Past-life memories are memories that a reincarnated character gains from previous incarnations of their soul.
and past-life memories are presented as being real within the context of a story, It often works in a way similar to Genetic Memory
, by giving the character knowledge and skills that they would otherwise be unlikely to gain for themselves. Past-ife memories often manifest as Dreaming of Times Gone By
. On rarer occasions, an entire identity from a past incarnation may start to emerge, resulting in a Split Personality
. Sometimes a character will undergo a Split Personality Merge
, with their current identity combining with that of a previous incarnation, giving them complete access to the memories and skills of the previous incarnation and resulting in a major Level Up
In most works with Reincarnation
, the majority of characters do not gain past-life memories, so having them is often a sign of being a particularly important soul, perhaps even The Chosen One
Of course, in other works, Reincarnation
is presented as not being true, and claims to having memories from past lives are treated as a sign of eccentricity or even insanity. A character making a claim to having past-life memories still invokes this trope.
public figures that can be verified as making claims to experiencing past-life memories are acceptable examples, as long as it is clear that these are claims only and this is not the place to debate whether or not these beliefs have any foundation in reality. Troper Tales
should not be included under the Real Life
Compare Genetic Memory
This is a spoiler trope, so expect unmarked spoilers ahead.
Anime and Manga
- Sailor Moon gains memories of her previous life as Princess Serenity, and all the Senshi gain their memories of their lives during the Silver Millenum. The completeness of these memories depends on the individual senshi and the version of the series.
- Eclair from Kiddy Grade starts to remember her past lives after a few dodgy missions. All the others "reincarnated" characters never lose theirs to begin with.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: Juudai remembered the vow he made in his past life to love only Yubel when he inflicts damage on her through her Duel Monsters avatar. It's implied strongly that remembering this vow also restores his love for her.
- Higurashi no Naku Koro ni: A major turning point for the characters is Keiichi remembering how he brutally murdered Rena and Mion in one of the previous iterations of the "Groundhog Day" Loop. Then things get significantly better.
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica: The outcome of the previous iteration in the "Groundhog Day" Loop flash in Madoka's dream. It's also seen in an earlier timeline, when she starts to recall Homura's name despite not having met her yet. Later, she gets a "mental static" during a certain event with Homura. Then things snowball into her Abstract Apotheosis.
- Ten Yori Mo, Hoshi Yori Mo involves Reincarnation Romance. The three leads were in a love triangle in their past lives and their current ones, but only one of them remembers what happened clearly. (Or so he says)
- Einhart of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha ViVid gets these from her ancestor Hegemon Ingvalt, although she's quick to mention that she's her own person and not a continued existence of Ingvalt. Before the series, she only receives memories of his regrets of not being able prevent Sankt Kaiser Olivie's Heroic Sacrifice during the Ancient Belka Wars, but after Einhart meets and becomes friends with Olivie's clone, Vivio, she starts gaining memories of his happier times with Olivie.
- The central premise of Bokura no Kiseki involves the main character, Harusumi, having memories of his past life as a princess named Veronica. It turns out that nearly everyone in his high school class are also reincarnations of people from the same past, and they all eventually regain memories of their past lives as well.
- Denpa Teki na Kanojo: Ochibana Ame declares to Juuzawa Juu that she has past-life memories where Juu was the King of the Lemurian Continent thousands of years ago, and Ame was his knight who Cannot Tell a Joke. Ame sincerely believes this, everyone else believes She Is Insane.
- Fullmetal Alchemist: Greedling gains the memories of the original Greed after killing Bido. These memories lead to his Heel-Face Turn.
- Spirit Circle has the main character, Fuuta, reliving his seven last lives as a major part of the story. In fact, most chapters are focused on following each incarnations' life.
- In Kyo Kara Maoh, Ken Murata retains the memories of Shinou's Great Wise Man from 4000 years ago, as well as the memories of all the lives he's lived in between then and now. Deconstructed when it's revealed that he was in psychological therapy as a kid because of the serious personal identity issues this caused him.
- Kagerou Project: This is eventually revealed to be Shintaro Kisaragi's power in the anime's 8th episode. He very suddenly remembers every timeline ever experienced (including the other events of the light novel, manga and music videos) when his power manifests itself properly. The memories play an essential role in the happy ending.
- An important trope in Seiken Tsukai No World Break. The students at the school are heroes from a past life reincarnated, and as such, they retain the memories, along with the weapons their past selves used.
- Subverted by Marvel Comics' Starhawk. He lives his life in a "Groundhog Day" Loop, returning to birth every time he dies. So he remembers his past life, but it's identical to his current life.
- As Eugenesis shows, Galvatron fully remembers his time as Megatron. And Galvatron. And the other Galvatron. Despite the fact that this is blatantly impossible, for several reasons.
- In Bringing Me To Life Max starts to have dreams of his past life as Neo.
