Filing into the Divination Tower, the students take their seats. Upon each small desk is a notebook, quill, and a small cup of very murky tea. As each student takes their seat, they stare at the small welcome package on the desk. Some look through the notebook, which is obviously empty, while others lean down to sniff the tea, the aroma of peppermint infiltrating their noses. At the stroke of the hour, Professor Ornitier enters the room and takes his place up front. This time choosing to sit, cross-legged, on his desk at the front of the room.
Welcome back students! Wasn’t it a mess? That flood on the fifth floor was really something! Luckily, our wonderful caretaker had it under control. Enough with the chit chat, though, today we begin our detailed study of the many forms of clairvoyance. As you are aware, during this class we will be studying retrocognition and other forms of clairvoyance which deal with the past. Later in the lesson, we will also look at what is known as past life regression and an experience I know many of you have had, déjà vu. Yes, yes, I know you’re curious about the notebooks. Don’t worry, we will get there! Let us begin, and please, if you feel a strange feeling where a daydream seems imminent, do not fear the unknown!
I’ve Seen This Before
What is retrocognition? As I stated last lesson, retrocognition is a form of clairvoyance in which an individual can see events that have happened - that is, events from the past. Also known as postcognition, the events which are seen by the individual are events which the individual has no possible way of knowing. This may mean that the event happened yesterday and the individual was simply not present and had no prior knowledge of said event, or even that the event occurred hundreds of years ago. In both cases, it would have been impossible for the individual to know the finer details of the event.
Within the realm of retrocognition are two additional branches: past life regression and déjà vu. Both of these branches have the same basic identifier, being that the individual is seeing an event from the past, however I will explain these in detail further on in the lesson.
Now back to retrocognition. The most important aspect of retrocognition is that the seer or clairvoyant has no other possible way of knowing the information or experience that they are seeing. This means that information which is readily available from a historical account or a shared family history does not feature in theretrocognitive vision. Strangely, even Muggle psychologists have researched famous retrocognitive vision accounts and, sadly, they have proclaimed such accounts to be mere delusions by the claimants. Of course, these men and women who have a thorough understanding of science, and function as equals to our own healers, still have a very limited understanding of the processes of clairvoyance, the Inner Eye, and indeed the magical world at large.
A Series of Past Events
Whilst I am not the most experienced retrocognitive clairvoyant, I have had my own fair share of experiences and thus, can explain the sense of a retrocognitive clairvoyant episode. I ask of you to please, take note as it is quite possible that some of you may experience retrocognitive visions in your life. As I did last lesson, I would like to embark on this topic with a little personal storytelling. As many of you may know by now, particularly those that have come for a chat and spot of tea during office hours, I was born in Newport, Wales. Some of my family lineage, as intertwined and complex as it may be, have roots in Venice, Italy. One summer, when I was six, we were on a summer holiday visiting some relatives in Venice. It should be noted that, at such a young age, I had never been to Venice. This was a first visit. While visitng, my father and I went out for a spot of shopping and, as is the nature of men, we got lost. Of course, my father didn't want to ask for directions and became quite distraught. I spoke up, automatically, and told him that if he followed this pebble path southward for a few hundred yards he would come to a sign with two wooden arrows pointed in opposite directions. If we turn left at that sign, six houses down would be the place we needed to be. Sure enough, going that way got us to where we needed to be. Now while my family had seen some other odd occurrences that spoke to my ability to See, this was the first time I had a retrocognitive vision. This would hardly be my last.
Another case of a retrocognitive experience is known as the Moberly-Jourdain incident. Occurring on the 10th of August, 1901, it details the experience of Muggle woman Charlotte Anne Moberly and her Witch friend, Eleanor Jourdain. On this date, Moberly and Jourdain travelled to the Palace of Versailles in order to visit the Petit Trianon, a smaller house upon the grounds of the palace. Fascinated by the history of Revolutionary France, Moberly and Jourdain had regularly visited the palace and knew their way around. However, upon this day they decided to visit the Petit Trianon, known for being a favourite relaxation spot for Marie Antoinette and members of her court.
Armed with a traveler’s guide book, Moberly and Jourdain began to walk through the paths leading to the Petit Trianon, however they missed the pathway that would have taken them directly to the building. Walking down an uncharted path, a strange feeling came over both of the women - a feeling which they later likened to depression and worry. Moberly and Jourdain soon noticed a gathering of men and women who were dressed rather strangely. Noting their clothes, Jourdain later explained that the clothing worn seemed out of place for the times, rather than being the height of 1900s fashion, the clothing seemed old fashioned, dirty, and unkempt. Strangely, the area also contained some rather outdated machinery, nothing like the machinery present in the area during their lifetime.
