Psychopomp is a fun word. It is an adaptation of the Greek word psychopompos, meaning “guide of souls.” While only possessing three syllables, the rarity of the word’s use and its Greek origins will make this a four star vocabulary word and raise anyone’s estimation of your vocabulary IQ by at least three points.
Psychopomp tends to get thrown around a lot as a generic term for any spirit or deity that deals with the souls of the dead, but really its meaning is quite specific: A psychopomp shepherds the soul of the newly dead from the realm of the living to the afterlife. So as a class of spirits, Valkyries who collect the souls of slain warriors from the battlefield and escort them to Valhalla are clearly psychopomps. Charon, the boatman of the Styx who carries the souls of the dead across the river Styx to Erebus, the realm of Hades, is clearly a psychopomp. “Angels” are not psychopomps, in general. The archangel Gabriel, who is the archangel of death, and the order of Kerubim who serve Gabriel, are psychopomps.
A priest or priestess who is initiated into the mysteries of life/death transition (whether through training by a coven/school or by their deity) can aid the psychopomp and the transition process for the newly dead by performing a proper funerary ritual / last rites. While this transition usually occurs naturally, there are several reasons to perform the ritual:
·In the very newly dead, it triggers the action of the psychopomp ·When a death is not clean (extreme trauma, interference by others) it clears the channel ·It offers a calm and loving touch to the transitioning soul ·It eliminates doubt of transition and comforts the family of the deceased
In the Hellenic tradition, the summoning of the psychopomp is quite simple. Two silver coins are consecrated to Charon and placed on the eyes of the deceased. A prayer to Charon calls his attention to the dead, and he collects the souls for transport across the river Styx to Erebus.
In the Christian tradition there is usually a blessing of last rites, and often Jesus is called upon to carry the soul to heaven. While Jesus has become the generic intercessor for all things human in most Protestant Christian sects, the actual proper form of the ritual from Christian myth would be to place a blindfold over the eyes and forehead of the deceased and kiss the forehead (closing the third eye) while calling on the intercession of Gabriel. Of course, that is not “in the bible” and so is largely unknown outside of Gnostic circles.
The calling of the psychopomp should be an element of every series of death rites, and should be performed as soon after the actual end of life (of the body) as is possible. For the deceased, it is the most important element. A family steeped in the craft or practicing magick will usually recognize its importance. For a less informed family, the rite may need to be performed quietly and discretely before the more acceptable and understood cultural rituals are performed.
Blessings to my brother and sister initiates in the transitional mysteries and Samhain blessings to all!