- Castlevania: Nocturne of Ruin: Mariabella Fox, who is soon revealed to be the reincarnation of Maria Renard, starts getting flashes of memory and knowledge during her time in Castlevania, first by knowing the names of Death's Co-Dragons, then by being an Instant Expert with magic, and finally having flashbacks to Maria's life.
- In the Shadow Wars universe, several character relationships hinge on conscious or unconscious past life memories.
- In the film version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it's said that each new Slayer is the same Slayer, reincarnated as long as there are vampires to fight, and Buffy has dreams of her past lives.
- The Mummy Returns:
- Evy has flashes of insights and memories that make her think she's hallucinating. Turns out, they're memories of her past life from ancient Egypt.
- Meela Nais is revealed to be the reincarnation of Imhotep's lover Anck-su-namun, and has her memories, which allow her to track down and exhume Imhotep's body.
- The film Dead Again has a hypnotist who specializes in Past Life Regression hypnotherapy of his subjects — to help them overcome psychological obstacles, and to help him find and procure antiques they encountered in their previous lives. He even does it to the film's protagonsists.
- There's a film called Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.
- Patton. The title general claims that he remembers scenes from his past lives as a warrior. This was based on beliefs that have been attributed to the Real Life Patton.
- The Master: The Cause's "processing" involves recalling these, and dealing with the trauma left bythem (just like Scientology's "auditing"). However, Dodd later RetCons this, though he claims to have known Freddie before in 1871 during the siege of Paris.
- Alterien sort of plays this trope out when Oberon gains memories from the life he's forgotten by coming into contact with his family. His power of psychometry is put to great use.
- Caspian in Astral Dawn experiences this, as he tries to save his other selves from the time-traveling Defilers.
- In The Wheel of Time many male channelers develop a form of insanity that results in a breakdown of the barriers between their past lives and their current life. For most, this results in simple insanity. However, Rand, who The Hero and The Chosen One of the series, is able to take advantage of knowledge and skills gained from his past life even as it is slowly driving him into a Split Personality insanity. Rand eventually undergoes a Split Personality Merge, causing him to gain all the memories and knowledge of his previous incarnation, making him much more powerful.
- Childe Cycle contains an example The Hero Donal Graeme first travels to the past to take over a dying body, and then reincarnates himself as an infant in the future. In each case, he starts out with no memory of his original life, then manefests a few memories, and eventually gains full knowledge of all of his lives.
- Cinderheart in Warrior Cats has memories of her past life as Cinderpelt, but she has only ever shown signs of remembering them in her dreams, or recalls her past life subconsciously; for example, Cinderpelt's former apprentice Leafpool notes Cinderheart flicks her paw in the same way Cinderpelt did, as well as another character once thinking she was acting Wise Beyond Her Years, and Cinderheart remembering the distance between the Great Sycamore and ThunderClan's camp in the Forest, even though she had been born after the Clans had left the Forest. Eventually - after a night of dreaming about Cinderpelt's life - she is told/realizes who she really is.
- In the Discworld novel Thief of Time, the abbot of the History Monks is a master of serial reincarnation, currently in the body of a toddler. He retains the wisdom of his years, but his speech is often interrupted by the demands of the child. "...Bikkit bikkit wanna bikkit. Unfortunately, young bodies have a mind of their own BIKKIT!"
- The Reincarnation of Peter Proud. A man has nightmares about being murdered. He investigates and finds out that he was indeed murdered in a previous life. Later made into The Film of the Book.
- In one of the Thanksgiving episodes of Friends, Phoebe is asked what her worst Thanksgiving memory is. She recalls the time she was a nurse in World War One.
Joey: Man, it must be so cool remembering stuff like that. I don't have any past life memories.
Phoebe: Of course you don't, sweetie. You're brand new.
- In one episode of The X-Files the [Something] Of The Week claims that she and Mulder were lovers in a previous life during The American Civil War. He goes under hypnosis and seems to not only confirm it but discovers its a full Reincarnation Romance where several of the important people in his life (friends, family, and even enemies) are always involved (Scully is usually his close friend, sibling or his superior; his sister is someone close who he loses every time, etc). Unfortunately, their romance rarely goes happily, this encounter being no exception.
- On Red Dwarf, Rimmer says that he once underwent hypnotic regression, and found out that in a past life he was Alexander the Great's chief eunuch.
- The Trill in Star Trek have developed a process that allows them to create a symbiotic connection with a species of intelligente and extremely long-lived worms native to their planet. The host and symbiont start to think as a single mind and have complete access to each others memories. When the Trill dies from old age or injury, the worm retains all its memories and shares them with the next host body. Especially in the weeks and months after becoming a new host for such a worm, the Trill is affected by constant flashbacks of things experienced in the worms previous lives in a humanoid body. While new candidates are usually carefully selected to be of a compatible personalty, over the course of more than a dozen lifetimes and several centuries, some host may pick up unusual tastes and foreign customs, that later ones might find absolutely disgusting or horrifying. While still having all the memories of having enjoyed it greatly.
