Burghal Gnome Mourning

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Burghal Gnome Mourning is an Official GemStone IV Document, and it is protected from editing.

Stopping the Clocks: Burghal Gnome Death Rituals

Across Elanith, burghal gnomes create communities near cities and towns. While historically they have been seen in somewhat subservient roles, especially to elves and humans, gnomes have a rich existence independent of such stereotypes. Influences abound, of course, and one cannot discount their closeness to said other races, but neither should one look solely to them.

When it comes to mourning and rituals, burghal gnomes have a variety of cultural differences, but there are a few rituals that transcend these cultural lines and can be found across Elanthia.

The senzhua, or "ritual of the stolen death," is one such mourning rite. This tradition started centuries ago and is typically used when a burghal gnome dies tragically, especially when very young. It involves planting a senzhua garden to represent the truncated life of the deceased. These gardens originated by stealing crops from nearby human or elven farms and planting them in terracotta pots along the rooftops and/or the front doors of mourning households. Today, theft is not necessary, but there may be ritualized "stealing" from neighboring crops to honor the old ways. Appropriated crops are typically lettuce, fennel, or other quick to sprout and quick to die crops. When the crops die, mourners all take these pots and parade through the burghal town, mourning vocally. Reaching a pre-designated point, the mourners shatter the pots and their contents. Later, several burghals will gather the pot shards and mend the pots to be used in future senzhua gardens.

Originally, this was an annual rite to mourn and celebrate those lives cut short, and while some areas still do this, the ritual has metamorphized in many locales. Some plant senzhua gardens at point of death and wait to hold the funeral when the crops wither and die a few weeks later. Others conduct their preferred funeral rites, then plant senzhua gardens, but rather than let them wither and die, they nurture them and harvest the plants, using the produce as ingredients in a final remembrance meal before breaking the pots. Still others adopt a more practical and less wasteful variation of the senzhua garden that includes turning these potted crops into a small kitchen garden, the herbs and produce used in cooking -- a way of keeping their deceased loved one a part of the household.

The other funerary custom seen throughout burghal gnome cultures is the making of tiazhu, or funeral cookies. Using a rolling pin carved with intricate patterns (known as a siqtia), tiazhu are made for a variety of reasons, including creating ornate displays graveside, feeding mourners at funerary gatherings, and lacquering for a more permanent keepsake. In some families, the tiazhu are placed at the grave of the deceased, not just at the point of burial but often annually or at significant dates in the family. For example, placing a tiazhu before a wedding feast, so the deceased is part of the festivities. Others place tiazhu for the deceased on a separate plate and perhaps include a glass of tiasat, a sweet wine created by the Winedotters. In most families, the tiazhu are also shared amongst all the living as well, but some more rigidly traditional families maintain the tiazhu is only for the dead. They often compromise by having other cookies or treats for the living.

Several local customs include crafting expertly engineered displays to showcase the tiazhu, whether at graveside or at the gatherings later. These displays typically represent something of the deceased's life, and many try to create these masterpieces solely out of baked goods, even if engineered for detailed movement. Bakers and engineers collaborate closely together, and in some areas, an entire industry has sprung up around making intricate tiazhu arrangements.

On Tiazhu, Siqtia, and Tiasat:
What constitutes a tiazhu is as varied as the stars in the sky. Families often have specific recipes passed down through generations that are used for tiazhu and nothing else. Others use basic sugar cookies for tiazhu and what makes it tiazhu for them is the specific pattern carved on the siqtia.

Siqtia are used in all sorts of baking, the carved patterns on rolling pins making for delightful, finished products. Families who use tiazhu in their funerary customs, however, will always have one specific siqtia reserved for tiazhu use. The patterns on a tiazhu siqtia vary from household to household. Some families create a new tiazhu siqtia for each deceased family member, creating the pattern based off meaningful moments from the deceased's life.

Created by the Winedotters, tiasat is a type of sweet wine nicknamed "cookie wine" because its flavor bears a strong resemblance of a sweet sugar cookie. Tiasat's primary use is as a dessert wine at celebrations, including celebrations of life and remembrance, hence its pairing with tiazhu in many cultures and households.

Bloodline Aledotter

Living in and around the dwarves has influenced Aledotters immensely, and they create elaborate stone crypts called kysvein for their dead. At the heart of the kysvein is a box-like crypt made of slabs of stone with at least two passages leading in and out; centered in the crypt is a matching stone sarcophagus. Hidden passages are common as well; one cannot have too many escape routes when living below ground.

Kysvein almost always have a series of tubes and mirrors affixed about the central room, all adjustable from the outer hallways by elaborate gear-and-cog inventions. Legend has it that this originated to ensure corpses did not rise as undead so friends and family could come visit the deceased without fear of attack. Other cultures may do something similar as well, especially the Nylem, and during times of increased fear, it was in vogue to add traps and pitfalls to further protect the living. Superstitious Aledotters may still do this, especially if one has died on or near Ebon Gate or other auspicious times.

