I have written about and discussed psychopomp work briefly in several podcasts, media posts, and essays but have hesitated on addressing it formally and specifically. Those that have needed the work have found me. But, to serve more fully and utilize my skillset, the topic needs explicit, direct, acknowledgement; this essay is my attempt at that.
I am a psychopomp.
(((There. I said it., my foot is out of the ‘weirdo’ closet……Maybe I am fooling myself and it always has been, lol)))
A psychopomp is someone that assists the deceased in fully crossing over. They’ve existed throughout history and across cultures. Psychopomps are common in shamanic practice, though not all shamanic practitioners do that work. Further, psychopomp is considered by most practitioners to be an advanced level skill set that requires specific training for safety purposes.
Most departed individuals cross over without difficulty. On occasion, however, the deceased need help. Every instance of a stuck entity is different, but from my own practice and reading, individuals can linger secondary to sudden death/trauma, intense feelings (anger, fear, or confusion for example), a large number of death in one area or close in time (i.e., a more collective trauma, such as the significant increase of death from covid-19), feelings of attachment (to a project or loved ones or even addiction – this last one, I see more often).
I have worked with the deceased since I was a child, in some capacity or another. I was self-taught though inexperienced in assisting the dead in crossing over, until I was more formally trained as a shamanic practitioner. People can come to this work on their own and be naturally gifted in it, others may come to it via training and professional practice; I did both – the path chose me and I chose it.
I won’t provide how-to details on psychopomp work, as 1) this is a more advanced skill set and is not recommended for the beginner or intermediate person and 2) there are trainings for this and professionals that do this work (and people deserve to be paid for their trainings and skills; if you need help, hire a psychopomp, many have sliding scales for financial limitations).
I will, however, offer some insights into the work that might inspire you to learn more, become more open to considering worlds unseen, live more fully as a contemplation of death, and honor our dying and dead.
- When people need assistance in crossing, I ask for support from that person’s spiritual background and/or deceased family and pets. Surprisingly, or maybe not so, deities from the person’s specific traditions will show up and assist. Our spiritual beliefs will offer sustenance in the end, regardless of the variety of beliefs and traditions that we all possess.
- Despite these different beliefs, everyone that I have worked with ends up in the same place – Love (some may call it Source or God or the Collective Consciousness or Great Void; I call it Love) We all have an understanding of the Truth, even those atheists that are open to awe and love alone (love and awe are spirituality and are Source). No single spiritual background is the ultimate truth or gatekeeper, and we are all birthed from and return to Love.
How much hatred, war, and harm would be avoided if we all lived these truths – that we are interconnected, come from love, and all end up in the same place anyway?
How does intolerance trap you?
- Getting curious about and contemplating death and living fully while holding the tension of our mortality are the best preparations for death. Not a single one of us get out of here alive. This embodiment is a spiritual school of sorts – lessons on being human, on unlearning harmful patterns (harm as defined by you, not me), and on loving and supporting others.
SkinSuit school is in session – what are you learning? If you viewed life as a spiritual school, how would that change your current priorities?
- The unseen, or spirit world, is right here – just beyond your vision when in typical states of consciousness, but the deceased can interact with you or at the very least, hear and see you. Your efforts to honor and remember your dead are witnessed and appreciated.
How do you honor your dead ones? How do you wish to be honored?
What if you, the reader, don’t believe what I am writing? Honestly, it is none of my business and does not invalidate my own lived experience (or as RuPaul says in a favorite quote of mine, “Unless they paying your bills, pay them b*tches no mind” – words to live by, thanks, Ru). We are all entitled to our current understanding of things, and sometimes you need to directly live something before you are open to considering it. This is true of several of my clients who reached out for help when they experienced hauntings at their house, and they had never “believed” in such things prior to living it themselves.
Even if you find suspending your disbelief too challenging, consider this – psychopomp is also ceremony and an honoring of the dead. For the living, creating space to process a departed loved one’s transition is healing. This is essentially what we do with memorials, wakes, and funerals; we are marking and making sacred time. There are transitions that I guardian without witness of the living – deceased that need my help and are not responsible for hauntings or even associated with paying embodied clients. Here, I gift these particular dead with ceremony, attention, and consideration, without any financial gain. Instead, I get a window in to the afterlife, become more skilled with each psychopomp practice, and receive in and weld love by returning one of our own back hOMe.
What if you are in need of a psychopomp, for a “haunting” or “depossession”? Find a shamanic practitioner (such as myself, or see Betsy Bergstrom http://betsybergstrom.com/about/depossession.php or Donna Callaghan https://www.journeyofthesoul.net/ ) You might wish to find a practitioner with a spiritual background similar to your own, as shamanic practitioners can come from a variety of spiritual traditions. For example, some psychopomps come from backgrounds that work with undoing curses; I do not (but that does not invalidate or dismiss those that do). So if you felt your experience was curse related, it is best to seek out a practitioner that can assist you.
I also recommend that you start contemplating death for your own spiritual practice and benefit. Come to a death café (I facilitate these, see the events page on my website), read up on death practices from around the world to see what feels right to you (a great starter books here: https://bookshop.org/lists/death-and-dying-936732c4-7c95-44f4-8a2b-ec7f986f3ada – in particular Doughty’s From Here to Eternity), start conversations with loved ones about their beliefs and understandings of death. Live mindfully – notice and take in all the beauty and grace, challenge and sickness – you can’t take it with you so engage with it all while you are here. Or as Mary Oliver wrote: “Instructions for living a life:/Pay attention/Be astonished/Tell about it” (I would like to think by writing this essay, I am following her prescription).
Wishing you all well-being and love in your embodiment.
The above content is written by Dr. Allison Mitch, PT (DPT), RYT 500, shamanic practitioner, and sexuality counselor and educator (in supervision); copyright protected, please cite accordingly. The graphic is mine. To work with me or for more information, please email email@example.com
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*Please note that none of the above information is specific medical advice, but is meant as educational information only. If you have concerns about your health, please contact a trusted healthcare professional*