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Friday, 11 January 2013


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Your word for today is: psychopomp, n.

psychopomp, n.

[‘A mythical conductor or guide of souls to the place of the dead (in quot 1603 as a title). Also in extended use.’]

Pronunciation: Brit. /ˈsʌɪkəʊpɒmp/,  U.S. /ˈsaɪkoʊpɑmp/

Forms: α.   18– psychopompos.  β.   18– psychopomp.

Etymology: <  ancient Greek ψυχοπομπός conductor or guide of souls, especially as a title applied to Charon and also more commonly to Hermes, the Anubis of Egypt, and to Apollo (Plutarch 2. 758 B) <  ψυχο- psycho- comb. form + πομπός conductor, guide (see pompilid adj. and n.). In spec. use in psychology via German Psychopompos (1934 in the passage translated in quot. 1951: see note). Compare French psychopompe, adjective (1842); the word does not occur in the Middle French passage in Amyot's translation of Plutarch that is the immediate source of quot. 1603

N.E.D. (1909) also gives a partial pronunciation of (ps-) /ps-/.

The German original of quot. 1951 occurs in an article in C. G. Jung Wirklichkeit der Seele (1934) 342. Although most of this book was written by Jung, the article in question is by his wife Emma.

In β forms with omission of the ending.

  A mythical conductor or guide of souls to the place of the dead (in quot. 1603 as a title). Also in extended use.

In analytical psychology: (Jung's term for) the anima or animus, regarded as the link between the ego and the unconscious.

1603  P. Holland tr. Plutarch Morals lxiii. 1142 There is one..that helpeth to convey the soules of such as have ended their life, from hence into another world, and to lay them in quiet repose, who for bestowing and transporting of them in that sort is called Catunastes and Psychopompos.

1859 Atlantic Monthly Sept. 302/1 This function of Mercury, as Psycho-Pompos, or conductor of departed souls to Hades, is often misunderstood.

1863  W. K. Kelly Curiosities Indo-European Trad. 111 The other Aryan psychopomp, the cow

1879  M. D. Conway Demonol. I. ii. v. 129 The appearance of mice prognosticated of old the appearance of the præternatural rat-catcher and psychopomp.

1941  W. H. Auden New Year Let. i. 27 For through the Janus of a joke The candid psychopompos spoke.

1951  K. W. Bash tr. Jacobi Psychol. C. G. Jung (ed. 5) iii. 135 It is therefore ‘an important function of the higher..super-personal animus that it guides and accompanies as a true Psychopompos [Ger. als wahrer Psychopompos] the wanderings and transformations of the soul’.

1984  B. L. Knapp Jungian Approach to Literature 161 A hypostasized Marie, she became the poet's psychopomp, leading him to that preexistent sphere of being in which wholeness is linked to love and religion to creativity.

1990  C. Paglia Sexual Personae xi. 309 She is a marriage broker or Psychopompos guiding him through the Orphic underworld of emotion toward his ‘true self’.


 psychoˈpompal adj. [compare earlier psychopompous adj.] rare of or relating to a psychopomp.
1885  A. Stewart 'Twixt Ben Nevis & Glencoe xxxix. 291 The psychopompal vehicle, the ‘fiery chariot’ in which the spirit was conveyed.
1950  M. Heron tr M. Griaule Africa 81 This myth and this ritual [of death and mourning] which emphasise the psychopompal character of a complex aesthetic material, give us a great deal of information.

 psychoˈpompically adv. rare in the manner of a psychopomp.
1908  R. Brooke Let. 8 Jan. (1968) 121, I, Hermes-like, am coming to fetch you psychopompically to Hell.

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