How Was Hermes a Psychopomp?

In Greek mythology, Hermes was not just a messenger of gods but also a psychopomp. The word psychopomp is derived from the Greek words psyche meaning soul and pomp meaning guide.

A psychopomp is a being that guides souls to the afterlife. In this article, we will discuss how Hermes became a psychopomp and what his role was in guiding souls.

The Birth of Hermes

Hermes was the son of Zeus and Maia, one of the seven daughters of Atlas. According to Greek mythology, he was born in a cave on Mount Cyllene in Arcadia.

As soon as he was born, he showed his mischievous nature by stealing Apollo’s cattle. He cleverly hid their tracks and even made shoes for the cows to avoid getting caught.

Hermes as the Messenger God

Zeus was impressed with Hermes’ cunningness and appointed him as the messenger god. Hermes became responsible for delivering messages between gods and mortals. He wore winged sandals and a winged helmet that helped him travel at great speed across various realms.

Hermes as the Guide of Souls

Apart from being a messenger god, Hermes also had another important role – that of guiding souls to the afterlife. He was responsible for leading souls to Hades, the god of death who ruled over the underworld.

The Role of Psychopomp

As a psychopomp, Hermes ensured safe passage for souls from the mortal realm to the underworld. He would lead them through dangerous paths and obstacles that lay in their way. It was believed that without his guidance, souls would wander aimlessly in limbo forever.

  • He would guide deceased heroes to Elysium, where they would enjoy eternal bliss.
  • If someone died an unworthy death or committed crimes during their life, they would be led to Tartarus, a place of punishment in the underworld.
  • In some cases, Hermes would also act as a mediator between the living and the dead.

Hermes’ Relationship with Persephone

Another interesting aspect of Hermes’ role as a psychopomp is his relationship with Persephone, the queen of the underworld. According to some myths, Hermes had a romantic interest in Persephone and tried to woo her. However, she rebuffed his advances.


In conclusion, Hermes was not just a messenger god but also an important psychopomp in Greek mythology. His role in guiding souls to the afterlife made him an essential figure in Greek religion and culture. With his cunningness and knowledge of various realms, he ensured safe passage for souls from the mortal realm to their final destination.