Psychopomp vs. Grim Reaper

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What’s the difference between a grim reaper and a psychopomp (other than the fact that psychopomp sounds much cooler; while grim reaper has become a Halloween and horror story cliche and an overused media trope)?

Both are spiritual entities that assist the soul to cross over to the afterlife; so, what really makes them different?

grim reapers:

  • actually take lives
  • are considered the personification of death or demons
  • escort souls to the afterlife, but are primarily associated with the underworld
  • are identified with Halloween and horror stories, so present themselves as frightening figures or demons
  • bring fear, regret, and despair to those they interact with

So, in brief, grim reapers are the personification of death and demons. They represents all the fears of the unknown that people still harbor about death, dying, and the afterlife.

psychopomps:

  • wait until the person has died
  • act as guides and escorts between planes
  • are identified with angels and demigods
  • can present themselves as friends or relatives of the dying person
  • bring comfort, solace, and hope to the dying

Briefly, psychopomps are angel-like beings. They represent all the hope, love, and spiritual comfort that people expect and hope for when they die.

A grim reaper is a much more grisly being than a psychopomp. In fact, the fourth horseman of the Apocalypse (Death) is depicted as a grim reaper. You can’t get much more grisly than that. Whereas Psychopomps, when depicted in human form, are usually shown as angels—gentle, kind, and with an ethereal glow about them. This is just one of the fundamental differences between a psychopomp and a grim reaper.

Reapers are, as their countenance depicts, there to reap your soul. However, they are not there to ease the soul’s hurt or turmoil during the transition. If anything, they may deliberately make the crossing as traumatic as possible. This is because it is their job to fulfill every fear that the transitioning soul has regarding death and dying.

However, when psychopomps come, they counter the soul’s fear and try to ease the trauma. Psychopomps attempt to show the soul that death is just a new beginning and not a fearsome or pain-filled event.

Neither option is wrong or right. In fact, both options are needed so that every soul can have a wide range of experiences. Some people embrace death and the act of dying because they’ve had nothing but positive experiences. So, perhaps they need a less-positive experience to understand and develop compassion for those who are more fearful of dying. Just as those who are ‘deathly’ afraid of dying may need several positive experiences before they begin to understand that the experience of dying isn’t always something to fear. It is simply another part of life. A moving beyond this reality by the spiritual part of you.

The real key to dying (besides not doing it), is to understand that the choice of guide (grim reaper or psychopomp) is up to you. You get to decide what type of death experience you will have. So, if you want something traumatic and eventful because you feel the need to learn some spiritual lesson, then (by all means) let the grim reaper be your escort. However, if what you want is something more tranquil and a little less gruesome, then call on that psychopomp. Either one will come when you ‘call.’ And either one will give you whatever type of experience you desire. Therefore, only you can decide whether your experience of death requires a grim reaper or a psychopomp.

So, which will it be?

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Make It Personal

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When preparing for speaking engagements and presentations based on my non-fiction books, I always ensure that I include several anecdotes or observations. While some authors prefer to keep their personal life private, sharing snippets of yourself with your audience usually helps them relate to you and your story.

Include anecdotes and personal observations.

The most typical question that I’m asked during the Q&A period of my presentations is how the event affected me or my family. People want to know that not only have you overcome the tragedy or grown as a result of the incident, but they want some examples. Sometimes the examples I include are also in the book, but usually not. And sometimes I include a mix—some anecdotes from the book and some not. Letting attendees know that there is more anecdotal material in the book helps sway them to purchase the book because they know they’re not just getting a rehash of what they already heard during my presentation.

By sharing these snippets of insight into my life, it helps me and the audience connect, and not just as reader to author, but as caring individuals sharing a similar experience. After all, many people relate best to your story when they understand the person who wrote it. This is especially true of two of my books (Escorting the Dead and On Dreams and Dream Symbols). These two books also generate a great many questions and much discussion between me and my audience. Therefore, once I’ve read them a chapter or two or given my presentation, I regale them with one or two anecdotes. This usually spurs a spate of similar stories from the audience, which soon leads to some very lively discussions. Once people realize that other people have had similar experiences, thoughts, or questions, it’s easy to get them interested in learning more, which leads them to purchasing your books.

By bringing some of you to the presentation, you show your audience that you and they are not so very different. Perhaps you’re wondering just what to share with your audience. Think back to when you were writing the book:

  • What prompted you to write about that moment/challenge/event?
  • Why was the moment, incident, or event special or important?
  • What about it did you think others might want or need to know?
  • How did it change you or those you care about?
  • What insights did it bring to your life?
  • How did you grow from the incident or overcome the tragedy?

The answer to any of those questions should prompt an anecdote or memory that you can work into your presentation. So, select two or three different ones each time you do a presentation; this almost always guarantees you a lively discussion or question and answer session. Using different stories and anecdotes for each presentation also keeps your talks fresh.

You might even incorporate bits and pieces of your audience discussions as anecdotes (as long as you leave out names and other identifying information). It all helps the audience and potential readers identify with you and your topic. It helps them understand that other people also have similar ideas, thoughts, and questions. And it ultimately leads to book sales.

(To see a video copy of one of my presentations click here.)

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