Charon, Son of Night and Shadow, Ferrier of the Dead

Charon, Son of Night and Shadow, Ferrier of the Dead

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In days of old, the dead were buried with a silver coin (the shiner the better) so that the souls of the faithful departed could pay the toll to the deathless demon ferryman of the underworld: Charon. Son of Darkness and Night, Charon grimly rows back and forth across the River of Woe bringing the newly dead to their eternal hereafter in Hades. The only joy in his job is the opportunity to push coinless or improperly buried souls out of his boat and into the deep below. The only break in the monotony of his task is the appearance of undead travelers such as Aeneas and Dante.

Charon’s Parents

Born of Chaos, Nyx is the Goddess of the Night. So great and powerful was her beauty that even Zeus, King of the Gods, stood in fear of her. It is believed that Nyx stood at the creation of the universe and chanted while Adrasteia (also known as Nemesis) clashed cymbals, beat drums, and danced the heavens into their proper place. Some say Adrasteia is the daughter of Nyx alone, others say she is the daughter of both Nyx and Erebus, God of Darkness and Shadow.

The Night. Marble relief by Bertel Thorvaldsen. ( Public Domain )

Little is known about Erebus. According to Hesiod, the ancient Greek poet, Erebus is one of the five primordial deities that existed at the dawn of the universe. The first of the five is Chaos, the sexless Void believed to have brought forth the other four primordial deities: Erebus, Nyx, Aether (Light) and Hemera (Day). As the personification of darkness, Erebus can be found in deep shadows and on moonless nights. In Greek literature, he is most explicitly described as personifying the region a soul enters immediately after they die but before they arrive at the world of the dead.

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The Ferryman

Charon was born from the union of Erebus and Nyx in a time before recorded thought, along with his siblings or half-siblings Thanatos (Death), Ker (Destruction), Moros (Destiny/Doom), Hypnos (Sleep), the Moria (Fates), and Geras (Old Age). Charon’s name is a poetic variation of charopós, which means “of keen gaze”. Most probably, this refers to the bright or feverish eyes of a person close to death. The description also reflects the cross nature of the ferryman.

Charon ferries souls to the Styx River. ( Massimo Todaro /Adobe Stock)

For example, Dante describes him as “Charon the demon, with eyes of glowing coals” (Hollander, 53, 2000). In Virgil’s Aeneid, another famous visitor to the Underworld, Aeneas, describes the ferryman in greater detail:

“And here the dreaded ferryman guards the flood,
grisly in his squalor— Charon…
his scraggly beard a tangled mat of white, his eyes
fixed in a fiery stare, and his grimy rags hang down
from his shoulders by a knot. But all on his own
he puts his craft with a pole and hoists sail
as he ferries the dead souls in his rust-red skiff.
He’s on in years, but a god’s old age is hale and green.”

(Virgil, 192, 2006)

Charon is frequently described as ragged, ugly, gloomy, and dirty; however, he appears in more literature than his parents or any of his siblings.

Charon, The Ferryman of Hell by Gustave Dore (1880) (Public Domain )

One of his earliest mentions is in the Greek satirical tragedy Alcestis by Euripides: “Alkestis [Alcestis] : I see him there at the oars of his little boat in the lake, the ferryman of the dead, Kharon [ Charon], with his hand upon the oar and he calls me now. ‘What keeps you? Hurry, you hold us back.’ He is urging me on in angry impatience.” (Atsma, 2016) Other Greek stories explain how it is the Moria (Fates) who are irritably summoning Charon to bring them their due.

According to ancient Greek custom, the deceased should be properly buried with a silver coin under their tongue. The departed souls would fly to Hades, sometimes accompanied by the Messenger of the Gods, Hermes. They would arrive on the far shores of the Acheron, the River of Woe.

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Those who were properly buried and provided coins could pay their fare across the river; those who were not buried or who had not been provided with ferry fare were forced to wander the far shores of Hades for 100 years.

Although primarily known for conveying shades to the gates of Hell , there are five rivers in the Underworld that Charon could journey: “Acheron, Cocytus (the river of lamentation), Phlegethon (the river of fire), Lethe (the river of forgetfulness), and finally, Styx (the hateful river)” (Encyclopedia of Death and Dying, 2016).

