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Past-Life Memories

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"There was a good deal of rivalry as to who could dig up the most notable or extraordinary past life. Jesus of Nazareth was very popular. At least three London Scientologists claimed to have uncovered incidents in which they were crucified and rose from the dead to save the world. Queen Elizabeth I, Walter Raleigh and the venerable Bede were also popular. Funnily enough, I never met anyone who claimed to know anything about Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan or Pontius Pilate."
— From Bare Faced Messiah by Russell Miller.

Past-life memories are memories that a reincarnated character gains from previous incarnations of their soul.

When Reincarnation 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-life 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 improvement. Other times, a character's reincarnation into a different life is treated as the story's Inciting Incident, in which case they'll usually either have all of their old memories and skills from birth or awaken them all at once at the beginning of the story.

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.

Real Life 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.

Compare Genetic Memory. The "all memories from the get-go" variant is ubiquitous in Reincarnate in Another World.

This is often a spoiler trope, so expect unmarked spoilers ahead.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Ayakashi Triangle: The ayakashi medium reincarnates every century or two and carries all her memories over from one life to another. Normally, they're born remembering nothing and regain those memories gradually, but Suzu uniquely was a Brainy Baby with them from the start. Since her last life ended with her dying as a Human Sacrifice, she was so bitter she created a Split Personality (the Suzu the story focuses on) lacking any of those memories whatsoever.
  • Tamura from Bokura no Hentai thinks he has memories of a past life as a nymphomanic woman. This is subverted as, in reality, they're his repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse resurfacing.
  • 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.
  • Daisuki Bu Bu Chacha: Chacha, despite being reincarnated into a toy car, still retains all his previous memories from when he's still alive.
  • 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.
  • Digimon: In most seasons of Digimon, the titular creatures are reborn again after they are killed because their data is reconfigured and turned into a Digi-egg, but whether or not they retain their memory depends on the season. For example, in the continuity of Digimon Adventure and Digimon Adventure 02, reborn Digimon retain all of their previous memories when they reincarnate as seen with Patamon in Adventure and Wormmon in Adventure 02. Both of whom died, were reborn, and still retained their memories from before. Whereas in the continuity of Digimon Frontier, reborn Digimon do not retain their memories when they reincarnate unlike in Adventure and Adventure 02. The prime example being Seraphimon, who is reborn as a Patamon after being killed, but does not retain any memories of his previous life. This also applies to his fellow Celestials, Ophanimon and Cherubimon, both of whom die and reincarnate later in the season just like Seraphimon earlier, and similar to Seraphimon, neither retain any memories of their past lives.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
    • In the manga and Brotherhood, Greedling gains the memories of the original Greed after killing Bido. These memories lead to his Heel–Face Turn.
    • The homunculi in Fullmetal Alchemist (2003) are the product of human transmutation, and sometimes seem to experience memory "bleed" from the humans they were created from. This is most obvious with Lust, who has a tragic, doomed romance with a man who closely resembles Scar's brother, the man who created her in an attempt to bring back the woman he loved, but there's also Sloth/Trisha Elric, who falls back into a motherly role very easily towards Wrath, and her entire motivation is wanting to stake out her own identity apart from the person she was based on, leading to her death and what seems to be a Dying as Yourself moment where Trisha says goodbye to her sons one last time. Wrath is more ambiguous with whether he initially parses Izumi as his mother from pre- or post-resurrection memories, and Greed, Envy, Pride and Gluttony are not addressed.
  • This tends to happen a lot in Genesis of Aquarion and Aquarion EVOL, given that reincarnation and past lives are major parts of the plot. Still, perfect recall of those memories is rare; the characters mostly get bits and flashes at a time, and it usually takes the whole series to figure out what really happened during a past life.
  • Granny Girl Hinata-chan: Kindergartners Hinata and Sakuya both retain their memories from their previous lives and it clearly colors their personalities in their present lives. Hinata has mannerisms and hobbies more typical of an elderly woman, which is where the series gets its title, while Sakuya is often aloof, hates baths, and can often be found in high places, traits typical of cats like the one she had been previously.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (2016), unwittingly tapping into the Triforce of Wisdom makes Princess Zelda remember her past incarnation's life and actions in both the original and present timelines.
  • 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.
  • Oshi no Ko: Gorou, an OB/GYN, keeps all of his memories when he is reincarnated as Aqua, the son of his patient and favorite Idol Singer Ai Hoshino. Aqua's twin sister Ruby also has all of her memories from her previous life as Sarina, a 12-year-old cancer patient at Gorou's hospital whom he would visit regularly before her untimely death.
  • 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.
  • Sailor Moon gains memories of her previous life as Princess Serenity, and all the Senshi gain their memories of their lives during the Silver Millennium. The completeness of these memories depends on the individual senshi and the version of the series.
  • 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.
  • 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.)
  • An important trope in World Break: Aria of Curse for a Holy Swordsman. 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.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: Juudai remembered the vow he made in his past life to love only Yubel when he inflicts damage on them through their Duel Monsters avatar. It's implied strongly that remembering this vow also restores his love for them.

