Human Mourning Customs

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Human Mourning Customs is an Official GemStone IV Document, and it is protected from editing.

The Mourning Practices of the Turamzzyrian Empire

The Turamzzyrian Empire is vast, and its many counties, duchies, baronies, and other lands have customs and practices as varied as the stars in the sky. When it comes to death, funerals, and mourning practices this is especially true; while there are some overarching threads of commonality, humans practice a variety of customs around death.

Imperial Customs: The Setting of the Sun

The death of the ruler of the Empire is a time of great, state-mandated mourning across all its lands. While each area may have some of its own traditions around these imperial mourning periods, the overall process is quite similar.

The initial, empire-required activities of the mourning period take place over fourteen days, culminating in the coronation of the new emperor or empress. However, the full mourning period is one year and fourteen days. It is also important to note that the first day of the mourning period does not always coincide with the day of the ruler's death. Depending on circumstances, politics, and numerous other factors, the official mourning period may start several weeks after the actual death. In practice, the delay is rarely more than a week or two, with anything greater than twelve weeks being found only in times of great upheaval such as war or catastrophic acts of nature.

During the first eleven days in Tamzyrr most operations cease, except for those critical to staying alive and well. Other cities may follow suit, with the Empire amply compensating merchants who do so. Nonessential businesses close, black armbands are donned, and a general air of solemnity permeates the lands. On the date of the coronation, the mourning activities are deemed over. Some, especially those closest to the Sun Throne, may continue other mourning traditions for longer.

The newly coronated leader and their immediate court will wear a black armband for the full mourning period. Others may do so if they choose, but there is no stigma for removing it after the coronation.

Lying in Sun State
Upon the death of an imperial ruler, the Order of the Setting and Rising Sun springs into action. This order specializes in the pomp, circumstance, and protocol around a dead emperor or empress as well as overseeing all the necessary mortuary aspects. They also work intimately with the Church of Koar on the impending coronation.

First, the Superior of the Solarity, head of the Order, declares the period of empire-wide mourning. Fast ships, scrying mirrors, and couriers are sent far and wide, carrying the news and the start of the mourning period.

The Sunset Undertaker leads those who study the art of embalming in the empire, with a focus on handling all royalty. While others beneath the Sunset Undertaker are used for general royalty, only the Sunset Undertaker works on the Sun Throne. They are immediately called to ensure the body is appropriately preserved and, when necessary, retouched or reconstructed.

After embalming is completed, private, familial rites are held. These are by invitation only and will vary depending on the individual. No official record of these private rites is made -- they are meant to honor the individual and not the entity of the office.

On the third day, the deceased ruler will be moved into the Amphitheater of the Setting Sun, where they will lie in state for seven days. The amphitheater's sole purpose is for the death of a ruler, with two smaller amphitheaters nearby used for other royalty. Made of darkened orange-red marble resembling the setting sun for which it is named, the amphitheater is opened to the public, and thousands will queue for hours for a few seconds glimpse of the ruler lying in Sun State.

Setting of the Sun
On the eleventh day, the official imperial funeral is held in the amphitheater. Leaders and nobles across Elanith attend or send representatives. It is a sedate and formal affair conducted by the Patriarch of the Church of Koar. Lasting hours, the funeral is a morass of obscure protocol known only to the Church and the Order of the Setting and Rising Sun, both entities carefully controlling each speech, eulogy, prayer, and honorarium.

At the end of the funeral, a processional winds its way through Tamzyrr. The imperial sarcophagus rests in a crystal-encased coach, its final destination the Royal Mausoleum at sunset.

Rising of the Sun
The mourning period continues for two more days, but the solemnity of the previous days is lifted. The Sunrise Superior ensures celebrations in honor of the Emperor or Empress's good works are held across the city, the ruler is feted and remembered, and the mood turns to anticipation for the coronation.

Taking place on the fourteenth day, the coronation of the new ruler takes place at the Temple of Steps. The Emperor or Empress's first act is to declare the period of initial mourning over, and a year later, on the anniversary of their coronation, they proclaim the formal end to mourning.