Mule Canyon: Ancestral Pueblo Village of the Anasazi

The Four Corners region of the United States is a unique place in North America . It is the meeting place of the four corners of Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado. With its distinct geographical features, a long and diverse history, and a recognizable regional character, this area really has a lot to offer. The Four Corners and its surrounding regions are all home to a variety of distinct Native American tribes. Here dwell the Zuni, the Ute, the Navajo, and the Hopi people. But the very center of the Four Corners is the home to the Ancestral Puebloans, who are more commonly known by their old name, Anasazi. These natives have long dwelt in these arid landscapes, and have left valuable traces of their lives. One such trace is located in Utah, in the so-called Mule Canyon, where the Anasazi left some very important insights into their ancient way of life.

Romulus and Remus: The Founding of Rome

According to legend, Romulus and Remus were twin sons of the Vestal Virgin Rhea Silvia and the god of war, Mars. However, due to Rhea’s rape by the king of the region, named Amulius, the sons were originally believed to be his and had to be disposed of. The rape of a Vestal Virgin was a capital crime and would result in Amulius’ death if discovered. The twin brothers were thus sent down the Tiber River in a basket, only to wash ashore and be discovered by a wolf, who became known to the Romans as the Lupercal.

The two boys were suckled and raised until they were discovered by a shepherd named Faustulus, who raised them in his own home with his wife. Upon reaching adulthood, the boys determined to depose their “father”, Amulius. Having succeeded, they deciding to build their own culture. Romulus chose to start his city on the Palatine Hill, while his brother Remus built up the Aventine Hill. However, being twins, they could not agree on which one of them should be the primary ruler of their society.

The twins chose to determine the winner by who saw the most eagles in the sky. Romulus watched from his hill, Remus from his. In the end, Romulus slaughtered Remus after Remus trespassed into his territory, unhappy with his brother’s bird-eyed victory, and Romulus was declared the sole ruler of Amulius’ former territory. His hill, the Palatine Hill, thus became the focal point of the new city which eventually came to be called Rome.

Detail of plan of Rome showing the Palatine. ( Peter1936F / CC BY-SA 4.0)

Mapping Ancient Thumb Prints

Imagine for a second that the knuckles on your hand are a line of hills on a distant horizon, and that your elbow is grand mountain. Well, to understand how this conceptual territory was created, and how it possibly functioned, you would map it, right? Well this is exactly what happened to the ancient hands of five Neanderthals when the team of researchers applied 3D scanning technology to map the joints between the bones that are responsible for movement of the thumb.

Lead researcher Dr. Ameline Bardo, from the Skeletal Biology Research Centre , School of Anthropology and Conservation, at the University of Kent in England, refers to this group of bones and joints as the “trapeziometacarpal complex.” The 3D scans from the hands of the five Neanderthal individuals were compared with similar measurements taken from the remains of five early modern humans , and also with scans from fifty modern adults hands.

Comparative study of potential TMc joint motion in recent modern human and Neanderthals concluded that Neanderthals had thumbs that were better adapted for gripping tools. (Ameline Bardo et. al. / Scientific Reports )

Shadow Freddy

In Five Nights at Freddy's 2, the player may rarely encounter what seems to be a shadow or a dark model of Golden Freddy, who is in fact Shadow Freddy. It appears in Parts/Service, sitting in the location Bonnie normally sits. He will shut the game off if the player observes him for too long (without a jumpscare), much similar to Golden Freddy's role in the first game or Nightmare's effect in the fourth.

It appears to be in a slumped position, similar to that of Golden Freddy's. It also uses Golden Freddy's model. Brightening up this image reveals that this creature is purple in color as with several other key items/characters in the franchise, bearing comparisons to the purple figure from the secret mini-games, the Marionette's "tears," Nightmare Fredbear's hat and bowtie among other things.

Shadow Freddy in the office, enhanced to show it's true colours

Five Nights at Freddy's 3

Within the in-between night mini-games, Shadow Freddy is seen, and utters the phrase "follow me," to lure the animatronics to a secluded spot, so that William Afton may ambush and dismantle them. While the Freddy suit is recognized as purple due to its association with the purple figure, its purple coloration and the darker color of its hat and bowtie lends credit to the theory this particular animatronic is indeed Shadow Freddy. He can also be seen in the office as a harmless easter egg.

