Afterlife on the West Island
This is my submission for the November 2020 flash challenge Afterlives. These are the funeral customs and believes of afterlife on the West Island during the rule of the Republic of Free West Island (c. 500-800AH). The conlang terms in the article are Nem (Faren language).
The FuneralAfter someone has died, the funerary is organised by the family. In the cities the dead are usually cremated. The body is washed, dressed up in beautiful clothes and kept companion to ward of the evil spirits before the cremation can be performed. The ashes are collected and buried in an urn. The wealthy families have a small building, táldarim feles (house of the dead) on the yard, while the poor bury the dead under their houses. If the deceased doesn't have any close relatives, they can be taken care by a friend, or in the worst case the Republic will provide for the funeral and the most necessary rites for the spirit to pass swiftly ahead.
Ancestor GhostsAfter the burial the dead continue their existance as ghost ancestors, táldaran. The family shares food and drink with them on an altar in the house of the dead, and continue to remember them regularly. The ghosts can't be seen or touched, but they continue to talk to their relatives. Most ancestors are quite peaceful, and shy of strangers, but some can continue to be quite a important part of the family life. Keeping the famiy ghosts happy is believed to give the family a blessing of the gods, and ensure their well being in the future. Most ghosts are active for only a couple of years after their death, and even though some can stay for even more than a hundred years, sooner or later they all begin to fade. These Old Dead show signs resembling dementia: they begin to forget things about their life, their personality changes, and they often become gloomy or angry. Finally the ghost stops visiting the family, and eventually they are forgotten: the soul has passed into Waumin.
WauminThe dead that are no longer remembered and cared for will eventually fade from the world into real of forgetting, Waumin. Nothing is known for sure about this realm, but it's usually thought to be a place of empty darkness. The though of Waumin is scary for the living and they wish to stay with their relatives as long as they can, but for many of the lingering Old Dead, the passage is though to be a blessing.
The Steps of PassingThe Sun Cult, the state religion of the Republic of Free West Island, teaches that after passing through the land of the dead, the souls are finally send back to life. According to them, the Lord of Night and Day weighs the good and bad deeds of a person, and chooses a fitting rebirth for them. Those that have been good citizens can be expecting a good new life, while the bad are born as the poor and diseased. The religion teaches that the dead is just an inevitable part of life, and forgetting the old dead is a part of allowing them to pass over to the next life. The religion discourages against keeping the old dead, and instead recommends following a path of rituals that aid the dead to have a smooth and calm passing into Waumin. Despite the teachings, many important families continue to live with their centuries old ancestors.
ReuseIn addition to the natural path of the soul, the soul can also be trapped by various ways, and used as a source of magical energy. The soul can be caught by other stronger spirits, but also artificially with tools such as incantation bottles or magical amulets. The Sun Cult is against such practises and Farens are trying to protect their dead from it, but Zeribians and many peoples from the mainland have more neutral views on the reuse of souls.
The Zeribian customsTraditionally the Zeribian minority of the island practised canoe burials. The body of the deceased was lain on a small canoe with offerings and flowers, taken to the sea, and left for the ocean current to take. After the Republic of Free West Island established their governance in Toad Cape, this tradition was prohibitten by the Farens, who were horrified of the thought that the natives were dumping their relatives to lie alone in the bottom of the ocean. Despite the prohibitions, some continue to send decorated miniature boats to the sea following the funeral, as offerings to the God of the Sea Feren. There have even been cases of Zeribians trying to hide ashes on the boats against the law. Following the prohibition the Zeribians have founded cemeteries near the settlements. The cemetaries are usually like gardens: the graves are govered by trees and they are places where animals frequent, but are never hunted. The cemetaries are thought to be places were both good and bad spirits frequent, and thus are good locations for receiving divine visions, but a visitor should be on their guard. Zeribians share the belief that the dead are eventually reborn, but believe that rebirth can only occur within the close family and thus it's common to give a child the name of a recently passed relative. The Zeribians don't practice ancestor worship, but the nobile families often build mausoleums recembling the táldarim feles, where they receive the counsil of their ancestors. Any offerings and prayers shared are however dedicated to of the gods.
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Good article on funerals and afterlife with more details of the pre-Fade aspects. Why do the farens hate the idea of sea burial?
Thanks for the question, I should elaborate on that! I also learned a lot more of Waumin (underworld) during the SC, which I should definitely add here! The Farens believe that the souls continue their existence near the body for a period before fading into the Underworld. So ideally the body needs to be kept safe in a nice place close to the family, so that the souls stays safe too. If a body drowns into the sea, the soul needs to live alone in the cold dark bottom of the sea, exposed to all kinds of nasty demons. That's why Farens think, that burying bodies in the sea is basically the same as dumping your living family members into the sea, pretty awful :D However, for the Zeribians the sea is their home and life-giver, and they believe they are sending their dead safely to their principle deity Feren (Sea).