The Spirit Shroud

The Elders of the Adhani People

Each settlement of the Adhani people, in the cold northern reaches of Acaria, is led by an Elder. The Elder is the only member of the community that can ever die of old age.   Every other person will be Called to join their god as they approach the end of their productive life. Their last few days are spent in celebration with their friends and the Calling itself takes place on their Final Birth Day.   It is different for the Elders. They die in their settlement and are laid to rest in a sacred burial ground. It is said that the Elders not joining with the gods upon their death is their sacrifice for leading the communities of the Adhani - the price they pay for old age.  

The Spirit of the Adhani

As well as believing in their gods, the Adhani also fear the evil spirits that lurk in their land. Their greatest fear is that a spirit will occupy or steal their soul.   However, they do not simply rely on their gods to protect them, for they have a great sense of their own spiritual strength, and believe that as a community they can ward off any evil spirit.   This strength comes from the harmony they have with each other and enacted through community work and cooperation. This forms a bond around each of them that no evil spirit can break.  

Creating the Spirit Shroud

There is one object that symbolizes this bond the most. It is the Spirit Shroud - a woven woolen blanket that is added to by each family in the settlement. This is specifically made for a new Elder so that when they die the blanket is used as a shroud shielding them from any evil spirit that covets their soul - for the Elders do not have the protection of the gods upon their death.   The process for completing the blanket begins with the Elder themselves - they weave the first threads.   As it is then passed from family to family they add their own distinctive contribution - this usually reflects the colors and emblems of each family, and interestingly they incorporate some hair from each family member.   When the blanket is complete, it is presented to the Elder in a ceremony under the moon Dhanai when it is next at its fullest. The blanket is placed on the back of the Elder and as prayers are recited to the gods, each Adhani, adult and child, walks up and places their hands on the blanket as a final transference of their spiritual power.   As the night draws towards dawn, the Elder weaves the final threads as they wove the first. When done, each end of the blanket now seals in the strength of the Adhani spirit.   The final result is a rectangular, vividly colored object that contains their strength and their love for the Elder and also reinforces the importance of maintaining harmony within the whole community.  

Continual Blessings

Each Elder hangs the blanket just inside the entrance to their hut. Whenever an Adhani enters they will give a slight bow towards it as an act of refreshing their spiritual strength contained in it. It also features as a display in virtually all Adhani ceremonies.   The continual blessings of the people increase the potency of the material the blanket is made from.  

Burial & Renewal

Prior to their death, the Elder will choose their successor. If the Elder dies before they have completed this task, it falls to the Elders of the nearby settlements to choose.   Upon their death the whole settlement and the Elders of many other settlements, come together to mourn. This is not seen as a celebration as it is for the Final Birth Day of others. The people mourn that the Elder is not taken to the arms of the gods they have served all their life.   A grave is dug in the Burial Ground of the Elders and the body, now shrouded with the blanket, is gently laid to rest. Some of the youngest from each family in the community are chosen to place gifts within the grave. These are items they value/treasure and represent a small sacrifice to reflect that made by the Elder for the people.   Others then fill the grave with earth and place a ring of stones around the perimeter - another ward against evil spirits that would attempt to steal the soul.   On the following day, the new Elder begins the creation of their shroud, and so the cycle continues.

Hair

The Adhani believe that some of their spirit is contained in their hair. As they grow old and their hair thins or loses its color, they see this as a sign that they are approaching the time of their Calling to their god.   On rare occasions an Adhani loses their hair at what they consider a young age - this is actually seen as a blessing - a sign from the gods that this person is so strong in spirit that they do not need their hair for protection.   These individuals are given high status in the community, showered regularly with gifts, and hold special places of honor in the various ceremonies and festivals held throughout the years.

Harmony

The source of the importance of harmony to the Adhani today comes largely as a result of previous wars between communities several decades ago. These were brutal times - the Adhani are peace-loving people but they are very capable fighters. Their hard lives have made them physically strong with high stamina.   During those wars, the shrouds were used as battle emblems - the bright colors stood proud and the Adhani fought fiercely to defend the lives of their allies.   Finally, after many had died, a truce was called and the shrouds returned to their original function. The memory of those times still holds pain for the Adhani, and this is why the importance of harmony within, and between, communities is the core value they hold and teach to their children.
Cover art by: Franklin Mosquera https://pixabay.com/users/estebankeyboard-15126047/

Comments

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18 Jul, 2020 22:01

This is so beautiful Cat! The symbolism of the blanket as the protection of the community for their Elder is very well thought and the Elder social role is very touching. There is so much exchange of love and respect in this article. I love this culture you created!

18 Jul, 2020 22:24

Thank you so much! - you've really made my day saying that. As I was writing this I wanted to build more around this culture and your kind comment has persuaded me to do it. Thanks :)

Sage Serukis
Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull
20 Jul, 2020 13:32

This is so beautiful. The process in which the shroud is made is just so heartwarming, and I love that it is then hung in the entrance of the hut so people can continue to renew their blessings as they enter. And I really love that the elder weaves the first and last threads, as though it comes full circle.   I also really liked the aside about hair and how important it is to the culture.   Really great job on this one. I love the Adhani so much already from the little I've read about them. <3

Emy x   Welcome to Etrea!
20 Jul, 2020 15:35

Thank you. I'm usually a cynical soul (!) but I did enjoy doing this article - I found I could just start writing it and things popped into my head as I went - including the specifics you mentioned above - I think I will try to suppress my cynical side more and look for the good! Thanks again :)

21 Jul, 2020 22:19

I love this article!   The spiritual meanings of hair is an especially nice touch here.

Author of Fillimet, bright fantasy land of possibilities
21 Jul, 2020 22:28

Thank you! In the time I've been on World Anvil I've read some excellent culture articles and that's really helped me. I'm really glad you liked it :)

22 Jul, 2020 08:13

Lovely article I can see you can go so many places with this.

22 Jul, 2020 10:10

Thank you! I enjoyed writing this one :)