    Comic Books 
  • Astro City: Tom O'Bedlam triggers Glamorax to recall their past lives — as Mr. Cakewalk, Zootsuit, the Bouncing Beatnik, the Halcyon Hippie, and more — by introducing them to people who were close to those incarnations.
  • The original Loki set up a scheme to have a copy of his own memories overwrite the mind of his child incarnation, effectively killing the new Loki. However, since the new Loki is technically only a mental clone of the original Loki, he is actually able to feel guilty about this.
    • Said copy also went around playing Imaginary Friend (or Imaginary Enemy if you wish) for a while, before he could convince the child to be overwritten, giving him access to vital knowledge for/about his schemes he couldn't poses otherwise.
    • The copy later overwrites himself with a new new Loki. When asked, 'Loki, God of Stories' admits (dismissively) to uncertainty on whether he is an upgraded version of the copy or a new entity in his own right.
  • Nemesis the Warlock: Torquemada starts to remember the lives of his previous incarnations because Thoth is killing them off one by one as revenge.
  • The Corinthian from The Sandman (1989) had two incarnations; the first was deemed a failure and uncreated. A part of him was included in the second, including some memories and traits.
  • 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.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Wonder Woman (1942): In the Silver Age Steve Trevor gains the memories of his past self in a twisted version, as he has become the new Steve Trevor of Earth-One after being badly wounded with brain damage in his home dimension.
    • Wonder Woman (1987): The Amazons were all created from women who were betrayed and murdered by men and have memories of their past lives. The only exception is Diana who was killed as an infant in her past life.

