Telling the Bees

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Telling the Bees is an Official GemStone IV Document, and it is protected from editing.

Telling the Bees: Death Rituals of the Forest Gnomes

With roots steeped in ancestor worship, the gnomes, forest and burghal alike, practice a variety of death and funerary rituals. For the forest gnomes especially, these often tie to themes of nature and Imaera, but the execution varies wildly between the bloodlines. Individuals may also have their own unique customs passed down through ancestral lines and practiced in private, and those who have struck out on their own may find themselves drifting away from their roots and developing their own customs. Regardless of these individual anomalies, however, bloodlines as a whole continue to practice their death rituals as they have for centuries unbroken, and the vast majority recognize these as the customary rites.

Bloodline Basingstoke

Basingstokes are expected to exit life with grace and dignity, and most believe that life is defined by strife. Given that, the cultural expectation of death is one of welcoming, much as one would feel the welcome relief of a heavy burden being lifted. Burial occurs with minimal ceremony in graves deep within their forests marked solely with the deceased's signs of the zhadu'gno. Basingstokes who fall during the zhadu'gno are buried in a similar fashion, but under the sign of Imaera rather than any sign of the zhadu'gno. In addition, these young gnomes receive marked graves and considerably more ceremony at burial.

After the formal ceremonies, friends and family gather to honor the deceased with displays of epic poetry known as vitzhu'tek (roughly, "death-blood recitation"). These are taken quite seriously and meant to honor the deceased's accomplishments throughout life. While many will write these themselves, most communities also have one or two willing to assist those in need. For the Basingstoke struck down during the zhadu'gno, the vitzhu'tek focuses on Imaera and her grace in sparing the youngling the harshness of living a strife-filled life. Some personalization may occur, but there are standard recitations to Imaera in these situations as well.

Bloodline Greengair

In Common, the Greengair funeral ceremony translates to "telling it to the bees." A sylvan funerary rite (the ivethlyss) involving informing the trees of a family member's passing has been translated in Common to "telling it to the trees." Because of these simplistic, rhyming translations, it is often bruited about that the forest gnomes subsumed the essence of the ceremony from the sylvans, changing it just enough to make it their own. In reality, the two ceremonies have no true correlation; while it is natural for different races and cultures to influence one another, both ceremonies in question are steeped deeply within their own cultural roots.

Within their compounds, Greengairs almost always have hives of honeybees with verdant gardens and natural surroundings for them. Most take turns working with the hive keepers, and the health of a compound's hive is taken as a direct reflection of the compound's health as well as their relationship with Imaera. When a Greengair passes, the bees must be told – first and foremost, so they may pass on the name to Imaera for her blessing upon the departed souls, and secondly, so the bees themselves may mourn.

The idrisa takes place at mid-morning. The compound gathers at the hives and gardens, and the hive keeper addresses each hive, reciting the deceased's name, informing them of the passing, and exhorting the bees to carry the name back to Imaera. The keeper walks from hive to hive, repeating the message and followed by the compound who whisper the name over and over, a soft susurration of sound buzzing beneath the keeper's message.

When completed, the compound takes mead to the gardens and toasts the deceased. Fresh bread and honey are served, and stories and memories shared. While the ceremony rarely gets raucous, it is also not meant to be overly somber.

A Note on Honey
Greengair apiculturists, chefs, and alchemists work together to create myriad honeys used for different uses and occasions, ranging from unproven healing claims to special celebrations to ritual uses. Below are but a few examples.

Mourning's Light: Served at the idrisa, this honey must come from the compound's own bees and is infused with orange blossoms and vanilla. Any flower may feed the bees, but heather and thistle are preferred when possible.

Heartbreak Remedy: Rumored to heal a broken heart, heartbreak honey is traditional, clover-grown honey infused with essence of violet and fern. More than likely, any actual healing comes from the gathering together of friends and family around one who is suffering rather than the ingredients of the honey itself.