Freddy Fazbear's Pizzeria Simulator

In the beginning minigame, Shadow Freddy first appears in the third level imitating the movements of the player and blocking them. The player must move to get around him. In the fourth level, he begins duplicating, causing the game to glitch, until a wall of shadow variants block the child off completely. As soon it happens, the entire minigame cuts to black, later revealing Scrap Baby's salvage scene.

The origin of the myth of Charon

The myth of Charon says that the boatman of the underworld was the son of Nyx and Erebus. Also, that he was born in such an ancient time that there was no memory of his birth. For one, Nyx was the goddess of the night, endowed with such overwhelming beauty that even Zeus feared her. In addition, she was the daughter of Chaos and was present in the creation of the universe.

Similarly, Erebus was the god of darkness and shadows. So, he reigned over the deep mists that surrounded the ends of the Earth. In addition, he was present in all underground places. Actually, he was Nyx’s brother and conceived two children with her: Ether, the brightness and luminosity, and Hemera, the day.

According to the myth of Charon, Nyx managed to conceive other children herself without the intervention of her brother and husband Erebus. This is how she had the ferryman’s brothers, who were: Moors, Destiny Ker, Bane Thanatos, Death Hypnos, Dream Geras, Old Age Oyzis, Pain Apate, Deception Nemesis, deserved punishment Eris, Discord Philotes, Tenderness Momo, Taunt the Hesperides, Daughters of the Evening the Oniros, Dreams the Keres, spirits of destruction and death and the Moirai, Fatality.

A Coin for the Ferryman: Charon and the Journey to Hades

There was a time when the living covered the mouths of their dead with a single coin before their final goodbye. The image of metal glinting over lifeless lips still makes us shiver. It has become a part of our collective subconscious, possibly because the ritual appeared in different traditions, and it survived, although marginally, until as recently as the 20th century.

The coins had a purpose: to allow the dead to pay for their passage to the Otherworld. In Ancient Greece, this was the realm of Hades, separated from the land of the living by five rivers. It was a perilous journey, and there was only one guide to take the recently departed to their final destination. His name was Charon, he of the keen gaze.

Gustave Dore, illustrating Canto III of Dante’s Inferno, written circa 1310.

Inspite of his charming epithet, Charon was a fearful sight for those who found themselves alone in an unknown realm. Attic funerary vases of the fifth century B.C. depict him as a rough, ugly seaman. The Roman poet Virgil describes him as ‘a sordid god’ with ‘uncombed, unclean’ beard, and eyes ‘like hollow furnaces on fire’ Seneca mentions his ‘sunken cheeks’. Centuries later, Dante, drawing from Virgil’s work, presents him as a surly old man who refuses to take people on his boat. In a fresco in the Sistine Chapel, Michaelangelo portrays him as a corpulent creature, more beastly than human. But when we think of him now, we imagine a hooded, silent figure in a scene that seems taken from Arnold Böcklin’s most intriguing painting, The Isle of the Dead Charon’s role as a psychopomp, a guide for souls in the afterlife, has determined his assimilation with the image of the Grim Reaper, the personification of Death.

Roman skull with an obol in the mouth, by Falconaumanni (own work) via Wikimedia Commons.

Although the messenger-god Hermes escorted the dead to the river Acheron, once they reached it they were at the mercy of Charon’s moods. The unfortunate souls who didn’t have a coin (because their bodies hadn’t received a proper burial) were condemned to wander along the banks of the Cocytus, the river of lamentation, for all eternity.

The Acheron, or the river of woe, is, in fact, a real river in the Epirus region of northwestern Greece, one that flows through dark gorges and goes underground in several places, which may explain its long association with liminality. Since the river was considered a portal to Hades, its banks were the ideal location for the Necromanteion, the most important Oracle of the Dead in Ancient Greece. Odysseus visited it to contact the soul of the blind prophet Tiresias for advice on his journey, but he also suffered a series of terrifying visions involving torrents of blood, chilling screams and armies of wounded warriors.

