Many religious belief systems have a particular spirit, deity, animal totem or angel whose responsibility is to escort newly- deceased souls to the afterlife. This article is about the psychopomp in religion, mythology and psychology.
These creatures are called psychopomps or death walkers. The term psychopomp from the Greek word psychopompos, literally meaning the “guide of souls”.
They were often associated with animals such as horses, whippoorwills, ravens, dogs, crows, owls, sparrows, harts, and dolphins.
In Mythology a psychopomp was primarily a god or goddess of the Underworld. Well know psychopomps are Anubis, Hermes, and Hades.
The role of the Underworld was to guide the souls of the dead to the afterlife or underworld.
In Jungian psychology, the psychopomp is a mediator between the unconscious and conscious realms. It is symbolically personified in dreams as a wise being, or an animal called totems or power animals.
There is also a growing number of people who are once again learning how to fulfill the sacred role of the psychopomp. Some choose to offer their assistance in conjunction with their function as a hospice worker, or as a midwife to the dying.
Others prefer to focus more on helping those who may be trapped in the spirit realms, and go by such titles as soul rescuer, deathwalker, spiritual guide, or shaman.
There are also individuals who quietly offer aid to those in transition as they go about their routine jobs in hospitals, nursing homes, and other such locations.
And many of us are currently discovering how we can apply such skills to help both people and the planet as we go through the various earth changes that are now occurring.
Who is psychopomp in religion, mythology and psychology?
A psychopomp is one of the main functions of a shaman. This could include not only accompanying the soul of the dead, but also vice versa: to help at birth, to introduce the newborn’s soul to the world.
Psychopomp, means “soul conductor”. The soul conductor uses various techniques to assist spirits no longer in body to cross to the Light and join the Source.
The psychopomp also waits with and comforts the soul of a person who is dying and guides them across at the moment of death. The psychopomp also has the ability to search for lost souls, find them and guide them home.
It is important to know that every single human being, from the moment of birth until the moment when we make the transition and end this physical existence, is in the presence of guides or guardian angels who will wait for us and help us in the transition from life to life after death.
The soul can become lost when death occurs, the soul is caught unprepared. Depending on the person’s spiritual or religious beliefs, the soul may not remember where its spiritual home is.
Psychopomps may have varying degrees of psychic abilities. There can be a difference between being a medium and having the ability to communicate (seeing, hearing, talking) with the spirits and being a psychopomp.
Why some people have god gift of talk to dead or spirits
Many people have the gift of communication with spirits. A psychopomp may not be a medium but can cross over into the spirit realms, travels all over these realms and assists those who may be lost or trapped for whatever reason and helps, shows, guides them to their Spiritual Home.
When a dying person loses consciousness a psychopomp will wait on the other side to meet them when their soul emerges there.
The psychopomp can at this stage ask the soul where it wants to go, and then show them where this place is, so they have an idea about which way to go after death.
It is the psychopomps duty to stay with this soul that has made the final crossing and guide them all the way home. Another word for psychopomp like Death, Azrael, Santa Muerte, the angel of death, the Grim Reaper, the pale rider, the reaper, the rider etc.
The Death Walker’s Role in a Paranormal Investigation
A shaman is a conduit to the spirit world. The shaman’s world is one populated by spirits of ancestors, of plants and animals and of the other astral beings who share the physical world and the other realms of existence.
Through will, the shaman journeys into the spirit worlds and returns, communicating needs and desires in both directions: walking between the worlds.
The paths into the Otherworld are not defined; through our own powers of perception we can use different routes, some may use traditional tools of trance or meditation or some will develop their own unique method to move through the worlds.
Shamans working in a modern society where there is no clear surviving tradition to tap into must find new ways of building those bridges between the worlds.
We may find threads of connection to our past, links to our ancestors, and traces of ideas that we can pick up from other systems.
The world of the modern shaman is dealing with a world that is continually changing.
Not all of us are considered Shamans in the traditional sense but we can relate to situations in a shamanic way.
Our role is to be the mediators between the physical and the spiritual worlds and to bridge the gap that remains between those worlds.
Paranormal investigation and psychopomp
During a paranormal investigation the Death Walker is focused and totally aware of what is happening around him or her.
The Death Walker needs to know the types of spirits that are encountered in the journey and be able to deal effectively with them.
The paranormal exist in the between world, that space that merges between the three worlds.
Once the Death Walker moves into this space the spiritual energies take on a clearer perspective and the Death Walker should be able to communicate more effectively with astral beings.
The Death Walker can guide the investigators to various areas where the paranormal activity is happening. The Death Walker can provide healing and also assist the grounded soul move into higher realms.
Psychopomps are generally:
- adept at guiding others through such transformative experiences as death
- compassionate, non-judgmental, and friendly
- experienced border crossers and walkers between the worlds
- tricksters who will do whatever is required to achieve their goals
- shape shifters who can change their appearance to match the setting and the times
- arbiters of change for individuals and the culture
- Magical beings who can facilitate healing in unexpected ways.
Which god is called the psychopomp?
There are many God who play role of Psychopomp or Death walker in Modern religion. Heibai Wuchang, literally “Black and White Impermanence”, are two deities in Chinese folk religion in charge of escorting the spirits of the dead to the underworld.
In Japanese mythology, the shinigami have been described as psychopomps.
The form of Shiva as Tarakeshwara in Hinduism performs a similar role, although leading the soul to moksha rather than an afterlife. Additionally, in the Bhagavata Purana, the Visnudutas and Yamadutas are also messengers for their respective masters, Vishnu and Yama.
Their role is illustrated vividly in the story of Ajamila. In many beliefs, a spirit being taken to the underworld is violently ripped from its body.
In the Persian tradition, Daena, the Zoroastrian self-guide, appears as a beautiful young maiden to those who deserve to cross the Chinvat Bridge or a hideous old hag to those who do not.
In Islam, Azrael plays the role of the angel of death who carries the soul up to the heavens. However, he only acts by the permission of God.
The polytheistic concept of a specific deity of death is rejected by Judaistic monotheism because only God is regarded the master of death and of life.
However a Jewish Psychopomp is an archangel Samael whose role in Talmudic and post-Talmudic lore is both as Angel of death and accuser.
In many cultures, the shaman also fulfils the role of the psychopomp. This may include not only accompanying the soul of the dead, but also to help at birth, to introduce the new-born 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.
In Filipino culture, ancestral spirits (anito) function as psychopomps. When the dying call out to specific dead persons (e.g. parents, partners), the spirits of the latter are supposedly visible to the former.
The spirits, who traditionally wait at the foot of the deathbed, retrieve (Tagalog: sundô) the soul soon after death and escort it into the afterlife.
In Christianity, Saint Peter, Michael the Archangel and Jesus are thought of as psychopomps either as leading the dead to heaven or, as in the case of Peter, allowing them through the gates.
Following the death of Queen Elizabeth II in September 2022, some of the monarch’s former subjects assigned the role of her personal psychopomp to the fictional Peruvian bear, Paddington, who had become closely associated in popular culture with the queen after a televised sketch featuring the two was shown during celebrations for the Platinum Jubilee a few months before her death.
In lieu of the ritual of leaving a coin to pay Charon for passage, mourners left marmalade sandwiches at the gates of Buckingham Palace.
This spontaneous folk ritual has no official status in the Church of England of which the monarch is Supreme Governor.
In Akan mythos, Amokye is the woman who fishes souls out of the river and welcomes them to Asamando, the Akan realm of the dead. A deceased person is buried with amoasie (loincloths), jewelry and beads which them pay to Amokye for admitting them to Asamando.