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Charon

by Micha F. Lindemans
Charon, in Greek mythology, is the ferryman of the dead. The souls of the deceased are brought to him by Hermes, and Charon ferries them across the river Acheron. He only accepts the dead which are buried or burned with the proper rites, and if they pay him an obolus (coin) for their passage. For that reason a corpse had always an obolus 1 placed under the tongue.

Those who cannot afford the passage, or are not admitted by Charon, are doomed to wander on the banks of the Styx for a hundred years. Living persons who wish to go to the underworld need a golden bough obtained from the Cumaean Sibyl. Charon is the son of Erebus and Nyx. He is depicted as an sulky old man, or as a winged demon carrying a double hammer. He is similar to the Etruscan (Charun).

1. Occasionally, a danace -- an ancient Persian coin which is worth rather more than the Greek obolus -- was placed in the mouth of the dead.


Article details:

  • Pronunciation:
    kair'-uhn
  • Etymology:
    Fierce brightness

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