Souls' Harmony: A celebration honey, souls' harmony honey is typically reserved for use at meals and activities between intimate individuals, rather than meals with friends or casual acquaintances. Crafted from aged and de-crystallized honey, the rich concoction is then combined with passionflower syrup and flecks of rose petals. Some even believe it serves as an aphrodisiac.

Forest Spirit's Luck: Dandelion honey infused with notes of apple, lemongrass, sage, and rose are said to represent the spirit of the forest. Some believe it can bring luck if used to sweeten certain teas.

Bloodline Wendwillow

Impermanence is an important concept to the Wendwillow bloodline, and nothing is more impermanent as life itself. To celebrate the ending of an individual's impermanence and to assist in their transition to their permanent state, Wendwillows practice the vekina, a candle ceremony for the dead.

Trading with Greengairs for beeswax, Wendwillow artisans craft candles imbued with various herbs, plants, and flowers. A base of yew needles comprises most death candles, with angelica root an acceptable alternative. What else is put into the candle depends on several factors, including but not limited to time of year, cause of death, the deceased's occupation, the deceased's requests, and location of the bloodline when the death occurred. Fresh, local ingredients are preferred, but several Wendwillows will carry certain dried herbs and florals for just such purposes.

For example, a Wendwillow death that happens far away from their home, such as one who went out adventuring and died afar, will often include dried forget-me-not blossoms, whereas one who passed in their sleep by the shores of a sea will typically include fresh seaweed or kelp. The candles themselves are meant to be fast-burning, short enough to not last more than an hour or two, but also fragrant; the air should be redolent with the candles' scent.

Candles ready, the Wendwillows gather at dusk near the shore of whatever body of water is closest to them at the time of death. The deceased's candle is lit, and the local priest or priestess of Zelia recites the death rites; these vary amongst Wendwillow clergy and are often composed in the moment - another bit of impermanence. Once the recitation is complete, the rest of the community steps forward, taking turns to light their own candles from the deceased's. Next, the deceased's candle is placed within an intricately folded and decorated paper ship and pushed into the water. Simpler, undecorated origami boats house the other candles, and as a community, their candles are set to the waters to follow the deceased's.

While the candles float and burn down, the Wendwillows gather on the shore and reminisce and drink wine made from rowanberry and dandelions known as vekina wine. As the candle wax fades, the final flames consume the boat itself until the water takes it all within its depths. When the last flame is extinguished and nothing remains, the ceremony ends.

Bloodline Rosengift

The Rosengift bloodline partakes in the nictchu, a day of competition in honor of their deceased. The nictchu begins at daybreak with a foot race. Participants race through the forest on a course set the evening before by the nict'lat, or death's guide. It is filled with pitfalls and intentionally crosses a variety of difficult terrains. Finishing a nictchu race is a great feat in and of itself, but winning one is considered a great accomplishment, and the winner is tattooed with the mark of the race, a red-black runic diamond bisected by a silver rod with a bent neck.

Once the race has been completed (and any left on the course gathered up), a mid-day meal is served. Alchemists and cooks working in secret prepare a feast. At least one dish will have been poisoned, and the Rosengift are to use their skills to detect, identify, and mitigate the effects. While not deadly, extreme discomfort is wrought upon those who fail this competition, making the third, and final competition an unpleasant experience. The winner here is inked with a green-black runic triangle over a forked silver line.

Immediately upon conclusion of the meal, the bloodline completes an obstacle course. Again, set by the nict'lat the night before, none know the course or its five components in advance. Unlike the run, speed is of negligible importance; instead, the course involves feats of strength, puzzle-solving, and precision. Examples include archery competitions, tree or rock climbing, trap disarming, etc., and the winner receives a violet-black pentacle tattoo with a rune at each point representing the feats completed.

The competitions over, all rest until the setting of the sun. A large bonfire is lit, a feast is laid, and the recitation of the dead's accomplishments begins. The nict'lat starts the recitation, but it is carried on by friends and family. When completed, it is customary for those closest to the deceased to request the nict'lat ink or pierce a remembrance upon their skin.

With that, the formal nictchu is complete, and general drinking, feasting, and reminiscing continues throughout the night. A day of total rest follows, often with offerings given up to Imaera for a successful nictchu. Life returns to normal on the third day.

