Ferry Folklore – Stories and Legends From the Greek Islands

Ferry Folklore Stories and Legends from the Greek Islands

Historically, the term ferry meant the transport of people across a river, lake or arm of the sea. Nowadays, it can also mean a short overwater flight.

In Greek mythology, Charon is the ferryman who takes souls of the dead across the rivers Styx and Acheron to enter Hades. Families of the deceased would place a coin on or in their mouth to pay him for passage.


Pontikonisi, or Mouse Island to the locals, is a gorgeous Greek islet that is home to a beautiful Byzantine chapel and monastery. The green, rocky islet surrounded by lush vegetation and tall cypress trees is one of Corfu’s most recognizable attractions. This unique and picturesque destination has a long history of mythology and legends, making it even more interesting and appealing to visitors.

According to the legend, the islet got its name because of its size; when viewed from above, it looks like the shape of a mouse. The island is also believed to be the remains of Odysseus’s ship, which was transformed into stone by Poseidon after Odysseus blinded him while fighting Polyphemus.

The rocky islet is covered with verdant plants, including cypresses and myrtles. It is a popular spot for picnics, and the scenery offers breathtaking views of Kanoni across the water. The island’s quaint church is dedicated to Pantokrator, and it features impressive wooden decoration.

In addition to the church, Pontikonisi is also home to a monastery, which is open to the public for religious celebrations on the 6th of August. In the past, it was home to monks who lived on the islet until 1915-1916, but today it is a tranquil and serene place. The island is considered a natural monument and has been protected since 1960, so it is important that visitors treat the area with care and respect. It is best to keep noise levels low and refrain from littering, so as to preserve the beauty of the landscape for future generations.

Ionian Islands

The Ionian Islands are a dazzling collection of islands off the west coast of mainland Greece. Corfu, Zakynthos, Kefalonia and Lefkada have a rich history that has been shaped by invaders and colonisers from the Romans to the Venetians. These azure gems are now home to the beachcombers and night owls, but they also play host to some of Greece’s most renowned myths.

The landscapes of the Ionian Islands have inspired countless writers, from Byron and Edward Lear to the Durrell brothers and Louis de Bernieres. It is easy to see why. The barren mountains, olive groves and classical associations have stimulated the imaginations of generations of travellers.

Mythology is a crucial part of Greek culture, and the Ionian Islands are no exception. Mythological stories describe and explain many aspects of Greek history, culture and life.

Many of the island’s names are rooted in legend. For example, the island of Cephallonia is named after the figurehead of a ship that sank off its coast. Another island, Icaria, is supposedly named after the legend of Icarus, son of Daedalus, who tried to escape from the labyrinth on Crete with wings made from feathers and wax. But Icarus flew too close to the sun, melting the wax and falling into the Icarian Sea. This is how the Icarian Sea got its name.

Fortunate Isles

For the Greeks, the Fortunate Isles were a place where one could find exotic people and animals. But they were also a symbol of the far-flung wonders that could be discovered on the edges of the world. The closer to the Mediterranean Sea, the more normal human beings, plants and animals were; the farther out from this central core, the more unusual and strange things could be found. This fascination with the distant and exotic continued into the Renaissance, when it was popular to make up stories about strange and foreign islands that could be found in far-off places. Pliny the Elder’s Natural History includes references to islands of gold (Chryse) and silver (Argyre), while Flavius Philostratus’ Life of Apollonius of Tyana mentions a land with soil made entirely of precious metals.

A more mystical island, the Isles of the Blessed or Elysium, was where souls who had lived three virtuous lives could go to enjoy a life of leisure and material comfort in a perpetually fair weather paradise. But the chances of reaching this paradise were incredibly slim, and only the most virtuous heroes and kings were ever thought to have reached it.

In the first century AD, the Greek geographer Claudius Ptolemy (90 – 168 AD) used the Fortunate Isles as his prime meridian for his Geographia(a). Today, most experts believe that Ptolemy’s meridian is actually around 10 actual degrees further west than it should be, which would put the Fortunate Isles somewhere along the western coast of Africa near Cape Verde!

Aegean Sea

The cradle of two great early civilizations, the Aegean Sea (i-JEE-an) has many ancient associations. Its islands are steeped in mythology – Crete is linked to Theseus and the Minotaur while Santorini’s destruction by a volcanic eruption was likely the inspiration for Plato’s description of Atlantis.

The Aegean is also a source of wonder. It’s a beautiful blue sea with many bays, ports, and shelter creeks that made it easier for seamen to sail long distances at a time when shipbuilding was in its early stages.

There are many legends surrounding the name of this stunning sea, including one that claims it was named after king Aegeus who committed suicide in the waters. According to this story, an oracle told Aegeus his son would be the death of him. Theseus went on to become a great adventurer and even managed to defeat the half-man, half-bull Minotaur in the Labyrinth of King Minos on Crete. However, as Aegeus waited for his son to return from his adventures, he spied a ship rounding the cape of Sounio and saw that it had black sails – he thought his son was dead. Aegeus threw himself into the sea in despair.

There are also theories that the Aegean got its name from the town of Aegae or the Greek queen Aegea. It could also be derived from the Homeric word aiges, meaning waves.