Death in Dwarven Culture - Burial Practices

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Death in Dwarven Culture - Burial Practices is an Official GemStone IV Document, and it is protected from editing.

Dwarven Burial Practices

The most common burial practice among the dwarves is to lay the deceased to rest on stone rather than in the soil. To achieve this, they typically carve a crypt into the stone of a mountain then seal it off with a single rune to identify the individual within. Tombs that hold many crypts are the preferred manner of housing the deceased for the ever pragmatic dwarves.

Typical public tombs can range from very simple caves to elaborate catacombs. Like dwarven society, most have a hierarchy where more notable personalities may have statues or freestanding sarcophagi. It is not uncommon to find statuary honoring Eonak or Imaera among the somber stone halls.

The most elaborate of all are private family tombs constructed by the wealthiest dwarven lines. Often they are built with vaulted arches, finished with the finest marble, filled with the most detailed sculptures, decorated with wondrous gemstones, and hold additional possessions of the deceased.

Regardless of the type of tomb or the hierarchy, all crypts are sealed with a single rune that identifies the individual within.


Etched into every crypt seal is a single rune that can be a simple name or a combination of many ideas that represent the individual it is for. They typically incorporate a name with other notable aspects of the individual. Traits, occupation, accomplishments, or locations of importance can all be combined with the deceased's name to form a monogram that can be unique to the individual, but it is not uncommon to see duplicates across family lines.

Body Preparation

In preparation for entombment, the body is dressed in their finest clothes, typically of their occupation. Warriors are put to rest with their weapons and armor. Artisans are buried with the tools of their trade, such as a blacksmith with their forging hammers.

After having been made presentable, with all of their accompaniments gathered, the deceased are laid out on simple stone slabs called "passing stones" that will carry them on their journey both to the tomb and into the afterlife. Once prepared, the body is transported in private to the burial site.

Funeral Ceremony

Families and friends of the deceased gather for a vigil at the crypt site before the burial. A member of the family typically recites a simple eulogy. Afterwards, in most cases, a prayer to Eonak is given by a member of the local temple as the passing stone is placed into the crypt. After it is sealed, the gathered then blow horns as loudly as they can to mark the passing of their beloved.

Mourning Period

The families and friends of the deceased honor two days of mourning. The first day is spent in the home of the departed, with the corpse, remembering the life of their loved one. The next day is spent dressing the body to send it off the next realm. At the end of the second day the body is entombed with a modest ceremony. Afterwards, an elaborate feast with much ale is had to celebrate the life of the deceased as well as lift the spirits of those who remain.


Dwarves will sometimes visit the tombs of their loved ones. Small shelves are often built below the runed seal of each crypt for those in mourning to leave trinkets for the spirits. Most common are cups of ale, carved stones depicting the deceased, and other small memorabilia of their time living in Elanthia.

Clan Specific Traditions

Dwarven culture is fairly monolithic but there are some exceptions to burial practices among a few of the clans.

The roaming Ralgrenek still maintain the tradition of laying the dead to rest on stone, but rather than dig tombs they instead build shallow cairns in remote locations in the mountains. Being more closely connected with nature, they dig a shallow bed in the earth and line it with natural stones for the body to lay on, then cover it with more stones on top. The Ralgrenek also keep the tradition of carving a single rune for the deceased into a stone placed at the head of the cairn.

The trailblazing Toktrog entomb their clan members in hidden caves along their trails in the higher elevations of the mountains. They lay their dead to rest on the cave floors, then cover them with stones from the surrounding area in such a way as to perfectly camouflage them from everyone but themselves. The monogram rune is carved into one of the rocks used in the burial but in a more discreet location away from open view.

The Borthuum Clan return their dead to their home of Teras Isle. They cremate the body on a ceremonial pyre, known as a "Forge Pyre," that uses lava from the nearby volcano to ignite it. This both represents the sublime power of the island and also honors the dead by releasing the spirit in a way that won't allow their souls to be claimed by the foul Breath of Luukos, a mana storm on the eastern side of the island that has plagued its inhabitants. Upon their bones and body being turned to ash by the intense heat of the pyre, the name of a Borthuum Clan dwarf is etched upon a massive slab of dark glaes within their clan hall. A Borthuum who dishonors their clan is not released or remembered, left for the rats and sand devils.

The burial practices of the Khanshael are shrouded in mystery as are the rituals surrounding death in Dhe'nar culture.