Ephemera — Blue Tree Burial Ritual
????, Storm Season
An account of a burial of a horse herder and land holder, Heri daughter of Rathik, of the Blue Tree Clan of the Colymar Tribe, by her daughter Berra, as recorded in the annals of Battalion in Nochet.
Trans: Goldman, 1995
A follower of Humakt should strive to give no quarter to themselves when confronted with Death. Lay members are examined for suitability, and some of these examinations are recorded. Examined is Berra Jarang’s Daughter, of the Blue Tree Clan of Sartar. Present are the Questioning Hand, with Arlastha leading questioning.
~ Have you had this matter explained to you, to your satisfaction?
~ Yes, Lady
~ Have you any questions for the Hand, before you begin?
~ None that I have not already had answered.
~ Then begin.
~ My mother died in Storm Season, on a clear day. She was chased by broo, and ran from them over a cliff. dying by air and earth. Her body was retrieved by herders and an Ernaldan Initiate who healed it so it could be seen by her family. She had two brothers and one marriage-sister in the Clan, and the others of her kin were too far to summon. Her mother still lived at this time.
~ Preparation of her corpse began where she fell, with the Initate washing her and closing her eyes and mouth to the Middle World.
~ What is the purpose of this?
~ Lady, it is the usual… oh. It is done to assure the corpse it does not need to rise, and to send the spirit on its way, Lady.
~ Go on, Jarang’s Daughter.
~ The pyre was held after six days, for that was how long it took to gather all kin. Her brother Kened was at a festival, and needed to be summoned. If he had been two days later, he would have missed the pyre, for it must be started within seven days. There were no adult children, so it fell on him to light the pyre. If he had not been there, her brother Dannerb would have done it. In my clan, if there are no heirs, a thane will take that task. Nobody goes to the Spirit World without honour, if they are buried at home.
~ The pyre is at a sacred location, which I can’t name… which I may not name. I am forbidden. When my father died, my younger sister was passed over the smoke of the pyre for a final blessing from him, but I was considered too old. I don’t know how old is too old. This time, Yehna was ten, and I was almost grown.
Examined continues without hesitation. ~ My mother was dressed in her finest clothes, and loom weights were put into her hands. I don’t know why. They were tied in with nettle-cloth strips. Those aren’t grave goods. They just keep the hands closed. I don’t believe it was done for my father, but I don’t know.
~ To her clothes and her person, her jewellery was added. Not all of it. Much went to her kin and her clan friends. She had married a Redsmith and he had made much for her. Her favourite pieces were polished and oiled and put on her. She was liked in the clan, and some of her horse-mates who were not close kin added other items to her dress, but any item that was made to touch her skin was already hers. In our clan, if you are well regarded but poor, people will give you things to wear as votives for Ty Kora Tek, to make up for other things you might be lacking. People who knew her closely could put things onto her if they liked, but most chose to leave things to the flames.
~ Her marriage-sister Ami, wife of Dannerb, sang the songs to send the spirit away.
~ And the purpose of this?
~ To… send the spirit away. I mean, a bit more too, though. Let me think and I’ll answer that.
Questioning Hand is silent. Examined considers some time. ~ There was no dancing. It was a simple burial. When there is dancing, it’s to show deeds and how to behave, but singing tells what is happening and what is going to happen. There was a song about who she was, and an explanation of how the spirit should move on. It tells the living what to do, and it tells the dead. The spirit will be listening at that point, like in the Death Song of Egil Hardfist. That’s the song that is sung last, to warn people not to betray the dead, even if they plan it when the dead are listening to something else.
~ Then, once Ami had told us what was going to happen, we shared a meal with the pyre. My mother’s was on a wooden plate, and it was served at sunset, as the torch was put to the kindling. The meal is over when the wooden plate is dissolved in the flames, and the spirit leaves like a good guest, and goes onward on the journey. There’s a clay pot of food there as well, as a host gift for them to take away.
~ After that, the family will stay by the pyre, with friends, but many go off to sleep. That is when the family gives personal items, to the edge of the flame, so they keep a bit of this world with them as a memory. Ami gave her a glazed spindle weight that my mother always admired. I don’t know what Kened gave her. He did it privately, and he was crying. Dannerb gave her some of the corn they had been planning to share. Kymmia, my mother’s mother, cut off her hair and gave that to the flames, but I don’t know why. I think a mother doesn’t give things anyone else could give, but I didn’t ask.
~ I was not expected to give anything. I was a child. But I put in a cast spear head, blunt and with a Truth Rune through it, and my uncles knew I was vowing to be a warrior. After I was out of mourning, I started to do that.
~ The pyre burned for a day, ending at sunset. It was allowed to cool naturally and a smaller fire was kept at the head, for those who would find the bones. I was told by Kymmia that that was the last bridge between the Middle World and the Spirit Path, and a beacon to light the way down to the Court of Silence. It was an old Ernaldan who gathered the bones. She started at the skull, and went down, and sewed them into a horse hide caul. You can use cloth as well, but all of the horse-herders would use a hide. She put that into the urn on top of a thing I didn’t see. There are representative items you put in, like a tiny ploughshare, or a little bridle, to represent the hopes you have for where the spirit is going. All of the offerings that can be taken from the fire are put around the caul. A leaf of the Blue Tree is put in too. It used to be a seed, but the Tree hasn’t had any since the Lunars came.
~ The urn was capped and sealed with wax. Can I have some water?
~ Can you talk without?
~ Yes. Just give me a moment. My throat is dry.
Examined shows no emotion while pausing. ~ The wax had Earth and Fertility Runes in it, or they were on the lip of the vessel and the wax ran into them. I don’t know. The old woman tied the urn with thin ropes to be sure of the seal while it was buried, but they got taken away. It’s buried upside down, so the spirit can be reborn easily. If it were an Orlanthi spirit then there would be an Air Rune on the top of it once it was put there, and Air instead of Earth around the lip. It was buried by stick pickers, I think. They would have been careful not to break the wax when taking the ropes away. We mixed ash from the last bit of fire into the top of the earth.
~ After that, my mother’s kin ate no horse meat and drank no horse milk, for a season. Kened had a shaped beard, but he stopped trimming it. If he had wanted to make it shorter, he would have had to singe it. Ami covered her hair. We did not have to, because we were children. Children who need milk are allowed horse milk, but nobody else is.
~ Anything else to add?
~ Nothing I can think of, Lady. That is all the Truth I remember.
It is the opinion of Battalion that the Lay Member Berra is within the confines of this test found suitable for Initiation, based on clarity of recollection of Truth and calmness of understanding of Death. Let her proceed to further testing.