Psychopomps (from the Greek word ψυχοπομπός, psychopompós, literally meaning the "guide of souls")[1] are creatures, spirits, angels, 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 guide them. Appearing frequently on funerary art, psychopomps have been depicted at different times and in different cultures as anthropomorphic entities, horses, deer, dogs, whip-poor-wills, ravens, crows, owls, sparrows and cuckoos. When seen as birds, they are often seen in huge masses, waiting outside the home of the dying.

NAMA Hermès & Myrrhinè
Relief from a carved funerary lekythos at Athens: Hermes as psychopomp conducts the deceased, Myrrhine, to Hades, ca 430-420 BC (National Archaeological Museum of Athens).


Ancient religion

Classical examples of a psychopomp are the ancient Egyptian god Anubis, the Greek ferryman Charon[1] and deities Hermes and Hecate, the Roman god Mercury, and the Etruscan deity Vanth.

Modern religion

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.[2]

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.[3]

In Judaism and Islam, Azrael plays the role of the angel of death who carries the soul up to the heavens.[4]

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.[5](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.

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.[6]

The banshee of Irish and Scottish folklore fits the role of a psychopomp; she keens and laments three nights in a row to warn families of impending deaths and to guide the soul of the recently dead to the Afterlife.


In Jungian psychology, the psychopomp is a mediator between the unconscious and conscious realms. It is symbolically personified in dreams as a wise man or woman, or sometimes as a helpful animal.

Popular culture

The most common contemporary example of a psychopomp appearing in popular culture is the Grim Reaper, which dates from 15th-century England and has been adopted into many other cultures around the world over the years; for instance, the shinigami in Japanese culture today.[a]


  1. ^ Exemplified by the popular manga and TV drama series Death Note


  1. ^ a b "ψυχοπομπός - Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott A Greek-English Lexicon".
  2. ^ "The Mercury-Woden Complex: A Proposal", p. 27
  3. ^ Zoroastrianism After Life. Zoroastrian Funeral. Accessed: March 2017.
  4. ^ "Death, angel of". Jewish Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2017-02-02.
  5. ^ Hoppál, Mihály: Sámánok Eurázsiában. Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, 2005. ISBN 963-05-8295-3. (The title means "Shamans in Eurasia"; the book is written in Hungarian, but it is published also in German, Estonian and Finnish.) Site of publisher with short description on the book (in Hungarian).
  6. ^ Scott, William Henry (1994). Barangay: Sixteenth Century Philippine Culture and Society. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press. ISBN 971-550-135-4.

Further reading

  • Geoffrey Dennis, "Abraham", "Elijah", "Lailah", "Sandalphon", Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic, and Mysticism, Llewellyn, 2007.
  • Eliade, Mircea, "Shamanism", 1964, Chapters 6 and 7, "Magical Cures: the Shaman as Psychopomp".

Anguta is the father of the sea goddess Sedna in Inuit mythology. In certain myths of the Greenland Inuit Anguta (also called "His Father" or Anigut) is considered the creator-god and is the supreme being among of the Inuit people. In other myths, Anguta is merely a mortal widower. His name, meaning "man with something to cut," refers to his mutilating of his daughter which ultimately resulted in her godhood, an act he carried out in both myths. Anguta is a psychopomp, ferrying souls from the land of the living to the underworld, called Adlivun, where his daughter rules. Those souls must then sleep there for a year before they go to Qudlivun (those above us) on the Moon where they will enjoy eternal bliss. He is also known as Aguta.


In Welsh mythology, Arawn (/'ɑːrɑːʊn/) was the king of the otherworld realm of Annwn, appearing prominently in the first branch, and alluded to in the fourth. In later tradition, the role of king of Annwn was largely attributed to the Welsh psychopomp, Gwyn ap Nudd. However, Arawn's memory is retained in a traditional saying found in an old Cardigan folktale:

Hir yw'r dydd a hir yw'r nos, a hir yw aros Arawn "Long is the day and long is the night, and long is the waiting of Arawn"The name Arawn is possibly analogous to the continental theonym Arubianus.

