Psychopomp

Nosoi

chiron

A psychopomp [sahy-koh-pomp] (from the Greek word ‘psuchopompos,’ literally meaning the ‘guide of souls’) are creatures, spirits, angels, or deities in many religions whose responsibility is to escort newly deceased souls 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, deer (harts) dogs, and several birds, such as whip-poor-wills, ravens, crows, owls, sparrows, cuckoos.

In Jungian psychology, which stresses the importance of the symbolic in human life, 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 (medicine man) 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. This also accounts for the contemporary title of ‘midwife to the dying,’ or ‘End of Life Doula’ which is another form of psychopomp work.

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