I’ve been asked about the word ‘psychopomp’ several times lately, and it was suggested that a bit of explaining might do. Psychopomp is Greek for ‘conductor of souls,’ or someone whose role is to compassionately lead the departed to their next experience. For the range of work that I do with the dead, the word deathwalker is a better fit, as it encompasses a bit more than just that.

Traditionally soul workers are psychopomps, or deathwalkers. They have training in techniques to facilitate trauma release for the unquiet dead, so that they can be deathwalked. I came to this work, as in my childhood I had ongoing experiences seeing the dead. At seven years old the Disney movie Child of Glass helped me understand that the dead were asking for help, though I didn’t have elders who could teach me how to give it. It wasn’t until my teens that I understood I was a deathwalker.

Real Wyrd - A Modern Shaman's Roots in the Middle World by S. Kelley Harrell

In order to be effective as a deathwalker, skills in protection, good boundaries, energy hygeine, soul retrieval, depossession, curse-breaking, and witnessing go a long way, as well as the ability to move between realms and know to where souls should be directed when they move on. It’s also helpful to have a Dream Team of professionals with an array of skills to appeal to, when we aren’t able to be effective in deathwalking. SOmetimes we’re just not the right person, there may be a cultural need to be addressed, or we may be emotionally involved. There are many reasons for why we may not be a good fit to help a being move on.

My innate skills lay in seeing souls, but I had no elders to help me know how to respond. I first had to learn not to be afraid of them, as often they were frightening and gruesome, in order to understand why they were coming to me (that’s where the movie helped). I lived into that awareness, then later learned specific techniques to help them transition. There are many ways to accomplish that purpose, some as simple as opening space and ‘pushing them’ up, or literally escorting them through in an ecstatic trance state. Others that I’ve found useful involve Midgard interaction to release them (solo energies and group), and a group Brazilian mediumistic technique called mesa blanca, which focuses on the release of suffering spirits (not for me but an interesting study).

Ultimately the goal is for the souls to move to their next experience of themselves peacefully. Life force isn’t created to be stagnant. It is progressive, evolving energy that when stuck creates problems for the living and spirit realms.  Sometimes releasing life force goes more smoothly than others. In many cases, the dead don’t realize they are dead, and that reality can be very upsetting to them. Again, finesse is required. Often souls who are invested in the chaos they create in the formed world are less likely to move on, and encouraging them to do so requires extra skill.  On rarer occasions, they just refuse to move on, and this requires a mutual respect and negotiation. As with the living, we can only be where we are; we can’t force ourselves or anyone else to be where they are not ready to be.

A caveat to releasing the dead is, sometimes the spirits in this realm aren’t of the deceased. There are different schools of thought on this scenario, of which I find souls that were never in form require a different approach to address their needs and release them. These usually are energies that have languished for centuries, or longer, if not are elementals and collective buildup resulting from the planet’s etheric grid being congested or from the human impact on Nature. Places, structure become entities separate from the people who dwell in them, and sometimes need to be cleared. Nature spirits sometimes need to be appeased and released. Sometimes people become attached to spirits or loved ones, and in the process of depossesion that spirit needs help moving on. The scenarios of deathwalking are unique and possibly infinite.

Soul nature to keep moving, progressing, exploring Self in relationship. When any facet of our diverse souls doesn’t grow, All Things bow under the weight of that stagnation. My approach to facilitating our movement in all stages of life has been to teach classes on relatoinship with cosmology that fully supports us, which is how to live well, as well as how to die well. In learning how to die, we truly begin to live.