Charon's fee

Discussion in 'Roman Mythology' started by Isis, Dec 22, 2010.

  1. Isis

    Isis Member

    I always thought it was unfair dead people would have to spend 100 years on the bank of the river Styx if their relatives were too broke or selfish to put a coin under their tongues. Anyone else?
  2. Olsen

    Olsen Member

    This tradition evolved later on into Balkan mythology. In East-European countries (Russia, Romania etc.) it is still customary to place coins on the dead person's eyes, or to throw coins on the ground after the car carrying the body to the grave passes on the street.

    I admit that involving material goods like money into the spiritual world is a bit absurde...
  3. Isis

    Isis Member

    That's very interesting, Olsen! I was unaware of that practice.

    Yes, money in the spiritual world is very weird. I guess that opinion reflects a cultural bias that material and spiritual aspects should be kept separate.
    fibi ducks likes this.
  4. Pegasus

    Pegasus Member

    Charon is depicted as a most scary figure. It is interesting to see how the coin tradition started, and is still carried out today. Imagine back through the ages how frightening it all had to be. Losing a loved one, then making sure you had the money to give to the deceased to make their journey. The journey itself, not to mention if the family didn't have the money, so many were poor, the guilt of them believing their loved one is now waiting 100 years on the shore!
  5. Nadai

    Nadai Active Member

    There are many cultures who believe that a person can take earthly possessions into the spiritual realm with them once they die; Pharohs were burried with their most valued possessions: money, family, a chariot so that the deceased wouldn't have to walk to the after-life, even a favorite dog or horse would be killed and burried with its master if he was wealthy and important enough. There are still those who believe that a coin is to be placed with the dead before burial. Though the Greek no longer use drachmas there are some who place a single euro with the deceased.
  6. fibi ducks

    fibi ducks Active Member

    i think there are "hell banknotes" printed for chinese funerals. And the egyptians had "shabtis" - little figures who's function was, when the master was asked in the next world to do some work, the shabti was to jump up and say "I'll do it".
    Even more mundane and strange to us moderns, the egyptians had a legal system that spanned into the next world. I came accross it because i found a book of ancient egyptian letters; in one of them a man is addressing his mother (i think), telling her that he knows it is her that is causing the problems to his wife's leg, and that if she carries on he will start legal proceedings against her.
    Nadai likes this.
  7. jerri

    jerri Member

    There are many people that think the amount they spend on a casket indicates their love for the person. I find that bizarre. I think if caskets weren't part of the viewing (turns into a social gathering anyways) then people would be more likely to just spend what they could afford.
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  8. Nadai

    Nadai Active Member

    The cost of burrial is pretty ridiculous in my opinion. Nowadays it seems like people buy life insurance just for the sake of being able to afford their own funeral.
    A friend of mine just spent over $5000 on her grandfathers funeral. She was his last surviving relative; he had purtchased life insurance, but unfortunately his coverage terminated after 100, he died the week after his 100th birthday so she had to come out of pocket. It's unfortunate that during such a tragic time people have to be concerning themselves with financial responsibilities rather than taking the time they need to grieve over their loved ones.
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  9. jerri

    jerri Member

    I really think this is why so many older people insist on cremation. They may have been against it in their younger years but as they got older they got more realistic about the costs to those left behind.
  10. OracleLady

    OracleLady Member

    Even so, when my mother died, I put a few dollars into her casket with her so she wouldn't "be broke." She was always coming to me because she "felt broke." It was one last small thing I could do for her. We put a Pepsi in her coffin, too. She loved her Pepsi. And no, I don't believe she's shopping and drinking Pepsi in the afterlife. The gestures for us, the living.
    Nadai likes this.
  11. Isis

    Isis Member

    That's really sweet, Oracle Lady, and I agree the gesture is more for surviving friends and family. I can relate to her as I'm a big Pepsi drinker too. ;) I am sorry for your loss though.
  12. RLynn

    RLynn Active Member

    Charon had a tough job. He should have charged a hefty fee.
  13. LegendofJoe

    LegendofJoe Active Member

    That is a great pic of Charon from Dore's set of illustrations to Dante's Divine Comedy.
    Speaking of placing money on people's eyes and tongues, a book by Barber called Vampires, Burial and Death gives a different
    opinion as to why this was done. Although perhaps not in every case.
    There is a universal fear that the dead will not stay that way and that the spirit can reunite with the body and cause it
    not to decay, or even rise from the grave. This led to the fear of revenants. And from revenabts we get vampires.
    Since vampires are known to use their mouths to draw blood, a coin was thought to suppress the tongue and prevent
    the vampire from attacking anyone. In other words: he had something to "suck" on.
    As to why coins were placed on the eyes, it was thought that death was something you can catch, like an illness. If the dead person's
    gaze were to fall on you, you might die soon. This was also why it is a tradition to cover mirrors when someone died.
    If the mirror would catch the reflection of the dead, then death itself would be reflected possibly on to someone alive, and then they would die soon.
    Standing water is reflective, and that to had to be tossed.
    It was even thought once that souls are attracted to water and they might even drown in it!!!:confused:
    The Taciturn Scholar and Nadai like this.
  14. Indeed so. I was looking at my edition again only today.

    I wonder if this is in some way related to the old act of placing a silver dollar in a jar of water. It was a folk remedy that worked, as the antiseptic properties of the silver cleaned the water.
  15. Rhonda Tharp

    Rhonda Tharp Active Member

    Your comment reminded me of something I learned a few years ago. While waiting outside for a table at a restaurant, there were plastic bags of water with pennies in them hanging from the porch. We asked the hostess what purpose they served and she stated they keep mosquitoes away. I guess it worked, I'm in Texas with a TON of mosquitoes, and didn't see any while waiting for our table. Coins in water to keep blood suckers away... interesting...
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  16. RLynn

    RLynn Active Member

    I've seen those on Okracoke Island in NC (which is notorious for mosquitoes in the summer). They seem to work. I don't recall how the mosquitoes were during my few years in Houston. Of course, I was indoors almost all of the time, with my nose in books, trying to survive grad school at Rice. I would occasionally manage to escape to Galveston in order to restore my sanity with some salt water fishing, and would routinely get attacked by the fierce Gulf mosquitoes.
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