Funeral Customs of the Elven Houses
Funeral Customs of the Elven Houses is an Official GemStone IV Document, and it is protected from editing.
- 1 Remembrance of the Endless Souls: Funeral Customs of the Elven Houses
- 1.1 Introduction
- 1.2 Customs Common to the Elven Houses
- 1.3 House Illistim
- 1.4 House Loenthra
- 1.5 House Ardenai
- 1.6 House Nalfein
- 1.7 House Vaalor
- 1.8 OOC Notes & Credits
Remembrance of the Endless Souls: Funeral Customs of the Elven Houses
Compiled by Maical Veythorne, Master of Lore
Celebration and remembrance are foremost to the elves when a loved one passes through the Ebon Gate. Over their extensive lives, the elven people appreciate the strong ties they create with others and are drawn to jubilate and commemorate a life that touched their own with deep significance. Each of the Elven Houses have their own unique traditions when it comes to sending a loved one on their final journey, but the foundation is built upon the central purpose of honoring and memorializing their lives. While these are the most well know and common traditions, it should be noted that there are many other traditions that have been cultivated in communities outside the main cities as well as divergent from family to family.
Customs Common to the Elven Houses
There are no records indicating when the tradition of Selanair was begun, but it is a custom thought to be as old as the Elven Houses themselves. Selanair, meaning dusk's light, is the observance of displaying a deceased loved one so those who knew them could show respect for their lives and is one that is common in all of the Elven Houses. The length and specifics will vary by House, position, town, and even by individual families and can be instructed by one before their death so their personal wishes are known.
In addition to the traditional Selanair, many elven families include other ceremonies and traditions in their time of mourning, two of those include the Anieniate and the Ilaien Cloth.
A tradition known as the Anieniate is observed in all of the Elven Houses. Taken from the word anien which means to rise, the Anieniate is a time of remembrance where family members come together to recall the loved one's life through the creation of a large, embroidered drapery. Originally completed by the female members of the family, over time the tradition has come to include any family member and close friends who wishes to take part. Moments of the deceased one's life are sketched out and then embroidered on a large swath of silk which is then used to cover their form during the Selanair. If the family or loved one chooses not to have a time of Selanair or if circumstances do not allow for it, they may choose to put the tapestry on display instead. Some families have been known to hang them in their homes or preserve them for future viewing, like a family history.
The Ilaien Cloth
A tradition observed by all of the elven houses is the wearing of the ilaien cloth. Another form of the verb ilaien, which means to see or observe, this length of ebon cloth is worn by elves to show respect for the deceased. It can be worn as a band or as a ribbon attached to a garment, but it is a prominent piece of attire during a mourning period. In many houses, it is traditionally worn over the House insignia to indicate the House's loss.
A living tribute
Also called remembrance trees or Anienaeun, the memorial trees of the Illistim elves play an important part of their life, death, and existence beyond the Ebon Gate. An essential piece of their early education is to study the world around them. They are encouraged to travel the countryside exploring forests, gardens, and other places of natural beauty. This practice is called Udienaeun (loosely means to walk or wander the trees). It is during this time that students are emboldened to observe the elder trees, trees like the glowbark tree in the garden of Veythorne Manor, searching out sentient relationships between trees, those who have passed on, and those who are living. It is common for a young Illistim to feel a strong subconscious or spiritual kindred to a particular tree while on their journey. When a connection is recognized, the youth will usually search for a seedpod and begin a lifelong process of nurturing the bond between the two.
When an elf nears their end of life, they will usually leave instructions for planting their seed and their final place of rest. A place that has a strong importance is chosen and prepared. This place is usually only known to close family and the knowledge kept secret. Concealing the location of their loved one gives future youth the possibility of naturally bonding with the tree in their Udienaeun thus maintaining a strong circle of community even in death.
In the case of the death of an Argent Mirror, the location of the memorial tree is only known to the Council of Thrones. They are charged with keeping such records and it has been rumored that a new Argent Mirror will take a private tour of what has come to be called the Argent Trees or Aeunglisael (silver trees). This tour is only taken by the new Argent Mirror and before they are announced to House Illistim, so they can pay honor to those who came before. It is also speculated that many new Argent Mirrors find that their own memorial seed was bonded from one of these trees during their Udienaeun, giving some weight to the thought that these special trees are more sentient than is commonly known.
