Irathian Funeral Pyres Tradition / Ritual in Agia | World Anvil

Irathian Funeral Pyres

"From Irath, you were created in love and hope. From Rathias, you have known hardships and betrayal. In death, you will return to the loving light of Irath. From Her light, you are born, to Her light you shall return. Let the flames and the Glux guide you to Irath’las."
— The last spoken part before the pyre is lit.
  Irathians have always believed that the Glux is a gateway to Irath’las. The soul travels through light, and therefore it only seems natural for the Irathians that the final journey of the soul should be sent by the flames that cast a similar light to that of the Glux, and the smoke carries the resemblance of their bodies to the afterlife.  

History of Irathian Funeral Pyres

Funeral pyres have existed as long as Irathism has. Since the beginning, it was important for the Irathians to send their loved ones to Irath’las, in the best way possible, and since Irath was created from light and used her light to create the species, it is only natural for the soul should leave in light as well.

In the beginning, when all the species could work together, there was an understanding between the Taroths, Ghrefeims, and Dynbodauls about the Taroths supervising the wood trade for the other two species, which worked for some centuries, before the Dynbodauls and Ghrefeims needed more wood.
"It matters not since your species attacked us first and turned your back to the Goddess Irath. You have brought this upon yourself. Irath has seen your species’ selfishness of not complying with our wish for more wood, and has seen that our species cannot have peace.” Said the feller.
— Book of Irath, the Massacre of the Taroths
But the demand for wood as building materials and for the pyres caused conflict between the Taroths, Ghrefeims, and Dynbodauls for centuries, which ultimately led to a massacre of the Taroths.

Over millennia, the increase in population and death caused major deforestation across Western Agia along with smoke problems in residential areas because of the close distance of the funeral pyres inside the city. The Irathian church, therefore, decided to have pyre areas outside settlements, or in the far corners inside the city wall, should a siege happen around a city. These areas are formally called Cyrpugwelit, “fire corpse beds”, commonly called firebeds in modern days.

Since a lot of wood is required to make the funeral pyres, the church of Irath looked for alternative means to light up the pyre with different types of oils, depending on where in Western Agia it takes place.
The only people who can get burned in the firebed areas behind cathedrals are reserved for royals, while churches are for those nobles donating money for building churches. Cathedrals’ firebeds are strictly preserved for royals, saints, the Yppwenlas, and bishops.

Building the Pyre

To build a pyre, a huge amount of wood is necessary for burning the body completely. A well-stacked woodpile of measurements 122 cm high, 244 cm wide, and 122 cm deep is needed for an effective and well-built funeral pyre. The job of building the pyre falls to the pyretakers - a special profession within the Undertaker guild, who makes sure the pyre is built with the body inside or atop. It all depends on the region.

"Remember, each piece of timber has to be placed at the right angle, otherwise you will risk it falling to the ground before it has even been lit. I do not want to see a repetition of last time. The guild already wants to throw you out and give you no chance to get the pyretaker certificate!"
— A master pyretaker to his apprentice
If the pyre tips with the dead body, the pyretaker can lose his job, since he has caused disturbance for the dead, who might end up haunting instead of resting on his journey to Irath’las. The pyretakers must constantly maintain the pyre for about 8-9 hours for the body to be burnt properly. In most cases, it is the heir who lights the pyre. If there are no heirs, it must be the closest member of the family.

The elite - nobles, royals, and high clergy members - often have about eight layers of timber, each laid at the right angle to those above and below. Pyres for the elite look more like an altar, while the commoners look more like a bed if the body is shown. The more money given to the undertaker guild, the finer oil is used for faster burning, and the sweeter the smoke can smell from aromatic herbs, leaves, and libations. For the extremely wealthy, incense can be burned to mask the unpleasant smell, which also made the pyre more flammable because of the resin.

