What is a psychopomp?

Just what is a psychopomp, anyway? When I looked it up in the dictionary it said that the term psychopomp came from the Greek word psuchopompos, and literally means the “guide of souls”.

That is such a lovely expression, don’t you think? A “guide of souls”; someone to guide the deceased to their new existence, Someone to help them make the transition from physical being to spiritual being. What a comforting thought, to know that there is someone there to help us make that transition.

The concept of escorts for the deceased is world wide and spans all of history. You can find mentions of psychopomps or death escorts in Africa, from Ancient Egypt to modern Zimbabwe; in the Americas, from the Aztecs and Inuit to modern day business man; in Asia and Malaysia; and in Europe and Polynesia. It also appears in every religion from Buddhism to Zoroastrianism. While in some instances death escorts have been depicted as human spirits, such as the image of Hermes that appears on some of the Greek funerary vessels found in museums. In other instances, psychopomps have been assigned the forms of ravens, crows, sparrows, hyenas, jackals, wolves, banshees, or large, black dogs (such as in the Harry Potter series).

Psychopomps operate on a spiritual plane, which may account for why they are regarded as something mysterious and myth-like, rather than as something “real” and easily substantiated. Of course, some people consider me more mythical than real, so maybe that’s why this job works for me.

But how do you get a job escorting the dead to the afterlife? Well, sit back and I’ll tell you about it…when my book comes out.

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2 thoughts on “What is a psychopomp?

  1. Throughout much of human history, such archetypal escorts have been of great comfort to the dying. They confirm that there is some form of existence after the death of the body, and that a compassionate being will be waiting to offer their assistance through the transition. Unfortunately, many of the myths and rituals that once contained images of psychopomps and helped prepare people for this final rite of passage seem to be largely lost or forgotten in the Western world—a world that is also plagued with fears of dying.

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