Psychopomps (from the Greek word ψυχοπομπός - psuchopompos, literally meaning the "guide of souls") 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 to 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.
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.(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.
The spirits of ancestors and other dead loved ones function as psychopomps in Filipino culture. When the moribund call out the names of dead relations, the spirits of those named are said to be visible to the dying person. These spirits are believed to be waiting at the foot of the deathbed, ready to fetch (Tagalog: sundô) the soul of the newly deceased and escort them into the afterlife.
- "ψυχοπομπός - Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott A Greek-English Lexicon". Perseus.tufts.edu.
- "The Mercury-Woden Complex: - A Proposal", p. 27
- 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).
- 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".