In addition to the trees, there are flowers that the Illistim associate with memorials. The pansy has long been a favorite of the Illistim scholars. It is not uncommon to see them floating in bowls or placed about in colorful bouquets. While they have come to symbolize thought, one particular variety, the elaieneria (a rare blue pansy) has come to be a symbol of remembrance and thought. Along with this beautiful blossom, the asuleriel, a unique variety of blue rose that represents peace and hope, is associated with funerals and remembrance ceremonies. The petals often cover the form of the deceased during their Selanair. These roses are rare in the wild, but they can be nurtured in gardens and flowers beds, and a florist of any worth would never charge when being purchased for a deceased loved one. In these situations, they are always given freely.
The Song of Life
The elves in House Loenthra have developed an artistic approach to many of their traditions, including those surrounding death and remembrance. One practice is to create the Liria, a song of life. A musician is hired to explore their background, accomplishments, and life as a whole, looking for those things that made up the essence of this loved one. It is the artist's charge to uncover a personal melody that their life was built upon and create a work of art that is developed into variations representing the achievements of the one being remembered. It is not uncommon for an excerpt from the liria of a spouse, parent, or child to be woven into that of the deceased. Many times, larger compositions are formed by combining the themes of close family into substantial, extensive works.
Along with the Liria, a strong tradition of House Loenthran is the fas'draeun, or death mask. These special masks are commissioned by the family to honor those who have passed on, but it is also not unheard of for the deceased to appoint an artist on their own before death. With the wide variety of practicing artisan guilds in Ta'Loenthra, the style and material of the masks will greatly vary. A common base material is ceramic, but it is not unheard of to have masks carved from wood or formed from hardened leather. One's station in life may dictate materials with polished stones, ivory, and the glass that the culture is famous for, as well as more precious gems and metals adorning them. The style of the masks varies as well from having a tiered crest similar to a headdress or carved in relief with frieze-like designs with eyes closed being common and eyes opened reserved for those of some status. The piece of art is displayed during the Selanair and is buried with the deceased when the appointed time has lapsed.
In addition to these two examples of artistic remembrance, it is common for special statuary to be commissioned with the purpose of adorning the gravesite. The subject will usually find its origins in the research done when composing the Liria. Some of the more prevalent subjects are the Patrons, House, family, and personal symbolism. Frequently the n'erenael blossom will be planted in places of eternal rest with their vines being manipulated into shapes and forms allowing the artistry of nature to aid in honoring those who have faded from this life. No matter how one's life is commemorated, true to the character of House Loenthra, traditions surrounding the respect and remembrance of the departed will always be woven with artistic elegance.
The traditions of House Ardenai are as divergent as the extensive, contrasting lands they call home, with their customs of remembrance being no different. They embrace and honor the duality that surrounds their more primal heritage. With the terrain and weather patterns being vastly diverse from the rugged coast to the wooded inland, it is natural for burial customs to follow the same pattern.
Fire and Water
Along the dry, harsh coastal areas it is common for the Selanair to take place by the rocky shores. The deceased is placed upon a wooden platform near the ocean while members of the family stand watch for a chosen time. This period of mourning may be short and intimate or large and more communal depending on their station in life and family. Those who wish to honor the dead gather items of importance and arrange them about the body while explaining their significance. When this time of remembrance is completed, the platform is lifted into a drae'lan, a boat to send the deceased to sea. Members of the deceased's family call upon the elements and engulf the boat in fire as it is sent out to sea for nature to guide its course. While this tradition may seem primal or rustic, it can be as elaborate as the family wishes. The drae'lan is sometimes enhanced with detailed carvings and inlaid with precious metals and gems as well as draped with a variety of flowers chosen for their special meanings. The ceremony of lighting the boat is tailored to the wishes of the family and loved one with the magical fire illuminating the sky in a dazzling display giving the dead a final moment of honor and remembrance as they journey on.