Babylon (The Tea Party song)

"Babylon" is a song by Canadian rock band The Tea Party. It was released as a promotional single in Canada. The music video was shot in Toronto and was unique at the time for being one continuous shot with a single camera.

"Babylon" "was the last track to make it on to Transmission" and features "some of the most distorted sounds" The Tea Party ever made, with Jeff Burrows playing a sped up version of drums sampled from "Psychopomp" and "most guitar sounds are in fact keyboards in disguise".


In Greek mythology, Charon or Kharon (; Greek Χάρων) is the ferryman of Hades who carries souls of the newly deceased across the rivers Styx and Acheron that divided the world of the living from the world of the dead. A coin to pay Charon for passage, usually an obolus or danake, was sometimes placed in or on the mouth of a dead person. Some authors say that those who could not pay the fee, or those whose bodies were left unburied, had to wander the shores for one hundred years. In the catabasis mytheme, heroes – such as Aeneas, Dionysus, Heracles, Hermes, Odysseus, Orpheus, Pirithous, Psyche, Theseus and Sisyphus – journey to the underworld and return, still alive, conveyed by the boat of Charon.


In Haiti, the Guédé (also spelled Gede or

Ghede, pronounced [ɡede] in Haitian Creole) are the family of Loa that embody the powers of death and fertility. Guédé spirits include Ghede Doubye, Ghede Linto, Ghede Loraj, Guédé Nibo and Guédé Ti Malis. All are known for the drum rhythm and dance called the "banda". In possession, they will drink or rub themselves with a mixture of clairin (raw rum) and twenty-one habanero or goat peppers. Fête Ghede is celebrated on 2 November, All Souls' Day ("Festival of the Dead"). Boons granted by the Ghede not repaid by this date will be avenged afterwards.

Papa Ghede is the corpse of the first man who ever died. He is recognized as a short, dark man with a high hat on his head, who likes to smoke cheap cigars and eat apples. Papa Ghede is a psychopomp who waits at the crossroads to take souls into the afterlife. He is considered the good counterpart to Baron Samedi. If a child is dying, Papa Ghede is prayed to. It is believed that he will not take a life before its time, and that he will protect the little ones. Papa Ghede has a very crass sense of humor, a divine ability to read others' minds, and the ability to know everything that happens in the worlds of the living and the dead.Brave Ghede is the guardian and watchman of the graveyard. He keeps the dead souls in and the living souls out. He is sometimes considered an aspect of Nibo.Ghede Bábáco is Papa Ghede's less known brother and is also a psychopomp. His role is somewhat similar to that of Papa Ghede, but he doesn't have the special abilities of his brother.Ghede Nibo is a psychopomp, an intermediary between the living and the dead. He was the first person to die by violence, so he is the patron of those who died by unnatural causes (disaster, accident, misadventure, or violence). He is the guardian of the graves of those who died prematurely, particularly those whose final resting place is unknown. His chevals ("horses", possessed devotees) can give voice to the dead spirits whose bodies have not been found or that have not been reclaimed from "below the waters".Baron Kriminel ("Baron of Criminals") is the enforcer of the Guede. He was the first person to kill another (probably Nibo). As the first murderer, he is master of those who murder or use violence to harm others. Families of murder victims and the abused pray to him to get revenge on those who wronged them. His "horses" have an insatiable appetite and will attack people until they are offered food. If it doesn't please them or takes too long, they will bite and chew on anyone nearby (or even themselves) until they are sated. He is syncretised with St. Martin de Porres, perhaps because his feast day is November 3, the day after Fete Ghede. He is sacrificed black roosters that have been bound, doused with strong spirit, and then set alight.Maman Brigitte ("Mother Bridget") is the wife of Baron Samedi. She is syncretized with St. Brigit, perhaps because St. Brigit is the protector of crosses and gravestones.


