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The Psychopomp

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Valkyrie
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« on: February 19, 2007, 08:11:43 pm »

The Psychopomp
From Terri Paajanen,
Your Guide to Pagan / Wiccan Religion.


During my own recent studies into the Gods and Goddesses of various pantheons, I found so many similar ideas in culture after culture. The one that stuck in my mind was the psychopomp, which refers to a God or other Being that is responsible for the transport of the souls of the dead to the Afterlife or the underworld (depending on the myths). I thought it was interesting that so many cultures have assigned a Deity to a such a specific role. Besides, I just think the word psychopomp is neat.
Egyptian
In this pantheon, the God that escorts the souls to the Underworld is the jackal-headed God, Anubis. He is often considered the God of the Dead on this account, but it is Osiris who actually rules in the Underworld, Anubis just transports the dead. Once at the gates of the Underworld, it is also Anubis who weighs the heart of the deceased against the feather of Ma'at to determine a soul's worth.

Since much of the Roman pantheon is a carbon-copy of the original Greek, I'm lumping the two together here. The Greeks believed that it was the God Hermes who travelled with souls to the Underworld. The Roman version would be Mercury. I suppose this is appropriate as Hermes/Mercury was considered the messenger of the Gods and He played the role of errand-boy in many myths. Some might consider Charon to also be a psychopomp, as he was the one who conveyed souls across the river Styx. But I think that is more about travelling within the Underworld rather than travel to it.

Norse
According to Norse myth, souls were not collected by a Deity, but by the Valkyries. The Valkyries were actually a whole group of beings rather than a single one. They were women who flew on horseback, dressed and armed for battle. Flying over the battlefield, they chose the honourable dead and took them to Asgard and Odin's hall, Valhalla. The name 'Valkyrie' is translated as 'Chooser of the Slain'. They ride in packs and many are given specific names in Norse myth.

Vodou / Vodun
Like the Norse, Vodou myth does not have a single being that plays the role of psychopomp. Instead there are a group of spirits, known as the Ghede. Also like the Valkyries, some Ghede spirits are known by their individual names. One particular Ghede is Baron Samedi, who is the loa of the dead. The colours of the Ghede are purple and black, and modern images of them are of well-dressed undertakers with mirrored sunglasses.

Celtic
Among the Celtic Gods, the one who had the task of escorting the dead was Epona, better known as the horse Goddess from the Gaul region. When the Romans invaded the Celtic lands, they retained the worship of Epona because of their love of horses and their cavalry. Not much is known about the role Epona played as a psychopomp.

English Folklore
I thought I would add one more. Sparrows are a common psychopomp in many folk tales and stories. They would surround the house of a dying person and wait to snatch up their soul when it tried to escape.
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http://paganwiccan.about.com/od/paganism/a/psychopomp.htm
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Valkyrie
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« Reply #1 on: February 19, 2007, 08:15:49 pm »

Not all Pagans have the same views of what happens after death.
I have found when people are curious about my religion, one of the first things they ask is "What do you believe happens when you die?"
Before I begin, I would just like to point out that there is no set doctrine among Wiccans when it comes to the details of the afterlife. Some other Pagan paths do have a more specific mythology in this regard, which I mention at the end of this article.

Most Wiccans believe in reincarnation. Our souls come back lifetime after lifetime, to learn new lessons and to grow as individuals. Between lives, our souls reside in the Summerlands. It's neither heaven nor hell, but a place for our souls to rest and reflect on the experiences of completed lives. You may be reunited with loved ones as well. What happens when we learn all we can on this earthly plane? I really couldn't say.

People who are unfamiliar with Wicca tend to see the lack of heaven or hell as meaning we live our lives without responsibility.

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We may not consider ourselves doomed to suffer for an eternity in a Christian hell, but we certainly believe that there are consequences to our actions. Those who do 'evil' deeds, will find their punishment in another lifetime. Karma follows a soul from life to life. Our fates are not determined by any one single action, but rather by the overall accumulation of actions throughout our lives.
Since many Wiccans are influenced by the pantheons they work with, their views of the afterlife may come from the culture they work with. In other words, if you are Wiccan but work with Norse Deities, you may feel more drawn to the idea of Asgard rather than the Summerlands, even though you are not truly following an Asatru path.


Asatru / Norse

The realm of the Gods is called Asgard, and worthy souls go there after death. There are many great halls in Asgard, for the many Gods and Goddesses. The greatest of these halls is Valhalla, where fallen warriors go after death. Those who did not live a life of glory would go to the underworld Niflheim, ruled over by the Goddess Hel. Niflheim is a dull and cold place, where you would be separated from your kin. Reincarnation does exist, but not all souls are reborn, and it's typically found within a family line, reflecting the importance of family and ancestors.

Kemetic / Egyptian

After death, a soul would have to journey to the Hall of Judgement. There, the heart is weighed on a scale against the feather of Ma'at (truth and justice), by the God Anubis. If you lived a sinful life, the heart would be heavy, that soul could not enter paradise and would be devoured by the monster Ammut. The ancient Egyptians believed that the physical body was needed in the afterlife, which is why such elaborate means were taken to preserve the body.

Hellenismos / Greek

The dead would be buried with coins, to pay the ferryman to cross the river Styx and enter the underworld. Once there, worthy souls would enter the Elysian Fields (paradise). Unworthy souls were sent to Tartarus for punishment. But even then, a soul could earn redemption and rise to paradise. There was also a region of limbo, called Asphodel for the souls neither good enough for the Elysian Fields or bad enough for Tartarus. The judges at the gates of Hades would decide the fate of your soul, or whether you would be reincarnated into another life.
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http://paganwiccan.about.com/od/astralplane/a/afterlife.htm
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Valkyrie
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« Reply #2 on: February 19, 2007, 08:16:50 pm »

Psychopomp

Depossession

Exorcism


Psychopomp or Soul Guide work is a journeying technique done for the spirits of the deceased who may have gotten lost or had problems in making the transition to the Afterlife. It can also be helpful for the living, since displaced souls, not realizing that they have died, may try to continue to interact with those left behind. Soul Guiding may form part of Exorcism or Depossession by helping haunting souls to leave a place or person to whom they have become attached in their confusion. Exorcism and Depossession are done in a journey or by performing certain rituals that cause a possessing spirit to leave the possessed person or place. In shamanic practice this is not a simple banishment; they will take up residence elsewhere. In the case where a human soul is being exorcised it must be healed and helped to the Otherworld. In the case of a non-human entity it must be escorted to a spirit place where it can do no harm, or the negative energy must be transformed shamanically into a neutral or positive one.

Psychopomp work is also sometimes done at the request of relatives or friends who feel that the deceased person has not made a successful crossing due to trauma at death or confusion about his or her death process.
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http://home.frognet.net/~healing/psychopomp_healing.htm
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Valkyrie
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« Reply #3 on: February 19, 2007, 08:17:27 pm »

Soul Retrieval is a shamanic healing technique practiced by the majority of shamanic healers worldwide. The method varies from culture to culture, though all recognize the reality of soul loss. Parts of one’s soul may be driven away by traumatic life events (physical, emotional or spiritual). The healer performs a journey to find, bring back and restore to the client the missing part(s) of soul essence. Soul Retrieval is often helpful for depression, apathy, chronic illness, addiction or when feeling not fully present.

http://home.frognet.net/~healing/soul_retrieval.htm
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