Psychopomp: Mediator between the Conscious and Unconscious

Psychopomps (from the Greek word ψυχοπομπός (psychopompos), literally meaning the “guide of souls”) are creatures, spirits, angels, or deities in many religions whose responsibility is to escort newly-deceased souls to the afterlife. Their role is not to judge the deceased, but simply provide safe passage. Frequently depicted on funerary art, psychopomps have been associated at different times and in different cultures with horses, Whip-poor-wills, ravens, dogs, crows, owls, sparrows, cuckoos, harts and Yamatoots.

Whipporwills feature prominently as malign psychopomps in many works of H. P. Lovecraft, perhaps most notably in The Dunwich Horror.

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. 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 vice versa: to help at birth, to introduce the newborn child’s soul to the world. This also accounts for the contemporary title of “midwife to the dying,” which is another form of psychopomp work.

The uncanny impression occurs where the conscious and unconscious mind conflict, it lies between both states. The reference to the Shaman is also significant to my research as much performance art that currently influences my work (where acts of a violent, sexual or extreme nature involving the body occur), are heavily influenced by Shamanic ritual behaviour.

(Definition of Psychopomp found at Wikipedia)

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