At the time of the Spanish conquest of Yucatán (1527-1546), Ix Tab, or Ixtab ([iʃˈtaɓ], 'Woman whose work involves the use of a rope'), was the indigenous Mayan goddess of suicide by hanging. Playing the role of a psychopomp, she would accompany such suicides to heaven. No certain depictions of Ixtab are known.

Japanese Breakfast

Japanese Breakfast is the solo musical project of Korean American musician Michelle Zauner. Under the alias, Zauner has released two studio albums: Psychopomp (2016) and Soft Sounds from Another Planet (2017).


Larunda (also Larunde, Laranda, Lara) was a naiad nymph, daughter of the river Almo in Ovid's Fasti. The only known mythography attached to Lara is little, late and poetic, coming to us from Ovid’s Fasti. She was famous for both beauty and loquacity (a trait her parents attempted to curb). She was incapable of keeping secrets, and so revealed to Jupiter's wife Juno his affair with Juturna (Larunda's fellow nymph, and the wife of Janus). For betraying his trust, Jupiter cut out Lara's tongue and ordered Mercury, the psychopomp, to conduct her to Avernus, the gateway to the Underworld and realm of Pluto. Mercury, however, fell in love with Lara and had sex with her on the way. Lara thereby became mother to two children, referred to as the Lares, invisible household gods. However, she had to stay in a hidden cottage in the woods so that Jupiter would not find her.Larunda is likely identical with Muta "the mute one" and Tacita "the silent one", nymphs or minor goddesses.Ovid mentions the myth of Lara and Mercury in connection with the festival of Feralia on February 21. Lara/Larunda is also sometimes associated with Acca Larentia, whose feast day was the Larentalia on December 23.

Liminal deity

A liminal deity is a god or goddess in mythology who presides over thresholds, gates, or doorways; "a crosser of boundaries". On a technical note, dying-and-rising and vegetation gods and deities who descend into the underworld could be seen as specific types of liminal deities. They by their very nature must cross the boundary of life and death, probably the most important boundary there is, to be classified as such. Vegetation gods in particular must die and revive every year to mimic the dying and returning of plant life after winter, making them fairly permanent liminal deities. Dying-and-rising gods and those deities that descend into the underworld (typically to save a dead god and bring them back, thus hoping to make the deceased into a dying-and-rising god) are usually one-time ordeals, making these two categories "lesser types" of the liminal deity and the gods that take part in them temporary liminal deities.

Little Big League (band)

Little Big League is an American indie rock band from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Little Big League began in October 2011. Since then, they have signed to Tiny Engines and Run For Cover Records, as well as released two full-length albums. Their first album, titled These Are Good People, was released in 2013. Their second album, titled Tropical Jinx, was released in 2014.After Zauner's mother was diagnosed with cancer, she moved back to Eugene, Oregon. She recorded two lo-fi digital releases American Sound and Where Is My Great Big Feeling? under the name Japanese Breakfast. A selection of these songs were re-recorded together with Ned Eisenberg. In April 2016 the album Psychopomp was released on Yellow K Records.


Mictlan (Nahuatl pronunciation: [ˈmikt͡ɬaːn]) is the underworld of Aztec mythology. Most people who die would travel to Mictlan, although other possibilities exist. (see "Other destinations", below). Mictlan consists of nine distinct levels.The journey from the first level to the ninth is difficult and takes four years, but the dead are aided by the psychopomp, Xolotl. The dead must pass many challenges, such as crossing a mountain range where the mountains crash into each other, a field with wind that blows flesh-scraping knives, and a river of blood with fearsome jaguars.Mictlan also features in the Aztec creation myth. Mictlantecuhtli set a pit to trap Quetzalcoatl. When Quetzalcoatl entered Mictlan, Mictlantecuhtli was waiting. He asked Quetzalcoatl to travel around Mictlan four times blowing a conch shell with no holes. Quetzalcoatl eventually put some bees in the conch shell to make sound. Fooled, Mictlantecuhtli showed Quetzalcoatl to the bones. But Quetzalcoatl fell into the pit and some of the bones broke. The Aztecs believed this is why people's height are different.

