Transmigration of souls, sometimes called metempsychosis, is based on the idea that a soul may pass out of one body and reside in another (human or animal) or in an inanimate object. The idea appears in various forms in tribal cultures in many parts of the world (for example, Africa, Madagascar, Oceania, and South America). The notion was familiar in ancient Greece, notably in Orphism, and was adopted in a philosophical form by Plato and the Pythagoreans. The belief gained some currency in gnostic and occult forms of Christianity and Judaism and was introduced into Renaissance thought by the recovery of the Hermetic books.
Here, Bertholet provides a basic historical overview of the notion of transmigration. This is a standard primer from the history of religions school of thought.