NHT's Writing Desk

Psychopomp - 
or, escorting the dead 
in memoriam for a friend* ...


The word psychopomp refers to an ancient concept, 
notably showing up in Greece via Hermes and others ...
the word is used to describe a tradition which takes many forms worldwide
and apparently has been with us for a very long time …
As a self-confessed etymologist who has been called 
to such mystical duty since childhood,
i happened into the word psychopomp searching for a term to use
outside my own native understanding of the process,
which i'd learned about as 'escorting the dead'
A 19th-century interpretation of Charon's crossing by Alexander Litovchenko.
a 19th century interpretation of Charon's crossing by Alexander Litovchenko

you see, an online FB friend* died recently,
and something extraordinary happened which i wanted to share,
as a writer and a medicine worker, but mostly to honour my amazing friend ...

We’d met online a number of months before 
when our only mutual friend publically scolded her unnecessarily, 
or so i thought, and i had to message her my opinion … 
to which she replied with such a great love, that he was an old friend, 
and not to worry,
that they would (essentially) kiss and make up …
and then, amused with herself, 
she confessed that she generally pissed him off once a month, 
at least -
i loved her instantly -

There was an inexplicable connection i felt with both of them 
which was revealed soon enough.
Though the winds of life had scattered the three of us
(only to 'meet' on Facebook),
we had each taken our first breaths in the Northeast

i learned this from my friend in the far too few  exchanges 
that followed between her and me -
at one point, knowing that she recognized my path, 
i told her that if she ‘ever needed’ me  …
i didn’t have to say more –  she knew well enough what i meant –
that sometimes in life, or in death, a person needs a stranger -
because sorrow has a way of emptying the reserves
 of mourners who are usually too emotionally unavailable --
and that's when we who walk this path are more than happy to assist,
and i wanted to let her know all that...

but i didn’t have to say any of it - 
she knew ...

In the last photo she posted, i 'saw' a nearly empty hourglass …
i was saddened and comforted myself by meditating on my offer to her ...  

Then soon after that final photo, for me personal issues
got in the way of my cyber-life
and typically in the face of re-triggered PTSD, i retreat inside myself -
online participation is painful and i will even usually stop 
reading my newsfeed  … 
triggered PTSD just can't handle that much collective sorrow – 
that said, i was totally out of touch with my friend 3000 miles away –

Then as that last week opened, more thoughts of her than usual came ot me ...
i could feel her time was close as the week wore on, and
 going into the weekend, 
i thought i 'sensed' that she’d likely even crossed unescorted --
but i'm wise enough to know that my 'sense' had taken a PTSD beating,
so decided not to trust myself and ultimately felt like i'd let her down ...
    PTSD still wouldn't check FB -- 

And this is where the story gets "curiouser and curiouser..." as Alice would say.

Late that saturday afternoon EST, and very contrary to my usual custom, 
i took to the couch, easily entering the Dreamtime
not sleeping, mind you –
some call it a ‘shaman trance’ which to me doesn’t feel like a trance at all 
because i am peripherally aware of ordinary reality (OR) 
at the same time that i am participating in the Dreamtime … 
it was unusual to be 'summoned' and though i responded,
at the time i did not recognize 'the call' per se -
only in hindsight was it revealed ...

i remained thusly an hour or so before returning to OR.
i didn’t bring any memories from Dreamtime activities – 
not unusual in and of itself  – 
some Dreamtime work must ‘steep’ completely in its own dimension  
before memory can manifest in ordinary reality … 

then early evening, it happened again, that call to the Dreamtime -
vaguely, (because i still didn't recognize it as a 'call')
 i wondered if i might be fighting an early autumn cold or something?
again, no Dreamtime memories ... 

But Sunday morning i was awakened by the memory itself - 
and i ‘knew’ my friend had crossed and that i had been with her –
i loaded her FB page, and there it all was ...

it was walking Pa to the brook all over again …

As my eyes read what my heart had witnessed,
i knew that it had been she for whom i was  'called' -
in fact, i believe it was she who summoned me, just as she'd promised ...
blindness lifted, i realized the honour i'd received ...
i scrolled through hundreds of messages to my friend, 
until the collective sorrow broke over my intellect and pierced my heart,
against which i forced my perception to remain on what my heart knew as true -
that i'd just experienced something extraordinary from an extraordinary woman --
and knowing what i know, what we ALL know deep inside,
 my heart jumps for joy like it does every time this path gives witness
to the truth in Chief Seattle’s words,
“there is no Death, only a change of worlds”

his words have been relegated to the status of a neat little metaphor,
to be enjoyed then dismissed -
few allow themselves to believe that 
Chief Seattle speaks of real worlds ...

i  know - i have been there
we all have

chukma shki - chi pisa la chike itabee - su nukhaklo**


NHT
©2014
all rights reserved

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* ...who won her 20 year battle with cancer and got to 'go home'  
-- her FB page remains in memoriam - go discover this amazing soul

**Choctaw loosly translated: it is good/holy/blessed - i will see you later, sister, but now i am sad

Click here for a top 10 list of psychopomps throughout cultures

related onsite reading: --  Medicine Dream I
                                  -- The Dreamtime