Air and Earth
As one moves inland from the sea to the heart of the Darkling Wood, some customs shift with the new surroundings. Built into the side of rocky outcroppings, under the large roots of the trees, or as standalone monuments, the final resting place of the Ardenai are designed to blend in with the natural surroundings. The Geldliran, the famous crypt's of Ta'Ardenai combine air and stone to create a harmonious monument to those who have passed before. Usually crafted from large slabs of marble and granite, they may also have intricately carved wooden adornment as well as other precious materials worked into the design. Aside from the lavish ornamentation, what sets the Geldliran apart from other places of rest are the wind holes. Tiny openings cut in the stone are worked into the ornamental design as to be almost invisible. The deliberate and expert placement of these perforations are meant to catch even the smallest ambient breeze, creating a unique, beautifully haunting melody.
It has been said that the windsongs of the Geldliran are tidings from those who have passed on sending comfort to those left behind. The same can be said of the practice of Wind-sight. It is not uncommon for those of Ardenai heritage to engage in this form of divination among the burial places of their ancestors. By releasing natural debris into the air and then interpreting the patterns as the items reach the ground, those seeking answers or communication from beyond the Ebon Gate hope to find a sign from their loved ones.
While nature and the elements play an important part in burial traditions of House Ardenai, it should be no surprise that even in the deep woods, places of final rest are adorned and colored by a variety of blossoms. In particular is the selerial blossom. This variety of scarlet and gold honeysuckle can be found climbing and blanketing burial sites throughout the lands of House Ardenai as well as piled high in the drae'lan before it is sent out to sea and set blazing on the waters.
As with the other elven houses, it is common for those in mourning to wear the Ilaien Cloth, but the cloth is usually made from the clothing of the deceased and adorned with small charms and other mementos.
While the ceremonies to send a loved one to their final rest holds a large importance with the elven houses, House Nalfein seems to observe the opposite. Funerals are known to be a quiet affair as if the family does not want to draw attention to their loss, but this quiet time of farewell is countered with the elaborate pageantry of the Draeunair, time of reflection, where the Nalfein celebrate and remember those who are gone from their families. Families may choose to hold these celebrations as more private affairs, but it is more common to hold extensive festivities that can last one or several days depending on the family's position and wealth.
Families hire members of the Draesrelan, a professional troupe of mourners comprising of artists whose purpose is to display extravagant exhibitions that celebrate the lives of those who have passed on. One famous group, known as the Agate Kith, is respected for their fascinating and lavish presentations. These performances have been known to include dance, plays, musicales, and even ostentatious puppetry, but can incorporate any form of dramatic displays. It is common for these displays to include the Liri'eren, the dance of shadows, which is a fan dance performed to honor the dead. The ladies of a house are normally taught the basic sequences as part of their formal education with the understanding that it would be personalized to their situation with steps and sections added when performed during the Draeunair.
While the Draeunair is a time of reflection and remembrance surrounding a family's deceased, blending in with these moments are sometimes thoughts of aspirations and ambitions. Mysterious deaths and political machinations have been known surface during these events, woven into the celebrations. Houses may suddenly find a business venture has gone sour, or their fortunes have been diminished. There may be changes in court and political position as well as the sudden, unexplained death of a loved one. Some even go as far as to rename the event a time of deflection as they elude dangers directed their way. While troupes of performers are hired for the festivities, there are whispers of guilds and organizations hired for other events through unspoken means.
Among the intrigue and celebration of the Draeunair, a small black rose with petals of the darkest purple, known as the draenael also has a part to play. Their ambiguous meaning seems made for those of House Nalfein. It is a common tradition to scatter their petals over the body during the Selanair as a sign of what has ended and bouquets of the blossom are left at places of rest. They are also shared and sent as gifts during Remembrance Days. Customarily, they signify the end of something, but how you look at that end is where the true meaning lies. During these Nalfein celebrations they could mean that a conflict has ended, revenge has been carried out, or perhaps a truce has been found between rivaling families.
- See published info here
Death and Burial Customs of House Vaalor
OOC Notes & Credits
- A special thank you to GM Xynwen and GM Lydil for their support during the writing process.
- Many thanks to GM Naos who built a foundation for many of the new elven words used in this document.
- And a large thank you to GM Mariath for QCing this document and the new words contained within.
- Ideas used in this document were taken from original works written by Avawren, Lynaera, Uniana, Teveriel, Lucrecea, Aendir, Amalexia, Rohese and Elaeija.