Psy´cho`pomp: n. \Psy"cho*pomp\1863, from Gk. psykhopompos "spirit-guide," a term applied to Charon, Hermes Trismegistos, Apollo; from psykhe (see psyche) + pompos "guide, conductor."
1. (Myth.) A leader or guide of souls .
2. A conductor of souls to the afterworld/underworld/otherworld/land of the dead; "Hermes was their psychopomp".
3. creatures, spirits, angels, or deities in many religions whose responsibility is to escort newly deceased souls to the afterlife.
4. In Jungian psychology, the psychopomp is a mediator between the unconscious and conscious realms
5. A shaman might accompany the soul of the dead accounting for the contemporary phrase “midwife to the dying”.
Their role is not to judge the deceased, but simply provide safe passage.
Charon, the ferryman of Greek myth and later model for the Grim Reaper, is a psychomp most of us are familiar with, as he takes the souls of the dead across the river Styx into the land of the dead… for a price. Valkyries of the Germanic and Asatru traditions, are also guides of the dead, choosing the valiantly slain heroes on the field of battle and taking half to Valhalla and the other half to Fólkvangr. Anubis (Anpu) of Egyptian Studies (originally the lord of the dead,later the son of Osiris when he takes that role) conducts the souls through the underworld, testing their knowledge of the gods and their faith. It is Anubis (Anpu) who places the heart of the deceased on the Scales of Justice during the Judging of the Heart, and he feeds the souls of wicked people to Ammit.
In more contemporary contexts, we go to Tibet.
The Bardo Thodol, aka: Liberation Through Hearing During The Intermediate State, sometimes translated as Liberation Through Hearing. The Bardo Thodol is a funerary text. It is often referred to in the West by the more casual title, Tibetan Book of the Dead, after another funerary text. The text describes, and is intended to guide one through, the experiences that the consciousness has after death, during the interval between death and the next rebirth. This interval is known as the bardo.
To Jung (psychology) the psychopomp is; a psychic factor that mediates unconscious contents to consciousness, often personified in the image of a wise old man or woman, and sometimes as a helpful animal. In this model, the analogy of Charon ferrying the souls of the dead across the river Styx,is syncratic to the idea of “ferrying” ideas across the conscious/subconscious divide. The image (being personally relevant as an easily relatable character to whom the person is predisposed to listen to) is intentionally designed(presumably by the subconscious) to facilitate trust and understanding. I’m reminded of the images of the old man (Wotan) in the tale of Siegfried slaying Fafnir, who waits for the incipient hero at either a cross roads, a bridge, or as the ferryman.
This topic also crosses over in the subjects of "the ancestral altar" and "Anpu's Staff" group discussions and subjects.
Psychopomp by Culture:
1. African: Ancestors
2. Aztec: Xolotl
3. Anglo-Saxon: Wōden
4. Celtic: Ankou; Epona; Gwyn ap Nudd; Manannán macLir; Santa Compaña
5. Christianity (RomanCatholicism): Saint Barbara (a virgin martyr and one of the Fourteen HolyHelpers; said to bring Holy Communion to the dying); Our Lady ofMount Carmel;St.Michael (an archangel);St.Peter (an apostle of God); John the Baptist (a prophet of God); Azrael (anangel of death);Angels
6. Egyptian: Anubis; Thoth; Horus; Neith
7. Etruscan: Charun; Turms
8. Greek: Charon; Hecate; Hermes; Morpheus; Thánatos
9. Hinduism: Agni; Pushan
10. Inuit: Anguta; Pinga
11. Islam: Azrael
12. Japanese: Shinigami
13. Judaism: Abraham (apatriarch of God);Gabriel(an archangel);Lailah; Elijah /Sandalphon (a prophet / an archangel)
14. Korean: Jeoseung Saja
15. Mayan: Ixtab
16. Mesopotamian: Namtar
17. Native American: Muut
18. Norse: Freyja; Odin; Valkyries
19. Persian: Mithra
20. Polynesian: Aumakua
21. Roman: Mercury
22. Slavic: Volos
23. Vodun: Guédé; Legba
24. Zoroastrianism: Daena; Vohu Mano
25. Other: Grim Reaper
There is an emergent field for those with the inclination, called death midwives. They not only console the dying but the surviving relatives while acting as a liaison between the family and the funeral home, explaining the local laws and restrictions so taking the burden of the details from the family (sort of the way a wedding planner takes care of the details of a wedding). It's a noble and honorable tradition that, in my opinion, needs to see a radical upswing in popularity... especially among pagan and alternate religion fields so as to promote non-standard practices and ease the confusion of pagan and non-pagan disparities.