Ferry ‘Cross the Acheron


You’ve probably heard of Charon, the ferryman of the dead from Greek mythology. He’s the son of Erebus and Nyx, the primordial deities of darkness and night, respectively. His job is to take the souls of the dead across the River Acheron, or possibly the Styx, into Hades. If what Wikipedia indicates is correct, earlier sources identified his river as the Acheron, but it was the Styx in the Aeneid and later materials. Regardless of which river he works, however, he’ll only take you across if you pay. That’s why the dead in ancient Greek civilizations were often buried with coins on or in their mouths. It’s not really clear what Charon does with all the coins. Does he swim around in them like Scrooge McDuck, or does he use them to buy stuff? Maybe he’s just a coin collector.

In terms of physical appearance, he’s traditionally an old man with a scruffy beard, burning eyes, and a loincloth. Ugly, but still basically human in form.

Some later sources made him more demonic, or portrayed him as a skeleton like the Grim Reaper.

Michelangelo’s depiction of Charon
No matter what he looks like, he’s not someone you would want to mess with, unless you’re as strong as Hercules. According to Seneca, the hero once beat Charon over the head with the pole the ferryman used to steer his boat. Charon is also the name of the largest moon of Pluto, but you already knew that, right?

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4 Responses to Ferry ‘Cross the Acheron

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