Aken the ferryman

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In ancient Egyptian mythology Aken was the patron and custodian of the boat named "Meseket" that carried the souls of the dead into the underworld. Apparently, he remained in a deep sleep when he was not needed, and had to be woken by the Ferryman, Mahaf, when the dead required his services. He was generally depicted as a sailor standing in the stern of a papyrus boat. He was not the focus of worship, and had no cult centre but is referred to a number of times in the Book of the Dead.[1]

In Egyptian mythology, the underworld was composed of the general area, named Duat, and a more pleasant area to which the morally righteous were permitted, named Aaru. At the point in history at which Aken arose, Anubis had become merely the god of embalming, and Osiris, though lord of the whole underworld, dwelt specifically in Aaru. Consequently, Aken was identified as the ruling the area outside of Aaru, Duat in general, on Osiris' behalf.

The Egyptian word for part of the soul Ba was also used as a word meaning ram. Therefore, Aken was usually depicted as being ram-headed. As both an underworld deity and subservient to Osiris, Aken became known as Cherti (also spelt Kherty), meaning (one who is) subservient. The main center of his cult became Letopolis, and it is considered a possibility that his cult caused the development of the myth of the ferryman in other Mediterranean mythologies, such as that of Charon.


  1. ^ "Aken". Retrieved 22 June 2014. 

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