Beyond the creation of a kysvein worthy of the deceased, Aledotters partake in a ritual they call laenkyst. The laenkyst starts formally, with the carrying of the corpse through the passageways and depositing them into the coffin. The closest family member then places gears upon the eyes of the deceased and a tool in their pocket, giving them what they need for the afterlife, and the coffin lid is sealed. If the Aledotter in question was religious, clergy is found to perform any rituals they requested. Family and friends then share a few quiet remembrances, and everyone moves to a pre-designated area for the next phase. This can be someone's home, a favorite location of the deceased, or sometimes a nearby tavern.

At this point, the laenkyst becomes a rousing celebration, and dwarven neighbors are often invited to partake as well. Recitations of deeds occur, drink flows freely, and the laenkyst continues throughout the night. A large breakfast feast ends the ceremony, and participants return home to take an earned day of rest.

Bloodline Neimhean

Despite claims to the contrary by Aledotters and Nylem, the kysvein were invented by the Neimhean, who popularized them amongst other burghal gnomes to allow for their own to be buried appropriately yet without suspicion. Neimhean kysvein contain elaborate gearwork, various series of tubes and adjustable mirrors, and numerous deadfalls, decoys, traps, and pitfalls. Robbing a Neimhean kysvein can result in several additional funerals. The reason for this is twofold -- first, Neimhean respect the dead and wish to protect them, and second, fellow Neimhean ink their deceased compatriot with the Neimhean bloodmark. Death is the only time a Neimhean is allowed to wear the bloodmark and keeping it secret is paramount.

The Neimhean bloodmark is a jagged ebon line bisected by a virulent green slash for poison and a vivid crimson one for blood. It is tiny and when possible, hidden in the midst of an elaborate, pre-existing tattoo. When none is available, kin aim for areas like within the hairline or between the toes. Anywhere it would be difficult to find on the off chance a grave is violated.

Neimhean are ever adaptable and will utilize whatever rituals their chosen "masked" culture prefers, but they often find ways to ensure a kysvein is built. They will also work in a hidden bloodmark symbol on a siqtia, the elaborate and varied designs a perfect cover for the special symbol. In this way, other Neimhean are alerted to the passing of one of their own and can pay homage.

A Special OOC Notation on Neimhean

The information shared above for Neimhean would be considered OOC information for anyone except a Neimhean. If your PC is not a Neimhean, you would not know this information. Just because YOU as a player know it does not mean your PCs know it.

Bloodline Nylem

While often seen as the "merry pranksters" of the burghal gnomes, Nylems do take death (and life) seriously; they just also typically feel that serious does not mean without laughter.

Nylems bury their dead in kysvein similar to Aledotters. Indeed, they too claim to have invented the kysvein and will argue vehemently with any who say otherwise, especially after several ales. In addition, they feel the Aledotters have perverted the intent of the kysvein with their ghost-watching application of the tubes and mirrors. Nylem crypts are typically booby-trapped with harmless pitfalls, and annually just before Ebon Gate, they hold the Kystalq, a ceremony to remember the dead. People race through the various crypts carrying plates of tiazhu to place on the sarcophagi, trying to avoid these traps during the Kystalq.

For those Nylem who run a bit more serious, the traps and pitfalls of the kysvein are replaced with small tokens of remembrance, and those running during the Kystalq may instead stumble upon these hidden gifts. Regardless of joke or token, each kysvein is an engineering marvel, and many wander the various kysveins just to appreciate the artistry involved.

At the celebrations of life after the burial, many Nylem express a desire for jokes to be made at their expense. A mostly irreverent and irreligious people, many Nylem do still find an affinity for Jastev and Cholen, and they will make offerings to these two Arkati in preparation for this zhu'actaq, or "Death's Joke." Food, drink, and merriment are encouraged even in these solemn times. At the annual Kystalq, several Nylem will vye for the best at roasting the dead and the living as well.

Bloodline Vylem

From an outsider's perspective, the Vylem are a mercurial folk, living at the whims of adolescent queens. From an insider's point of view, this can truly be the case, but there is a richness and depth to the Vylem that is not easily understood by others, and many learn to work with or around the more difficult rulers. When it comes to death rites, these are so steeped in history and tradition, that changing them is virtually unheard of, no matter how demanding the young queen may be.

In most Vylem communities, cremation is the prevalent method for dealing with a corpse. However, the heart is always removed first. Known as the cersfelt, or "heart's fire," the Vylem gather round the corpse, which rests on an unlit pyre, and a priestess of Eorgina cuts out the heart with a ritual dagger, placing it in a box. These boxes are made especially for the individual and feature woods and decor apropos of their life. The interiors are lined with cedar and sprinkled with spices believed to aid their passage to the afterlife.

