Sky to Sod. Flesh to Food. We give this meat and sinew back to Mahin who gave it to us and free the soul to embrace its next aspect.Janan bearfolk revere the cycle of life as laid out by the nature deity Mahin. Death is an essential part of this, and while it is understandable to be sad at the departure of a loved one, it is also a time to celebrate their place in the River and help them move to the next phase.
The original tradition was a much simpler sky burial. The evolution of the Transmutation Towers and the Descent ritual has taken place over just the last century.
The family of the deceased prepare the body, washing it with lavender oil and wrapping it in a thin shroud that has been painted with prayers and symbols of Mahin. They then carry the body through the town where people line the streets to say their goodbyes. (In the absence of immediate family, this may be done by friends or the druid circle.) Outside of town, to the west whenever possible, sits the Transmutation Tower. The bearers walk the body to the top and lay it out on a platform there, unwrapping the shroud so that the deceased's naked flesh is exposed. The druid leading the ceremony then offers a short prayer of dedication. Bodies are left in this state for one week, allowing carrion birds to have their fill. At that point, the druids who maintain the tower open a hatch beneath the platform and move the body - with its shroud - into the dirt-filled tower below. They cover it with mulch and introduce sacred worms which have been dedicated to this particular body with a brief prayer. The tower is then closed. Over the months that follow, the body sinks, decomposing as it goes. "Windows" in the sides of the structure allow the druids to make adjustments as needed to aid the process. It is tradition to return to the tower three months later to collect some of the resulting compost for use in a family garden or to plant a memorial tree. Multiple bodies can be undergoing the Descent at one time.
AnimalsIn some communities, beloved family pets may also be dedicated to Mahin in this way when they die.
The preparation of the body takes place over night, with the family staying up or taking naps in shifts. The walk to the tower begins at dawn.
Preparation: a shroud (which may be made in the household or by a professional, depending on community size), lavender oil, paint in earth tones
Descent: a Transmutation Tower (large communities have multiple towers), mulch, worms
Family and sometimes close friends participate in the preparation and transportation of the body. The local community, which might be the whole village or a neighborhood of a larger town, lines the streets to say goodbye, after which there are often drinking parties.
The community's druid circle, who are the priesthood for Mahin, tend the body after its dedication to the god.