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When Your Soul Blossoms to the Sky: Erithi Funeral Customs
Amongst the erithi, when a person dies, we have a saying, "raiyatha xanye a eloth" (roughly "their soul is blossoming to the sky"), and the subsequent rites and ceremonies are called raixan ("soul blossoming"). It is no coincidence that a bonding ceremony is called xanrai ("blossoming souls"). When we finally depart this realm, our soul blossoms to the skies, and when we join with our lovers in a xanrai, we are blossoming souls embarking on an earthly journey together.
In addition, the term raixan itself may be appended with a variety of suffixes depending on the death. Raixan'li indicates a funeral for one individual and can also just be called raixan as it is the most common. Raixan'la is used when a bonded couple die and their ceremonies are intertwined. Next, a raixan'lo represents a group being honored together (typically used for disasters taking numerous lives at once or when the final member of a bonded group dies). If it is a funeral for an official, it may be termed a raixan'da ("da" coming from "dai"). Finally, when a child dies, we call it a raixan'xe, and the end of the ceremony is punctuated with a stylized keening, mourning a life taken too soon (the "xe" is an onomatopoeia for this sound).
As with most traditions and ceremonies, there are several variations, including within each dai, as well as regional, local, and even familial versions. This is not meant to be a definitive and exacting dissertation but rather an introduction to the most common erithi funerary practices. Erithi prone to adventuring have also brought back traditions and inspirations from a multitude of other cultures, and some families may have integrated those practices into their raixan.
Dress during a raixan is understated and primarily black with yellow, orange, or white accents (floral motifs such as chrysanthemums and lotus blossoms are common). It is seen as a time to honor the dead and not outshine one another, so accessories may be elegant but are not ostentatious.
Three Stages of a Raixan
A traditional raixan comprises three distinct stages historically performed across three days.
The first stage is the shiri rai'kan or tea ceremony for the dead. Close friends and family gather to hold a [rai'kan] in honor of the deceased. A teabowl carved of black agate is placed in a position of honor and filled with traditional tea. It is left untouched while the family and friends share memories and comfort one another. Each participant brings their own shiri teabowl reserved specifically for these ceremonies. The first tea served at the shiri rai'kan is the deceased's favorite blend, followed by a shiri tea. Shiri teas have either a chrysanthemum or lotus blossom base with dai-specific accents. After the ceremony, the host of the rai'kan takes the deceased's teabowl to bring to the second component of the raixan – the burial.
Depending on the theological leanings of the deceased, the ceremonies at the burial could include clergy of an Arkati or other spiritual leaders. While the shiri rai'kan is reserved for a select few, all are invited to the burial. Typically starting in a temple near the cemetery of choice, eulogies are given and any requested rites are performed. For instance, a librarian may have made arrangements for the dai's Master Scholar to read a favorite passage, or a teacher may request acolytes of Lumnis and Fash'lo'nae perform honors. The temples are dedicated to the purpose of raixan, not a specific deity, and are architecturally simple yet elegant with beautiful gardens that lead to the cemetery.
Once the ceremonies are complete everyone moves to the graveside. The departed individual has either been buried the night previously or cremated (with ashes provided to the family in an agate urn), and the leader of the shiri rai'kan brings forward the teabowl, placing it in its allotted spot at the base of the gravestone or cenotaph.
The final stage is known as the elojira ("sky protection"). After the teabowl is placed at the gravesite, each mourner lights incense. In unison, they murmur their own words to the deceased and wave the incense so the newly released soul blossoms to the skies on the aromatic whispers and support of their community.
Variations on a Dai
Below are some of the more common variations found in erithi culture. When it comes to the teabowls, all of them are made of black agate which naturally has thin white or pale grey bands. From there, each dai has a preferred method of adding decoration.
Eloth traditionalists tend to stay with the general ceremonies laid out above, as it is thought most of those originate with the Eloth. However, there are certain magical components at each stage that the Eloth do not share with outsiders.
|Tea||Chrysanthemum and licorice root tea with crystallized lotus blossoms|
|Teabowl||Gemstone inlay in various patterns|
|Incense||Poppy and cypress|
Surath raixan often include an acolyte of Eonak at the burial ceremony; their role typically is to simply be present. In addition, a skilled magic-worker will cause the earth to shake at the end of the ceremony, symbolic of the earth mourning the loss of one of its dwellers.
|Tea||Lotus, vanilla, and hints of cinnamon|
|Teabowl||Decorations are done using a variety of metals|
|Incense||Nightshade and rowan|
Seafaring erithi, frequently Nathala, have a separate tradition: the night before a raixan, the mourners gather together and celebrate heavily. A lot of alcohol is consumed, a lot of happy memories are shared, and general revelry in the face of death is expected.
|Tea||Lotus and rose with a hint of brandy|
|Teabowl||Sea themes in pearl inlays or scrimshaw|
|Incense||Lotus and sea salt|
|On shiri poetry: In traditional erithi poetry, names are not used while the individual is still alive, and poetry is serving a social or political purpose. Shiri poetry is a subset of the social purpose (depending on the deceased, political purposes are not ruled out!), and the individual's name can obviously be used since they have finished their earthly journey.|
Celebrations of artistry and nature are commonly found at a Yachan raixan, and [poetry] honoring the dead is expected. The ceremonies are frequently held in the temple gardens, weather permitting.
|Tea||Cardamom and lotus with a hint of berry|
|Teabowl||Intricately carved nature scenes|
|Incense||Pomegranate and spider lily|
The Tichan place their cemeteries near bodies of water and weave local blossoms and greenery into necklaces, two per mourner. One is floated on the nearby water, and the other decorates the cemetery, leaving the entire area awash in fresh blossoms.
|Tea||Chrysanthemum sparked with rosehips|
|Teabowl||Inlays of other agates|
|Incense||Sweet grass and iris|
|On the term eloth-fae: Eloth in Erithi means sky or high, so one could assume that fae would mean something akin to fire. That assumption is only partially correct. There are other erithi words for fire, and fae has only entered the lexicon relatively recently (in the last 500 years or so). However, eloth-fae for skyfire has been in use for much longer. It can thus be assumed that fae originally meant something else. One hypothesis is that skyfire is named after the elusive fae, but there is no real basis for this (or any) hypothesis. It is simply unknown. Regardless, fae is now often used to mean fire in Erithi, most commonly unnatural or elemental magical fire.|
The Valaka end the elojira with a spectacular display of eloth-fae (["skyfire"]) so the skies alight with colors and imagery beloved by the deceased. This is seen as the sky’s welcome to the latest soul blossoming.
|Tea||Violet, chrysanthemum, and honey|
|Teabowl||Brightly hued inlays|
|Incense||Chrysanthemum and moss|
The Volnath dai call their ceremony a raixan'ro, "The Blade's Blossoming Soul," and they place a shiri qakoni ("death mask") next to the teabowl at the gravesite. The shiri qakoni is always ebon with a white nautilus on the left cheek, and other adornments, if any, are customized to the individual.
The raixan'ro will always have an acolyte of Voln present and typically includes Voln-related rites and ceremonies. Beyond that, since the Volnath is a relatively newer dai comprised of individuals whose origins are in another dai, a Volnath raixan'ro will often draw from other cultures' preferences as well.
|Tea||Lemon, vanilla, and crystallized lotus blossom|
|Teabowl||White and gold accents|
|Incense||Violet and hellebore|