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Item | Feb 28, 2024

Pyre material composition in each country



Wood materials
Expensive pyres: Ash, pomaceous fruitwood, and oak, which is best materials to burn the body completely.
Ordinary pyres: Ash, holly, and hornbeams.
Cheap pyres: Pine, poplar, and willow mixed in to lower the cost, due to their poor burning quality.

Those who live in middle east of Aistana might use beech as well. Coastal uses dried seaweed.

Oils and grease for faster burning
Expensive firestarter: Alcohol, which is used by the rich, some even give it as the deceased's last drink, and then tosses almost an entire bottle on the body.
Olive oil, which has to be imorted from southern countries. Often the church prefer using olive oil for their dead clergy, since it is considered to be most pure and well-scented.
Mediocre firestarter: Poppy oil, walnut oil which is much more accessible to people living in Aistana.
Cheap firestarter: Tallow.


Wood materials
Expensive pyres: Ash and oak.
Ordinary pyres: Beech, hornbeams, ash.
Cheap pyres: Maple, linden, pine, and poplar mixed in to lower the cost, due to their poor burning quality.

Oils and grease for faster burning
Similar to Aistanian firestarters.

It's not all from Bainoil who are Irathians, some prefer the Rathianic funeral traditions. This is because to Isith forced her faith onto the people in those countries, she managed to conquer in Western Agia.
— Aewydim Scibodaeth


Wood materials
Expensive pyres: Ash, oak, hazel, rowan, birch
Ordinary pyres: Beech, elm, birch, rowan,
Cheap pyres: Linden, maple mixed in to lower the cost, due to their poor burning quality.

Oils and grease for faster burning
Similar to Aistanian firestarters.

Atlasé has an abundance of high quality wood in especially northern Atlasé, some are traded to Fundras and Estain. It is probably one of the cheapest places in north of Western Agia to have a decent quality pyre at less costs. But like Bainoil, a minority prefer Rathianic funerals instead of Irathian.


Wood materials
Expensive pyres: Ash and oak.
Ordinary pyres: Beech, sycamore and hornbeams.
Cheap pyres: Spruce and pine.

Oils and grease for faster burning
Similar to Aistanian firestarters. But in the southern Estain olive oil is more common than walnut and poppy oil.

It is funny to thing such a large area as Estain relies on imported wood to keep the fire going under the pyre. But there is the huge area, called Lintudoma, which makes it difficult to grow any vegetation in the affected area. Thus, Estain mostly rely on their oak forests and trade.


Wood materials
Expensive pyres: Oak.
Ordinary pyres: Hornbeam and beech.
Cheap pyres: Pine.

Oils and grease for faster burning
Similar to Aistanian firestarters, except only a few can afford olive oil. Uses dried seaweed to save timber.

Fundras is truly the worst place in all of Western Agia. Half the country is covered by the Lintudoma, the other half is covered by misery from the daily sacrifices to the beast in the chasm. Wood is scarce in this nation, making trade vital. Luckily, their areas and "duty" to keep the beast at bay, makes them undesirable enemies to anyone and they therefore have access to any trade agreements.


Wood materials
Expensive pyres: Oak.
Ordinary pyres: Hornbeams, sycamore and beech Cheap pyres: Pine.

Oils and grease for faster burning
Primarily uses Ceiraghian olive oil. Those who cannot afford olive oil, uses tallum like other countries.

Ceiragh might look like a big country, but it is one of the smallest countries in Western Agia. This is because most of Ceiragh is situated in the Lintudoma. Despite it being a small country, it is well surplied with wood and makes pyres less expensive compared to other countries. Ceiragh makes their own olive oil from the island south of Ceiragh, that is hard to travel to.


Wood materials
Expensive pyres: Oak and ash.
Ordinary pyres: Beech, hornbeams, sycamore, and elm.
Cheap pyres: Spruce, willow, alder, and poplar.

Oils and grease for faster burning
Galidynos primarily uses imported oils, and tallum if there are no oil available.