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas: Empty Fullness: Mothra states in "Sermones ad Mortuos" that although remembering her past lives is a trait unique to herself, sentient beings who have died and reincarnated as something new can still subconsciously recall faint echoes of their past lives as little more than dreams.
  • Bringing Me To Life: Max starts to have dreams of his past life as Neo.
  • Castlevania: Nocturne of Ruin: Original Character 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 Bleach fic Cyclical, experience from her past incarnation briefly flares through Rukia's head when she first taps into her spiritual energy. (Unfortunately, her mind may have centuries worth of combat training, but her body does not.)
  • In Dreaming of Sunshine, Shikako Nara's past life memories (including knowledge of Naruto canon) give her foreknowledge of some events... although as the changes she makes pile up, that's becoming somewhat less reliable.
  • 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.
  • Equestria Girls: Friendship Souls: Sombra has these due to being a Reincarnation of the Soul Queen's Consort, though he mentions to Twilight that the memories are fragmented, took him centuries to put together enough to make sense of, and notes that some or much of it could be corrupted, misinterpreted or false.
  • Evy remembers Nefertiri's death in Fairy Tales and Hokum. By the end of the story, Rick starts remembering his own past life, and Ardeth confirms having one, as well. Averted with Jonathan, who doesn't have any and is quite happy with the fact.
  • Flashback (MHA) has Izuku receiving these after obtaining One For All, allowing him to develop Full Cowl and Shoot Style far earlier than he did in canon. After all, this One For All was used by him in a Bad Future before being passed down to Eri, who used it to travel back in time and gave it back to Izuku.
  • One Halloween chapter of A Game of Cat and Cat starts with five friends discussing the local ghost story, unaware that all five of them were part of the events that inspired it. None of them can clearly remember, but some echoes remain.
    • Stanley is afraid of heights because his past life Stella died after being pushed off a battlement.
    • Eleonora and Matilda call each other Lili and Mattie, even though the syllable "Li" doesn't appear in Eleonora. It made more sense when they were Leon and Mathias.
    • When Eleonora goes to confront the ghost alone, Matilda is both terrified and furious. It turns out that the ghost killed Leon, leaving Mathias a traumatized wreck.
    • Leon names several ways to keep a vampire in their grave, since as Leon Belmont, he was a vampire hunter.
    • Dr. Elizabeth can't stomach executions because she herself was executed as Lisa.
  • Izuku of Myriad sees obtaining One for All give Izuku Midoriya the combined memories of Peter Parker, Ranma Saotome, Jesse Faden, and Shirou Emiya, with his body adapting so he can use their relevant abilities.
  • The Moon's Flash Princess:
    • The reincarnated characters have memories of their past life. Some of them adapt better than the others - for example, during the Tenth Floor (a reconstruction of the Moon during the times of the Silver Empire), Asuna struggles to keep Serenity's memories from overwhelming her. It's heavily implied that all reincarnations have to deal with this at some point and most don't take it well but learn to cope.
    • Even then, those with such memories don't have access to all of them immediately, with most having to be triggered by some outside event. This is played both for laughs and for drama depending on the context.
      • On the drama side of things, Persephone had to be talked down from committing suicide when her memories began to hit her.
      • For hilarity, Asuna learning of how Princess Serenity became the mother of several of Aincrad's Fethered Dragons, with Pina being a descendant of the late princess.
  • My Heroes Reborn: The villain Priestess's Quirk allows her to reawaken the memories of the most recent past life of the victim, along with forcibly strengthening their body to handle whatever skills that past life had. Note that it's skills only; they won't have access to forms of energy that existed in their old world. Also, they'll regain whatever personality traits/habits they had in their past life. So Izuku Midoriya now has Sanji's Would Not Hit a Girl tendencies, perverseness, and chain-smoking, all of which he has to work to overcome. Though none of that is as bad as poor Mashirao Ojiro, who now has Ryoga Hibiki's No Sense of Direction.
  • Odaliaverse: Odalia, the main character of the story, wakes up in her bedroom over a decade in the past with knowledge of her eventual demise at the Day of Unity. With these memories in mind, she decides to set her path straight and avoid her untimely demise.
  • The Vocaloid fanfic Rotting Camellias has Miku dreaming of her past life as a mage with Luka and Meiko.
  • The Shadow Wars: Several character relationships hinge on conscious or unconscious past life memories.
  • She Might Be Giant: Part of the reason why the ancient Roaches were so advanced is that they somehow managed to awaken the memories of their previous human lives, giving them a massive jump-start compared to the other bugs.
  • A Tale of Two Rulers: Each of the Triforce bearers experiences this in different ways:
    • Ganondorf awakened his past life memories in his teens. Of the three, his memories are by far the most detailed and vivid, with him essentially being the same person in a new body each time.
    • Zelda generally doesn't retain any memories from one life to the next, beyond fleeting glimpses, and may as well be a new person.
    • Link gets more detailed memories than Zelda, but not as detailed as Ganondorf; however his carry more emotions than the others; when Rinku, the current incarnation of Link, gets reminded of Termina, the memories and nightmarish and cause a brief panic attack; if she ever gets the full set of memories, the accumulated trauma will destroy her personality and render her the Heroic Mime seen in all the other games.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • À l'aventure: Mina accidentally regresses through hypnosis and remembers having lived as a nun in Belgium during a previous life centuries ago. Greg later deliberately regresses her to this so that they can learn more.
  • 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.
  • In Dead Again the use of hypnosis to access memories of a past life is a major plot device. The protagonists learn of a previous life (in which they were married, and one of them may have murdered the other) through the services of a hypnotist who specializes in regressing his subjects — to help them overcome psychological obstacles, and to help him find and procure antiques they encountered in their earlier lives.
  • In Fluke, the titular dog character Fluke gradually regains his memories of his time as a human known as Thomas Johnson, or just Tom. This eventually leads him to go on a search for the wife and son he left behind.
  • In In Your Afterglow, the psychologist Leigh and the gardener Alan are the reincarnations of the cook Erin and her boyfriend Joshua, who was killed long ago in the Civil War. Leigh has had visions of being Erin since she was thirteen, when her mother committed suicide. Alan doesn't actually remember being Joshua, but when he walks into the house where Joshua worked, he feels a strong sense of familiarity, and when he meets Leigh, he asks her if they've met.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • There's a film called Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. Although, surprisingly given the title, Boonmee does not remember his past lives other than once when he visits a cave and remembers that he was born there in a past life.
  • The 1957 Roger Corman film The Undead, a psychic hypnotises a prostitute who then Mental Time Travels back to a past life as a woman about to be condemned for being a witch.

