Cartayan Funeral Rites
All death rites, with the exception of the Celebration of Life, take place outdoors.
Immediate Death RitesIn Cartayan culture, normally people can feel the death coming. As such, families and friends will be present at their loved one’s death bed and pray to Tiatus for a peaceful death. Upon death of the said loved one, their body is taken to be prepared for a funeral. While the body is preserved and garbed in the deceased’s favorite clothes, loved ones weave wreaths of flowers while praying for safe passage of the spirit into the realm of death.
Ceremonial GoodbyesThe ceremonial goodbyes follow the initial death and generally take place near sunset on a clear day. Friends, acquaintances, and family wear formal clothes, all of which are black and gather with lit white candles on the edge of a lake. The body, before their arrival, is placed into the decorative Ceremonial Death Boat and placed at the edge of the water to await those attending the funeral. All other attendees hang back while the deceased’s immediate family— usually spouse and children— set their candles into the boat alongside the deceased with final good wishes and goodbyes. For individuals without family, their closest friends or acquaintances fill the same role. At the point, the closest friend or closest living relative (usually the spouse or eldest child) begins to sing the traditional Cartayan Dirge as they take the lead role of pushing the boat into the water, the rest of the immediate family assisting. Others attending stand on the shore with their lit candles. After about ten feet into the water, all pushing the boat except for the lead boat pusher lets go of the boat. When the water becomes too deep for the lead boat pusher to safely continue, they let go of the boat and proceed back to the shore where all other attendees place their candles upon the ground. The body is then collected once the death boat comes to shore. In instances where a large body of water is not available, the same ceremony is repeated with a decorated wagon, but over terrain, but the wagon is physically handed to those waiting to receive the deceased.
Celebration of LifeThe Celebration of life is held directly after the ceremonial goodbyes, but is open to everyone who wants to grieve with the friends and family. For the Celebration of Life, food and drink is prepared and those attending are formally dressed in bright colors. The deceased’s favorite songs are played while their sentimental items, or works of art are shared, and their achievements in life are recounted. The evening is spent exchanging good or humorous stories about the deceased, and toasts are made to their life. This part of the death rites may go on for as long as the family needs to come to terms with the death. The longest Celebration of Life to ever take place was in memory of the Cartayan queen Myda Mais and lasted four years. While tales are being exchanged, friends and family work together, by hand painting a sheet of sheer black fabric (the pyre cloth) with things the deceased enjoyed, images of deities, and stars. The Celebration of Life usually lasts a day or two, at which point the funeral attendees get some much needed rest before they move on to the final rights.
Final RitesThe final rites occur during day time. Friends and family work together to construct a rectangular funeral pyre and lace it with pretty things. When the first stars begin to come out in the nighttime sky above them the body of the deceased is respectfully laid atop the pyre. The immediate family, surrounded by other attendees who hold lit white candles, then takes the pyre cloth made at the celebration of life and brings it up to the deceased’s chest, but leaves their arms out atop the fabric. The closest living relative holds the funeral wreath throughout a final prayer for happiness and peace before they lay the wreath in the deceased’s arms and then lights the pyre with their candle. Other friends and family then add their flames to the pyre and then observe the burning fire to its natural conclusion, no matter the length of time. The immediate family, then gathers the ashes into a prechosen vessel—usually a decorative box—to await burial.
BurialThe deceased’s ashes may be immediately buried and marked with a gravestone, or they may be distributed among friends and family not ready to let go. Occasionally, the ashes are kept by the spouse, and upon the spouse’s death, the ashes are combined and buried together. Friends and family digs the grave together, lowers the ashes in, and together they pile the dirt back on with prayers to Roon to look after the deceased. The grave is then covered in trinkets of good fortune and gifts for the deceased to carry with them into the afterlife before friends and family cover the grave with flower blossoms, bringing a conclusion to the traditions surrounding death.
Components and tools
The items needed to complete the funeral rites are paints (for the pyre cloth), sheer black fabric (for the pyre cloth), wreath supplies such as vine, ivy, and flowers (for the funeral wreath), white pillar candles, matches, ceremonial death boat or wagon, a decorative box to store the ashes, wood for the pyre, trinkets of good fortune, gifts for the deceased, and blossoms to conclude the ceremonies.
Key roles in these rights include the lead and supporting boat pushers, pyre lighter, and body receivers, ash gatherers, and buriers. Those that participate are usually friends and family.