A Note on the Royal Mausoleum
A series of ornate crypts, mausoleums, and temples, the Mausoleum of the Sun Throne, colloquially known as the Royal Mausoleum, inters emperors, empresses, their immediate family, and other honored royals and individuals. It is comprised of numerous, ornate buildings connected with underground passageways.

Other Royal and State Customs

Upon the death of a member of the royal family, the Sun Throne will declare a period of mourning commensurate to their personal and political importance. This ranges from three days to six months. As with a ruler death, the official mourning period may be delayed, but rarely more than a month or two. An acolyte under the Sunset Undertaker will perform embalming rites, and a private, family service will be held.

If the deceased resided in Tamzyrr, they will lie in state for three days at a smaller amphitheater near that of the Setting Sun. On the third day, the funeral is conducted by a High Priest of the Church of Koar with internment in the Royal Mausoleum. There may also be a processional, but it is not a required component to a royal funeral.

For royals residing outside of the capital, the Sun Throne will declare mourning for Tamzyrr as well as the deceased's area of residence at a minimum (empire-wide mourning is situationally dependent). Those with few familial ties outside the capital will frequently be returned to Tamzyrr; individual preferences will be honored, however, and consideration to the deceased's connections given. Whether in Tamzyrr or elsewhere, the tradition is to lie in state for three days, and most major cities across the empire have appropriate amphitheaters or temples for this purpose. Interment in the local royal mausoleum would follow the funeral.

Local customs are also honored during the period of mourning.

Mourning Comes to All: Non-Royal Customs of the Human Empire

Across the human empire, rituals surrounding death, funerals, and burial abound. The generally accepted idea of a funeral is firmly entrenched with the average populace – rites by clergy of the chosen Arkati, burial in a coffin, and mourning by friends and family, but beyond those pedestrian approaches to perishing lie numerous superstitions that often turn into unique rituals across pockets of the Turamzzyrian Empire.


Within the smaller eastern villages of Aldora, funerary customs lean toward the standard imaginings of a funeral. However, after the deceased is safely six feet under, the entire village gathers together for a ritual known as the gatifian. Believed to be an old Kannalan term, possibly related to surrounding Gattrof Mountains, a gatifian involves three key components: prayer bands, food and drink, and tall tales.

Village weavers will work all day weaving special prayer bands from locally sourced wool so everyone in the village will have one. The bands have various knots, tiny wooden beads, or other trinkets woven into them, specific to the deceased individual and the village's customs. Mourners will wear the bands for at least a day but often longer, and each deceased's bands are unique.

Given the typically poor nature of these villages, the food and drink are simple peasant fare made to stretch for dozens of people while still filling bellies. The mourning meal of choice is weak ale, rough bread, and casselan -- a unique sort of stew comprised of hearty beans, spices, and whatever meat bits are available (goat or chicken being most common). After the meal, villagers take turns telling tall tales about the deceased, embellishing their lives to legendary and ludicrous heights. It is seen as a way to honor one's life while also finding a means to laugh in the face of sadness.

Throughout Aldora, the stone-tenders also may serve a role in funerary customs, or at least, their beliefs have infused several communities with a certain awe around gemstones that has been incorporated in their burials. For example, a corpse may be buried with a labradorite to protect them from bad chance as they journey through the Ebon Gate, or if forgiveness from an Arkati is needed, a malachite may be placed in their hand. Most common, however, are adding in amber to carry them home (or to their new home, as it were) and tigerfang to assist in the transformation from living to deceased.

A Note on the Order of Voln
The Order of Voln is prevalent in Aldora, and thus, several reports of their burial rituals have come from the duchy. If one lives long enough to return home to a quiet life, they may choose a more familiar or traditional ritual. However, this typically does not occur given the dangerous occupation they all pursue, and it is a common request amongst the Order to be cremated immediately, as they wish to avoid any sort of undeath coming to them and endangering their fellow people.

