Resources for the Modern Psychopomp

Certain people seem to be born with an ability to help people cross over at the time of death, or assist those souls who need guidance after the transition. Yet, a psychopomp is not generally a medium. Their primary function is not to reconnect the living with the dead, but to help the spirit or soul of an individual cross over to a safe place at the time of death. While it is true that some have a natural inclination towards this work, others find it is a skill that can be learned. Either way, there is a great need in our modern society for those with psychopomp skills.

There are a number of ways to enter a state of consciousness in which one can tap into the unseen realms and assist with a "good death" or communicate with spirits who may be earthbound. These include meditative states, dream states, shamanic states, hypnogogic states (such as waking dreams where the individual is awake, but their brain waves indicate they are still sleeping), and other altered states of consciousness.

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Most people can benefit from some assistance and guidance at the time of death, even if they are not fully conscious at the time. For example, images from dreams, myths and stories can be shared, which enable the person to envision a safe passage to the other side, prayers or blessings can be offered, and there are methods that can help energetically release the spirit from the body. One can also enlist the help of guiding forces, such as spirit guides, religious figures, and other helpful entities, who can assist with the process.

For those who are interested in helping others through the death and dying process, or who may be called to help those still lingering after their death, there are a growing number of resources for psychopomps, some of which are listed here. And, if you feel strongly called to this work, or were born with the innate ability to connect with those who need such help, don't forget to also listen to your own intuitive source of knowledge. You may find that you already possess many of the skills that are needed as a psychopomp.

Shamanic Training for Psychopomps

Around the world shamans are well-known for their role as a psychopomp, therefore many people who are interested in caring for the souls of the dying may want to consider some form of shamanic training. There is a growing number of opportunities available for those who are interested in either indigenous or non-indigenous shamanism. You may want to start by finding what resources and teachers are available in your immediate area, or for those who are interested in "core" or cross-cultural shamanism, classes are available through Michael Harner’s Foundation for Shamanic Studies. The foundation offers advanced weekend workshops, including a course on Shamanism, Dying, and Beyond, and more intensive 2-week or 3-year programs, which also delves into psychopomp work.

Dying Consciously, The Greatest Journey is a project of the Institute for Energy Medicine, which is connected to Dr. Alberto Villoldo's Four Winds Society. It offers information and videos about the dying process, ritual and ceremony, and creating sacred space for the dying. There is also information about Dying Consciously Teacher Training and a list of Certified Dying Consciously Teachers. Training from the Four Winds' Light Body School is offered around the world.

Soul Midwife Training

Felicity Warner, founder of The Hospice of the Heart Trust in England, teaches the Gentle Dying method, which is used by Soul Midwives to help the spirit and soul make the final transition at the time of death. This is a nationally recognized method of holistic care in the UK. Additional information is available at

Dream Manual for the Psychopomp

Robert Moss, the acclaimed workshop leader, and author of such books as Conscious Dreaming, the Dreamways of the Iroquois, and the Dreamer’s Book of the Dead, offers numerous workshops and classes that may be of interest. He has also written “A Manual for the Psychopomp,” which can be found in one of his earlier works entitled Dreamgates: Exploring the Worlds of Soul, Imagination, and Life Beyond Death.

NODA - No One Dies Alone

Founded by Oregon nurse Sandra Clarke, this program has spread to hospitals and hospices throughout the United States and the world. It coordinates volunteers with those who are dying and do not have friends or family to be by their side. You can read about it here, or contact your local medical facility to find out about volunteering for the program.

Soul Rescuers Training

In England, Terry and Natalia O'Sullivan offer a three-year Soul Rescuers course, which enables students to develop skills as walkers between the world of the living and the spirit realms. This course promises to encourage confidence in dealing with the spirit realms, to help one learn to cope with psychic and spiritual energy, to develop one's ability to intuitively communicate, and to work with other people in a professional capacity for healing, counseling and space clearing.