  • 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.
  • The Cathars and Reincarnation, by Dr Arthur Guirdham, is an embellished account of the author's work with a group of people living in Britain in the 20th century, but who all claimed to be the reborn souls of members of a heretical Christian sect, wiped out in the South of France in the 13th and 14th centuries. This initial book heralded a stream of sequels. note  Doctor Guirdham's research and methodology have both been heavily criticised, however. (See "Real Life" below.)
  • In the Childe Cycle, 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 manifests a few memories, and eventually gains full knowledge of all of his lives.
  • All of the reborn Companions of the Hall in Companions Codex are fully aware of their previous lives, with all experiences included. This sometimes causes problems for them in The Companions, because they need to remember to act like children, not their adult selves.
  • 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!"
  • In A Dog's Purpose, the protagonist has all of his past memories no matter how many times he reincarnates.
  • Lammas Night: Gray goes through a hypnotic past-life regression to find out how Sir Francis Drake managed to get all of England's mystics working together to block the Spanish Armada, in the hopes that this will help him get all of England's mystics working together to block Operation Sealion.
  • In The Last Enemy by H. Beam Piper, the retrieval of these by means of mediums channeling the souls of the recently deceased serves to prove one theory of reincarnation true and sparks the plot. This leads to social chaos as people sue to reclaim property which they had in former lives.
  • In the Malazan Book of the Fallen, Sormo E'nath and the other child warlocks retain all their memories, knowledge and skills from their previous lives and have no need to be taught anything, enabling them to serve in Fist Coltaine's army at the tender age of ten or below in their current life.
  • In the works of Michael Moorcock, this is how John Daker starts to receive the message that he is Erekose, the latest manifestation of the Eternal Champion: dreams and memories of past or alternate lives start to surface.
  • In The Moon Maid and sequels by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the premise of the Framing Device is that Burrough's Author Avatar meets a man who remembers his other incarnations and tells their stories. In a twist, it's a 20th-century incarnation recalling the adventures of incarnations from the 21st century and later, so either reincarnation doesn't necessarily happen in chronological order or he can also remember future lives. He himself admits he has no idea how that works. There's a brief hint that his 21st century incarnation's nemesis has a similar condition; during their final confrontation, the bad guy rants that the hero has been thwarting his ambition "all our lives".
  • My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!: After receiving a head injury at the age of 8, Katarina regains her memories as the "monkey girl", a high school student and otaku from modern-day Japan who died at 17 in a traffic accident. Within these memories are farming experiences with her grandmother, a talent for climbing and knowledge of the otome game Fortune Lover, which Katarina uses to alter events in order to avoid the Bad Future ensured for her in the game itself. These awakened memories have also caused a Mental Fusion within Katarina, combining the monkey girl's Blithe Spirit with Katarina's original bratty attitude to create the current Katarina's kind personality. The monkey girl's best friend Atsuko also reincarnated into the game as Sophia, though their memories only come to her when she's asleep and she quickly forgets them when she wakes up.
  • 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.
  • The Reluctant King: Karadur tells Jorian people from Earth have faint memories from their past lives in the world they come from, where gods and magic are quite real, which explains why belief is very prevalent here despite little evidence of them.
  • While Returned in Warbreaker don't retain memories of their human lives, they do keep any skills they may have possessed. Also, as they draw close to doing (or not doing) the thing that they came back to accomplish, they may get flashbacks to their human life.
  • 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 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Arrowverse, all Hawks have memories of their previous lives, which is how Kendra learned how to emerge as Hawkgirl. In Legends of Tomorrow, Kendra's past-life memories are vital in the Legends' conflict with Vandal Savage due to her knowledge in the ancient Egypt weapons specialized to kill him from when Savage killed Princess Chyara and Prince Khufu (Kendra and Carter's first lives).
  • In an episode of Beverly Hills, 90210, Dylan undergoes hypnosis and discovers that he and his Second Love Kelly were lovers in a past life. Unfortunately, she didn't feel like reprising that role in the present day.
  • Charmed (1998): Shortly after learning she's a witch, Paige decides to use magic to investigate a recurring dream she's been having about being a wicked queen in an enchanted forest. It turns out to have been a past life, and the "poem" she remembers is a spell that brings the queen to the present.
  • Friends:
    • In one Thanksgiving episode, Phoebe is asked what her worst Thanksgiving memory is. She recalls the time she was a nurse in The American Civil War.
      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 another episode, she implies that she lived through World War I.
  • Pandora: Jax starts having dreams of a woman that looks just like her from 150 years ago. Ralen, whose people firmly believe in past lives, thinks it's this and performs a ritual which helps retrieve more memories. However, it turns out to be something else.
  • In 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 intelligent 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 hosts 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.
  • Most of the "Unexplained" segments on Unsolved Mysteries about the possibility of Reincarnation feature people who insist that they have these, being able to refer to events that occurred long before they were born.
  • In Westworld, the same hosts are used for different storylines in the theme park, with different personas, backstories and skills — which in effect become past lives, since they're not deleted but only archived upon reassignment. Any time one of the hosts gains access to those memories, they suffer from flashbacks and nightmares. Maeve is plagued by "nightmares" of a past life in which she was not a prostitute at all, but apparently a single mother rancher who was attacked by the Man in Black.
  • The Wheel of Time (2021): Ishamael gives Mat a tea that lets him view his past lives in a nearby mirror. From what's seen, most died violently.
  • The X-Files: In the episode "The Field Where I Died", a woman 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 that it's 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 isn't someone close who he loses every time, etc.). Unfortunately, their romance rarely goes happily, this encounter being no exception.

