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Many sets of religious beliefs have a particular spirit, deity, demon or angel whose responsibility is to escort newly-deceased souls to the afterlife, such as Heaven or Hell. These creatures are called psychopomps, from the Greek word ψυχοπομπóς (psuchopompos), literally meaning the "guide of souls".

They were often associated with horses, whippoorwills, ravens, dogs, crows, owls, sparrows, harts, and dolphins.

In some cultures, acting as a psychopompos was also one of the functions of a shaman. This could include not only acompanying the soul of the dead, but also vice versa: to help at birth, to introduce the newborn's soul to the word.

List by mythology

Aztec mythology

Xolotl

Cahuilla mythology

Muut

Celtic mythology

Belatu-Cadros (especially Wales)
Epona
Ogmios
Ankou

Christian mythology

Michael
Saint Peter

Egyptian mythology

Anubis
Neith
Horus
Set
Thoth

English mythology

Waetla

Etruscan mythology

Turms


The Barque of Charon, Sleep, Night and Morpheus, by Luca Giordano

Greek mythology

Artemis
Charon
Hermes
Thanatos
Hypnos
Morpheus
The Keres

Hindu mythology

Agni
Pushan
Yama

Inuit mythology

Anguta
Pinga

Islamic mythology

Azrael
Nakir and Munkar

Japanese mythology

Shinigami

Jewish mythology

Gabriel
Sandalphon

Maya mythology

Ixtab
Valkyries of Norse mythology, as depicted by Peter Nicolai Arbo, 1869

Norse mythology

Baldur
Odin
Valkyries

Persian mythology

Mithra

Polynesian mythology

Aumakua

Roman mythology

Mercury

Slavic mythology

Volos

Vodun

Guédé

Zoroastrianism

Vohu Mano

Literature

Compare Virgil's role in Dante’s Inferno.

In modern literature, the title character of J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan is said to act as a guide for children: “At first Mrs. Darling did not know, but after thinking back into her childhood she just remembered a Peter Pan who was said to live with the fairies. There were odd stories about him; as that when children died he went part of the way with them, so that they should not be frightened.”

Sparrows as psychopomps play a notable role in Stephen King's novel The Dark Half.

See also

References and further reading