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"We're all going to die, manling. It's the manner of our going that counts."
Gotrek Gurnisson, slayer[7a]
Funeral by EthicallyChallenged

The following contains a list of beliefs and funerary customs practiced by the various races of the Warhammer World.

Beastmen

The Champion's Feast is a tradition held among Beastmen where, should their leader fall, the entire herd comes together to mourn his passage in a raucous feast with dancing and debauchery. If the fallen Champion was particularly famous, other Warherds may attend in his honour. The Champion's body is eaten by the most loyal followers, leaving the most tender and choicest bits for the eldest and the most-favoured advisors. If the new Champion was the old one's follower, he takes the heart to devour in one gulp, all to the roars of approval from the gathered host. The Beastmen believe a warrior’s essence is in his heart, and by devouring the heart of an old Champion, the wisdom and power passes on to his successor.[8a]

The Champion’s Feast is a great tradition among the herds, so they are careful to recover the body of fallen leaders. Should the body be utterly destroyed, or otherwise unrecoverable, it is viewed as a bad omen worthy enough to consult the Warherd's Bray-Shaman for guidance.[8a]

Dwarfs

Dwarf burial

A dead Dwarf being carried to his tomb by his clansmen

According to ancient lore, the earth gave birth to the Dwarfen race. In death, their bodies are returned to her embrace while the spirit journeys to the Halls of ancestors for all time. The priests of Gazul are held responsible for the special rites to perform before the final journey can begin.[4d]

Dwarfs who die of old age sense their stamina and strength fading, and know that their time is fast approaching. A priest of Gazul is thus summoned, and the dying Dwarf gives the priest the possessions that will be accompanied to his tomb. Then, the heirs of the dying Dwarf would assemble to witness the dying Dwarf's bequest - like the reading of a will among humans, except that it takes place before death. Once this task is completed, the Dwarf spends the remainder of the time with friends and family.[4d]

When death has come, the priest returns to take the body to the Temple of Gazul, where it lies in state for four days. There, the priest invokes the protection of Gazul over the body to ensure his safe arrival to the halls of the Ancestors. Similar to the rites used by the Priests of Morr, the rites also serves a dual purpose in protecting the body from being used in necromantic purposes. At the end of the four days, the clan's burial vaults is opened and the body is entombed. Once done, the priest of Gazul re-affixes the sealing rune to the vault to prevent any desecration until the next burial. Those Dwarfs that die in battle are given the same rites by an accompanying priest, but are not given the same amount of respect as those that die in the holds. Instead, they are buried honorably on the spot, with only the bodies of Kings, Runesmiths or Elders being returned home for burial.[4d]

Elves

Fate of the Body

Dark Elves

When a Dark Elf dies, his fellows seldom care for the empty shell he leaves behind. Weakness is despised in Naggaroth, and it is a rare individual whose death cannot be attributed in some way to a frailty of body or paucity of resolve.

Of course, there are exceptions. For all the Dark Elves' callous and hard bitten ways, bonds of genuine friendship and admiration do exist in Naggaroth (though the latter is often a wary acceptance of a rival's abilities). Such bonds are carefully concealed lest they be seen as weakness. They nevertheless ensure that some individuals are thought well enough of to earn eternal repose in an obsidian sepulchre, rather than suffer a brief and bloody tenure as fodder for Harpies and Cold Ones. Even bitter rivals may be accorded this honour. Nothing reinforces a Dark Elf's sense of superiority (and security) quite so much as knowing not only that his enemy has perished, but also where the body is buried, should he wish to view it. Even the Witch King is not immune to the lure of such reassurances; thus is the concourse approaching the Black Tower lined with mausolea containing the mouldering remains of those Dreadlords who thought to take Malekith's throne for themselves.[5a]

High Elves

As with all else in Ulthuan, the funerary traditions of High Elves are bound tight by millennia of precedent, protocol and, above all, seemliness. That said, the precise rituals vary greatly with different realms and families holding fast to different traditions.[2a]

