBAND WHO MADE ME QUIT BEING A WRITER TO BE A HOUSEWIFE AND HAVE CHILDREN SO YEARS LATER OUR SONS FIND OUT I GOT AWAY W IT AND SO THEY MURDERED ME FOR REVENGE.”

Strangulation, heart attack, death by marauders, heart attack. TikTokers, gazing into the middle distance, recall persecution; one was beaten to death as a lesbian in the 80s, and another died filled with regret as a closeted gay man. Spousal abuse is rampant.

“I have seen that normally, when someone does see their past life, it causes them pain and makes them struggle mentally because they saw themselves die in a violent way,” Nia Brooks, a Nashville-based witch and artist in her late teens told Gizmodo. Brooks put out a TikTok video pleading with inexperienced followers not to try it. “Do you really want 70+ more years of trauma added onto your life?” reads a text overlay. That’s the reason she believes we forget past lives in the first place: if we carried all the loss and pain from one life, we “wouldn’t be able to fully learn life lessons” in this one. People don’t tend to think through the horrors of the past, she said, like concentration camps or slavery, or that they could have perpetrated atrocities.

Brooks believes that past life regression can be a positive step on a spiritual journey, and her own past life experience was less harrowing — she saw herself a spiritually attuned person in the 1970s (which gels with her present affinity for hippie music and fashion) and died young of a drug overdose. “For me, that was a peaceful death experience because in that lifetime and also now I have come to accept death,” she said, but she knows that many people would find it traumatic, and the experience often hinges on how you define “an ok death.”

Those who did cross over and perish horribly have returned to TikTok mostly to warn us not to try it. Or they’ve risen to share the Good News: 2020 could be worse.