Bones temple Building / Landmark in 13 | World Anvil

Bones temple

These Bastet temples are the mortuary and divintation temples in Bastelia'hu

There are three types of temples in Bastelia'hu, each specialized on different aspects of life and the worship of Bastet: water temple, knowledge temple, and bones temple.   Bones temples are named after the bones that decorate the structure, but also, by what they hold underground.
Having one's bones used for the temple's decoration is a great honour as Bastet's clerics only choose the bones that will increase the temple's strength. While these temples hold the remains of everyone, they are dedicated to Bastet, her heroes and her most dedicated followers.   These temples vary in size and grandeur, but every city has one, and most villages have one within one day's travel. It is rumoured that those who fall weak or become gravely injured at a great distance from one of those temples attempt to lure lions into consuming their bodies, trying to emulate a lion's funeral.

Purpose and ceremonies

These temples serve three main functions:
  • To perform funerary rituals
  • To serve as resting sites for the dead
  • To perform divination rituals
Lion funeral
While these temples serve three main functions, the most impressive by far to both locals and foreigners is lion funerals, also called the last awakening ritual.

When either a citizen of Bastelia'hu dies having done great services to the country or a cleric of Bastet dies, a lion funeral is performed.  
The first time I witnessed a lion funeral as a cleric of Bastet was a day full of contradictions, for the funeral that I was to witness was that of my great master Gunken'za, but it also ended up being my first day as an apprentice at a Bones' temple. I was chosen from my village to accompany Gunken'za's remains, to ensure their safety and well-being until we could reach Kingsdar'ho. My master had been the teacher of the king, back when he was a pup, and the king would not have accepted anything but a funeral at the capital's temple.
It is one thing to see someone's reanimated body run away from the lions, trying to spark in them their hunting instincts, but it is something very different when the person that is being torn to pieces is someone you love and admire. Even though you know what's coming, the first instinct is of fear, but their body is merely holding the soul prisoner. As the lions started tearing Gunken'za into pieces, I couldn't help but remember what he told me many years ago.
— Triana'za

Don't underestimate the power of a lion funeral, Triana'za. It is an honour for those who depart this world, but it is also a great reminder to everyone that we channel Bastet's power.
— Great master Gunken'za

A couple of days later, when we went back for Gunken'za's bones, I began to be nervous. What if the bones held a bad prophecy? What if his bones held no prophecy and were not considered worthy? But of course, I had no reason to worry. The bones spoke loud and clear; their prophecy was written into the future stone. His smaller bones were collected to carve into divination bones, the rest, to be displayed on the temple.
— Triana'za
Resting site
Unlike the heroes and devoted servants of Bastet, everybody else is buried in the catacombs beneath the bones temples. It is thought that while the souls of those enjoying a lion funeral go to Bastet immediately, the souls of those buried remain bound to this plane.   Their spirits remain in this plane, bound to their bodies, helping their descendants in any way they can. Their souls are thought to serve Bastet as intermediaries. Once Bastet deems them to have served her well and for long enough, she allows their body to decompose and for their souls to ascend to her.
Divination rituals
Thanks to all of the helpful souls around the bones temple, it is the perfect site for performing divination rituals. While these can be performed anywhere, most clerics will try to perform these rituals in a bones temple, particularly if the question is important.   All Bastet clerics are versed in divination magics, but only those serving at a bones temple know and understand the full power of bone magic. They are also the only ones able to obtain divination foretellings from the bones of those who experienced a lion's funeral.
Temple / Church
Above-ground design
Circular, open
Below-ground design
Three underground room complexes and one large hallway (west basement, catacombs)
Above-ground diameter
25 - 100 metres
Catacomb length
300 metres - 2000 metres

Architectural design

The temples are circular shaped, and consist mostly of a circular arcade, with archways every few meters. At the cardinal points, there are no archways, and instead one can find trapdoors going into each of the basement areas.

The East basement is dedicated to the reception of bodies. The South basement is dedicated to the preparation of bodies. The West basement is used as catacombs. The North basement is where the last awakening ritual is prepared.    