A Note on the Order of the Night's Blade
Found also within Aldora, the Order of the Night's Blade has dedicated themselves to Ronan. While they share a similar cremation order when falling in battle, when the Order can regroup at a chapel afterwards, the survivors mix sleep-inducing herbs with casks of Aldoran riesling and drink somberly until one by one, they all sleep in safety, communing with the God of Night and Dreams.

On Casselan
Casselan comes from a Kannalan term translating roughly to "slow jumble," which accurately describes its hodgepodge nature. The base of casselan is its beans, typically large, white beans but whatever is available will do. Meat is then added, with goat and chicken being the most readily accessible, but again, whatever is around makes it in; this means the meat is often the tougher or less pleasing components of a creature. Slowly simmering for hours, sometimes days, casselan takes on a luxurious, velvety texture with a blackened and bubbling crust across the top. Some chefs attempt to recreate this dish in upscale restaurants, but most gastrophiles agree that the best casselan comes straight from the smallest villages and the humblest of circumstances. Spices vary, but salt and garlic are most common.


With its small, coastal roots, the county of Allace has very few variations on funerary customs. Many believe that Niima ushers the dead of Allace to the Ebon Gate, and for these believers, the funeral takes place out to sea. Those living inland will often save a lifetime to ensure their loved ones have the wherewithal to transport their body to a port town and buy passage for a day (though it must be said, many inland choose other, more convenient customs to follow).

When enacting a Niiman funeral, the deceased is brought aboard a boat and taken far enough out to sea that the currents will hopefully not deposit the corpse back on the shore. After a brief invocation to Charl's Daughter, family throw the body overboard and return to the shore. Here, a feast awaits them, often provided by friends and neighbors, but if they have traveled a distance, the town itself will provide. An Allace syrah known as Niima's syrah (or colloquially as syrima) is reserved for these occasions, hints of saltwater threading through the normally dry and plummy taste. If one has a bit more wealth, it is tradition to drop a pearl in the glass of syrima and let it dissolve before toasting to Niima and the deceased.

Inland customs still include the sea, but typically this means bringing shells, seagull feathers, or other sea-based accoutrements to the funeral and burying them with the deceased. Invocations to Niima may still occur, and the liberal pouring of any type of water over the grave after burial is meant to symbolize her protection.

In the southernmost coastal reaches of Allace, there is a very pretty limpet that can be found in tidepools. Called Charl's-scale, collecting these prismatic limpet shells and weaving them into bracelets (often with dried seaweed or seagrass) is a popular pastime, and these villages adorn their dead with this jewelry prior to either a seaside pyre or a deep sea burial. Fortunately, Charl's-scales are quite common in this area, and it serves as a nice export for jewelry aficionados as well.

Bourth: Spirited Away to the Deep

When a Baron of Bourth dies, the traditional funeral procession leads to the Wyrdeep Forest, where the body is left to be claimed by the spirits of the Deep and subsequently consumed by the forest.

Various areas of Bourth mimic this tradition by laying a body to rest above ground and bringing pieces of the forest to the resting place. This most commonly involves bringing wood -- black yew, wyrwood, or merrywood being the most sought after -- and ringing the corpse with it. Rituals are said based on the deceased's individual beliefs, and the body is left to the elements for three days in order to allow any spirits of Bourth's forests time to take their due.

At the end of three days, the body is properly disposed of. This varies from area to area, as some prefer a funeral pyre made from the Wyrdeep woods while others prefer a traditional burial within the ground. Still others, especially those nearest large rivers, will set the body upon a small boat and sail it downstream. If one finds such a boat stopped along a shore, tradition dictates that the shore is the person's final resting place, and the body is buried there.

The Inhabitants of Wyrdeep Forest
Separated from others, the elves, sylvans, and half-elves living within the forest have developed their own unique traditions, including those around funerals. The concept of "found family" is deeply ingrained in the psyche here, and its importance rises above that of mere blood. Of course, blood ties may still be important, but that is an individual decision amongst those whose ancestors chose to depart their own bloodlines and begin anew in the wild wood.

