Returning to the Land Tradition / Ritual in Symbols of Power | World Anvil

Returning to the Land

This article discusses the topic of death. Some content can be considered gruesome or sensitive and has been blurred. Hover or click on the text to reveal it.
  In the Stunveldti culture, each individual is part of the natural cycle of the island itself, who they consider their great provider. So, when a Stunveldti dies, they consider it the time to return what they borrowed, and go back to the cycle and to the core of their island.   The people of Stunveldt Island take great care and kindness when it comes to death, but are also capable to deal with it with openness and normalcy. They consider it a passageway into eternity, in which one has to aim to help their loved ones go through in peace and good company.
Stunveldtis in death-related professions are highly esteemed, and these positions are usually reserved for people of neutral gender, who, unlike the rest of the archipelago, are a category and identity that is granted to a person by the community as a recognition of their achievements and exemplary life.   This view on death and the island's cycle has helped their people for centuries with their grieving process. A grieving Stunveldti will see their loved ones in the creatures the see passing by, in the aromatic flowers they set on their bedrooms and (somewhat disturbingly for those outside their culture) even in the food they eat: Their dead are now all around them, giving them life.  

The Funerary Rites

When a Stunveldti is close to their death, their community and family will aim to provide them with the best possible care, and will often hire a professional death doula to help the dying person sort their affairs and be comfortable as they die.   When the time arrives and the person dies, the family and community will proceed with their arrangements to deliver the person's body to Nucleus, the funerary town in the centre of the island, where funerary workers, collectively known as "Returners" will proceed to prepare the body to be returned to the land.
The deceased person's close friends and family are involved in the preparations most of the time, helping undress, wash and lay the person to rest, though going through the most gut-wrenching steps is usually reserved only for the workers and those that are adamant in participating, which is considered a very personal decision, though sometimes guided (or barred) by the deceased's death doula.   A Stunveldti can be returned to the land in several ways, as long as the body is not rendered unusable to the soil, plants and creatures. For this reason, burning the bodies is highly frowned upon.   The main way to return a body to the land consists of setting the nude body in open pits that are easily accessible to scavenger creatures to be consumed, usually in the periphery of the town and inside the jungle. In many cases, especially when the deceased is a segmented societarian which might have chitinous body parts, the body is first prepared by cutting open the most difficult to reach areas, as to ensure that the person is consumed as fast as possible.
Once most flesh is gone, the pit can be covered in a mound of fertile soil for plants to grow in, while some choose to have their bones ground and used as fertilizer or as raw materials for bone-based products.  

The Unreturnable

Sometimes, the circumstances make a Stunveldti's body unfit to be of service to the land if returned the normal way, or it simply cannot be returned.
An esteemed Stunveldti dying overseas without chance of being brought to the Nucleus in a timely manner is always a tragedy for the person's loved ones, whom, whenever possible, will attempt to send directives to have their loved one's body buried at sea, in hopes that the marine creatures that will use the body will someday nurture Stunveldt Island.   If a person dies of poisoning, contagious disease or something else that would be dangerous for the island's creatures, they will usually be buried in a deeper pit in a more central area of the Nucleus, so that their body can disseminate into the soil in a safer way.
Any of these occasions are much more traumatic for the deceased's community, who are usually provided guidance by the Returners.
20201227 - Labour of Love.png
Labour of Love by Naelin
"Do you think there is dad in that bird as well?"
— A stunveldti child
Primary Related Location
Important Locations
Related Ethnicities

Honourable Death Doulas

Death doulas work under a simple but effective principle: A Death Doula's client is the dying person, and not their family.
They will advocate for them, ensure their wishes are followed to the best of everyone's ability, and that their preferred method of Returning to the Land is the one carried out.   This sometimes puts them in a position of high emotional labour when having to work against the family's wishes, which is somewhat eased by the enormous value the Stunveldti culture places in their profession, stacked atop the respect most of them are deemed to deserve due to their status as neutral gendered.

Cover image: Banner of Stunveldt by Naelin


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Jul 20, 2023 02:06 by Morgan Biscup

I find death traditions fascinating, especially for how much they say about the culture. I love this article, and these people.

Lead Author of Vazdimet.
Necromancy is a Wholesome Science.
Aug 11, 2023 02:39

Thank you so much Solar <3

Jul 20, 2023 13:05 by Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull

Beautiful traditions. I love the little side note about the death doulas. And the art is so lovely.

Emy x   Etrea | Vazdimet
Aug 11, 2023 02:39

Thank you Emy! <3

Jul 23, 2023 14:31 by JRR Jara

I like the comfort this tradition provides to the people. It's very simple but powerful.

Creator of Hanzelot and many more.
Aug 13, 2023 23:19

Death Doula is a nice touch. It seems foreign deaths could still aim to recover bones for proper funeral rites and return.