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If you missed my last article on Hachiman, it can be found here.

Charon, also spelled Kharon, is the Greek ferryman of the dead. He is in the service of Hades. You can find him in Roman and Italian mythology with the same job. Charon is both a god and a psychopomp (a guide of the dead). His job is to take the dead across the river Styx so they can be judged.

Charon’s father is the primordial god Erebus, who is the literal darkness, and his mother is Nyx, the primordial goddess of night. Both Nyx and Erebus are the firstborn children of Chaos. His siblings include Nemesis, the goddess of vengeance, Eris, the goddess of strife, and Thanatos, the god of death, but being that his parents are directly from Chaos, more had to be born from them to fulfill all the roles that our world is made required. Charon never had a consort, so he has no children. He sticks to his job. Charon predates the Olympian Gods like Zeus. He even predates the Titans.

Charon is depicted in art as a bearded, repulsive-looking man. He wears a pointed hat and a robe. His symbols are his skiff and staff. He was depicted even uglier in Italy, where he is known as Charun. He is shown as a beast with tusks in his mouth and gray skin. His arms are covered in snakes, and he holds a double-headed hammer rather than a staff.

Charon picks the dead up from the shores of Acherusian, where Hermes escorts them and takes them across the river Styx. The name of the river means hate. Some say the River Acheron is the river of pain or misery. I think this depends on what region is telling the story. The phrase “pay the boatman” is often attributed to Charon because for him to ferry you, you must pay him the coin you were buried within your mouth. Those who are unable to pay are left on the shore for one hundred or until someone in the living world helps them pay.

Charon is only supposed to ferry the dead to be judged by Hades, but a number of times, he carries the living into the Underworld. Usually with payment, of course, but a few times, he has transported people or gods and goddesses without payment. Orpheus charmed him. Heracles (Hercules) was able to use violence to get Charon to knuckle under. For this, Charon was forced to be chained for a year. He helped Psyche and Odysseus across but was strong enough to keep Demeter out of Hades. While we know that Charon brings souls across the river and into Hades, he has also, on occasion, taken souls and Gods back to the living.

Whether or not you believe in him, he is in our pop culture. He is found in books, movies, video games (Smite and more), and artwork. Have you played him? What do you think of him? Let me know in the comments below. Until next time, have fun storming the castle!