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Relief on a lekythos in Athens : Hermes accompanies Myrrhine on the way to Hades

The word psychopompos (plural psychopompoi ) or Germanized the psychopomp comes from the Greek ψυχοπομπὀς (mask.) And literally means “soul guide”: It guides the souls of the deceased into the afterlife . The part of the name "pompos" comes from the verb "pempo", which means to lead and to lead. The German word "Pomp" refers to a large, festive convoy ("elevator").

Psychopompos is the title of the Greek messenger god Hermes , who took over this office from Apollo . The idea of ​​psychopompoi was widespread, however. For example, who knew ancient Egyptians the canine or jackal-headed Anubis , in the Germanic mythology pick Valkyries the fallen warriors from the battlefield to Valhalla , and among the Celts was Ogma spiritual director.

In Christianity it is the archangel Michael , the guardian angel or the giant Christophorus ; at the gate to heaven Peter awaits the soul that desires to enter. Christophorus can be found on early Christian icons - like his Egyptian counterpart Anubis - depicted dog-headed. In Islam, it is the angel Azrael who receives from Allah a list of the people destined for death and who separates their souls from their bodies for the next 40 days. In general, the psychopompom is a possible form of the personification of death. In general, spirits , deities , demons or angels can take on the task of a psychopompos. In addition to the transport of the soul, its importance is primarily the process of accepting mortality. He is above all a guide and helper.

This idea has its origin in archaic shamanism . The shaman led the souls of deceased people into the realm of the dead. The helpers of the psychopompos are the protective animals . In the culture of some North American tribes, the psychopompos is symbolized by the totem animals .

In literature and media

Examples of psychopompoi in literature are Virgil in Dante's Inferno or the sparrows in Stephen King's novel Stark - The Dark Half or Boandlkramer in the popular play Der Brandner Kaspar based on a story from the late 19th century, which is still performed in Bavaria .

In the television series Dead Like Me - As good as dead , the soul collectors (English grim reaper ) can be described as psychopompoi. They detach the soul from the body, familiarize the souls with their new situation and finally lead them into the light .

Individual evidence

  1. a b P. Saintyves: St Christophe, Successeur d'Anubis, d'Hermes et d'Heracles . In: Rev. anthropologique , 1935
  2. D. Williams: Deformed Discourse. The Function of the Monster in Medieval Thought and Literature . 1996