Galidynos have a high consumption of wood because of Ghrefeims that uses it for mining as well as their pyres outside the mountain. North of the Galline mountains the forests are scarce, but south is there plenty of wood - if they had not need to fight over it with the other nations, and the small tribe of Bucaths.


Wood materials
Expensive pyres: Oak and ash.
Ordinary pyres: Beech, sycamore, and elm.
Cheap pyres: Linden, maple, pine, fir, and chestnut.

Oils and grease for faster burning
Laezla have different quality of olive oil, making it available for almost all types. But they too use tallum.

Laezla is truly remarkable, it has such a variety of tree speciments depending on where you are. Despite their low quality, there are some wood for cheaper pyres that is used for the expensive ones. This is because of their community sense to gift a piece of expensive wood to a cheaper pyre. Each tree has their own symbolism used to show the personality of the deceasd.


Wood materials
Expensive pyres: Oak and rowan.
Ordinary pyres: Beech, elm, holly, sycamore, and yew
Cheap pyres: Maple, linden, poplar, fir, pine, and spruce.

Oils and grease for faster burning
Magaun produce olive oil in different qualities as well. But those who cannot afford oil, use tallum as well.

Magaun is the lands of untold pleasures. If you want a feast while mourning your beloved, Magaun provide with all the ingredients to make the pyre tradition memorable. While they may be more lenient towards the strict Irathian doctrine in higher Western Agia, they still value the pyre tradition their own way.


Wood materials
Expensive pyres: Oak and ash.
Ordinary pyres: Beech, hornbeams, sycamore, and hornbeam.
Cheap pyres: Pine, fir, maple, sweet chestnut, and poplar.

Oils and grease for faster burning
Reithos produce olive oil in different qualities as well. But those who cannot afford oil, use tallum as well.

Reithos has always had a good position to trade its olive oil to other countries, especially Estain, since it is one of two routes around the mountain range Galline. Reithos therefore have a rich merchant guild, who draw a lottery to help a poor person get a pyre chance. The church is not fond of this, since they too have a lottery to keep close eyes on their followers.


Wood materials
Expensive pyres: Oak and pomaceous fruitwood.
Ordinary pyres: Sycamore.
Cheap pyres: Pine.

Oils and grease for faster burning
Samrun produce olive oil in different qualities like all the other lower Western Agian countries. But those who cannot afford oil, use tallum as well.

Samrun is very alike to Laezla and Thebas. The family of the deceased buy or carve an animal that will guide the way to Irath'las. The animal is carved from a piece of wood that symbolises th personality of the deceased, like Laezla's tradition. The animal tradition originates from Southern Agia and Thebas.


Wood materials
Expensive pyres: Oak, ash, rowan, and pomaceous fruitwood.
Ordinary pyres: Hornbeam, elm, yew, and sycamore.
Cheap pyres: Pine, poplar, linden, maple.

Oils and grease for faster burning
Thebas produce olive oil in different qualities as well. But those who cannot afford oil, use tallum as well.

Thebas lay down a wooden animal to the deceased for it to guide and protect them on their way to Irath'las. It is a tradition originating from Southern Agia that made its way to lower Western Agia. Since Samrun also have this tradition, there are often merchants selling these figures in each of the two countries. The church is not fond of the protective animal tradition, since they believe it makes their faith weaker.

The Stages for the Dead

Preparations for the Dying

Before Death

When a person lies dying, a priest is called along with the Undertaker guild to come and start the rituals to ease the passing, making sure the soul is not leaving before the ritual is done to wander on land.

The priest anoints the dying with olive and yew oil above their heart and on their forehead, originating in the story of Foras defeating Isith with a spear dipped in yew poison. Unfortunately, Hailan Foras was also hurt by her own spear, thus dying together with Isith. Since Irath were the one to suggest yew for the spear to kill Isith, it is closely connected to death, but since Irath made the funeral pyre for Foras and her apprentices to keep them by her side in Irath’las, symbolising the resurrection to Irath’las. It is only the final oil that contains yew due to its high toxicity.

