Winged Wednesday: Psychopompic Angels

Welcome to Winged Wednesdays where I talk about angels, angel myths, and all things angel. I must admit, as of last night, I had no idea what to write about. I had a few ideas mulling around in there, but nothing solid. This morning, I checked my email to find I was gifted with some photographs to share with you from my friend, and fellow author, Stephanie Lawton. I saw these gorgeous photos and knew what my topic was going to be.

Photo courtesy of Stephanie Lawton

Psychopomp – What is it?

The word psychopomp literally means a “guide of souls”. Psychopomps are spirits whose duty is to escort the dead to the afterlife. Psychopomps can be seen across many cultures, from Anubis who guarded the dead and led them to the underworld in ancient Egypt; Charon in ancient Greece, who guided souls across the River Styx; or the Valkyries in Norse mythology who escorted the dead to Valhalla. How widespread is the idea of psychopomps? There are references to Sraosha in ancient Persia (Zoroastrianism) that dates back to 6th century BCE, and Yama in Hinduism, dating back to 5000 BCE. According to Wikipedia, psychopomps can be found in many cultures: Egyptian, Nigerian, Aztec, Inuit, Mayan, Native American, Vodun, Irish, Celtic, Welsh, Anglo-Saxon, Breton, Norse, Etruscan, Greek, Roman, Spanish, Islamic, Jewish, Buddist, Hindu, Japanese, Korean, Persian, more here. They can be animals, like the raven or crow; ghoulish figures, like the grim reaper; or even deities like the Norse Odin or Celtic Morrigan.

Angels as Psychopomps

In Judaisim, Christianity and Islam, angels have taken on the role of psychopomps. Thus the stone angels we see in cemeteries.

Photo Courtesy of Stephanie Lawton

Certainly some people see these angels as guardian angels, who watch over the dead. If so, then these stone angels are acting like Anubis. And as I mentioned before, Anubis is one of the psychopomps of ancient Egypt, watching over the dead, the embalming process, to prepare people for the underworld. However, if these stone angels represent guides to help souls cross over to the afterlife, then they are psychopomps. Certainly, the role of angels, as messengers and servants of God/Allah have more than one role. They perform all sorts of tasks, but the psychopomp, which predates Christianity by millenia, is clearly one of them.

Which Angels are Psychopomps?

According to the different traditions, different angels play the role of psychopomp. In Islam, and some Jewish and Christian traditions, Azrael (Malak al-Maut) is the archangel of death. The name is Hebrew for “whom God helps”. In Judaism, many angels perform the role of psychopomp  not the least of which is the archangels Gabriel and Sandalphon. The same applies to Christianity, including the archangel Michael. (who seems like he would be a very busy angel). My question today comes totally out of left field. I’ve heard people tell of near death experiences where they go to the light and are greeted by deceased loved ones, like their grandparents, parents, or spouses. Are those people psychopomps? Have the dead automatically turned into angels? Or are the angels appearing as someone or something familiar to the person facing their own death (like Jodi Foster’s dad appeared to her in the movie Contact)? Come to think of it, are angels even psychopomps? or are the psychopomps appearing as angels to some the way they would appear as long-lost relatives to others? What do you think?

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8 thoughts on “Winged Wednesday: Psychopompic Angels

  1. winmarlee says:

    So, I am researching why I have had the same image come to me after many meditations trying to “guide me to my personal Angel”. Interestingly today is Wednesday (albeit a couple of months after your post..and I figured it must be “a sign!” The image Im provided with each meditation (both guided and un-guided) of my guardian angel confused me as I (ashamedly) didnt know “its” name but recognised the image. It was – is: Anubis. Im wondering on your thoughts of Anubis presenting to me on each occasion as my Angel? Im quite new to this so am looking for some insight. Many thanks in advance 🙂 Sarah

    • lvoisin says:

      Hi Sarah!

      Thanks for sharing so openly! I believe that in meditation, our angels take the form of archetypal images to guide us. Everything they show us is “information”, and sometimes the way they present themselves can change depending on what we are going through in our lives. Though, ultimately, the information you get is specific to you personally, I’ll give this my best shot.

      Anubis, as you know, is an Egyptian God, who protects souls and guides them to the afterlife. In addition to being an embalmer, Anubis was a “Guardian of the Scales”. In Ancient Egypt, it was believed that upon death, all souls met Anubis who decided the weight of “truth” by weighing the heart against the goddess Ma’at, who was often depicted as an ostrich feather. So it’s an image of having a heavy heart, burdened by life, rather than being lighthearted and joyful. When Anubis weighed the heart on a scale. If it was heavier than a feather, then you went one place, and if it was lighter than a feather you went to another. (This is not unlike St. Peter at the pearly gates who assesses your soul before you can enter Heaven)

      As a psychopomp, Anubis is seen as the guardian of death, but I doubt his appearance as your angel has to do with literal death, but transformation or change and your reaction to it.

      If Anubis appears in your meditation as your angel, ask yourself. “What changes am I facing?” and “How’s my heart in the face of change?” “Am I happy and carefree? or am I worried in some way?” You may have to dig deep to find these answers for yourself. Because Anubis’s scales represents the final judgment (like St. Peter at the gates), you may also have to ask yourself “How do I judge myself? Do I judge myself harshly, or am I kind and forgiving with myself?”

      Ultimately, your angel appearing as Anubis gives you the opportunity to weigh things with your heart and come to the ultimate truth for yourself by feeling rather than over thinking things.

      Thanks for commenting, if you have more questions, or if your angel changes, please do let me know! I can be reached at lisa underscore voisin at hotmail dot com. If you are seeking, have you heard of the Training in Power Academy? I’ve found studying with them (and teaching their work) to be quite helpful for me.

      • winmarlee says:

        Lisa, thank you so much for your prompt reply – very VERY interesting and something that I look forward to investigating and researching further. There are some questions I need to ask myself and I look forward to realising the answers. I have subscribed to your feeds – I look forward to learning more on this adventure we call ‘life’ . Sending you peace and blessings in yours, Sarah

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