The Boat to the Other Side

Lake View Cemetery, Seattle, Washington

Since ancient times, the imagery of the boat to ferry a soul from one realm to the other has been a part of the symbolism of death.  In Greek mythology, the River Styx wrapped its way around Hades (the Underworld) nine times.  To cross from this life to the next, the dead had to pay with a coin to be ferried from the realm of the living to the realm of the dead.  The toll was placed in the mouth of the deceased to pay Charon, the ferryman.  It was said that if the dead person did not have the coin, he was destined to wander the shores of the River Styx for a century.  The “boat” was one of the images found on Victorian graves to represent the crossing from one world to the next.

In the case of the marker above, it is not Charon ferrying the soul to the other side but a winged angel, whose way is lit by a torch radiating light on the front of the boat.

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One Response to The Boat to the Other Side

  1. MARY KIM SCHRECK says:

    Douglas, I really like your clear, succinct explanations of the backgrounds of many of these symbols. To explain Hades, Charon, the River Styx, the golden coin, the boat…all in one clear paragraph is not an easy feat!

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