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Thread: Death Practices in Balfour

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    Lady Lillian Kiera's Avatar  
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    Death Practices in Balfour

    Death, it is believed by the Balfourians, is not the end for the souls of the departed. When properly released, the spirit will move on and find rebirth, and so the rituals surrounding death are largely focused on celebrating the life that has gone while ensuring the soul can find freedom.
    Commonly, for the upper classes on the islands of Balfour, the death of a loved one is observed with two days of prayer before taking the body to be cremated. During this time the family is visited by friends and loved ones, and prayers are offered to Jaynara, to thank her for the time they were given with the deceased. They also pray to Swaren, to keep the soul they love safe until such a time as he sees fit to see them reborn. The lower classes follow this as closely as they can, but time and other restrictions often mean the rituals are somewhat condensed, although never carried out with any less care and devotion.
    The most important thing, when preparing and honoring the dead, is to have their body cremated. This is believed to completely release the spirit from its physical tethers, and it is carried up to the heavens on the smoke of the pyre. These cremations take place in a designated patch of ground which consecrated and kept just for that purpose. Perhaps understandably, nothing grows within that ground, and it is thought to represent a place where the worlds of the living and the dead intersect, allowing the crossing. There are no individual memorials within this space, as the devotion is to the spirit, not to the physical body, and while it is a place of mourning, it is not one of remembrance.
    These grounds, so important to the cycle of death and rebirth, are always kept by a disciple of Swaren. It is always a solitary priest, specially trained for the purpose of releasing the souls of the departed, and they live in simple dwellings alongside the grounds. It is this priest’s job to attend to the needs of the cremation; they gather the wood, assist the family, add their prayers. In the cases where someone passes who has no family to see to their death rites, it is this priest who carries them out. The priest rakes out the ashes, tends to the space, and keeps a flame of Swaren constantly burning, as it is with this blessed flame that each pyre is lit.
    The ashes of the deceased, after the pyre has completed its work, are left within the burning grounds, except in the case of the nobility and the royal family. These social elite almost always have special family crypts, or columbariums, with niches in the four walls surrounding an open space in the center. Cremations take place in the consecrated ground within the walls, and the ashes are then collected and placed in an appropriate container, to be interred in an individual space.

    Procession, Immolation, and Grounds

    The death rites begin in the home, and in fact in most cases a priest is not involved until the body reaches the ash grounds. It is the family who tend to the deceased, and the care and attention they take as they go through the rituals and begin the mourning process reflect the respect and love they had for the life that has been lost. The body is washed, and either dressed or wrapped in a shroud. It lies in state for perhaps a few hours, perhaps an entire day, but eventually it is made ready for its procession.
    When the ash grounds are nearby, sometimes the body is carried on a stretcher, but more often a cart is utilized, with the body laid out respectfully. Far from trying to be inconspicuous, the procession will usually go through the center of town, so that all who might have known and cared for the deceased may come out and pay their last respects. It is common for well wishers to give the family gifts of food and drink, and if the journey is particularly long there is almost always someone who will give them full meals to bring with them on their way. The procession gains in size as it goes, as well; extended family and friends will, if they are able, go with the body to the ash grounds.
    The trip to the ash grounds is never more than a half day’s travel from anywhere; they are centered within populations to ensure this is always the case. When the family arrives, the priest comes out to greet them, and will often stand by the body, praying over it while the family builds the pyre. No matter the social level, it is considered very important that the family builds it with their own hands; this is the last bed their loved one will every lay in, and it is the one which will carry the soul away to be with Swaren. When everything is prepared, the body is laid on the pyre, and the last goodbyes are said.
    A torch is lit from the Fire of Swaren, and the pyre is kindled, again, if possible, by the family. Prayers are offered as the fire catches - prayers of thanks, of praise, of lamentation, of hope. Those who had joined the procession raise their voices as the smoke rises to the sky, before one by one they leave the burning grounds. At least one member of the family, usually either the leader of the family or the one closest to the deceased, stays with the pyre, holding vigil until all is ash, staying with the soul of the departed until the very last wisp is gone. Then, safe in the knowledge that their loved one is free, they leave the ash grounds.
    Last edited by Amy; 01-24-2018 at 06:22 PM.

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