Mourning starts by taking the deceased to a merrywood grove. Its brightness in the dark forest signifies the celebration of one's life even in the midst of the collective's sorrow. The person is wrapped in a wyrsilk shroud and covered in merrywood blossoms then left to the forest. Mourners then return home and gather about a bonfire to tell stories of the dead and honor their memory. Traditionally, this is accompanied by a not-so-insignificant amount of drinking darkwine, a special occasion wine made from grapes grown deep within the forest.

About Wyrsilk
Also known as shadowsilk or forest silk, wyrsilk is a somewhat rare fabric originating with the inhabitants of the Wyrdeep Forest. Its exact composition is unknown and unable to be replicated, but master weavers believe it to be created from special alchemically or magically enhanced preparation that includes fibers from merrywood and wyrwood leaves strengthened with spider silk from a Wyrdeep spider.

Wyrsilk looks and feels delicate and soft to the touch, holds a dye well, but will always have a deeply shadowed look to it. Folklore states the shadow comes from the soul of the forest itself, which is why wyrsilk shrouds are used for their dead.

About Merrywood
Merrywood originates in the Wyrdeep forest. Most attempts to cultivate it elsewhere have failed, but there is a small grove somewhere outside River's Rest in County Torre, and another in an arboretum in Tamzyrr. Recently, the Ta'Illistim arboretum was able to sustain a few individual trees as well.

The merrywood cluster together in groves scattered throughout the Wyrdeep and hidden by the forest's other thick growth. They get their name not because of the bright splash of color each grove gives its surrounding area as many have hypothesized, but because of the merry, tinkling sound the leaves make with even the slightest movement.

A type of snowdrop tree, merrywood blossoms are either bright yellow, silvery pink, brilliant blue, or iridescent crimson. The tree has pale, yellow-white bark and bright green leaves that turn silvery pink or gold in the autumn (with a rare silvery blue leaf found occasionally). The heartwood cannot be dyed but is much coveted for its lustrous dark yellow hue striated with dark pinks and sparkling blues.

Despite its popular status for woodworking, usage of merrywood remains carefully protected as the trees are also held in deep reverence by those living within the forest. Wood harvesting occurs only when a tree loses branches or dies naturally, and flower gathering happens only in moderation so as not to strip a grove of its signature blossoms.


A deeply superstitious people, the average Chastonian carries a bit of dirt with them at all times, believing it protects them from magic and even possession. When it comes time to inter the dead, they do so without benefit of caskets. Individuals are buried deep in the earth wrapped only in a single swathe of homespun wool. The proximity to the earth is believed to promote a quick trip through the Ebon Gate and ward off any necromantic uses of the corpse.

After a burial, like in so many other cultures, food plays a prominent role, and each small town and area seems to have their own superstitions around funerary meals and gatherings. Some re-enact the annual "lifting" ceremony in honor of the dead (lifting a family member standing in proxy for the deceased three times, said to ward off evil spirits from the village), while others sprinkle protective earth into the customary funeral stew, and still others brew a potent funerary ale that includes local earth. Known as oblivion brew, it's become quite popular in the larger cities for its unique earthy notes, and several smaller areas have gained a bit of wealth with this new export.


While most areas have pockets of superstition, Dragach finds itself overflowing with it. With its harsh mountainous environment, the highland folk tend toward cairns over burial, as it is easier to find rocks to stack than it is to dig through the hard ground, especially in winter. Ceremonies involve numerous admonitions to not just Arkati but the harsh natural elements at play in the barony, with recitations and rituals to appease them and offer succor to them in exchange for safe passage for their dead.

Near Connedale, death rituals honor the wind. Cairns are built then adorned with hollowed-out stones that whistle with even the slightest breeze, and family members will leave offerings to the winds in small handcarved bowls placed atop the sites.