Approaching the Petit Trianon, Moberly and Jourdain were greeted by a man who was rather dirty, scarred by smallpox, and displaying a very unpleasant demeanor. Moberly decided to approach the man and as she got closer, she noticed he had a most unfortunate smell about him, a stench of decay and years of dirt. Turning from the man, she noticed a small, well kept woman wearing a lovely summer dress sitting in the field, sketching the scenery. Again, the dress the woman was wearing seemed rather out of place for the time period, but for some reason the woman seemed familiar. Moberly turned to Jourdain to ask her opinion, however Jourdain did not see the woman. Taking note of the surroundings, Moberly and Jourdain ventured further to the Petit Trianon where, upon finding a small tourist party, felt the strange depressed feeling lifted from their chests.
Charlotte Moberly Eleanor Jourdain
Neither woman spoke of their little detour to the Petit Trianon, until much later when the women decided to write about their travels and they found themselves researching the Palace of Versailles. Deep in photographs and portraits of the time, Moberly and Jourdain began to speak of their trip to the Petit Trianon, and what they encountered that day. It was then they discovered a portrait of a gentleman known to be a good friend of Marie Antoinette’s, Comte de Vaudreuil. Both women instantly recognised him as the unfortunate, smelly man they had seen on their journey. Even stranger was the portrait which followed, a portrait of Marie Antoinette wearing a lovely summer dress, sketching in a field with the silhouette of two women barely visible on the horizon behind her.
So what exactly did Charlotte Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain experience? While Muggles and non-believers suggest that it was a shared delusion, or rather an overactive imagination of the women which constructed the experience, others believe that both women experienced a retrocognitive vision in which they saw a scene from the 16th century. Despite the women having a basic knowledge of France at that particular point in history, Moberly and Jourdain were able to clearly identify a key figure of Marie Antoinette’s court, even though they had never seen or known of the man previously. The details that both women were able to give of the environment, machinery, and even clothing that they witnessed was most definitely not present in any historical account of the time. As for the silhouette of the two women in the portrait, this could be explained as a mere coincidence or even a slip in time, which would allow Moberly and Jourdain to experience the scene in person.
I Know This Place
In comparison, past life regression is a form of retrocognition where the individual claims to be reliving an experience from their past, however their ‘past’ is typically a previous life. Past life regressions rely on the idea thatevery human is reincarnated, that is, when an individual dies, the soul is reborn in a new body but retains all memories from their previous life. It is believed that past life regressions help an individual deal with a situation, feeling, or problem in their current life which is supposedly caused by an event or memory from a past life. Past life regressions can be seen as a spiritual experience by some, perhaps due to the seemingly hypnotic or trance-like state the individual often experiences. Non-believers claim that past life regressions are simply cryptomnesia, a state in which the individual creates a memory which is often caused by a great deal of stress being placed upon the individual or alternatively, a confabulation in which the individual creates a distorted memory about themselves or the world in which they live. There are some skeptics in the magical world as well, that simply write off past-life regressions as strange forms of usual retrocognition, which eliminate the need to believe in repeated reincarnation. Whichever opinion you hold is fine, though we will be studying it as if it is a separate entity, as it does have some dissimilar qualities to normal retrocognition.
Historically, past life regressions have been discussed as far back as the 2nd century B.C.E., when a Hindu scholar by the name of Patañjali described how the soul is burdened with all memories and experiences of the individual and upon death, carries them into their reincarnated self. Patañjali called this prati-prasav, or colloquially, reverse birthing. Interestingly, this process (reverse birthing) features as a meditative tool in some forms of yoga and is still practiced today. Chinese mythology features a figure known as the “Lady of Forgetfulness”, Meng Po, who is designated the role of ensuring souls forget their previous lives and experiences upon rebirth. Meng Po achieves this task by giving each soul a drink, which they must take before ascending the Wheel of Reincarnation, and achieving reincarnation in a new body. Also within Chinese mythology is the text known as the Three Lives Book, which is used by Chinese numerologists when interpreting the details of the past life of an individual.
But what exactly is a past life regression? More importantly, how does it differ from a retrocognitive experience? In actual fact, past life regressions and retrocognitive experiences are often intertwined. While a retrocognitive experience witnesses an outside event, or details something that has occurred, a past life regression is a recount of a personal event and often lived through the eyes of the individual. While past life regressions may happen randomly, such as being triggered by hearing a song, visiting a location, or viewing a photograph, typically past life regressions are planned events in which a guide clairvoyant and an individual sit down in order to access memories of the past life in order to solve an issue in the present. By using a carefully framed set of questions and suggestive statements, the clairvoyant and individual undergoing the regression set out to recover memories which have influence upon the individual’s present life.
Naysayers of past life regressions in both the Muggle and magical communities, point to these questions as leading, and potentially causing the person to believe things that simply did not occur. Muggles especially maintain that the actual information discovered through the regression is easily explained as the result of extensive research, knowledge gained through a literary medium (such as information read in a diary), or even a rehearsed script put together by the clairvoyant and the individual as a way of fooling others present into believing the integrity of the past life regression.