"Forgive me, mother-sister. I did not want to kill you, but it was necessary to stop people from dying. I wish things could have been different.” Said Foras, who finally let her tears run down her cheek..

"I too wish things could have been different, niece.” Said Isith, in a low and raspy voice. Her last tears froze on her cheek as she drew her last breath. Not long after, Foras joined her in death. Irath made a funeral pyre by herself where the bodies of the apprentices and Foras were placed and burned so they could join her in Irath’las.
— Book of Irath, Creation of the Age of Ice
Most dying chooses to end any conflict they had with their families and settle the inheritance if it had not been done so beforehand. This is to commemorate Foras who ended her and Isith’s differences to find peace.

If there are no priests present, or the time is dire, a Barber-surgeon or a midwife can gift the dying of listening to their last confession, but only those certificated by the church can give the final oil as well.

After Death

When a person is dead, the church bell shall ring four times for a man and two for a woman. The bells will ring the amount the rank a clergy rank requires. It’s common for the bells to ring between after the rising Glux and before the setting Glux. If a person dies after setting Glux, the family will have to wait the entire night for the bells to announce the death.
Just after the passing, the family closes the door and puts either a fresh poppy flower or a dried poppy on the entrance to notice anyone in the house is grieving. Then the people from the undertaker guild arrive and help the wife or daughter of the house to prepare the deceased by washing with water mixed with either common soap-worth or for the wealthy; lavender and honey.

The deceased then gets dressed in uncoloured fabric or white. White is only for those who can afford such expensive clothes. The deceased often have a little embroidery on their clothing to bring them luck or to carry their memories to Irath’las.

The mourning family wears faded yellow or plain-coloured clothes. Men wear a coif while women wear a veilaccording to their stature in society. Of course, those born in the nobility and royal wealth can afford a much more expensive attire, often wearing a mix of faded yellow and light blue, like most depictions of Irath. Only the deceased Yppwenlas may be burned in white and blue.

In Church

Irath had gone back to the beginning where she created the First and took similar things she made each First of, then she gave it her light and blood, and it turned to be a creation that was all and none of the First. She named it Gwaenslaucis, the First Light of the Guardian. Now she could return to Agia to find a person to love and be loved by in return.
— Book of Irath, Irath's Search
If the church bells have rung just before the setting Glux, the church mass will take place with the rising Glux, while if the church bells ring after the rising sun, the mass takes place in the evening before the setting Glux. If so, there will be a person to keep the deceased company until the following day’s rising Glux.

The priest present will not be using incense during the church ceremony held for the dead. The mass contains the remembrance of Irath’s death, and how the prophecy tells of her return. A small part of the Book of Irath is read aloud, which contains the description of the origin of the guardian in the gateway, known as the Porthint’Glux to the Irath’las.

Those in the near family of the deceased carry the body to the firebed. Sometimes the walk is long and exhausting since the church and firebed area can be quite far apart, thus the family takes shifts to carry the body on a stretcher. The long walk is considered a special gesture to the dead to show how far they would go for the deceased to have a peaceful journey to Irath’las. The family places a few coins for the guardian to let them pass into Irath’las and then places the body upon the pyre.

The heir of the family light the pyre. It is not required to stay more than an hour for the pyre, though some do this to prove their loyalty. It is mostly women who choose to stay in order to avoid slanders that can be interpreted from her leaving early.


Irathians believe their soul travels by the light of the Glux. The light is perceived as a bridge to the gate of Irath’las. To help the soul as much as possible, the pyre helps carry the soul faster to the gateway, flames represent the gate, and since the body has already experienced the flames on Agia, the Gluxs’ flames will not hurt the soul.