We know little about the rituals that would allow the living to contact their dead at the Necromanteion: first, they would follow a special diet that probably included hallucinogens they would then descend through underground corridors and cross three gates that replicated the ones in Hades and that took them to the dark chamber, the most secret place of all. It was here that the dead would come to speak, as shadows fluttering over the dimly-lit stone walls. But no matter what they had seen, pilgrims couldn’t reveal it to anyone, or fearful Hades, the lord of the Underworld, would take their lives in retaliation.

The geography of the Greek Underworld is fascinating, and its knowledge was fundamental to Antiquity’s mystery religions. We know most of these details from totenpässe, the so-called passports of the dead, thin gold foil pieces found in the mouths of skeletons, inscribed with details to navigate the other realm.

Charon and Psyche, John Roddam Spencer Stanhope.

The most important instructions from these totenpässe are those regarding Lethe, the river of forgetfulness. According to Ovid, it flowed through the cave of Hypnos, the god of sleep. Lethargic and groggy, the dead were asked to drink from its waters, but this would make them forget their earthly lives. Mystery religions noted that there was another river from which souls could choose to drink if they were wise: Mnemosyne, whose waters would make the initiated remember their past existence and achieve omniscience, thus breaking the cycle of reincarnation.

The remaining two rivers were Phlegethon (the river of fire, which didn’t consume anything within its flame) and Styx. After crossing the latter, the souls would finally arrive in Hades. But the perils of the journey didn’t end here: Anacreon warns us that ‘Hades’ hall is horrifying, and the passage there is hard’. Worse: it is decided that ‘whoever ventures there may not return’. Welcomed by the monstrous dog Cerberus, who allowed no one to leave, the souls would have to confront three judges: Rhadamanthus, Minos and Aeacus, who would decide on their destiny based on their deeds during their human existence. A positive sentence would allow them to go to the Elysian Fields, but a negative one might bring the eternal torment that Sisyphus or Tantalus endured.

The myth of the ferryman, embodied in Charon’s oboli and totenpässe, reflects a universal constant: the belief that the journey to the Otherworld is a perilous adventure, so the presence of a psychopomp, even when he’s belligerent, bad tempered and unreliable, is crucial to the fate of our souls.

Shadow People Motivations

Because the classification of Shadow People is so large, their motivations are fairly wide-ranging. Often times the apparent motivation of shadow people is tied to their source.

Lurking Shadow People

Generally found in homes and very often around bedrooms, the classic shadow people tend to be lurking. They will stand in doorways or corners and just watch their victims. These types of shadow entities don’t generally seem to have any intent, they are just there observing. Sometimes they will wander a location, following people, or stalking them. Quite often they flee at being noticed, vanishing around corners or simply by going through a solid wall.

Typically these are the classic human shaped shadows, sometimes with a hat and often times with a cloak or large coat. Less common is a vague figure, more like a human with a cloth over them sort of shape.

Encounters with this class of shadow people typically install a sense of dread or foreboding. Whether this is just part of our instinctive reaction to seeing something dark in the night, or if they actually exude a sense of fear around them is open for debate. Some seem to just be observing us with unspoken intent.

This class of Shadow People seem primarily to be attached to an individual and have been known to follow people from one location to the next.

Caution should be used though with any of these entities, as a neutral in intent shadow person may actually be a hostile one waiting for an opening.

Dangerous or Aggressive Shadow People

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that some shadow people fitting the classic description are in fact malevolent. This is why I think all shadow entities should be treated with a high level of caution. Even if a shadow person is not initially hostile, it may just be a ploy. Considering that we are dealing with entities that may have a much different perception of time than we do, they are very capable of waiting for humans to break down or have a weak moment, giving them an opportunity to act on us.

If you experience a persistent shadow person, use a significant level of caution!

Visitors And Transient Shadow People

There seems to be a class of shadow people that are less interested in what we are doing but have their own agenda. They are seen typically going from one place to another, and seem not particularly interested in the goings on of those that observe them.

Of all the types of Shadow People, these are the least understood as they do not linger and interact with us.

Shadow Figures As Omens

Some sightings of shadow people appear to be omens or portents of something bad happening, much like the legends of seeing a Barghest (Hell Hound) is a portent of death.