Building materials

Temples are built using two layers of materials: wood and stone or bricks. Wood frames provide support for the myriad of archways into the courtyard. Bones are used as decoration, mostly in the areas that transition between wood and stone. Bones are affixed to these areas through either tree sap or a collagen concoction.   One large stone sits at the centre of the circle made by the archways. In this stone, the clerics of Bastet write the prophecies and foretellings they have received from the bones. No distinction is made between the bone prophecies made from the bones of those who underwent a lion funeral, or from the bones thrown by the clerics.  
Regional differences
Those temples built close to Axdrum mountains are sometimes carved out of stone entirely, rather than using stone blocks and wood. On these stone temples, carvings tailored to those bones chosen to decorate the temple are made. The end result looks like the stone is ingrained with bones.

Cover image: by MGatta


Author's Notes

The original version of this article was created as an entry for World Anvil's flagship Summer Camp 2019 event, specifically for prompt #4:
"Write about a ceremonial building in your world and what takes place there."
  You can view my other entries from the competition here, or check out all past World Anvil competitions here.   This article and the world I am writing about have been created using Pathfinder as a base. This is a homebrew setting, inspired by Paizo's wonderful lore and creations.

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Jul 15, 2019 02:26

I really like this! It seems very unique to me and I love the idea of prophecy coming from the bones. That last picture is pretty awesome, too!

Jul 16, 2019 08:53

Thanks for reading it, Aerdran. I'm glad you liked the idea :P

Jul 16, 2019 12:36

I really like your take on an Egyptian based belief system! It would have been nice if there was more information on the different functions of the temple but I'm guessing they'll be expanded upon in another article. Aside from looking different are there any other differences between the temples?

Jul 16, 2019 13:53

Thanks yukimoda !   The differences between the temples are the functions, bones temples fulfil a funerary function as well as a site for divination rites, while the other temples focus on other aspects of life (but this article is centred just on bones temples).   Maybe one day I'll have time to talk about the divination rituals and about the catacombs, but for SC, this is all I had time for.

Jul 16, 2019 21:01

How does the priesthood decide if one's bones will strengthen the temple? It would be really nice to see in the article how the priests choose; whether its based on the actual state of the bones upon death, or if its something more spiritual, based off of ones character, morality or even wealth. I also don't see anywhere what the "last awakening" is. It sounds rather interesting and I would love to read more about it.

Jul 17, 2019 14:46

Hi astrandedrusalka,   Whether the bones are chosen depends both on the state of the bones after the lions have eaten them as well as "spiritual-based". I haven't developed yet a solid system as to what they would be looking for in the bones, so, for now, I think I'll leave it as is, while I try to develop something that makes sense lore-wise.   The last awakening is just another way of calling the lion funerals, as indicated by the sentence "lion funerals, also called the last awakening ritual." The reason the last awakening is an alternative name is that a lion funeral entails animating a corpse (as if it had woken up after death) and baiting a lion to "hunt" it.

Jul 16, 2019 21:27 by 2ndGenDm

I really like reading your articles, and again, your design choices are spot on. In fact, your column entrance into the article (two tarot-like pictures) flanking the text was pretty neat.   I do have a few questions and comments; I'll go in order:   1) "only choose the bones that will increase the temple's strength" - Here, do you mean the spiritual strength or strength relating to the supernatural, or do you mean something akin to the architectural strength? (returned here after the sidebar) ah, so bones are only displayed and the strength of a bone's prophecy determines if they are displayed or not. That's pretty interesting. I like that. So, then, bones are never embedded into anything--or is this only the stone temples? pardon my confusion.   2) People baiting lions to feed on them is metal as fuck and I love it. That, without a doubt, demonstrates a kind of commitment to the faith. It makes sense that this is also rumored since none would exactly live to tell the tale xD.   3) As I understood it, The bodies of the dead (probably, clerics, mainly) are reanimated to die in a lion funeral? How often does this happen?   4) I notice that your two quotes's speakers have a " 'za " at the end of their name. Is this an honorific for clerics, or a common naming convention?   5) --Sidebar now-- I'm curious, do the size of the basements vary? like Northern the last awakening ritual basement -- is it bigger to allow for others to watch what happens, or was that only at the capital?   Thank you for your in depth building here. Your articles always make a lovely read.

Jul 24, 2019 19:54 by Tiirikka

This was really cool! It makes me want to know more about this religion, and to really delve into it to understand what their goddess and believe system is about! That's a brutal way to go, but definitely interesting one!

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