  • From Greek mythology, Aethalides had perfect memory, including of things that happened before his birth.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Elves don't truly sleep, but "trance" for a few hours each night. Young elves experience flashes of memory from their previous incarnations while they trance, and are considered to have entered adulthood when they instead have memories from their current life.
    • Curse of Strahd takes place in Barovia, a cursed land closed off from the rest of the world. So closed off, in fact, that the souls of the people in it can't go to the afterlife, reincarnating endlessly instead. The expansion Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft explains that some of these reincarnated people will have dreams or visions of their past lives, and offers an alternate version of lead female character Ireena Kolyana as a painter who's gained renown for painting her "dream lives".
  • 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.
  • In Nomine: In a variation, the Past Lives attunement lets Servitors of Destiny view the memories of someone else's previous incarnations, even though the person in question doesn't consciously remember anything themselves.
  • Princess: The Hopeful: The titular Hopeful possess the ability to reincarnate, and the vast majority of Princesses have lived at least one life already. Their memories of their past lives will be fragmented and vague, but they can still provide valuable intelligence about the lost secrets of the Kingdoms, or even allow a Princess to learn skills she never had a chance to study in this life.


    Video Games 
  • BlazBlue: Ragna recalls fighting Jin in the NOL Cathedral in Kagutsuchi in an alternate timeline... and then there's the fact that the soul Kokonoe installed into Lambda used to belong to Nu.
  • In Bravely Default this is effectively the case for Ringabel being Alternis Dim. His 'life' as Dim ended when he lost his memory and fell through the Holy Pillar of his world. He acknowledges he is a version of the Dark Knight, and later journal entries have him becoming more accustomed to the idea, at one point describing the fifth world's Alternis as 'my past self'. Oddly, the third world's version of Alternis thinks of Ringabel as an earlier version of himself because he lacks the anger and self-loathing that Alternis expresses after crossing the Despair Event Horizon at the death of that world's Edea.
  • In Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, this is a bad thing. The protagonist, Soma Cruz, is the next incarnation of Dracula's soul, and if he gains too much of his past life's memories, he will lose his own identity and become the King of Vampires all over again. This happens in the bad endings of the game and the sequel (losing to Chaos in Aria of Sorrow, watching Mina die in Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow), and unlocks an alternate storyline where Julius Belmont has to take him down.
  • 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. It also seems that the same has happened to two who turned into Seth and Satan, both of whom also make references to that game and even reference characters from that game.
  • 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."
  • Invoked in Hidden City's "At The Gate of Fate" case, where after Alex decides to go "to the other side" with the Smiling Lady (a.k.a. Death) to be reborn, his friends decide to give him various gifts and mementos and perform a ritual that will allow him to remember them in his new life.
  • The protagonist of I Was a Teenage Exocolonist has visions of the future because they can recall their past lives, which lets them save certain characters from dying in subsequent runs.
  • Kingdom of Loathing has Permed Skills, abilities learned in a previous life that were bound into your soul at Jeremy's Permery in Valhalla.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • In Skyward Sword, Zelda's role in the Goddess's plan is to purify her body in ancient springs, which awakens memories of her past life as Hylia herself. She uses this knowledge to instruct Link on how to finish his quest and to maintain the seal over Demise so he will have time to do so. However, it's also made clear that these memories are something of a burden for her, and she expresses sincere regret at some of the choices she made in her previous life and how they negatively affected those around her. Specifically, Zelda, as Hylia, orchestrated Link's entire quest so he could become strong enough to destroy Demise. This included making sure her mortal reincarnation was someone close to him so he would be personally motivated by the fact that she appeared to be in danger, essentially preemptively leveraging their Childhood Friend Romance to manipulate him into doing what Hylia needed. Zelda is horrified by this in the present and breaks down crying while explaining the whole thing to Link.