In the Krinklehorn areas, the burials themselves are standard, but the surrounding rituals known as the Krinklevyst are not. In honor of the bighorn ram that gave the city its name, a large mountain ram is slowly spit-roasted and serves as the focal point for a great feast in honor of the deceased (in lean years, the more common goats or roltons may suffice). The Krinklevyst ritual concludes with boasting of the deceased's many fine attributes (shamelessly concocted even when none exist) and a boxing bout between two volunteers while others drink heavily and cheer them on. Typically, these bouts end in a full on brawl by several attendees, and tales of whose funeral had the biggest fight entertain everyone during the harsh winter months. Offerings to Krinklehorn's ghost are left along treacherous mountain trails by some, beseeching the legendary ram and hunter to guide their loved one through the afterlife.

A Note on the Keepers of the Golden Key
With their very nature rooted in death and the souls of the dead, it should be no surprise that the Keepers have very specific death rituals. In addition to their annual Ceremony of Remembrance, the Keepers maintain smaller communes with Lorminstra when one of their own passes. Deceased Keepers are branded with a key symbol, dressed in flowing white robes of fine linen, and interred beneath their temple during a commune by the leaders of the order -- all steps toward an easy final rest in a harsh land.


Coastal settlements in Estoria believe in honoring the sea and Charl when death comes. Bodies are wrapped in seaweed to keep evil spirits from interfering with souls' progression through the Ebon Gate, and then they are rowed out to sea by a designated family member and an acolyte of either Niima or Charl to be ceremoniously rolled into the ocean.

Given the storm-tossed nature of Estoria, this ritual is quite dangerous for the living in the small vessel, and if truth be told, many do not row out very far, especially in inclement weather. Because of this, it is customary to tie heavy anchors to the corpse before the seaweed wrapping, but if a body does make it back to the shore, a pyre is erected from driftwood.

The Estorian elite seek a final burial at the Temple of Green Waters, and for the right amount of coin, this request is honored. The body is washed in a sacred pool at the temple, weighted with ornate anchors, and twined in only the rarest types of kelp and seaweed. A high-ranking officiant at the Temple accompanies the body far out to sea, and the body is offered to Charl.

Offerings of fish, shells, and seawater are left on small mourning altars temporarily erected near the deceased's home, and family members hold small gatherings after the body has been given over to Charl.

Hendor: North and South

With their shared history as the Kingdom of Hendor, the roots of mourning and funeral customs for the earldoms of North and South Hendor are deeply intertwined.

While more traditional burial customs are the most common, pockets of the Hendors work in a variety of local superstitions, especially anything meant to protect them from the Ice Queen -- memory of the Witch Winter not waning over the years.

In the smaller villages throughout the earldoms, bodies are wrapped in white cloth to ward off the Ice Queen, and, if the family can afford it, a small drake dagger is placed in the deceased's hands to fight her, should she persist. And, of course, one cannot speak of Hendorian death rituals without mentioning the Celestial Cenobites. This small group believes the consumption of brains and other cannibalism leads to enlightenment on the Grandfather's true calling for them. As such, the deceased's remains are parceled out amongst the group and eaten. Inedible components are burned on an altar dedicated to Fash'lo'nae.

In the city of Nydds, juniper holds the superstition that cutting it down results in death within a year. Despite (or perhaps because of) this, judicious harvesting of juniper berries without harming the plants occurs regularly, typically to be used for gin production, but also for the unique Nydds spirit known as jenvyr, which plays a role in mourning throughout the earldoms. While not tied solely to one specific custom, jenvyr is the drink of choice when remembering the dead throughout North and South Hendor, with different areas having different preferences in flavorings and colors.

Many Hendorian Lornonites conduct what they call the Faceless Rites, a general honoring of the Lornon pantheon for the deceased. However, most areas frown upon open Lornon ceremonies; in Nydds that unwritten prohibition does not exist, so others may witness these rites. The corpse is wrapped in red linen and placed upon an altar or in a sacred area dedicated to the pantheon and open to the skies. An acolyte of the deceased's chosen Arkati performs a cleansing, and at midnight, mourners gather beneath the moons and offer up libations (often jenvyr dyed crimson) and sacrifices (typically symbolic in nature) to honor the deceased, the pantheon, and the moon itself.

