Book of Laughter
A cultural practice that touched my heart here in Ishdal is one which involves a religious text called the Book of Laughter. Everyone in this city owns one. After their death their book is inherited by their closest relatives to help them remember the person they lost.
The book of laughter is a religious text from the city of Ishdal. While the first part of the book is preprinted and the same for every Book of Laughter, the rest of the book are empty pages. These empty pages will be filled out throughout the owners life with their own prayers and especially with happy moments. After a persons death the book is inherited by their closest family so that they can look back on happy times and will always have a part of their loved one with them.
Each Book of Laughter starts with a chapter containing the most important religious rites for remembering a loved one who passed away. The next two chapters are filled with daily prayers, and the rest of the book is filled with empty pages. They have a leather cover and are made in such a way that it is possible to add pages later on. Each newborn receives their own Book of Laughter. Until a child is old enough to write in their book themselves, their parents will do that for them.
I was very surprised when I read my fathers Book of laughter after his death. He never showed much affection, but according to his book my siblings and I were often reason for much joy in his life. Knowing that means so much to me.
Passage of ownership
A Book of Laughter can only be passed on to a new owner when the previous owner died. After the funeral the book will be handed over to the closest relatives during a ceremony in which the book will be renamed after the person who passed away. The priest will pick some touching passages from the book and read them aloud for everyone present at the ceremony. It is also possible to make a written statement when you want to leave your book to one or more specific people. Often this will be a parent leaving their book to their children. In which case their spouse is often aware they made these arrangements. On occasion this can lead to sad situations when the closest relatives loose the possibility to read their loved ones Book.
After the owner died no new prayers or memories will be added to their book. It will then be named The Book of Name. With Name being the name of the deceased person. It will only be used by their family to remember the person they lost. There are specific rites in the first chapter of the book which are used to remember those who are no longer with us. But simply reading about the moments when the person was at their happiest can often be of much greater consolation than any rite or prayer can be. Most families share these books so everyone can remember the person they lost.
With time inherited Books of Laughter go from generation to generation. People might end up with books of family members they never knew. For such books rituals are held four times per year. People who wish to dispose of books of old family members will gather on Ritual Square in front of the Chapel of Ishnir. There a funeral pyre is made for the books. Priests will pray for the departed who's books are now going to join them in the afterlife. At the end of the ceremony the funeral pyre is set on fire.
A Book of Laughter is believed to contain part of a person's soul. Therefor it is always taken good care of. The books are often stored in a chest only used for that purpose. Most of these chests can be locked to keep the books safe from animals and children. Stealing or damaging another person's book is seen as a very serious crime. Punishment can range from a mere reprimand to jail time and depends on the reasons behind the crime, and who committed them. If you accidentaly destroy another person's book your sentence and the social stigma will be more forgiving. This is also the case for young children who may have been too young to understand the importance of these books.
Restoring the Soul
No matter how well you take care of your book sometimes they are lost. Whether it is in a house fire or through ill-intend it is always a big deal for people since they essentially lose part of their soul when their book gets destroyed. For such people exist rituals to restore the soul. During that ritual the person will also receive a new Book of Laughter. Lost memories can obviously never be restored, but people might try to add their most cherished moments to their new book so they can never be forgotten.
Although each book comes with a standard leather cover most people will buy a new cover for their Book of Laughter multiple times throughout their lives. Bookbinders offer various materials, decorations, and ways to personalize the cover. These covers are often as much of a fashion statement as clothes can be. Some bookcovers are a piece of art in their own right. If a Book of Laughter needs extra pages most people will go to a bookbinder who will do that for them, and they will pick out a new cover at the same time to fit the new thickness of the book. Those who can not afford a bookbinder will need to add new pages themselves.
The bruises on the outside may be long gone, but the bruises on the inside will always remain.
It may seem the Book of Laughter tradition is always a positive one. However it can be very painful for those receiving a book from someone who was abusive to them, or with whom they had a bad relationship. It is not unheard of that on occasion a book is refused by the person receiving it. In that case another relative will be chosen to be the receiver of the book.
You better ignore her. She is a soul snatcher. If you are not careful she might snatch yours too.
The thought of destroying a fellow citizens Book of Laughter out of spite might cross some people's minds now and then. After all, what easier way is there to hurt another person deeply. However, most will reconsider before taking any action. If anyone ever finds out you are the culprit the consequences are serious. Even if you happen to get a light sentence your fellow citizens opinion of you will make you an outcast for the rest of your life. People who have purposely destroyed another persons book are called soul snatchers.