Class Difference

Unfortunately, it is far from everyone who can afford the pyre service the Undertaker guilds offer. Only a few exceptions are made for a mass burning, and that is during war and epidemics to avoid rotting corpses on streets that bring more diseases. Upon the battlefield, there are several mass funeral pyres to burn fallen soldiers and give them their last rightful honour.

If a family cannot afford the pyre services, there is a cheaper solution given by the Undertaker guild, which is the public communal graves. Here, the deceased gets buried, but often the family gives either a small piece of amber or a hollow stone with a glowing ember inside, commonly called Emberstones.

There have been disputes between common people and the Undertaker guild because of the high prices of their pyre services, sometimes causing common people to make their own pyres that often end in disasters. Some make-shift pyres often fall apart because of their poorly made structure, causing fires to happen, especially if it is made in an uncontrolled environment, such as dry grass caused by drought or other flammable environments.
Another problem is the reports of half-burnt corpses that pollute the air and sometimes water, since some dump the body into a river in order not to get caught in their illegal actions. Anyone making a pyre outside the certified guild members will receive a heavy fine and, in the worst cases, be buried alive as punishment for insulting the goddess Irath.

Famine, contagious sickness in corpses, and poverty also get their own mass communal grave to save money and to avoid contagions. But the criminals get their own unmarked grave in the most unceremonial way, and that is if they are lucky enough to avoid being sent to The Chasm of the Beast.
It is usually the undertakers of the Undertaker guild who takes care of these corpses as well, and are the lowest paid guild-members. Some say it is actually poor people who do these dirty deeds and get a little coin from the guild to take care of these cases.

But there is a little hope for those who cannot afford the pyre services, and that is to enter the church lottery to get a spot on the communal firebeds. A century ago, the church released this solution to minimise the risk of poor people making their own funeral pyres, and getting the disputes under control.

Ash and smoke

"Who died recently? The smell of death hangs heavily over the city today."
"I believe it was the young heir of the baron."
"I wonder why the smell is so horrid. I thought the baron was wealthy and could afford incense."
— Gossip between two citisens
After a pyre is done burning, the ash-takers, who are also part of the Undertaker guild, gather the remaining ash and bones left from the pyre and place them within an urn.

The family can choose to have the urn standing in their family home, the family crypt, having it mixed with the building materials to let it protect the household from any harm, or use the ash to make the soil more nutrient, believing the deceased’s ash brings fortune to their harvest.

It is a general rule that a hailan’s ash should be used in building churches and cathedrals to make the hailan patron of the church and area. If bones of a hailan are left from the pyre, it is often exhibited as sacred to the church, perceived as the saint wants to leave a part behind to give miracles.


Author's Notes

A huuuuge thanks to Stormbril who helped me with the css for the hover map of Agia. <3

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Dec 31, 2022 08:46

Amazing article and the map looks amazing

Dec 31, 2022 10:40

Thank you <3

Check out my On the Shoulders of Giants article: Satlonia
Dec 31, 2022 10:47 by Polina "Line" Arteev

I'll second the comment about the wonderful map! I'd love to know how you put that together to be interactive like that! It's super cool, and I love all the details in this article as well — an excellent read :)

Seek a new dawn, in Malkora!
The Feral Sovereign sleeps peacefully, but will return...
Dec 31, 2022 11:01

Thank you so much <3 I made the map with containers and css. It was a lot of work:')

Check out my On the Shoulders of Giants article: Satlonia
Jan 1, 2023 11:40 by Amélie I. S. Debruyne

This is a great article! I love how you show all the different aspects of this tradition and the different implications :D And great work with that fancy map!

Jan 1, 2023 17:24

Thank you so much <3

Check out my On the Shoulders of Giants article: Satlonia
Jan 3, 2023 01:38

The level of detail, and care, that went into both the map and the actual descriptions is awesome! I also love how there are quotes for several of the individual countries.

