(from the Greek
word ψυχοπομπός, psuchopompos
, literally meaning the "guide of souls")
are creatures, spirits
, 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. Appearing frequently on funerary art
, psychopomps have been depicted at different times and in different cultures as anthropomorphic entities
. When seen as birds, they are often seen in huge masses, waiting outside the home of the dying.
Classical examples of a psychopomp are the ancient Egyptian god Anubis, the Greek ferryman Charon and deities Hermes and Hecate, the Roman god Mercury, and the Etruscan deity Vanth.
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 don’t.
In Judaism and Islam, Azrael plays the role of the angel of death who carries the soul up to the heavens.
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 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.
This page was last edited on 23 October 2017, at 07:55.
under CC BY-SA license.