Study Guide

Charon - The Ferrymen

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The Ferrymen

This clique is about as cliquish as it gets. To be a member, you have to spend all day everyday ferrying the souls of the dead into the Underworld. So, yeah, the Ferrymen are a pretty tough crowd to run with... or should we say sail with? We can't really imagine why you'd want to be one of them anyway. Doesn't being the Ferryman of the Dead sound like the worst job ever?


This Etruscan version of Charon was pretty much the exact same figure only he was a whole lot uglier. This Ferryman was said to have tusks, blue-grey skin, a hooked nose, and to be draped in snakes. Instead of a pole, he was often shown walking around with a giant double-headed mallet, which he used to whack the dead. Nice guy, huh?

Aken, Mahaf, and Cherti

These three Egyptian gods had a whole lot of similarities to Charon. Aken was the boatman who sailed the souls of the dead into the Underworld in a boat made of papyrus. The only trouble was Aken was kind of lazy and fell asleep all the time. When a soul came along, he had to be woken up by Mahaf, who was considered the captain and Ferryman of the boat. Over the years, these figures blended together with a ram-headed god named Cherti, who some say was the direct inspiration for Charon.


This guy's the Lord of Death, who originated from the Vedic religions of India and is said to have the head of a buffalo. Versions of him appear in many Eastern religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Chinese and Japanese folk traditions, and Zoroastrianism all have their own take on this deadly figure. In some, he's not such a bad guy. In others, he loves to boil souls in a big ol' torture soup.


This is the guy in charge of taking dead Eskimos down to their frozen Underworld. It's a place called Adlivun, and it's full of spinning ice and bubbling cauldrons of seal fat, where souls are purified before making the final ascent to the heaven that is the Moon.

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