    • Implied in Breath of the Wild. Link's reward for completing all 120 shrines is a set of clothes resembling his iconic green outfit featured as his main look in every Zelda game except for this one. The description for each piece specifically mentions how familiar and comfortable it seems...
  • In Mass Effect: Andromeda, the angara, a race native to the Andromeda galaxy, believe in reincarnation. In one mission, you have to trigger memories of a past life within a modern angara by having him touch a glove that was worn by his previous life. Not only is it successful, but the resulting memories are accurate enough that he's even able to lead you to the mummified remains of his previous life. Milky Way scientists are baffled, but theorize that Genetic Memory was at play.
  • Happens often enough in Pillars of Eternity that there's an in-universe term for it: Awakening. People can be Awakened in various ways. The most common way is to encounter something or in the case of the protagonist, someone that has a connection with a past life. Being Awakened has its advantages, but the stress of having memories from other lives (particularly if said lives were bad ones) tends to offset them.
    • Maerwald has been cursed by the fact that he is both a Watcher and fully Awakened, leading him to having gradually lost the ability to separate his past lives from his current one. By the time the Player Character meet with him, he has long since undergone serious Sanity Slippage and crossed the Despair Event Horizon. This whole encounter mostly serves as a motivator for the Player Character, as they are a Watcher themselves, and Maerwald is an example of what could happen if they don't somehow learn to get control over their powers.
    • During the main quest of The White Marches, you have to use your powers as a Watcher to trigger an Awakening in someone. It's made clear that this could have dire consequences for whoever you choose. One person will have to spend the rest of her life with a corrupt guard captain in her head (though that isn't all bad, as her past self's guidance leads her to becoming a much more assertive, if somewhat shady and dishonest person). The other one, if you make the wrong choices, will have her identity be completely overwritten by her past self who immediately attacks you forcing you to kill her.
  • The Nameless One can do this in Planescape: Torment. In fact, everything you learn in the game (ability wise) is actually the Nameless One remembering old fighting, thievery, and magic skills he had in his previous lives, except for a very few times when an NPC teaches you something new.
  • In Pokémon, the ghost-type Yamask carries around a mask that used to be its face as a human. According to its Pokédex entries, each retains memories of its former life and sometimes it looks at its mask and cries.
  • 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.
  • Touhou Project: For Hieda no Akyuu, 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).
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 3: The entire population of Aionios is trapped in an artifical cycle of death and rebirth, with individuals getting their memories wiped upon death, but the system is imperfect, and many characters have glimpses of their previous lives. Eunie in particular stumbles upon her own corpse and starts flashing back to how she died in that life, even reacting in fear when the guy who killed her shows up.
    • Ashera, one of the recruitable Heroes, remembers getting beheaded many lifetimes ago, which even manifests as an increasingly painful scar on her neck. She admits that she also remembers this pain always manifesting in the lifetimes since, causing her to become a Blood Knight hoping for a glorious death in battle, rather than await the pain slowly driving her mad or getting executed again.
    • Even worse, Z can unlock all of someone's past memories at once, as getting forced to remember centuries of endless war and death tends to drive people over the Despair Event Horizon. Many of the Moebius members were subject to this, causing them to join Z to escape the unending cycle.
    • Unusually, when Mio gets the memories of Moebius M, who is her past self, she doesn't internalize it and only views them as "M's memories", despite acknowledging that they're essentially the same person.

