From the Greek psycho (soul) + pompos (conductor). A soul conductor. Traditionally, this is a figure who leads souls into the land of the dead. It arrives as death is imminent, then leads the soul to the afterlife. A terrifying, comforting, ambivalent creature. Like death, I guess.
So, this is sounding morbid. But bear with me.
It comes in the form of a bird, a fish, a dog, a bee, a horse, a man, a woman. In ancient Egypt, it was Anubis. In the Finno-Ugric tradition, it’s a weeping woman. In ancient Greek mythology, Hermes. In Judaism, the angel Azrael. The silent grim reaper. The Valkyries, who chose on the battlefield who would die. The lists go on, with varying degrees of relevance.
It’s a fundamental theme: we all die, and we all love stories and characters, so why would we not have developed stories and characters to fill the journey to the inevitable unknown?
There’s another meaning: Carl Jung saw the psychopomp as a mediator between the conscious and unconscious, the figure that guides us in dreams between our states of being.
This much I’ve learned recently from the internet. I don’t pretend to be an expert on psychopomps; I’m learning about them essentially as we speak. So, why is it the name of my blog? The most direct and honest answer is: it’s a neat word. A word I must have heard at some point, because when I was casting about for a name for this blog I wanted to start, I found it on my always-handy list of cool words and phrases and it called to me.
Indulge me, though, as we get a little less mundane: there is something perfect about it, as I hope we’ll see. It hints at several themes that interest me and that I intend to write about here. First, books: the reading, and the writing, thereof. I’m spending more of my time doing creative writing these days: so far, I have drafted a historical novel, and plan to write a different project soon. I also read a lot, and sometimes I write about what I read. Second, there’s something interesting to me about the idea of entities who are in two places at once, and who can mediate between them. I like ideas that cross over the ordinary boundaries. Third, there is the spiritual element of the concept of the psychopomp. To make a reference that has absolutely no chance of becoming dated any time soon, it might get a little Marianne Williamson in here, but also a little fussy and high-church. Fourth, I’m interested in and likely to write about psychological ideas, as I’m very interested at the moment in personality typing systems with limited scientific value, especially the Enneagram. In short, we’ll be doing high and low; serious and silly; sacred and profane; etymology and puns.
A brief introduction before I go: I’m a lawyer by day, dabbler at other times. I write novels in my spare time. I spend too long on Wikipedia fairly often. I love the outdoors, food, beer, travel, books of almost all kinds, languages, genealogy, beauty, peace, and other fairly unobjectionable things. I’ve never had a blog before.* This should be interesting for me, and hopefully for you as well. We’ll see what we get up to.
*Anyone who remembers my high school LiveJournal is hereby sworn to secrecy.