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Mourning and Remembrance on Maan Garth

The nyr believe that the body is merely a vessel for a soul - and a soul is what truly makes a person, their essence and spirit, their knowledge and personality. A soul is immortal, and death is merely the end of a cycle of its presence in this realm. After the body dies, the soul returns into the Silent Waters, waiting to be reborn, starting a new cycle of life and learning.   This is a belief most nyr share, but each community's ritual to deal with a loved one's death is slightly different, depending on location, surrounding nature, weather conditions, and room for rituals surrounding death and rebirth, like local temples and their capacities.   In this article the unique properties of the rituals surrounding death in Panthil and on Maan Garth will be discussed.

History

Like most modern traditions of the nyr, their origins lie in the teachings the prophet Aman wrote down before they ascended to godhood themself. This is particularly true for Panthil, Aman's place of birth and home for most of their life, and the nyr of Maan Garth in general try to stay as true to Aman's teachings as possible.   The body is seen a vessel with no will or purpose on its own, and therefore it isn't needed anymore after a person dies; it can be disposed of. This is easier said than done, because to many the body is how a deceased person was experienced during life, expressed and presented themselves. It is difficult to disconnect the person, the soul that has no appearance of its own, from the worldy shell encasing it - and according to the priests on Maan Garth it is also not necessary to disconnect the two entirely, only to realize the difference between a specific incarnation of a soul and the soul as such.   The nyr of Maan Garth also define themselves as refugees in their own country, witnessed huge losses, and hold on to the hope of a better future that will end their isolation, that will give them the chance to rebuild what has been destroyed, always remembering and cherishing the past. This is is another part of their history that influences how they deal with death.

Execution

The Watch

  When a person has died, the family, friends, and/or other bereaved are usually granted a week of silence and peace to grief. This time period is called "Vath", "The Watch". Depending on the circumstances of the death, whether it was expected and occured at the end of a long life, or if it was sudden, violent, or otherwise unexpected, the Vath might be shorter or longer.   During the Vath the deceased person's body is brought to Avon Maan, where it is washed and dressed in a simple dark blue robe. The temple priests perform a spell that slows down the body's decomposition process and preserves it for the Vath's duration. Then the body is carefully lied down on a simple raft that is then placed in the central water basin of the temple, where it floats, surrounded by friends and family. At least one priest is with the deceased's loved ones at all times, to give spiritual guidance or advice where needed.   The bereaved stay in the temple for the entire duration of the Vath, meditating, talking to both the deceased and amongst each other about the past and the things they experienced and achieved, potentially also things that remained unspoken about during the dead person's lifetime. Everything is sorted out and everything is remembered, the good times and the bad. They are dressed in a similar garment as the deceased, simple blue robes, to show their connection to them on the one hand, as well as signifying their mourning and separation from a regular everyday life within the community for the duration of the Vath.   During the Vath anyone participating in it doesn't have to go to work, and usually friends or the priests bring food to the grieving and make sure that they have nothing to worry about outside the temple and can fully focus on saying their goodbyes. Children up to 75 years old as well as those who are unfit due to health reasons are not expected to spend the entire Vath inside the temple, as it can be taxing and exhausting, both mentally and physically. From the community it is expected that they give the bereaved space and time and show them compassion.  

The Ascension

  When the Vath comes to an end the head of the family or another previously agreed on spokesperson for the bereaved will speak to the priests and inform them that all goodbyes have been said and that they are ready to continue.   Then the "Avaalis" ("Ascension"), is held, and it also takes place in Avon Maan. After a final goodbye is spoken by the family members a service is held by the priests in remembrance and to prepare the body of the deceased. According to the family's wishes, the rest of the community may be invited or not to this part of the burial ritual. The most important aspect of the Ascension is a symbolic rebirth of the deceased, as well as the actual funeral of the body.   The bereaved will let the priests know before the service how they would like the body to be dealt with: whether they would want it to be cremated, ashes scattered from the top of Avoon Maan or elsewhere, or if they would like the body to be taken down to the sea, where it is set onto a final journey, a symbolic rebirth in the water. It is also possible to let the cremation happen at the coast, too, instead of Avon Maan.   The cremation takes place in Avon Maan, where the body of the deceased is still resting on its raft in the basin. The priests gather around the basin and weave a spell that lifts the body out of the water and at the same time burning it, for the lack of a better word, in an aestetically pleasing manner. The ritual has definitely been described as beautiful before, as magical flames wrap around the body floating in the air, letting it disappear in a bright flash of colourful light, and leaving a pile of ashes on the raft, where the priests collect it to hand it to the family.   If the body was cremated the family can either take the ashes to the top of Avon Maan and scatter it into all winds - this is a particularly popular choice during the rainy season, as the ashes uniting with the falling rain shows a connection between this world and the Silent Waters, everything being one and being in balance. Alternatively, the ashes can also be scattered into the ocean or in another place that the family sees fit - it usually is a body of water, where the ashes also symbolically become one with the symbol of life. And maybe they also serve a purpose by feeding fish or underwater plants, as they settle on the ground of a lake or the ocean itself.   All uncremated bodies are lifted from the water basin of Avon Maan and are handed to the family, who will then transport the deceased to the coast. It is a long and often a hard journey, but it yet again symbolizes the journey through life the deceased has completed. Usually not only those who took part in the Vath follow the mourning down to the coast, but a whole procession of people, as this choice bears such an immense weight and is usually only performed when a very important member of the community has passed. A handful of priests also accompany the mourners to the ocean. The raft with the body is then launched on its final journey across the ocean, and either allowed to drift away in the direction of the open sea, or set aflame with the same spell the priests would perform at the temple if a cremation is chosen. The sole difference is that the ashes aren't gathered to be scattered afterwards.  

Remembrance

  As there is no particular place of mourning with the actual remains of the deceased, the bereaved are given a different way to remember their loved ones and visit them. In the tower of Avon Maan the mourning family creates a memory of their deceased loved one during the Vath. The Vath could be seen as a magical ritual in itself, the family and friends gathered around, invoking the soul of the dead person at the center of the basin, forever anchoring how they are remembered into the blessed water around them. After the burial is completed, loved ones can return to Avon Maan, speaking their loved ones name, and a magical image of them will appear from the water. It can't talk or has any life of its own, but the magic of the spell brings back all the memories the visitor and the deceased share vividly.   The memories of important historical figures - such as kings and queens, significantly far-travelled explorers, scholars, and the like - can be invoked by anyone who travels to Avon Maan, not just relatives and friends that were present during the Vath. Their memories aren't kept in the main basin of the temple, but in a small alcove each along the temples inner walls - a small, brightly glowing sphere, that will also produce the image of the deceased person, and give the one who recalls their memory an impression of their life and greatest achievements.

Related Location
Avon Maan
Related Ethnicities

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Cover image: by Spencer Kaff

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