On Seeing Dead People

Charon, the ferryman of the dead, receives a c...
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I stumbled across this in the process of moving one of my other blogs to another site and realized that I’d never posted it here.  It’s rather old news that I can see ghosts and talk to them.  However, this post is the only place that I’ve ever really summarized that particular ‘gift.’  I imagine that I will probably go into more depth with some  of the things that I touch upon here, but this is a good starting point.

This blog was inspired by Nehet’s inquiry about my experiences as a psychopomp. I realized when she asked that I’d never really written a comprehensive account of this particular aspect of my life. I’ve mentioned bits here and there, but never woven the whole story together in one place. So, here goes…

To begin at the beginning, I’ve had the ability to interact with the dead for as long as I can recall. Explanations as to why this gift is mine elude me. At some point I stopped asking the ‘why’ question and the gods stopped answering ‘because We said so, dammit.’ 🙂

I can’t explain how it works or why either, other than to say that I can see and talk to the dead. Sometimes the conversations are whispered and the visual images are only the faintest of a translucent outlines. At other times, spirits come through almost as clearly as a living person. Again, I have no explanation of the whys or hows.

It is probably important to make a distinction between the terms medium and psychopomp at this point. In simplest terms, mediumship is what I’ve described above. The forms that mediumship can take vary, but at the heart of the concept is the ability to communicate with the dead. In personal terms, this is an innate gift for me. It is not a learned skill. There was no conscious choice to become this thing; I simply am.

Again using the simplest terms, a psychopomp is a person who helps guide souls between worlds. It is, I suppose, an extension of mediumship, a step beyond basic interaction into a more complex, often more difficult relationship with the dead. Fortunately, this skill isn’t an innate, lifelong ability for me. Mediumship was the foundation on which I’ve built this separate set of skills.

Now on to the tale that I set out to tell and the answer perhaps to Nehet’s inquiry…

“It was a dark and stormy night. A brooding stranger pulled a drowning young woman from a raging river and bid her welcome back to the land of the living… ”

So begins the tale of my life as a psychopomp. I jest lightly about it now because I’m still here to make such jokes. The reality is that I came within a heartbeat or two of drowning when I was in college and the person who pulled me out of the water became my friend, partner, and mentor. He taught me shamanistic techniques and how to ‘walk between worlds.’ As a teenager and adult, I seem to attract people into my life who were close to crossing the threshold between life and death. With his help, I came to understand that there was a purpose and reason to this and that I could do more than stand by helplessly and watch. Ironically, his was the first soul that I guided- a last lesson before parting, I think.

That early training was focused on a world tree concept, which, while being a great conceptualization of the universe, didn’t work well for me. Over time, I kept researching techniques and life unfortunately handed me some opportunities to put theory into practice. When my father was passing, I couldn’t even begin to visualize the world tree. Thinking of his love of books was the inspiration to try a different technique using a library as a place to step across the threshold. Essentially, the technique that I used for a long time was to imagine myself in a large library and each book as a biography. Pull the book from the shelf that’s about the person you’re helping and step into their story. It seems silly, yes, but part of doing this kind of work is finding a way to step beyond the world we know. For whatever reason, that technique did the trick.

In the last few years, I’ve been able just to will myself to a place between worlds to do the work I need to do; no visualization necessary anymore. My process is essentially to mentally go to that place, invite the soul of the person to join me (and if necessary, guide them there), and work with them to open a door in which to pass through. With this, I do other work as appropriate for the situation – prayer work, smudgings, cleansings, and sometimes, just a lot of listening. Sometimes it’s as simple as just being a witness to someone’s parting words, passing the message to the people who need to hear it, and letting them pass knowing they were heard.

At other times, it’s not so simple, particularly when I’m emotionally involved in the situation. How do I say no to a dying friend who asks me to walk those final steps with them? The simple and painful answer is that I don’t say no. The more complex answer is that a lot of time is spent talking to the person while they’re still living, helping them to get a grasp on what they think is going to happen to them when they die, and then making sure that I am indeed there when they’re ready to cross. When it’s someone who is a beloved, the process can be very personal, intense, and difficult. However, I think that the process of losing a loved one is actually more difficult without this process. Closure, I suppose.

I’ve been asked why I’d want to do this kind of work. It’s not really a matter of what I want. Saying no to it isn’t really an option – it’s rather like quicksand, the more I struggle against doing this work, the more entrenched I become. Given a choice, I wouldn’t possess a talent that puts me in emotionally difficult situations while making me sound completely batshit in the process. When people start talking about having a reason for being and a purpose in life, I can only smile and nod. I know what mine is. Whether or not I like it is another matter.

I’m going to leave it at that, which is quite thoroughly enough, I think. If anyone is truly a glutton for punishment, I can post later in more detail later about individual examples of the work I’ve done. Be forewarned, though, they all die in the end. (Sorry, irreverence and gallows humor are sometimes necessary for maintaining sanity).


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