However, we are not here to discuss the non-believers - it would make for a rather short and uneventful lesson! There have been numerous documented cases of past life regressions such as American witch Virginia Tighe and five-year-old Vaughan Patricks. In both cases non-believers attempt to explain the information shared during the regression. Other aspects of the regression are not as easy to explain, however.
Virginia Tighe (1923-1995), first shared her past life regressions in 1952 by explaining that, in a previous life, she was an Irish woman named Bridey Murphy. Raising a few eyebrows in her local community, Virginia explained that she, Bridey, was born in 1798 and died in 1864. Virginia explained that she had never set foot in Ireland, however she could clearly detail landmarks and environmental features of the town in which Bridey lived. Of course, most of these descriptions were spot-on and well documented within Irish local history books and libraries. Virginia detailed Bridey’s family life, including her children and husband, and even her past home. Sadly, as with many clairvoyant experiences, naysayers explained Virginia’s knowledge of Bridey by saying Virginia had lived opposite a woman by the name of Bridey Corkell (nee Murphy) when she was a child and remembered the many stories that Mrs. Corkell shared of growing up in Ireland. However, what those naysayers could not explain was how Virginia could have met this woman, as despite the physical proximity of the two houses, they could not have met, owing to the fact that Bridey Murphy passed away almost 60 years before the other woman was born.
The past life regression of Vaughan Patricks (2005- present day) is quite a case, particularly as the boy was only five years of age when he shared his regression. Vaughan was a happy child, the youngest of a pure-blood family from Tinworth, England. He enjoyed the usual pastimes: Quidditch, degnoming, and spending time with the family Kneazle. A week before Christmas, young Vaughan was sitting at the family table in Tinworth when his mother, Ophelia, noticed a strange look cross his face. As the other family members present noticed this change, young Vaughan began to speak and the whole family were transfixed by the story he told. Young Vaughan explained how he was previously Carrington Wallace, a wizard and soldier who helped lead a platoon during the Muggles’ First World War.
The young boy detailed life in the trenches of France and the weaponry and uniforms issued to the soldiers. He also detailed how his platoon was decimated by the opposing enemy forces, with only five men surviving the war. Vaughan then explained that three years after the war ended, he and the remaining members of his platoon returned to France where they buried a time capsule in the town of Villers-Bretonneux, a short five minute walk westward from the town centre. Vaughan’s parents were somewhat mystified, he had never mentioned an interest, let alone knowledge, of Muggle history, and now he was claiming extensive knowledge of the combatants and fields of battle. Vaughan’s mother decided to investigate further and, following a map Vaughan illustrated, she travelled to Villers-Bretonneux to locate the spot in which Vaughan said the time capsule was buried. Sure enough, sitting about three feet below the surface, Ophelia Patricks recovered a time capsule containing various tidbits from the platoon and a photograph where, clear as day, Carrington Wallace was pictured, smiling with his buddies.
This Seems Familiar...
The final form of retrocognition that I will discuss today is déjà vu, a French term which essentially means ‘already seen’. A common example of a retrocognitive experience, déjà vu is when an individual feels as though they are witnessing a scene or event for the second time. Commonly, individuals who feel déjà vu often discount their feeling to having dreamed the event and upon recognising the déjà vu, simply move on and do not give it further thought. However, often the déjà vu is a retrocognitive vision, either something which was indeed ‘lived’ or ‘seen’ in either a past life or something foretold during a dream. I personally have experienced many, many episodes of déjà vu such as just last lesson, when a question was asked by Miss Martin over there; I was sure I had answered the same question before. However, upon answering I understood that I had experienced déjà vu. Another example was during my graduation from this very school, as I foresaw a fellow graduate falling in front of our headmaster, only for the event to actually happen days later during the actual ceremony. By the looks on your faces and the murmuring from those in the back, I can see many of you have had similar experiences and I encourage you to share these during our assessments today.
I appreciate you all stemming your curiosity for so long, and will reward your patience with an explanation. If you would please turn your attention to the notebooks, or journals, around the classroom and select one. Everyone have a book? Excellent. Class, what you hold in your hands in this moment is my gift to you for this year. How you use it is largely up to you, though later on in the year I will have a few tasks for you to complete in them. For now, you are welcome to record anything about your divinatory pursuits in these pages, and please do bring them with you to every class -- we will be working with them every now and again and using them as tools to broaden your divinatory skills!
The End? Or Just Another Beginning?
I will end the lesson there as I must be off. But, before I go, I suggest a good, hot bath, perhaps some lovely candles to induce a feeling of relaxation, and then see where your mind takes you. I am expecting many of you will soon discover your retrocognitive abilities, if you open yourselves up to the possibility!
The past never really leaves us.
Professor Alex Ornitier