When my niece Saskia was just 3, she announced in the car one day: ‘I was once a man like you daddy’. We were surprised but not nearly as gobsmacked as when she continued explaining: ‘I was a tramp. I lived in the woods under a pile of leaves. I drank beer. A lot of beer. And I stood outside cafes. That’s why they called me Cafebumper.’ If Saskia was going to make up a fantasy about herself, it would be 100% certain to be about a fairytale princess who lived in a castle. She watched Beauty and the Beast endlessly and had a pink princess bedroom to match. No-one encouraged her to talk about her strange revelation again, so she never returned to it. It just became one of those quirky family moments that the adults discussed.
It has always stayed with me, because the year before I had read an article by American psychiatrist Dr Ian Stevenson who collected children’s reincarnation stories from all across the world. Before he died in 2007, Stevenson had over 2500 extraordinary detailed reincarnation stories and went to great lengths to see if they could be proved (most were). He said that in the West (where reincarnation isn’t a belief) adults ignore their children’s stories and brush them off as nonsense, then the child’s memories fade (usually by age 5-7). Saskia, who is now 13, still remembers telling this story (she said I could mention it here), but she doesn’t remember anything else. Just sometimes she wonders if it meant something.
Here are 2 video clips about Dr Stevenson’s research