Today, I had the opportunity to attend Monika’s first advanced group journey class. The topic was psychopomp work, which, as a death worker, is something that naturally interests me. It’s something I have always wanted to include in my death work repertoire, and this was the perfect way to learn that skill under the guidance of a practiced shaman and healer.
We gathered in the basement of Monika’s house and went on three journeys, each with a specific goal in mind.
Journey #1: Meeting the spirit who will help me with psychopomp work.
I started in my bedroom in the castle. Anubis was waiting for me. He took me to a place I have come to consider His temple in the Otherworld, with a stark throne flanked by giant, granite statues of jackal-headed figures. I asked Anubis if He will help me with psychopomp work, which He confirmed. I asked what I should do to request His help, and He instructed me that before every session, I must make elaborate offerings to Him: chocolate, bread, beer, water, candles, and incense. If I end up doing an impromptu psychopomping session, I can make those offerings afterward. Then I asked Anubis if there are any boundaries to be aware of, and besides the usual ones, He mentioned to never walk through “the doors.” I assumed this was a metaphor for entering any afterlives while still alive. I asked for any more information, and He said I’ll find out when I actually do psychopomp work for the first time.
Journey #2: Psychopomp work on a single soul.
I went to visit Anubis’ temple, but it was empty. That’s when I noticed a doorway to the side, through which shined a bright, white light. When I walked through it, I found myself in a smaller chamber lit by fires in the corners. In the middle of the room was a table, upon which a man’s body lay. It was naked except for a white cloth covering the genitals. The facial features were indistinct. Anubis stood, arms crossed, at the far side of the table, waiting.
I approached the table and began to touch the body, starting at the head, as if I was feeling for something unusual. As I did this, Anubis told me that He had found this spirit for me to practice on. I reached the corpse’s foot and, finding nothing of interest, put my hand on the chest. My hand sunk through, as if I had broken through the bone. I looked up at Anubis, alarmed, but He nodded, as if this was correct. So I withdrew my hand and pulled out this glowing orb of white-blue light and energy. It floated on the air in front of me, above the body on the table. I immediately knew it was the man’s soul.
Our conversation went something like this:
Me: “Uh… hello!”
“So… you’re dead!”
“You’re… dead. This is the afterlife! Look, there’s Anubis.”
I started to panic. “It’ll be okay! It’s going to be okay. You’ll get to see family and friends who’ve already passed. What are you, religiously?”
“Of course you are. Do you have anyone you really want to see?”
He ended up telling me that he and his father were very close, but his father died 1-2 years ago. As if on cue, these double doors I hadn’t seen before opened up, and into the room stepped an older man. He glowed blue-white as well. The newly dead spirit moved toward the older man spirit and transformed into the image of a young man. The two souls embraced; the younger man seemed elated to see his father again. The father reassured his son that everything would be okay, and that he would explain everything. Then the father told me that he would “take over from here.” The two of them went back through the double doors, which closed behind them.
“Anubis,” I said, “You meant those doors, didn’t you? Never walk through those doors.”
“Yes,” rumbled the god.
Anubis explained that psychopomp work will not always go as smoothly as this one had gone. He explained that it will be my job to bring these lost souls to the doors — of which there are many all throughout the Otherworld, even in my castle — and reunite them with their loved ones. He also said He’ll be with me each time, so I don’t have to worry in case I encounter any difficult spirits.
Journey #3: Group psychopomp work.
Monika suggested that we ask our helper spirits to show us how to psychopomp a whole group of spirits, but I didn’t end up doing that. Instead, I met with Anubis in my castle bedroom, and we went together to see the ancestor crocodile. Anubis waited on the far bank while I forded the river and bowed before the crocodile. It lowered it snout, and when I touched its nose, I heard a thousand voices echo in my head: “It is time.”
I turned, and several elderly women with stark white hair and white robes stood in two lines on either side of me. Anubis still waited at the far bank, arms crossed. I knew then that I had to go into the river. As I stood in the center, the water up to my waist, I saw the dead that waited underwater. I dove down and found myself in a deep, dark, watery abyss — except that I wasn’t floating or swimming; I was standing on the bottom. There were no animals, no plants, no indication that we were in the same river. And stretching for miles into the darkness in front of me were my ancestors. A hundred generations of them, or more. As soon as I touched the bottom of the abyss, they all turned and looked at me.
I started to get nervous. “I don’t think I can psychopomp all of you,” I said as Anubis appeared at my side.
“We are long dead,” said one.
“We do not need psychopomping,” confirmed another.
I remembered that Ariadna, who did my spirit consult in November, told me that so many countless ancestors of mine were bitter and angry because of the Spanish colonization and its aftermath. Spurred by this, I started going to each ancestor, apologizing for their pain, for not doing enough, for not knowing what to do at all. Then my great-grandfather appeared in the crowd; I recognized him from a picture I have. He didn’t say a word, but he took me by the shoulders, then gently pressed his fist against my heart. I knew what he was trying to tell me.
You’re strong enough.
From behind, Anubis’ voice rang out clearly. This journey was not a lesson on group psychopomp work. Instead, it was a reminder. Whenever I feel overwhelmed, lost, or alone, I must remember that I have this amazing support network. I turned around to look at Him, and I saw the scene as if I were outside my body: me, a bright and shining figure in the deep, behind which a countless sea of dark figures stood in unison. In strength.
I turned back to my ancestors and nodded at them, grateful, then walked back to Anubis. He held out His hand at me. I took it and gave my ancestors one final look. And then Anubis brought me back to my castle.
After I recounted this third journey to the group, Monika and another woman made a couple of comments that stood out at me. First, the word “lineage.” Second, the notion that I have “unlocked” a new phase or… a new stage of my magical work. The whole thing felt almost like a rite: several babaylan and the ancestor crocodile standing witness while I was accepted and strengthened by the entire body of my ancestors. It was deeply emotional and inspiring.
So now I can officially put “psychopomp” on my résumé. It feels kind of nuts, since it’s been something I’ve wanted to do for so long. Now, finally, here I am.