Since the dawn of time, humans produced traditions and also customs to ensure their loved ones rest well in the afterlife. Fatality in different societies has involved mean various things, and also many old people had solid beliefs around how to honor the dead. One such tradition discovered in ancient Greece is Charon’s obol.

You are watching: Why are coins placed on the eyes of the dead

Jump front to these sections:

Charon’s obol is a myth surrounding the location of coins on the eyes of the dead. Follow to legend, the coins to be a bribe or payment provided to ferry the dead right into the Underworld. When this can sound strange in modern times, this practice brought peace to old people, ensuring their household members made it safely right into the afterlife.

In this guide, we’ll uncover this rich history and tradition approximately Charon’s Obol.

Charon’s Obol Explained

In ancient Greece, maintaining the gods and also goddesses happy to be essential. These to be the all-powerful us responsible for the earth and also the afterlife. To upset the gods would lug destruction, lock believed. It’s this mythology that led to Charon’s obols as part of ancient Greek funerals.

The Greek Underworld

In old Greece, the floor of the life is separate from the Underworld. The Underworld is wherein the dead go once they die, and also this floor is watched through Hades, the god of the Underworld. However, when world died, lock didn’t magically appear in the Underworld. They had actually to take trip there through boat.

Between the floor of the living and the Underworld is the river Styx and Acheron. These 2 rivers separated the souls of the living and also the departed.

Those involvement the Underworld essential to cross by boat. The ferryman that Hades was Charon. In Greek paintings and poetry, you’ll typically find depictions that Charon taking the dead through the flow to the Underworld.

Paying for safe passage

The vital thing to know about Charon is that he did no ferry passengers because that free. Follow to Greek legend, he required to be paid an obol for his service. An obol was a kind of coin from ancient Greece. The only method to make certain he gained his payment to be to ask the dead through a coin on their eyes or also in their mouths.

What occurred if the ferryman didn’t acquire paid? Greek belief suggests these souls float the planet side of the river for hundreds or even thousands of years prior to they’re allowed to cross.

Archeological evidence

While Charon’s obol is generally referenced in old literature and art, it’s also important to look in ~ the archeological study from the time. Ancient graves uncovered today phone call a story that isn’t constantly consistent v the legend of Charon’s obol.

While world were buried with coins, castle were additionally buried with much more than simply one coin. Several coins, typically of greater value 보다 an obol, were discovered on miscellaneous parts of the body. Possibly this to be a method to carry out wealth to love ones in the afterlife, or probably it was intended as a ferry payment to Charon himself.

Unfortunately, as result of rampant dig robbing throughout history, it’s unlikely researcher will ever before have the full story the these ancient graves.


» Cake because that insurance:Improve persistency and give her customers true peace of psychic by providing end-of-life planning support with Cake.
» Cake because that healthcare: The finest health systems assistance patients with advance care planning. Uncover out how Cake can help.
» Cake for banks: distinguish your company by help customers prepare for and also navigate finish of life with Cake.

Putting Coins ~ above the Dead’s eyes Today

Today, putting coins ~ above the eyes of the dead is still a practice in some parts of the world, though not necessarily for the same factor as in ancient Greece.

You might have heard the this practice in victor England or spotted the in a movie, though you might not have recognized the significance at the time.

Coins on the eye of the dead in victor England

In the victorian era, it ended up being commonplace for someone to place silver coins top top the eyes of the dead. Lock weren’t payment Charon’s fee, rather, this to be a completely cosmetic action. Though the eye of the dead are manually shut, they frequently pop open frequently on their own. As the human body dehydrates, the eyes take ~ above a sunken expression that world in victorian England discovered upsetting.

Since wakes were common, civilization wanted to do something to cover this unsettling eyes. The silver- coins were heavy enough to store the eyes closed until the burial.

Today, this isn’t necessary due to the fact that plastic fillers are placed by the mortician behind the eye to prevent the sunken appearance. However, it is still typical to sheathe the eyes of the deceased till the body is required to a funeral home or buried.

Coins on tombs of veterans

While it’s not common to bury bodies v coins ~ above the eye of the dead, coins have taken top top a new definition without graveyards. If girlfriend visit a modern cemetery, it’s not uncommon to encounter headstones with coins on them. What’s the an interpretation of this coins ~ above graves? together you might have guessed, it’s not pertained to the Greek myth.

The definition is in reality tied come the American military. A coin left ~ above the headstone or the tomb plot is a means to communicate with the family of the deceased. Each kind of coin has actually its own an interpretation within the military.

For example, a penny way that you’re a serviceman or woman and also you went to the grave of one more military veteran. If you leave a quarter, you’re indicating that you were current when the individual died during their service.

Each coin way something different, and leaving one is a authorize of respect for veterans and also their families. These coins go towards keeping the cemeteries or paying prices for other veterans’ burials. Though this practice has its own definition related to the U.S. Military, it’s interesting to trace this custom ago through old history.

Coins on tombs to carry luck

Finally, coins are seen as a way to bring an excellent luck. If friend visit the tombs of famous people, you might even watch a smattering of coins yourself. Benjamin Franklin’s grave, because that example, is always covered with coins many thanks to his famous saying “a penny saved is a penny earned.”

Leaving something once you visit a grave has actually long to be a sign of respect. While most people carry flowers or candles to tombs of their loved ones, you don’t need to go to together lengths, especially if you’re casually visiting. Leaving everything you have with girlfriend of worth (like a coin) is a means to present the dig is no forgotten.

Leaving a coin likewise has positive implications for the living. Leave a coin on a tomb is a means to spark an excellent luck in your very own life. This is a ethereal nod in ~ the Charon’s obol legend of burying the dead through coins. It’s all around paying respect come the deceased and honoring their memory v a small act of service.

Paying Respects come the Dead

Charon’s obol is a unique means of honoring the dead through ensuring for sure passage into the Underworld. When this Greek tradition can feel disconnected from modern days, together you deserve to see above, it’s tho not unusual for human being to location coins on tombs as a authorize of respect. Mythology and also tradition play into our modern burial practices, and also it’s interesting to watch these customs build over time into what we take into consideration “normal” today.

How do you want to be respected after friend die? To make these decisions for yourself, begin end-of-life planning. Whether you affix with the legacy of coins on graves or other else, this is your selection to do for yourself.

See more: Usa $1 " James K Polk 1845 Dollar Coin Value, Coincollectionmarket

Sources

Fischer-Hansen, Tobias. “Charon’s dues in ancient Greece.” Recent Danish study in timeless Archaeology. Museum Tusculanum Press, 1991. Web page 206.