Next, the pyre is lit and the formal death rites begin. These rites invoke Eorgina, worship her as the Queen of the Gods, and ask for her blessings upon the deceased, their family, and especially, the Vylem queen. The death rituals carry on until the pyre has burned down completely. After that, the priestess carries the boxed heart to a centralized mausoleum and places it in an empty slot where it is said to be blessed and protected for all time and eternity.

Briefly, an older version of the cerselt had husbands throwing themselves on their dead wives' pyres, but this was a remarkably unpopular ritual foisted upon the Vylem by a particularly unliked queen. She found herself quickly replaced, her husband declined to self-immolate, and the nascent tradition was stopped after only a few dozen years.

Friends and family of the deceased hold their own, private ceremonies after the public cersfelt, including rites by other Lornon priests when appropriate. Some plant senzhua gardens, while others erect stela to honor their dead. Those who consider themselves Vylem still but have left Vylem communities for personal reasons will often embrace other burghal gnome mourning traditions, but they typically will request a cersfelt upon death, with their heart box being given to their closest friend to bury.

Bloodline Winedotter

The predominant ritual of Winedotters in the elven empire is the ahrzeit. Known colloquially as "the stopping of the clocks," the ahrzeit requires the stopping of all timekeeping devices in the households of the deceased and close family and friends. They are restarted only after the burial when everyone gathers to celebrate the life lived. The ceremonies themselves are solemn affairs of remembrance and mourning through the burial, and afterwards, the clocks are restarted with great reverence. This symbolic restarting of life is the cue for revelry and remembrance, with food and drink flowing freely for the rest of the night.

Some families expand upon the ahrzeit and commission a special gear for a favorite clock. The gear is inscribed with the name of the loved one, and it replaces a component of the clock. When the clock is restarted, it is with the new, inscribed gear, and the clock is given a place of honor in the household.

Married Winedotters are given a unique wine blend at their wedding, which is served both at the ceremony and at each subsequent anniversary. When one dies, the remaining bottles are poured into the ground as a recognition of a lost union. This often takes place privately after the ahrzeit or other services are held, with the living spouse seeking out a location special to the couple to make the offering to the ground.

With their prowess in winemaking practically unmatched, Winedotters include vetsika with most, if not all, funerary customs. Vetsika starts as a dry, red-black wine aged in oaken casks. Winemakers create numerous blends, and family pick a flavor profile for their deceased based on several factors (such as including notes from their wedding wine if applicable, the deceased's preferred wines, and mystical input when desired).

When Winedotter mystics die, fellow mystics gather together and perform a scrying, then bury the mystic with a single starstone chosen from the various maps and stones of the mystics present. This death scrying is called the ithelveca and scryings held are sacred and more shrouded in mystery than standard scryings; the mystics do not share the results of the scrying with the deceased's friends and family unless they too are seers.

Bloodline Withycombe

With deep ties into the human empire, Withycombes have several variations on mourning, depending on where in the empire they reside.

For example, in Tamzyrr, where the Withycombe traditions are the most inflexible and unchanged, they pride themselves on their lack of ceremony around death. Known as the vekvadil, the bodies are wrapped in anonymous shrouds and deposited into brick-lined vaults deep beneath not just the city of Tamzyrr but the burghal city below known as Vadzyrr. Periodically, gnomes collect the dust that remains from the eldest deceased and release them into the winds aboveground at night. At this point, a collective funeral is held to honer that long-dead generation. Tamzyrrian Withycombes believe the vekvadil allows for complete historical objectivity -- an important component to any ceremony they may partake in.

Less stringent variations of the vekvadil can be found amongst non-Tamzyrrian Withycombe. These variants are frequently combined with more standard rituals of burial and mourning, including influences by local human rituals.

Withycombes in areas rich with farms, forests, and flora often practice the zhu'milaiva, where they plant flowers on top of graves symbolizing when in life they died. Primroses and violets adorn graves of infants and very young children, while wild roses and daffodils are most common for young adults. Red lilies and roses are used for those dying in middle age, and for those succumbing after a long life, rosemary, heather, and juniper are common.

Regardless of the ceremonies followed, many Withycombe mourners across Elanthia turn to their love of poetry to honor the deceased. For strict adherents to the vekvadil philosophy, these poems may be more general and read at the collective funeral. For others, however, the poetry is personal and read either at the funeral, if the poem is more somber, or at the celebratory remembrances afterwards. These latter poems often turn comical, bawdy, or exaggerated -- a cheerful reminder of a life gone by.

OOC Information/Notes