Many religions include a particular spirit, angel, or deity whose responsibility is to escort newly-deceased souls to the afterlife. These creatures are called psychopomps, from the Greek word ?????????? (psychopompos), literally meaning the “guide of souls”. Their role is not to judge the deceased, but simply provide safe passage. Frequently depicted on funerary art, psychopomps have been associated at different times and in different cultures with horses, whippoorwills, ravens, dogs, crows, owls, sparrows, cuckoos, harts, and dolphins.
In Jungian psychology, the psychopomp is a mediator between the unconscious and conscious realms. It is symbolically personified in dreams as a wise man (or woman), or sometimes as a helpful animal. In many cultures, the shaman also fulfills the role of the psychopomp. This may include not only accompanying the soul of the dead, but also vice versa: to help at birth, to introduce the newborn’s soul to the world (p. 36 of ). This also accounts for the contemporary title of “midwife to the dying,” which is another form of psychopomp work.
Hat tip to Entertainment Weekly’s recap of this week’s Lost episode:
These are stories about the underworld, the mythical place where souls hang after they’ve shed the mortal coil. And now recall the Egyptian hieroglyphics in “The Hatch,” which according to the producers of Lost translated into ”Underworld.” And Smokey’s scene-stealing, arm -ripping presence in this episode reminds us that the guy who made the Map in “The Hatch” called the Monster by a different name: ”Cerberus,” the three-headed demon dog that guarded the gates of Hades. And finally, know that Christian Shepherd, the dude with the Jesus pun name, played the part of ”psychopomp” in this episode — a ”psychopomp” being a mythic underworld figure who serves as a ”guide to souls,” escorting the dead between states of existence. Psychopomp?! Yes: Psychopomp! Psychopomp! Psychopomp! Psychopomp! You can’t just say it enough. PSYCHOPOMP!
Is Lost’s Christian Shepherd a psychopomp? That seems reasonable. He’s long since dead – his son Jack was taking his coffin from Australia back to LA for burial when Oceanic flight 815 crashed on the island. He appeared to Michael moments before he was killed in a massive explosion, saying “You can go now, Michael.” He appeared in Jacob’s cabin with Claire, who we’ve been led to believe is dead. He appeared to John Locke telling him he had to die, and in the flashforwards we know that Locke dies off-island.
So if Christian Shepherd is a psychopomp, then presumably anyone who sees him after his death is going to die. Who else has seen Christian Shepherd? Answer: his son, Jack, who saw him several seasons ago in the jungle at the edge of the beach and again in LA.
I’m guessing Kate is a goner. Like Jack, she saw something from her past that couldn’t have been there. In her case it was the horse.
It’s hard to imagine watching Lost in a pre-Internet age. You need a global network of computers to keep up with this show.
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