General Books Related to Psychopomps, the Transition Between Life and Death ,and Connecting with Guides

Books That May Be Useful to Those Interested in Expanding Their Shamanic, Psychopomp and/or the Death Midwifery Skills

Awakening to the Spirit World: The Shamanic Path of Direct Revelation
by Sandra Ingerman, Hank Wesselman, and others. Sounds True, 2010.
A unique book on shamanism and shamanic journeying, in that it looks at the subject through the eyes of a number of well-respected practitioners. Good for both beginners and those with experience. Comes with drumming CD.
The Art of Death Midwifery: An Introduction and Beginner's Guide
by Joellyn St. Pierre D.Div BookSurge Publishing 2009.
A book how to offer spiritual guidance at the time of death, for both professionals and lay people.
Deeply into the Bone: Re-Inventing Rites of Passage
by Ronald L. Grimes. Life Passages. Berkeley, CA: U of California P, 2000.
Based on a solid understanding about the dynamics of rituals, Ronald Grimes explores how to create meaningful contemporary rites of passage for such transitionally times as birth, coming of age, marriage, and death.
Dreamgates: Exploring the Worlds of Soul, Imagination, and Life Beyond Death
by Robert Moss. New World Library, 2010.
Excellent book on dream tending, which Includes exercises on how to to usethe dream state to map out the afterlife, assist the departed, and make death your ally. Other useful books from Robert include The Three "Only" Things: Tapping the Power of Dreams, Coincidence, and Imagination and Conscious Dreaming: A Spiritual Path for Everyday Life.
A Gentle Dying: The Simple Guide to Achieving a Peaceful Death
by Felicity Warner. Hay House UK, 2008.
Helpful information for anyone who is interested in being of service to another at the time of death.
The Last Adventure of Life: Sacred Resources for Living and Dying from a Hospice Counsellor. by Maria Dancing Heart, Findhorn Press, 2008.
Spiritual counselor Maria Dancing Heart offers stories, poems, prayers, guided meditations, and a number of other tools to help the dying and their families reframe the experience of death into a transformation - a new adventure in life. More information is available on Maria's website.
Reiki Shamanism: A Guide to Out-of-Body Healing
by Jim PathFinder Ewing. Findhorn Press, 2008.
Combining two create healing traditions that deal with non-physical reality and the light body, this book offer instruction on how to combine the healing methods of reiki within the shamanic journey.
Shamanic Guide to Death and Dying
by Kristen Madden. Spilled Candy Publications, 2005.
A book devoted to Kristen's experiences as a pagan "deathwalker, " which should be of interest to people of any spiritual persuasion. In it, you will find information about the gateways we pass through when we die, why people often need help during the transition, suggestions for how to properly ritualize this final rite of passage, and how to offer assistance as a deathwalker or psychopomp.
Singing the Soul Back Home: Shamanic Wisdom for Every Day
by Caitlin Matthews. Connections, 2003.
Approaching shamanism from the Celtic perspective, Caitlin Matthews offers instructions on how to journey to the upper, middle and lower worlds, connect with the ancestors, and become more comfortable with death.
Soul Rescuers: A 21st Century Guide to the Spirit World by Terry and Natalia O'Sullivan. London: Thorsons, 1999. (Available Used)
A book full of personal stories from English Shaman Terry O'Sullivan and Psychic/Spiritual Healer Natalia O'Sullivan. As well as information from a variety of cultures about the soul, earthbound spirits, ancestral connections, ghosts, soul rescuers, and the spirit realm.

Additional Websites

  • Contemplative End of Life Care — End-of-life training from the Naropa University that brings together the ancient wisdom of the Buddhist tradition with the practices of hospice and palliative care.
  • Crossing Over - A Modern Book of the Dead — Chuck Pettis offers information from a Buddhist perspective about what happens when we die, why it is important to prepare for death, and what can happen to those who “don’t pass through the tunnel and are stranded without a physical body.” As an experienced dowser, he also offers GeoPathic surveys for a nominal cost, during which he examines the earth energies present and whether there are any human or non-human entities that need help moving on.
  • Death as an Ally - The Shaman's Perception of Death — An articles from Howard G. Charing's weblog on shamanism. Howard also offers practitioner training in Europe through the Eagle's Wing Centre for Contemporary Shamanism in London.
  • Final Passages — This is Jerrygrace Lyons' organization in the San Francisco Bay Area, which offers courses in modern death midwifery and information about how to create your own home funeral.
  • Helping Stuck Souls Cross Over: A Reiki Healing Experiment — A description of how to assist the soul at the time of death, from a Reiki Master's perspective.
  • Metta Institute — Founded by Frank Ostaseski of San Francisco's Zen Hospice, the Metta Institute offers more traditional end-of-life practitioner training, and plans to add programs where spiritual teachers, artists, storytellers, and psychologists can come together to re-vision dying in America.
  • Sacred Hoop — Well-written and nicely designed magazine from the UK, which is devoted to shamanism, healing, dreams, myths, ceremonies, and sacred living.