The Everlasting Embrace
Someday, my children, I shall return to the earth. My body will join that which gives life to the greens of our lands—Oh, Xandran, don't cry...That is the natural way of our world. As I am sure it will be when I am old and frail, only when each of you has set out in your ways, and I know with great success at that. The One will guide my spirit from this world, though the Mother will be the one to give me my final embrace and then I will accompany her to the realm of life beyond our own...
During the Building Times, veneration for the Aillëarn an Fey'Rein led to the development of different funeral rites throughout the Feylands. In the westernmost regions of the continent, worship for Visarias Eri was especially prevalent, and its native tribes, mainly of elven origin, turned to the Mother goddess for much of their cultural rituals. Ancient peoples saw death as a return to the earth, so they buried bodies in select wooded areas known as grave forests.
These funeral rites have not noticeably changed over the tens of thousands of years. However, natives of the Kingdom of the Evergreens have gradually adjusted the locations of grave forests in response to new settlements and the areas of magical oddities found in the nation’s wild areas. The oral and written aspects of burial ceremonies have also evolved to match the changes in sentiments towards specific Feylandian gods as they changed over the years.
When a native of the Evergreens dies in their lands, the soul is believed to be led by Aende, one of the Aillëarn an Fey'Rein. Generally, souls travel to a realm of the afterlife appropriate for the individual’s spiritual beliefs while they still lived, usually the domain of one of the Feylandian gods. Regardless of their religious preferences, their bodies are ultimately returned to the earth. After an individual passes away, shamans devoted to Aende typically prepare the body for burial. Presuming intact remains, the body is washed and groomed. The shamans try to keep in a state as close to their living appearance as possible, including leaving the organs inside. Typically, the cleaned bodies are wrapped in blankets of leaves and other flora while the head remains exposed, believed to preserve the deceased’s individuality even in death. Those in charge of preparing bodies typically mask the smell of decay with fragrances of fruit, flowers, or herbs. Ideally, the cleaning process is conducted within a few days of death, or as soon as possible. If the body is not in a reasonably whole state (such as through excessive mutilation or violent deaths), then the remains are still cleaned so long as doing so does not further damage them; then, they are wrapped and scented. On the same day that shamans finish burial preparations, they take the wrapped deceased to grave forests. In modern times, plots are often demarcated and dug out in advance so that shamans and the deceased’s loved ones can more conveniently conduct the burial. The shaman of Aende may sometimes be joined by a shaman of Visarias Eri, another deity of the Aillëarn an Fey'Rein, for the final ritual. The shaman(s) and the loved ones present recite religious phrases and scripture prior to setting the remains into the earth, usually at least 30 sprigs below the surface of the ground.