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The issue of death first requires one to define whose death. Even human death becomes somewhat problematical to define in a world wherein the soul, or identity (some define them as the same, some as separate) are discrete aspects of the human individual. For most death is simple: the destruction of the human body. Death is thus the transitional state between physical life and whatever happens after.

For anyone other than human, the answer is usually various forms of "Hmmmm..."

Death Customs

The Disappearance Spell "comes" like the Birth Spell--that is, if you find a body. But you cannot Disappear someone you killed, or were a part of killing. This even means, say, hiring a hit person to off someone, then going to the scene to Disappear the body so no one will find out.

After a battle, especially in the old days, it was expected by the surviving warriors that their commander would Disappear the dead. Mages can also be pressed into service. Many armies have a spell on their men so that anyone killed is automatically listed on sheets of paper by magic.[1]

Mourning custom varies from place to place, and over time. Generally speaking, people gather at a memorial, and for centuries a torch or candle has been passed over the dead, as symbolic burning. The Venn in their earlier history laid the dead in boats, which were set on fire and sent out to sea. (They also did this to the elderly, sometimes setting the boat aflame and sometimes not.) When the dead were burned, the ashes were buried in a garden. There are no cemeteries on the world, but there are memorials. These have taken different forms--paintings, mementos, statues, tapestries, etc. Some have memorial rooms or buildings or gardens set apart; if a garden, a rose bush or a tree would be placed in the soil to commemorate someone, and afterward the plant would have the name of the person. For someone of less importance (or poor) a garland or bough is hung in a memorial garden. Aristocrats in the south have generally had memorial galleries; at some point in the life of the person a painting is made, and after that person dies, the picture (or a favorite picture, generally at the height of their life) is placed in the gallery, the family gathering to commemorate the person.

Mourning custom varies. In the south, the longest lasting custom is a parade through the streets to a central site. All along the route who cared about the deceased would toss white petals. At the gathering place the Disappearance is performed after speakers commemorate the person. Generally, white is the color of mourning, though black has been worn when the death was violent and requires expiation.

As always, in Colend mourning custom could get very elaborate. Genuine grief and mourning are obvious because the person goes into seclusion. Evergreen boughs on doors and at windows (symbolizing the eternity of the soul, and or commemorating the memory of the deceased) are a signal that the person has withdrawn from social engagement, and often that means business engagement is also at and end. This can mean postponement of debt. There have been times when people expecting payment of debt send someone to watch the doors closely of a debtor.

During the mourning period, the family has to consolidate and or redistribute wealth, alter living space, etc. It's considered disrespectful to openly shovel out the old and display new proprietorship. When the family takes the boughs down and dresses in colors again, all the inheritance difficulties are completed. There have been times when the deepest mourning did not just signify intense grief, but intense greed--like when a vast fortune changes hands. That requires a lot more changes to material things. But many families wanted to imply more wealth than they had, so would go into deep mourning and sit around behind closed doors planning how to regain their fortunes!

Mourning clothing could vary by degree, from shrouding in white to a white or black ribbon or armband. Messengers bringing news of a death generally wear an armband, and it's considered very bad manners to halt them along the road. In some places a banded messenger even gets offered free room and board. Family or friends who wear mourning symbols are generally regarded as suspending courtships, or certain kinds of business.


  1. LJ.184750

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Page last modified on June 04, 2013, at 07:58 PM