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Khairok Burial at Sea

The Khairok practice sea burials, largely hailing from their sea-faring nature. They believe The Halls of the Dead (Khairok) are located at the bottom of the ocean, and burials at sea aid the soul's journey to the afterlife.

History

The practice of burials at sea derives from the strong sea-faring history of the Khairok culture. Deaths at sea are viewed as an honourable death of a warrior who died to provide for their people, either from raiding, fishing, or whaling. The prestige of sea burials and ships are likely influenced by the legend of Khefang. As the Khairok settled further inland, burials at sea became harder to observe, but all Khairok, with the exception of the Feuzati, stubbornly held on to the tradition. For a brief period of time, it was suggested burials in any body of water that led to the ocean would be sufficient to guide to soul to the Halls of the Dead. While it was generally agreed upon that the soul would follow the river downstream to find the ocean, there was no guarantee the body would. In protest to the pollution caused, the physical energy the body contains was deemed a crucial part of the reincarnation cycle, and as such it must reach the ocean as well as the soul.   Winter especially makes travel to the ocean difficult, with the rivers freezing over partially or completely shutting down Tsiadahu's main method of transport. The led to the practice of temporary Ice Tombs, where deceased bodies would be preserved in special ice structures during winter until it was possible to sail downstream to the ocean for them to receive their proper rites. As a result, Spring is a special season in Khairok spiritual understanding of reincarnation, one of both welcoming new life, and saying goodbye to those that passed away during winter.

Execution

On the shore, the body is wrapped in a goats wool blanket, with weights tied to it. This period of time onshore is the opportunity for loved ones to say there farewells. There is little extra space on the burial Kaph, so with the exception of the spiritual guide, everyone who is a part of the final ceremony is expected to help sail the ship. All burials take place at the edge of the harbour just after high tide, so the tides guide the souls out to the ocean. Depending on the weather and the individuals being buried, the burial may take place outside of the harbour. The stormier the weather, the more prestigious the burial, as the observers performing it require greater sailing skills. For the common people, when the burial Kaph has reached its destination, a few words are said by the spiritual guide. There is no formal format for this, but it is usually kept brief to reduce time spent battling the elements. The body is then lowered into the ocean, and the observers are anointed with ocean water. In the case of the most wealthy, they can afford to be buried in a Kaph. The rites in such cases are performed on the Kaph, then the mourners change to a different boat to sail back in while the burial Kaph is sunk with the body on it. In some cases, there are many mourners that wish to be present, and a larger ship, a Kapheud, follows the funeral Kaph to observe the proceedings.

Participants

The spiritual guide for a funeral is always someone who has taken on the role of Spiritual Femininity in Khairok culture. As they are the ones who walk the boundary of life and death, they are the only ones suited to guide the souls of the departed into the ocean and to the Halls of the Dead. Mermaids feature heavily in their symbolism, as creatures that walk the boundary of the human world and the ocean. The spiritual guide is often adorned with sea motifs, including a seashell circlet.

Born from the ocean, to your Mother we return you.
— Common Khairok burial blessing
Related Location
Tshan Harbour
Related Ethnicities

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