Death takes us all in one form or another.
But it is not this that many humans fear when they pass from this world.
For everyone knows about the journey after the soul leaves the body.
If you are not prepared, he will know.
I speak not of Hades, of course.
I speak of Charon.
This grey old man, weary from his life and weary of seeing so many others pass,
His will is destroyed and his exterior hardened.
Only those with Divine help have softened him.
Let me tell you of this poor old man and how he came to be feared by the living
And the dead.
Charon was born of Erebus and Nyx,
Darkness and Night.
His world had no light, no sun.
Just the long dark that precedes the fall of the sun.
He had not even the moon to guide his path.
He was alone from his moment of birth.
He had one friend during his life.
A young man who also longed for light
By the name of Acheron, river of woe.
Together they existed, feeling only darkness and sorrow.
If they could but touch light once, perhaps the sorrow would end.
Acheron in particular longed for the light.
One day he decided to break free of his dark prison and climb to the surface.
Charon begged him to stay, but the youth persisted.
He climbed and climbed until he could feel warmth lifting his sorrow.
With one more pull he found himself surrounded by the sun.
It was as if Mighty Zeus himself was smiling upon him.
But the light proved to be too much for the boy.
Blinded by the light and overcome by the warmth,
He stepped off of his rock and plunged back to the dark depths.
The darkness overcame him as he fell into the river,
The only other companion of Charon and Acheron.
Charon wept bitterly over the loss of his friend.
His tears became a part of the river, a river of woe,
His friend Acheron.
Charon walked along the banks until he could walk no more.
His grief and despair began to change him.
The young boy became an old man, hardened by sorrow and corrupted by darkness.
At the end of the river he met Hermes,
Leading souls to the realm of Hades.
"Why so troubled, son of Darkness? Your sorrow has aged you."
"I have lost Acheron," came his hoarse reply. "I can lose no more."
The clever Hermes came upon an idea at the sight of Charon's suffering.
"You know Acheron well, hardened Charon.
He now leads to the dark Realm of the Underworld.
Build a boat and with your friend guide these poor souls to Hades.
Help them find what you have lost."
Charon agreed and built a boat from a tree in Hades,
Gifts from the Lord to his young Persephone.
Because the work pained him, Charon demanded one obol
To ferry them to Hades Gates.
He also demanded proper burying rituals for his patrons.
Those who lacked either would wait one hundred years before he would lead them.
For he would suffer far more than that without his friend beside him.
This is why all dead must be properly burned or buried,
And must have one obol placed under their tongue.
A wise spirit will also not speak of Acheron to the ferryman
Because of the sorrow it causes him.
This is how Charon, Ferryman of the Dead,
Came to lead souls upon Acheron, River of Woe
To the Realm of the Underworld.
Take heed, dear mortal, of all you have heard.
Few living men has Charon taken to Hades.
Unless you possess the power of Heracles
Or the Divine help of Psyche,
Or a golden bough from the Cumaean Sibyl,
Your quest will be doomed to fail.
For dark Charon answers to no one