Jan 4, 2023 16:00

Thank you so much <3

Check out my On the Shoulders of Giants article: Satlonia
Jan 3, 2023 16:22 by Chris L

So much detail, and congrats on all your work on that map!

Learn about the World of Wizard's Peak and check out my award winning article about the Ghost Boy of Kirinal!

Jan 4, 2023 16:01

Thank you <3 Yes that was quite a handful of work :')

Check out my On the Shoulders of Giants article: Satlonia
Jan 5, 2023 17:47 by Icarus Crow

I love the requirements for the pyres, the detail in this article is incredible! Looks phenom!

Check out my unofficial challenge for UOMarch, Magic March! ~ Icarus
Jan 27, 2023 23:35

Thank you so much <3

Check out my On the Shoulders of Giants article: Satlonia
Jan 6, 2023 16:10

My comment follows a bit later but this really is an amazing article! ^^ Not only does it go in great detail it also shows how much thought you put into the various aspects of this tradition. Also that map is looking superb with the various hover sidebars :D

Feel free to check my new world Terra Occidentalis if you want to see what I am up to!
Jan 27, 2023 23:34

Thank you so much <3

Check out my On the Shoulders of Giants article: Satlonia
Jan 19, 2023 16:56

I love this item. At no time did I feel that too much was written. I especially liked the many quotes that make the ritual even more understandable and of course the incredible card. I also found the metaphor of the "Firebed" very successful.

Stay imaginative and discover Blue´s Worlds, Elaqitan and Naharin.
Jan 27, 2023 23:36

Thank you so much. I was inspired by the Indian word for their pyre area, so I'm glad it was successful <3

Check out my On the Shoulders of Giants article: Satlonia
Jan 24, 2023 21:28 by Angantyr

That was a fantastic article to read and I'm glad I saved it for the New Year's Resolutions — some parts reminded me of important features of a well-structured work.   First of all, I love that within the article on a tradition you incorporated the influence of geographical location (different woods, oils, ...), politics/history (how the tradition influenced relations with the Taroth, myth (where it originated from) and Social/Class structure (how the versions differ from each other). The interactive map was a huge help at that, as it made me discover the world more actively.   The abundance of information is a double edge sword, though. On the one hand, it makes me see all the intricate details of the world and have a better feel of it, on the other, it often feels too much to get through at one pass (I needed two). The quotes did a good job breaking the text into smaller chunks, but in my opinion, the entire piece could feel lighter with some images, drawings, and such. Especially since the medieval-inspired drawings and the map already make a wonderful job of painting the mood with relevant colours and vibes.   Structure-wise, I missed some tooltips for rare words, like hailan (used in the myth with Hailan Foras and then later, near the end) and Yppwenlas (referenced two times). Adding tooltips would release my attention to focus on the text at hand, without memorising yet unfamiliar terms.   What happens when only part of the dead is found, e.g., after the battle? Does burning part of the body release the spirit? Does it have to include a particular part often connected with the soul, like the heart, the lungs or the head? What happens when someone dies during heavy rains/floods and the pyre refuses to burn? Is the pyre postponed in relation to the church ceremony or do people cope with it somehow, since the afterlife is at stake?   Thanks for an inspiring piece! I'm looking forward to reading more in the future!

Playing around with words and worlds
Jan 27, 2023 23:44

Thank you so much. Yes I was aware it was going to be a biggie. I did want to make art for it, but I simply did not have time, as I was working on this article for almost two weeks. I had a lot of research to do for this article, and that's why it is lacking more images, unfortunately.   I'm glad you told me about the missing tooltips for the rare words, I do have them, but often forget to add them :')   Those are really goo questions, which I will need to think about. About when it rains, I think I might need some crematoriums so it's still possible to have the pyre when it rains. Otherwise they would wait at one day. They can't wait too long before the rotting starts though...   I'm really glad you enjoyed it, despite it took you two reads :D

Check out my On the Shoulders of Giants article: Satlonia