- From Greek mythology, Aethalides had perfect memory, including of things that happened before his birth.
- Exalted: The Spark of Exaltation (the godly thing that allows you to kick ass and chew bubblegum) attaches to the soul of its recipient, receiving the Exalt's memories in the progress. When an Exalt dies, the attached memory is normally removed by Lytek (the god of exaltation) because human souls aren't meant to house memories other than their own. However, the Sparks captured by the Yozis aren't purified this way, so a Green Sun Prince can draw upon the memories of the previous Exalt his or her spark is attached to, gaining sudden skill as a result. It has its dangers too: due to the potential depth and vastness of the tapped memories, the previous Exalt's personality might overwhelm the current, obviously-younger Green Sun Prince. An official example was a (male) Infernal letting go of an elder Siderealnote instead of dealing the final blow, because that Sidereal was his/her husband in previous life. That's an override of gender, allegiance, and possibly sexual orientation.
- Alchemical Exalted have past life memories not from the Exaltation, but from the soul that is used to activate them (a soul that has gone through multiple incarnations of heroism being an integral component). Immersion in these memories can help them avoid accumulation of Clarity.
- The Nameless One can do this in Planescape: Torment.
- In Silent Hill 3, Heather occasionally has Alessa's memories, even before she discovers she is her reincarnation. Some of the memories might also be Cheryl's.
- A major plot point in Tales of Innocence.
- Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga deals with this, although more prominently in the second game. To wit, in the first game, Gale has continuous flashbacks to a weeping woman. He initially chooses to use Emotion Suppression to deal with it, but eventually is forced to confront the memory. Later, it's revealed it's the last memory of the man whose personality Gale was constructed. The Four Archangels are a much weirder example - they're victims of the Demon Virus, who apparently have had their personalities obliterated by it and replaced by the consciousnesses of the Archangels Uriel, Raphael, Gabriel and Michael. The problem? All four make comments related to experiences the Archangels had in Shin Megami Tensei II, which apparently took place in another universe.
- Touhou: For Hieda-no-Akyu, it's one part this and one part Genetic Memory, as she constantly reincarnates into her own bloodline (like certain figures in Real Life religions).
- In Dungeons & Dragons Online, you can Reincarnate a character who has reached level 20 or higher, starting over at level 1 (albeit with all of your gear and money intact) as a new class, race, and even gender, if you like. This causes the character to gain a permanent passive Feat that gives them minor bonuses based on all of that character's past lives; they also allow the character to purchase other special Feats that are also based on their Past lives. To wit: "You were a Barbarian in a past life. You occasionally find yourself filled with a nearly irresistable urge to smash boxes. With your head."
- Kingdom of Loathing has Permed Skills, abilities learned in a previous life that were bound into your soul at Jeremy's Permery in Valhalla.
- Tennyo from the Whateley Universe is slowly remembering the life of the Star Stalker.
- In Petera Dzive, Peter, the title character, tells of how his grandfather recommended drinking booze mixed with toothpaste to improve memory. Peter tries this and realizes that he was a cactus in his past life.
- Legendaries Lost has Thanatos the Duskull, who was a Darumaka in a previous life, and once per day, can use a move from that list instead of his own.
- El Goonish Shive: Actually "Parallel Life Memories". Ellen was given memories of a version of herself from another universe to alleviate the stress of being an Opposite-Sex Clone and, supposedly, prevent her from going insane due to how souls work. She gained great singing skill from this, as well as the experience of losing her virginity. She is still technically a virgin in the main universe, though.
- In the Exalted fancomic Keychain of Creation Misho Thrice-Radiant, a Solar, recalls his past life with perfect clarity due to taking both the "past life memory" and "eidetic memory" perks. However, for some reason he cannot recall anything of his current life before exaltation.
- In Among The Chosen Aleph Stevens was a "conditional past-life regressor" who used memories of her past lives to assist anthropologists. She's also Jason Whitehouse's previous incarnation.
- In the Daria episode "Psycho Therapy", Quinn accidentally got hypnotized and dream that she was Cleopatra who was famous for inventing eyeliner.
- Adventure Time: In "The Creeps" Finn has a vision of a ghostly, monstrous woman. A later episode, "The Vault", shows that the ghost has been haunting Finn's nightmares. Though a hypnosis-inducing BMO game, Finn unlocks the memories of his past lives and discovers that he is the reincarnation of the ghost (originally a woman named Shoko).
- In Real Life there are people who claim that a person can unlock memories of her past incarnations under hypnosis, usually the directly preceding one. Often this is declared to be a reason for that person's mental problems, essentially a case of suppressed memories taken Up to Eleven. Needless to say, psychologists are skeptical, especially as the very idea of suppressed memories as a cause of problems is rapidly becoming discredited. This is probably one of the more common kinds of reincarnation claims in the Western world.