    Visual Novels 
  • Higurashi: When They Cry:
    • 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. Though they still all end up dying except for Rena.
    • In a later arc, Rena, Keiichi, and Shion all start having dreams about events from the previous universes, including murders they've committeed.
  • Combined with Reincarnation Romance, the true ending of The House in Fata Morgana consists in Michel and Giselle reincarnating with the memories of their past lives apparently still intact. They meet again in the original plot of land where the manor used to be located.

  • 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.
  • The Beloved Little Princess: The protagonist Princess Enisha has memories of her past life, where she was a reknowned Archmage who ruled the magic kingdom of Arcus until an unexpected spell caused her to be reincarnated as the youngest princess of the Hyperion kingdom.
  • Beyond the End: Hal mentions having some from his time in the Beforeworld. However, these are flaky and disputed as not adding up quite right.
  • Doctor Elise: The protagonist Song Ji Hyeon has memories of her previous life as Royal Brat Elise De Clorence. It's these memories that lead her to become a surgeon as a way of atoning. She then dies in a plane crash and re-reincarnates as Elise, with Ji Hyeon's Character Development and medical skills.
  • In Eerie Cuties, Layla's past life memories as an evil vampire queen are reawakened when the bit of the queen that was inside her sister Nina was transferred to Layla. Said memories eventually start to overwrite Layla's memories to the point that she doesn't even remember Nina's name.
  • 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.
    • Also a variant with fairies. As part of their periodic reincarnations, a fairy can magically encode important memories to be passed on to their next self, preserving any information they think they will need. However, these memories are experienced at one remove, as if the fairy were reading them in a book or watching a movie.
  • In Housepets!, the immortal gods Pete and Dragon are forced via the rules of a Cosmic Chessgame they lost to be reincarnated into mortal foxes. They lose their memories in this process, but over the course of their childhoods begin to slowly recollect them (helped in part by their father, another immortal) until remembering entirely once they regain their godly forms and powers. This unfortunately creates an awkward situation with their mother who not only gave birth to them, but spent years of her life with different versions of them.
  • In 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.
  • Mom, I'm Sorry: There is a theory that babies remember parts of their past life, but they forget it all once they start talking. It turns out to be true. When Henry dies and is reborn, he refuses to speak for two years so he can greet his mother when he is reunited with her.
  • The Nonexistent Princess begins with an eleven year old girl being murdered by her abusive father, and waking up as a baby, Princess Lunette Alaistaire, Daughter of Emperor Gweynhal Alaistaire, and sister to Prince Laurent Alastaire, while the latter two are characters from a fantasy novel she was reading before she died, her character wasn't even mentioned (hence the title). Reeling from her traumatic past life, she becomes obsessed with the idea of escaping when she's old enough before her father or older brother kill her, specially when the former acts so coldly towards her. When she turns four, she reconnects with her father and brother, neither of whom she saw in the Time Skip. Although there are signs that her father is warming up to her, and her brother apologizes for leaving so suddenly, she refuses to trust them, and even fears them, especially when she remembers that her in her past life she loved her father dearly despite the abuse, only for him to kill her. She also remembers how her grandmother would frequently visit her in the bedroom her father locked her in, and even taught her how to read, however, after a particularly loud argument she stopped visiting (it's heavily implied grandma figured out how she could get custody of the girl and even have him sent to prison, and he killed her before that could happen).
  • Realta: Realta are continuously reincarnated. Through a device in the Virgo ruins, they can access any memory from any time period of any of their past lives.
  • In Sailor Moon Cosmos Arc, after Chibiusa breaks her brainwashing, she starts getting the memories back of her previous time-traveling incarnation, who had disappeared via Temporal Paradox.