Similarly to the lurking type Shadow People, these entities are generally associated with just one person and are a more transitory occurrence, stopping after the event or tragedy has taken place.

Haunting Shadow Figures

The last main class of Shadow People are those tied to a location and seem to haunt only that area. Several types of shadow people make up this large group and their motivations vary considerably depending on the type of Shadow Person. In general, though, those that haunt a location tend to be more malevolent and dangerous to encounter. They are less likely to flee when spotted and may actually choose to attack instead.

In my estimation, the least malevolent of this class are simply spirits that are negative in nature. At the extreme other end of the spectrum are the worst of the Shadow People, the demonic shadow creatures. What they want is usually to express their emotions on us. For weaker ones, that could be scratches and sick feelings. Stronger entities, are capable of full-on possessions, throwing objects or shoving people.

If you decide to investigate an area with a known, repeating shadow entity, please use extreme caution.

Charon, Son of Night and Shadow, Ferrier of the Dead - History

Ladies and gentleman skinny and scout
I'll tell you a tale I know nothing about
The admission is free so pay at the door
Now pull out a chair and sit on the floor

On one bright day in the middle of the night
Two dead boys got up to fight
Back to back they faced each other
Drew their swords and shot each other

The blind man came to see fair play
The mute man came to shout hooray
The deaf policeman heard the noise
And came to stop those two dead boys

He lived on the corner in the middle of the block
In a two story house on a vacant lot
A man with no legs came walking by
And kicked the lawman in his thigh

He crashed through a wall without making a sound
Into a dry creek bed and suddenly drowned
A long black hearse came to cart him away
But he ran for his life and is still gone today

I watched from the corner of the table
The only eyewitness to facts of my fable
If you doubt my lies are true
Just ask the blind man, he saw it too


Gandalf the Grey first rode Shadowfax during the events preceding the Council of Elrond, after his escape from being imprisoned at Orthanc. When asked by a suspicious Théoden to take any horse and be gone, Gandalf chose Shadowfax (much to the King's displeasure), tamed him, and used the great steed's speed to cross the vast wilderness between Rohan and the Shire in only six days. He dismissed the horse shortly before arriving in Rivendell and Shadowfax returned to Rohan.

He is next seen when Gandalf (now the White) called him when he, Gimli, Aragorn and Legolas needed horses to travel through Rohan. Legolas instantly recognises the race of the horse, exclaiming that it is "of the Mearas". While for the most part, Gimli rode with Legolas upon a grey horse named Arod, provided by Éomer, on the way from Fangorn to Edoras, Shadowfax carried both Gandalf and him, due to his greater strength and stamina when compared to the lesser steeds and the urgency of their journey.

Shadowfax approaching Gandalf the White in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.

From then on, and especially after he is officially gifted to him by Théoden, Shadowfax became Gandalf's permanent steed, earning the wizard the epithet The White Rider. Gandalf often used Shadowfax's great speed to his advantage, for instance during the Battle for Helm's Deep, where he organized the scattered Rohirrim army under Erkenbrand and led the attack. It was said by Theoden that there will never be a finer horse in Middle-earth again.

He was instrumental in transporting Gandalf and Peregrin Took from Rohan to Minas Tirith, when Sauron believed that Peregrin had the Ring after seeing him in Saruman's Palantír.

Shadowfax was vital during the Siege of Gondor, where Gandalf supported the army of Gondor defending the Rammas Echor, while regularly escorting medical transport to the City. Because of the horse's speed he was also able to save Faramir, who had commanded the retreating army's rearguard, from an attack by the Nazgûl. During the later stages of the siege, when Gandalf rode Shadowfax as he faced the Lord of the Nazgûl at the Gate of Gondor, Shadowfax alone among the free horses of the earth endured the terror and stood unmoving, steadfast before the Nazgûl. And finally, Gandalf used Shadowfax's swiftness to help him save Faramir from his crazed father Denethor, who had intended to burn his wounded son and himself alive on a funeral pyre.

Shadowfax was also present at the Final Battle before the Black Gate, though it is unclear whether or not Gandalf fought on horseback.

He afterwards carried Gandalf on the return journey to the North. It is believed that Shadowfax accompanied Gandalf across the Sea and into the West.

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