Dignity in Death: Mourning and Funereal Customs of the Illistimi (essay)

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This is a creative work set in the world of Elanthia, attributed to its original author(s). It does not necessarily represent the official lore of GemStone IV.

Title: Dignity in Death: Mourning and Funereal Customs of the Illistimi

Author: Rohese Bayvel-Timsh'l

First published on the 7th day of Eoantos in the year 5122

Dignity in Death. This best sums up the customs of the Illistimi when it comes to mourning one of its own.

The passing of a friend or loved one beyond the Ebon Gate is traditionally marked by a period of solemnity and quiet reflection. Rarely will a burial rite in Ta'Illistim be held until a set time of lying-in-state has elapsed and that can vary from three days for the majority of its people to a whole year in the case of a luminary.

Some Illistim elves – those of the Order of the Sapphire Rose - are still in mourning for Linsandrych Illistim until such time as her body can be found and laid-in-state for the obligatory period. Dating back to the formative years of the Elven Houses, the Order is a reclusive, monastic group of predominantly female elves living under a vow of silence and its members are responsible for all formal funereal arrangements within the city-state.

As with many other aspects of Illistim tradition, decorum is at the heart of bereavement. There is no overt lamentation and those in mourning will often cover their head and face for a length of time to convey that they are not ready to socialize; some have even been known to swaddle their eyes.

As mournblooms are significant to sylvans for denoting grief, so are blue roses to the Illistimi. The symbolism of this iconic flower has long been established in Ta'Illistim since the demise of its founder. Representing peace and hope, the petals are used to bedeck the body of the deceased until such time as they can be formally laid to rest.

Memorials are also important to the Illistimi. Walking the Vaeshean and Kaerinar Weys, one cannot fail to notice the plaques and statues in honour of prominent members of society. Not all of the city’s citizens can be remembered in quite such an ostentatious manner though. Many opt for a more private commemoration by way of a family mausoleum, rose garden or, more commonly, a memorial tree.

Trees remember. There has always been a spiritual link between elves and trees, and elves who are grieving find in trees an unspoken solace and a solemn comfort. The planting of memorial trees is a longstanding tradition and usually given in memory of a life well-lived, or as a symbol of everlasting affection. Similar to the blue rose, the planting of a tree symbolizes peace, life, growth, and hope for the future.

As well as the laying out and burial of the departed, Adepts of the Order of the Sapphire Rose are also tasked with assisting in the preparation of memorial tree seedpods. With their guidance, an elf selects a suitable seedpod and binds themself to it before their death. If they do not plant it themselves, or take it with them to their death, the family is enjoined with the Adept to plant the seedpod in a location where it will thrive.

The earlier in an elf's life that they choose to bind themself to a seedpod, the more connected their spirits become, as the tree's spirit has longer to know them. Even if an elf only chooses and binds themself to a seedpod on their deathbed, their tree will always remember their name, and will whisper it into the wind occasionally.

So, whilst there are many monuments to commemorate notable Illistimi around the Shining City, it is also worth taking the time to sit in the gardens or walk among the trees in quiet contemplation to better understand how most of those who have departed can also be remembered.