Aonach Tradition / Ritual in Caledonia | World Anvil
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There are many festivals and ceremonies held by the tribes of Caledonia throughout the year. Those common to all are held during celestial events to mark the passage of time and celebrate the changes of the seasons.  Others are held by only certain tribes as part of their tradition or worship of local divinity. An anomalous ceremony practiced by all the tribes is the "Aonach".   An Aonach or Óenach is an ancient public national assembly called upon the death of a king, queen, notable Druid or extraordinary hero as part of ancestor worship practices. As well as the entertainment, the Aonach is a ceremonial occasion on which kings and notables meet under truce and where laws are declared by the Druids and ratified by the acceptance of the common folk.   The Aonach has three primary functions: honouring the dead and proclaiming the inauguration of a new chief or leader, proclaiming new laws over the people and finally, funerary games and festivities to entertain.   The dead are mourned and honoured over the course of a number of days depending on their prestige. The first day is the gathering, mostly spent awaiting the people to gather from afar to take part in the ceremony. On the second day a solemn procession is led by the Druids who chant ancient mourning hymns called the "Guba". The body of the deceased is wrapped in fine linen and carried on a litter behind them. They are followed by the family of the deceased with the common folk trailing behind in silence carrying torches or burning incense. The body is conveyed from the home of the deceased, through the settlements to  the sacred precinct of the area. Here the body is treated in accordance with the customs of the tribe. In the north they are laid out unshod on a sacrificial alter.  The Druids preside over the funerary customs, pouring libations over the body before cutting away a portion of the flesh, normally the buttocks or the flanks. This they wrap up and keep before conveying the body to an enclosure to be consumed by wild animals. Some time later the bones are collected up by the Druids and distributed to the family to be turned into scared ornaments and talismans. It is their belief that the remains of the dead are imbued with the remnant of the spirit of the deceased. In the south the deceased are placed upon a funeral pyre and burned to ashes.   Afterwards a great feast is held in honour of the deceased. Sacrificial animals are slaughtered, in some cases a great many are slaughtered but at the very least a hog is given over to the occasion. In the north the flesh of the deceased is then mixed with the sacrifical offering and boiled in a stew that is then portioned out and consumed by the attendants so that they all have a part in the ritual consumption of the flesh of the deceased.   During the feast the Druids would improvise songs in memory of the dead called a Cepóg. Afterwards the family of the deceased or anyone who wishes would recount the honourable deeds the deceased had accomplished in their lifetime.   After the honoring of the deceased the ceremony would then move onto it's second function. The proclamation and recognition of laws. Here the arch Druid would take post on a high place with the people gathered around below. The Druid reciting the new laws and the folk gathered around repeating it afterwards so that all can hear and so the words of the law had been spoken by the mouth of those they mean to govern. After the law had been recited the folk are asked if they accept or reject the law. Some cry out and rebuke the laws set over them, the Druids arbitrate over the affair until the it becomes agreeable to all. If a decision cannot be reached then the matter is set on hold to be discussed again at the following Aonach until the matter is resolved. In this way laws are set over the people that they find agreeable and fair. No man can claim they are unaware of the laws that govern them as they have all uttered them during the ceremony of Aonach.   The next part is the inauguration of a new chief or leader. The new leader is asked to step forward. It is usual that the firstborn son follows his father's footsteps in taking the reigns of leadership. Sometimes a woman assumes the role. If by chance a number of individuals step forward for the role then it is put to the people of the assembly to select who they wish to lead them. When this matter is settled the nominated person is asked to place their foot in a sacred carved footprint, normally carved on the bare bedrock in the sacred precinct. Here they are proclaimed leader of the people, libations are poured over their heads and a procession of the common folk is led by them where gifts or kind remarks are exchanged between the new leader and his subjects. The procession is then led to a spot where all the attendants gather wood into a huge pyre, the new leader carries a torch to this spot and set alight the pyre to symbolize the begining of their reign.   With this the more serious parts of the ceremonies come to a close and all the attendants fall to merriment and amusement. Games are held of all kinds ranging from athletics and hunting to song and dance. The new leader awards the winners and bestows gifts upon them. At the end a great market is held where traders exchange goods of all kinds   Games included the long jump, high jump, running, hurling, spear throwing, boxing, contests in swordfighting, archery, wrestling, swimming, and chariot and horse racing. They also included competitions in strategy, singing, dancing and story-telling, along with crafts competitions for goldsmiths, jewellers, weavers and armourers. Along with ensuring a meritocracy, the games would also feature a mass arranged marriage, suitors and brides are paired up by parents eager to see their daughters off in order to strengthen tribal bonds. At the Aonach couples met for the first time and were given up to a year and a day to divorce on the hills of separation.   With this the ceremonies of the Aonach are brought to a close and the people bid farewell to one another before departing to their homes. Such are the customs of the tribes of Caledonia in times of death. All the people take part and are bonded to the laws in this way. Those who refuse to take part are eschewed by the tribes and brought before the Druids for punishment or banished from the land. That much so with regards to the Aonach.

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