Bloodline Angstholm

Despite being a relatively recent bloodline, the Angstholm made an adamant effort to develop their own rituals, eschewing their Wendwillow roots and shedding most semblances of Arkati worship. Nowhere is this more evident than in their death rites.

Angstholm practice the ti'chanek, or sky burial, an excarnation ritual. Clergy remove key organs and coat the remains in a funerary lotion called tichalx whose purpose is said to safely send a soul away from the body. It is then disarticulated and placed upon the highest rocky outcropping on the island and left for the carrion birds. Beyond scavenging for themselves, these birds inadvertently feed the denizens of the surrounding waters as they fly away with their meal.

The bloodline leave the first part of the rites to appointed clergy, but all join for the placing of the body. A procession of clergy leads the way, carrying the parts, followed by the immediate family, then closest friends, then the rest of the bloodline in the village. Organs are buried with great reverence in a fallow field as an offering to the element of earth. The field will be planted with an appropriate crop at first opportunity.

Next, the procession wends its way to the rocky outcropping for the sky burial; the linen-wrapped parts are reverently placed near rune-carved stones representing the elements and the points of a compass. Prayers are said, a death song sung, and all but the clergy leave. Once the family is away, the clergy unwrap the body's numerous pieces, recite a final invocation to air, and leave to rejoin the village.

The ti'chanek serves a few important purposes. First and foremost, it is an offering to the elements, specifically air and earth, but the rituals surrounding the placing of the parts invokes all elements. Secondly, Angstholm reside on small, hidden compounds on islands, where space is at a premium; ceremonies that minimize use of valuable land are important.

After the ceremonies are complete, the community feasts together. It is, however, a quiet affair, typically not somber, but not the raucous remembrances of some other cultures. The evening ends with a shared drink of an incredibly strong, sweet rose liqueur laced with valerian called tichalyth. It is believed that all should sleep well after a sky burial, as in their dreams, they can fully shepherd the deceased spirit's across the veil, and the liqueur's potency coupled with the soporific effects of valerian all but ensure deep sleep.

On Tichalx
At its base, the funeral lotion is a blend of black hellebore root, ivy, and crushed basil. An absolute of golden strawflowers (known to many as the life-everlasting flower) is added, and finally, essence of damiana. It is pungent, but not unpleasant, and is only used for the ti'chanek.

The lotion is believed to release the soul, not allowing it back into the body, and prohibiting any sort of magical resurrection or animation. While some Angstholm may lend their life to adventuring, when it is their final time, it is important to most Angstholm to ensure their spirit is released in the traditional fashion.

Bloodline Felcour

Following their martial traditions, Felcour engage in the zhumec'itza (often shortened to zhumec), a vicious and competitive ball game, as part of their death rituals The name itself means something like "death sport for honor," and while it is part of the zhuletza, or Felcour funeral rites, it is not limited to funerals alone.

Zhumec'itza is played in small stone amphitheatres, and entire villages fill the stands to watch the games. Outside of funerary purposes, it is a common game; villages field teams to battle one another for general bloodsport, and it is often used to settle disputes between two parties as well, with the parties selecting teams and laying out terms of victory and defeat before a priestess of V'tull. Dishonoring the outcome of a zhumec'itza played under these terms is typically met with death, and the deceased is cast out without funerary rites, as they are no longer considered Felcour and are thus unworthy.

The game itself is played by two teams of two to four people each and uses a heavy leather ball. Participants aim to score by getting the ball through a small stone circle high upon the wall at either end of the playing field. Zhumec is played until either all participants are too injured (or dead) to continue or a team has scored five times. Strategies vary, but in general, one uses the entire surroundings (stone walls of the field, stone statuary placed at strategic points along the way, and fellow players) to move the ball down the field. The stone circles are elaborately protected and difficult to get the ball into.

While no weaponry is allowed, hand-to-hand combat is an integral component of zhumec'itza, as is using the ball to incapacitate a component before trying to move it down the field. Regional variations on exact rules are addressed prior to any inter-village games, but moderation of a match beyond that is minimal; a "live and let die" approach takes over once the game begins.