    Web Original 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • While taking a break from streaming Mito Tsukino visited a place that does past-life regression with a friend, and talked about the experience on her stream after her return. Apparently according to the results of the therapy Mito was a priestess in a past life, while her friend had been a blue-skinned alien.
  • Tennyo from the Whateley Universe is slowly remembering the life of the Star Stalker.

    Western Animation 
  • 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 the later episode "The Comet" it is further revealed he is the reincarnation of a catalyst comet, a comet that hits the earth every 1000 years. Also, he was a butterfly in a past life at one point.
  • In the Daria episode "Psycho Therapy", Quinn accidentally got hypnotized and dream that she was Cleopatra who was famous for inventing eyeliner.
  • Parodied in Family Guy where Quagmire tries to hypnotically regress Peter to find some clue but accidentally goes too far and awakens a demonic personality with red glowing eyes, flaming hands and a megalomaniacal ego.
  • Steven Universe: Rose Quartz became half of Steven, who has none of her memories. However, in season 5, he, both as himself and as Stevonnie, begins to dream the memories of the long-dead and shattered Pink Diamond. It turns out that Rose was Pink the whole time, and them sharing the same Gem has begun giving Steven access to her memories.
  • In Wakfu, the Original Eliatropes and their Dragon siblings normally lose all memories of their past lives when they reincarnate. Qilby and his sister Shinonome are the exceptions as befitting their roles as the knowledge-keepers of Eliatrope society. Qilby at least hates it, because he remembers everything across all his lives to the point, if how Shinonome could communicate with him from within her Dofus is any indication, he recalls each death, return to his Dofus, and eventual rebirth. Eventually, it left him with a desire to constantly seek out new experiences and wonders to the point of being willing to commit planetary genocide just so he could leave and keep himself stimulated without going even crazier with boredom.

    Real Life 
  • One of the most well-known cases in the West is James Leininger, whose supposed previous life as a World War II pilot James Hudson (who died during the battle of Iwo Jima) initially gave him horrible recurring nightmares, so his parents could not just dismiss it as imagination or overlook it. Another well known case is Ryan Hammons, who recalled a life of Hollywood extra, later a successful talent agency owner, Marty Martyn. Both of these cases are detailed in the documentary series Surviving Death.
  • Critical commentary in publications such as Fortean Times, and by investigating psychologists, has suggested other mechanisms than actual literal past lives might account for the phenomena. The human being has been described as "a story-telling ape", and human imagination has been cited as something that separates humans from animals. People remembering past lives might simply be using the active imagination to plot and construct "historical novels". note . Another, more prosaic, explanation is that people undergoing "past life regressions" are simply being led on by credulous hypnotists asking leading questions, and a sort of folie a deux co-dependency arises where a hypnotic subject obligingly provides what the hypnotist wants to hear. Therapist and patient build a convincing narrative together. note  The Arthur Guirdham case (discussed in Literature, above) is cited as an example of this.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Reincarnation Regression, Past Life Regression, Reincarnation Memories


Eunie Finds her Husk

When the team finds the ruins of a Keves Gold Rank colony, they search for anything that can be salvaged. Eunie finds a lone husk that had been there for a long time, with its face intact and displaying absolute terror in its last moments. Eunie examines the dog tag and not only finds her name, but begins having flashbacks and nightmares to having been in that battle in her previous cycle.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / DiscoveringYourOwnDeadBody

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