As part of my work with Hermes, and as an exploration into a field of magic that I want to get into but am suggested to not delve into too deeply, I’m going to try my hand at being a psychopomp, or leader of souls. It’s one of Hermes’ classic jobs, leading the souls of the departed to the afterlife (whichever it might be, depending on the soul in question), and it’s traditionally a skill belonging to necromancy. However, priests and religious officials of all kinds usually involve themselves in some ways with the dead, and proper funerals have the effect of laying the dead to rest and sending their souls on their (maybe not quite) merry ways. As a magician, I’ve got the nice benefit of working with the dead in some way, even if it’s just as another source of spiritual allies; however, not all spirits of the dead are suitable for forming allies or helpful in my own works, and it’s often just as good to send them onto the next part of their paths.
That’s where being a psychopomp comes in. It’s something I want to learn, and despite having a good psychopomp friend, it’s hard to learn exactly how to do it. My friend says that it’s as simple as pointing to a part of the astral realm and telling some wandering spirit “go that way”, but I have my doubts, at least for how I might accomplish it. Hermes has suggested something probably a little more comfortable in a Hellenic standpoint: make a small feast to the dead (wine, red meat, honey, grains, sweets, incense, and the like) with some coins, and direct any spirits ready to cross over to the next place they should be. To help with this, I made a simple cane out of a long walnut dowel and rubbed it with spirit oil and a Mercury balm I made (olive oil, beeswax, and eight herbs associated with the sphere of Mercury) to use as my own kind of caduceus-type wand; this will help me direct and guide spirits much as Hermes’ own caduceus leads others. To act as a focus for directing the dead, Hermes gave me a sigil that he says can act as a portal-key to the afterlife, or at least a halfway-house where spirits can better get to their next destination.
Also, this was something I had been waiting for for a while to do, but Hermes wanted something special from me, first. I had been planning to work with Hermes in a very close vein for a while, and decided on getting a caduceus tattoo on my left arm (the same hand Hermes carries his caduceus in). A week and a half ago, I went to a fantastic little parlor (specifically by Tim at Wild Style, up in Glen Burnie near Baltimore, MD) and got my very first tattoo. Hermes was buzzing for hours around me (though that could also have been me on my endorphin high), and with this gave his approval to work as a psychopomp. This is why I originally made that balm of Mercury I mentioned above, to assist in the healing; using this with A&D ointment for a week with prayers to Raphael and Hermes is turning out fantastically for my tattoo.
So, with last night being Halloween, I got my gear out, got some offerings, and made the rounds to the local graveyards with a friend to act as a second pair of eyes. I made offerings to the dead at each graveyard consisting of uncooked steak, fresh cheese, barley and oats, myrrh incense, dark wine, various sweets, old coins, a candle, and the like. I praised their good natures, offered my laments and sympathies for their passing, and honored them for having the courage to have gone before. Depending on the graveyard, this would also involve ritual walking, like circumambulation, around some focus or central monument. After this, I called out to the spirits at each graveyard and asked if any were prepared to move on and out to the next world.
For those that came to the call, I constructed a portal in the astral using the sigil Hermes gave me, and guided the spirits to it. Before guiding them through it, I made sure they had no business left that needed taking care of; if they were happy and ready to move on, I sent them through and shut the portal once all the spirits who wanted to leave did. For those that didn’t come to the call but seemed pretty chill, I poured them a little extra wine, since they were obviously cool enough to deserve it and didn’t care to pass on and out. As for the spirits that definitely weren’t at peace, I attempted my hand at some cautious placation with some rosewater and prayers. I’ll try to make a trip to the local graveyards for a similar psychopomp trip monthly or bimonthly to catch up with the spirits and see if any more need guiding on, probably coinciding with my monthly Hermes adoration.
I didn’t use any specific prayer or words for this besides supplications to Hermes for help in working this, but having something ready would be helpful in the future. For those working in an angelic or Christian current, you might find a little supplication I made useful (both in Latin and in English). It relies on three angels associated with death in different ways: Azrael who delivers death’s touch itself, Raphael as the guide and leader (much as Hermes guides souls), and Auriel as guardian of the Gates of Paradise.
In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti
Azrael tibi pacem perpetuum donet
Raphael te ad terminum tute ducat
Auriel te in Paradisum complectat
Ad gloriam piisimi Dei qui vivit et regnat per saecula saeculorum
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost,
may Azrael give you everlasting peace,
may Raphael lead you safely to the end,
may Auriel welcome you into Paradise,
for the glory of the holiest God who lives and reigns, forever and ever,