On the day of a Felcour's funeral, V'tullian priests use a lottery system to choose four competitors to play in the funerary zhumec'itza. Being chosen is considered a great honor and turning down such an honor is virtually unheard of. Indeed, turning it down would most likely result in an impromptu sacrifice to V'tull in the deceased's name, and the newly deceased would not be afforded death rituals.

Prior to the match's start, animal sacrifices are made to V'tull by each competitor, and they dip their fingers into the spilled blood, drawing runes and symbols across their skin. Next, they drink from a special blood wine meant to bolster their competitive spirit. Grapes for the veczhu wine are grown in soil where the dead are buried and are harvested when they are a deep crimson hue. The wine ages in casks soaked in a Rosengift concoction said to increase strength and reduce pain.

The match itself varies little from a standard match. Both teams are competing to be the team that is seen as releasing the deceased's spirit to V'tull, so playing with honor and aggressiveness is even more important. If a team provides a poor showing, the V'tullian clergy may decide a new team is warranted, this time taking volunteers from the crowd. In those rare cases, the lackluster participants may find themselves in personal battles with the deceased's family after the match.

A good match completed, blood oaths are taken by all that the next battle will be in the deceased's name, and then a final feasting occurs. Veczhu is imbibed liberally at this point, and good-natured brawls tend to break out periodically for several more hours. A good zhuletza typically results in several injuries and possibly additional deaths. These deaths are considered already feted by the rites, and all bodies, including that of the deceased, are taken to veczhu vineyards to be buried and become part of the next crop of blood wine.

The Inyexat

The inye'vatil is a uniquely Inyexat death ceremony. Meaning "Stars' Sight," the inye'vatil begins at nightfall on a clear night. A mycomancer from the Children of the Starlit Wilds performs a reading of the stars upon a ring of ghost mushrooms. The readings include divination of the dead's journey, as well as predictions for the future of any family or loved ones. Only those closest to the deceased are present with the Starlit, as it is considered a very personal divination.

The next day, the burial itself takes place, again with only the closest friends and family. Where the deceased is laid to rest is dependent upon several factors, including personal preference, occupation, and the area's landscape. Mycomancers, for example, often choose to give their bodies over to the fungus that dominates their life, finding it appropriate that their death should give more fungi life. Some few may choose cremation, such as alchemists who dabble in the darker corners of their craft and wish their ashes experimented upon in tinctures and concoctions of the Star-Evokers, but most simply request a burial near a favorite tree or glade followed by the sowing of area-appropriate seeds to bring new life to the location.

After the burial comes the day of mourning. Individuals mourn in their own way, and no pressures are placed upon anyone to react in any specific manner during this time, but it is a set time for any and all to let out grief without judgment.

At the end of the day, as the sun sets, the community gathers together for a final divination. The Starlit mycomancer reads the latest juxtaposition between the constellations and the mushrooms, then all partake in what is known as ghostwine, a mildly hallucinogenic icewine made with berries from ghostvines and infused with ground mystic blues (a common mushroom of Atan Irith). All are encouraged to reminisce about the deceased as food is served. It is not unusual for individuals to wander off together for some private, life-affirming celebrations as well.

When the sun rises, the inye'vatil is complete, and everyday Inyexat life resumes.

OOC Information

  • Created by GM Xynwen, 2022


Not a linguist, so these are just close approximations to how I say it in my head:

  • Vitzhu'tek: vitz who teck
  • Idrisa: id reese uh
  • Vekina: veh keen uh
  • Nictchu: nickt choo
  • Nict'lat: nickt lat
  • Tichalx: tea chalx
  • Ti'chanek: tea chan eck
  • Tichalyth: tea chal ith
  • Zhumec'itza: zoo meck eat zuh
  • Zhuletza: zoo let zuh
  • Veczhu: veck zoo
  • Inye'vatil: in yeh vah teal
  • Vatil: vah teal
  • Ivethlyss: iv th liss