According to the Egyptians, the soul sets out, staff in hand, on its journey to the Osirian Field of Reeds, which is a happy place where the dead enjoy the rewards of the afterlife. It was considered to be in the general direction of the Milky Way, the Great White Nile of the sky. The soul is taken into the divine realms in the boat of the sun god Ra, as he makes his way across the sky.
The passenger would disembark in the underworld when the sun set in the west and be taken though one of seven gates. Escorted by a jackal-headed god or a faithful dog, the soul enters the Hall of Truth and is brought forward to be judged by Osiris.
Osiris then weighs the soul against a feather. If it does not tip the scales, the soul is deemed worthy and is given entry into the Osirian Fields. However, if the heart is heavy with sin, it fails the test and is taken to a place where stern correctional treatment is meted out. In some accounts, the condemned soul is thrown into the lair of a terrible creature called Ammit.
The symbolism of a journey is found in mythology throughout history. The deceased is taken to the “other side” across a river, a bridge, or even on a bird’s back. The symbolism of the boat dates back to the Neolithic period. The most well-known boat is that of Charon, the Greek ferryman who transports the souls of the dead across the river Styx to Hades. To this day, some people still put coins in the eyes or mouth of the dead so that they have money to pay the ferryman.
Also, in Europe, there is an amusing superstition that if two of these coins are removed from the corpse and dropped briefly in a glass of wine, which is afterwards given to a husband or a wife, it will “blind” them to any affairs or infidelities of the other partner!