Treating the Spirits to Some New Tricks
The Psychopomp—Halloween Encounters of the Third Kind

By Ed Turner

Contemporary television programs depicting the search for ghosts and haunted buildings brings us into the realm of the psychopomp.

A shamanic skill that is central to shamanic practice is helping departed spirits adjust to the transition we know as death and then promoting their advancement in the next world to their appropriate station. Rarely do we see a psychic or ghost hunter show proper respect for these needs of the departed or a knowledge of how to really help. Assisting souls in transition is the work of a psychopomp.

 We will soon pass through the experi-ence of American Halloween. Compared to other cultures, such as that of Mexico, we are woefully naive with respect to death, dying, and the world beyond our own that the recently deceased occupy. Festivals such as the Day of the Dead in Mexico and the Celtic festival of Samhain are geared to formally recognizing our rela-tionship with departed relatives. Dressing up and extorting treats from neighbors is such a garbled interpreta-tion of archaic tradition that the point or value of the obser-vance is negated. Practices such as ancestor worship in the Far East and Southeast Asia is not a superstition, but a way of coping with the reality of departed spirits troubling the living—because they do. 

 My understanding of these things came in small bits over the years, but each lesson was valid and lead to deeper understanding. A key truth in the matter of a person's passing is that two weeks prior and two weeks subsequent to the moment of death the veil between the world of the living and dead becomes quite thin (this happens generally at Halloween), so much so that relatives will often have “paranormal” experiences. These may range from  thoughts of departed ancestors occupying their minds to apparitions at the foot of the bed. The point is that we may use this time to gain experience of the nature of transition and make the transition of our loved ones smooth and natural. A common complaint of departed souls is that no one listens to them from the other side. Our culture does not inform us of this possibility. The shaman's ability is natural to this. In fact, it is a basic skill that qualifies a person to be a shaman.
 I offer this understanding for your sensitization. The passing of loved ones elicits great compassion in people. Our compassion can be taken to the next level for the departed if we understand what they are going through. Lack of understanding breeds fear, the energy that predominates in our culture around the issue of ghosts and hauntings. This fear results from the fear of the unknown associated with death. Such a negative response to a natural occurrence, though, is unfortunate and unnecessary once understanding is gained.

Living in the Murray Hotel in the mid nineties in Livingston and being a practiced meditator, I would sense a presence in the room. At first I tolerated it, since my meditation quickly took me beyond the vibration of this presence. Also, I had not raised my baseline attitude beyond tolerance to acceptance of external phenomena. So I blasted my room with a clearing light and in the aftermath perceived some of the encroaching spirits hanging from the outside windowsill by their finger-tips. Instantly, I realized how rude I had been. I then began negotiating my space and boundary require-ments with them after profuse apologies.

 The thing about perceptions of nonordinary reality is that you have to trust them. Once real contact through intentional action is estab-lished, we are responsible for rela-tionship. I had been properly prepared for these experiences and so skepticism or doubt was out of the question. Skepticism about paranormal phenomenon only deprives people of experience. Intuitional belief, a kind of trust, is the first doorway to these understandings. For the practiced shaman, the doorways are attunement and imagination.

 My first experience of directly helping a person from her ghost state into the light happened in one of Livingston's former bordellos. We had helped a woman with the remodeling of one of the “B Street” houses, and when all was settled she threw a party for her friends and helpers. When I say threw, I mean it was the first party in Montana in over ten years I had been to that wasn't BYO. The hostess was giving tours and coming from upstairs she approached me commenting that one of the guests had felt some “energy” at the top of the steps. Would I like to check it out?

She and I had had a brief conversation during the remodeling about New Age understandings of subtle energy and such things. I was glad to follow her suggestion. At the top of the stairs was a small landing to the left occupied by a rocking chair. I sat down and began my attunement. Right away I realized another person was sitting in the chair. It was an older woman and she was wringing her hands in obvious distress.

I spontaneously addressed her in a polite manner and asked her what the matter was. Her response was that it just wasn't right that all these wives and children were in the house. I knew instantly that I was with an old prostitute. I reminded her that the house was no longer a bordello and that the party was appropriate. She continued to wring her hands anxiously. So I asked her how she liked the way the interior had been decorated and she said it was OK. I wasn't sure how to proceed at that point, so I excused myself by offering my help if she wanted it. No sooner was I in my seat downstairs than she came down to ask me what I meant by “help.” I said that there was no point in her hanging around the old house. “There are places a person needs to go,” I told her, “beyond this world.”

 She was dressed in a housecoat an had curlers in her hair, so I suggested she go get herself fixed up. Instantly, she was transformed into her best presentation. We stood at the edge of the Light together, I put my arm around her shoulders and admitted to her that it was a scary proposition to just walk on over. I assured her that if it was too much she could just find a place to lie down and go to sleep, and when she awoke she would be perfectly prepared to face a new life in the Light. She bravely walked forward, and I am sure she never looked back.

That is basically how it goes. Discarnate souls are essentially in a trance, the program of consciousness they developed in embodiment. In hypnotherapeutic terms, the technique for effectively communicating with trance consciousness is called pacing and leading. You say something that is obviously true, this establishes relationship. You then offer a suggestion in the direction you wish to go. Helping the departed in this way is so much better than entering their space with a bunch of instruments and trying to prove they are there.

 This insight may help you live in peace with your ancestors and discarnate neighbors—a little understanding goes a long way in these matters.

Questions or comments? Email: [email protected]

Editor’s note: The following entry from Wikipedia places the subject matter above in its cultural and historical context: Many religious belief systems have 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, 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 This also accounts for the contemporary title of midwife to the dying, which is another form of psychopomp work.
From Wikipedia.

 

 

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