Psychopomp

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This article is about the psychopomp in religion, mythology and psychology. For the song, see Psychopomp (song).
Relief from a carved funerary lekythos at Athens: Hermes as psychopomp conducts the deceased, Myrrhine, to Hades, ca 430-420 BCE (National Archaeological Museum of Athens).

Psychopomps (from the Greek word ψυχοπομπός - psuchopompos, literally meaning the "guide of souls")[1] are creatures, spirits, angels, or deities in many religions whose responsibility is to escort newly deceased souls from Earth to the afterlife. Their role is not to judge the deceased, but simply provide safe passage. Frequently depicted on funerary art, psychopomps have been associated at different times and in different cultures with horses, whip-poor-wills, ravens, dogs, crows, owls, sparrows, cuckoos, and harts.

Classical examples of a psychopomp are Charon,[1] Hermes and Mercury. [2]

In Jungian psychology, the psychopomp is a mediator between the unconscious and conscious realms. It is symbolically personified in dreams as a wise man or woman, or sometimes as a helpful animal. In many cultures, the shaman also fulfills the role of the psychopomp. This may include not only accompanying the soul of the dead, but also vice versa: to help at birth, to introduce the newborn child's soul to the world.[3](p36) This also accounts for the contemporary title of "midwife to the dying", or "End of Life Doula" which is another form of psychopomp work.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "ψυχοπομπός - Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott A Greek-English Lexicon". Perseus.tufts.edu. 
  2. ^ "The Mercury-Woden Complex: - A Proposal", p. 27
  3. ^ Hoppál, Mihály: Sámánok Eurázsiában. Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, 2005. ISBN 963-05-8295-3. (The title means “Shamans in Eurasia”, the book is written in Hungarian, but it is published also in German, Estonian and Finnish.) Site of publisher with short description on the book (in Hungarian).

Further reading[edit]

  • Geoffrey Dennis, "Abraham", "Elijah", "Lailah", "Sandalphon", Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic, and Mysticism, Llewellyn, 2007.
  • Eliade, Mircea, "Shamanism", 1964, Chapters 6 and 7, "Magical Cures: the Shaman as Psychopomp".