Mictlan is believed to be ruled by King Mictlantecuhtli ("Lord of the Underworld") and his wife, Mictecacihuatl ("Lady of the Underworld").Other deities in Mictlan include Cihuacoatl (who commanded Mictlan spirits called Cihuateteo), Acolmiztli, Chalmecacihuilt, Chalmecatl and Acolnahuacatl.


In Greek mythology, Molpadia was an Amazon who was said to have fought for both Antiope and Orithyia. She was a participant in the Attic War, where she witnessed her queen Antiope sustain heavy injuries. Antiope was hurt so seriously that she could not defend herself from Theseus and his retainers. Knowing this, Molpadia killed the queen with an arrow (some say spear), saving her from violation by the Athenian king. Other sources, however, state that she killed Antiope by accident. She was afterwards killed by Theseus, and her tomb was shown at Athens.Like many other Amazons, she may have been named for a goddess, in this case a psychopomp deity. Her name means "Death Song".Molpadia is not to be confused with another character of the same name, daughter of Staphylus and Chrysothemis, sister of Parthenos and Rhoeo, alternatively called Hemithea.


Ogmios (also known as Ogmius; Ancient Greek: Ὄγμιος; Latin: Ogmius, Ogimius) was the Celtic deity of eloquence. He looked like an older version of Heracles who would use his powers of persuasion to bind men to himself.Most of the knowledge about Ogmios comes from comparisons between him and powerful deities and heroes in other ancient cultures.


In Inuit mythology, Pinga ("the one who is [up on] high") was a goddess of the hunt, fertility and medicine. She was also the psychopomp, bringing souls of the newly dead to Adlivun, the underworld.

Psychopomp (album)

Psychopomp is the debut studio album by Japanese Breakfast, the solo musical project of Michelle Zauner of Little Big League. The album was released in the U.S. through Yellow K Records on April 1, 2016, and internationally through Dead Oceans on September 19, 2016.

Psychopomp (song)

"Psychopomp" is a song by Canadian rock band The Tea Party. It was released as a promotional single in Canada. The music video was shot live in the MuchMusic CHUM-City Building in Toronto, before and during their Intimate & Interactive performance in May 1998.

"Psychopomp" is a reworking of a composition called "Something More" that Jeff Burrows and Jeff Martin wrote as teenagers.


Pushan (Sanskrit: पूषन्, Pūṣan) is a Vedic solar deity and one of the Adityas. He is the god of meeting. Pushan was responsible for marriages, journeys, roads, and the feeding of cattle. He was a psychopomp (soul guide), conducting souls to the other world. He protected travelers from bandits and wild beasts, and protected men from being exploited by other men. He was a supportive guide, a "good" god, leading his adherents towards rich pastures and wealth. He carried a golden lance, a symbol of activity.

The Tea Party discography

This is the discography for Canadian hard rock group The Tea Party.

Transmission (The Tea Party album)

Transmission is the fourth album recorded by the Canadian band The Tea Party, released in 1997. The band expanded on the mix of rock, blues and world music found in their previous albums by adding electronic instruments and recording techniques to their repertoire.

While still using several exotic instruments and maintaining the "eastern" influence in the recording, many songs also include samples, sequencers and loops alongside the traditional acoustic instruments. The result is a harder, industrial sound. The album makes lyrical references to the afterlife ("Psychopomp"), the dystopian works of Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, Yevgeny Zamyatin ("Army Ants") and Giovanni Piranesi's 'Imaginary Prisons' ("Alarum").

Transmission continued to build on the momentum generated by The Edges of Twilight, reaching #3 on the Canadian album chart, double platinum status in Canada and receiving a 1998 Juno nomination for "Blockbuster Rock Album of the Year". An edited version of the song "Temptation", as well as an instrumental version of "Babylon", can be found on the PlayStation game Road Rash 3D, from the same year.

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