On Jenvyr
While also known for their gin, Nydds creates another juniper-based spirit known as jenvyr (derived from the Kannalan term for juniper). At jenvyr's base is rye, maize, or malted barley, along with the strong juniper infusions that lend it its name. The distinctive flavor comes from a multi-distillation process of both the malt-wine components and the juniper spirits.

For funerary purposes, a simple jenvyr is used with very little embellishments or infusions, but outside of that, creativity abounds. Juniper remains a required botanical to be considered jenvyr, but distillers experiment with additions such as angelica, licorice, or coriander. Post-distillation, other flavorings may be added, providing a wide range of jenvyr styles to export.

One of Nydds' most coveted jenvyr styles is jenvyr-azure. Jenvyr is typically clear, but jenvyr-azure utilizes a less common juniper berry with such vibrant blue tones that it's said the color cannot be distilled out, leaving the spirit with its distinctive sky blue hue. Jenvyr-azure's strong juniper botanicals naturally carry a hint of citrus, and adding other botanicals or post-distillation flavorings are always done in a way to enhance this naturally unique flavor.


Despite being a barony of contrasts from its terrain to its people, Highmount maintains relative consistency in its mourning customs. Bodies may be cremated or buried, and it is customary to place statuary at the gravesite. These statues often come from Kragsfell artisans, and Highmount cemeteries are beautiful works of art. For those unable to afford statuary as a rule, their towns and villages will often supply something, and numerous artisans make several beautiful statues to donate each year as well.

Throughout the old-growth forests prevalent in Highmount are hundreds of menhirs and dolmens. With their origins lost to history, these unusual and manmade rock formations have taken on a mythological importance to many rural communities. For villages near a menhir or dolmen, local rituals have developed around them. When a person dies, in addition to any other death rites performed, the village as a whole parades out to the local menhir and marches about it, and local wines are poured upon the stones as an offering. If a dolmen is present, the body may be placed beneath the structure for a day and a night, as villagers believe it will improve a soul's chance at passing without issue through the Ebon Gate. When the body is moved, offerings of grain and ale are left to appease whatever the locals believe inhabits the area (this varies from place to place with some believing it is spirits of the dead, others believing that fey-like beings live beneath the formations, and still others believing they are ancient symbols of the Arkati).


Given Honneland's predilection towards honor and order, as evidenced by the import of chivalry and tourneys in their everyday life, it may come as no surprise that funerals tend to adhere to the generally accepted standards of the empire, so crypts and mausoleums are frequently seen for the wealthy. Most funerals have some measure of pomp and circumstance surrounding them, even if it's done on a budget, and the Church of Koar dominates the religious components.

Feasting and tournaments often follow funerals, especially amongst the elite, with poorer areas settling for an annual tournament in honor of the dead. Armbands in memory of a loved one, or someone important in the community, are worn. These armbands are typically black cloth stitched with symbols or scenes important to the deceased.

With remembrance being important, those closest to the deceased will frequently take locks of their loved one's hair and weave it into an intricate knotwork pattern which is then incorporated into jewelry. Silver brooches and lockets are the most common repositories for hair jewelry, but styles and trends change, and in the modern era, these pieces may be more elaborate.


Stay tuned for the third and final part coming later in 2023!

OOC Information

  • Created by GM Xynwen, March 2023
    • Part 2 (A-H), May 2023
  • Many thanks to the GMs who wrote all the human lore that include lots of tidbits I've pulled from to help craft this document
  • Material Availability:
    • Wyrsilk/Shadowsilk/Forest Silk: Requires alter fodder. If using the term "forest silk," remember the noun is silk
    • Darkwine: Imported from the Wyrdeep, so true darkwine may be rare to get
    • Merrywood: Requires alter fodder for all parts (wood, blossoms, leaves, etc). The wood cannot be dyed. The "inspect" material will be 'wood' if it is made out of merrywood.
    • Charl's-scale: Requires alter fodder