In Lothern, it is customary to lay a great hero in a funerary ship, which is then set adrift upon the Sea of Dreams to meet whatever fate may claim it. In Caledor, bodies are put to the flame, in order to more quickly free the spirit within. In Tiranoc and Ellyrion, realms where the connection to the land is strongest felt, great stone sepulchres are sunk into the ground, with whole generations of families lad out in silent repose upon slabs of marble and serpentinite. The Elves of Cothique are of a more practical mind. Seeing the bodies of the slain as naught but empty vessels, they cast cadavers to the waves. Thus are Cothique's halls not only kept untainted by the dead, but the megaladons and Sea Dragons of the Cothiquan coast kept accustomed to a hunger for fresh meat. It is even said that in the heart of Avelorn there is a subterranean labyrinth of amber and jade. There, or so the legend tells, the empty shells that once belonged to Handmaidens of the Everqueens sit upon thrones of ivory, their silken robes adorned with enough gemstones to drive a mortal mad with avarice.[2a]

Yet such is the extreme lifespan of Elves that is it not always easy to determine when death has occurred. Some nobles lie in state for hundreds of years, their families convinced they have merely slipped into a long sleep, and will awaken in their own good time. Some Elven princesses have 'slept' for centuries, with fresh flowers -- and sometimes even suitors -- brought to their bedside each day by servants or relatives.[2a]

Wood Elves
Wood Elves Funeral by EthicallyChallenged

Wood Elf funeral as depicted in Total War: Warhammer

When a Wood Elf dies, their body is returned to the forest. Thus does their passing nurture the trees that have nurtured them every day of their life. The precise manner by which this is achieved varies from family to family and kindred to kindred. Some burn their fallen kin on great pyres, echoing the rite that ends Orion's time in the waking world. Others bury their dead deep in the ground, where the hungry roots of the trees can easily draw nourishment from the mouldering remains.[1a]

Such traditions are important to the Wood Elves, and form a key part of their pact with the forest. If an Elf is slain in distant lands, they are brought home to Athel Loren, even though thousands of leagues might lie in between. If this is impossible, as is often the case during times of war, Treemen and Dryads are bidden to feast upon the corpse, so they at least may gain from the tragedy. Such practices are abhorrent to the Elves of other lands, but to the Wood Elves they are simply another aspect of the Weave.[1a]

Fate of the Spirit

Ever since the coming of Chaos, Slaanesh has feasted on the spirits of Elven dead, for no other race possesses souls so sweet and filled with sensation. Alas, few Elven deities can offer salvation, for the Chaos Gods broke the power of the Elven Pantheon long ago. Those few that can still intercede are either unreliable, or else offer an outcome scarcely less dire.[1b] Indeed, to hungry gods, Elven spirit-stuff is the most delectable of all prizes. Slaanesh is rapacious in all his appetites but thirsts for Elven souls beyond all others. Those few that escape his maw must then evade the grasp of Ereth Khial, the Pale Queen. Such fates are truly worse than death, ending either in total obliteration of the soul, or torment without end.[2b]

Dark Elves

The Dark Elves have no such defence against the Dark Prince. They are more than capable of devising one, but refuse to surrender their being to such a high-life of dulled senses and diminished sensation. The knowledge that naught but oblivion awaits in the end only spurs the Naggarothi to a wilder and more callous existence, for they believe a life lived without limitations or censure is their only compensation.[5b]

This is not to say that all Dark Elf souls meet their end as ambrosia for thirsting Slaanesh. A few are delivered by the intercession of other gods. Ereth Khial is always eager to acquire Elves to slave for her in the Underworld, and sends her winged servants to steal souls whilst the Dark Prince's attentions are elsewhere. Other damned souls are occasionally rescued by Loec, the Trickster, who engages Slaanesh in contests of chance, and then cheats to seize the prize. Such interventions are rare, but frequent enough to kindle some hope of salvation.[5b]

High Elves

To guard against such fates, all High Elves are spiritually bound to the waystones of their ancestral lands. From the moment of binding onwards, each Elf feels a powerful connection to the land upon which his waystone rests, though he may spend a lifetime wandering other lands. Many High Elves carry wayshards, small gemstones attuned to the network of waystones that allow their bearers to 'feel' the position of individual stones, and thus navigate the world.[2b]

When an Elf dies, his soul is drawn to his bound waystone, and becomes part of the ritual that sustains the Great Vortex. In this way, the folk of Ulthuan continue to protect, in death, the world they defended in life. It is even said that, at midnight, the hills and fields about a waystone tremble to the gallop of invisible hooves and ring with the din of a battle that lies beyond mortal sight.[2b]

Thus is the loss of even a single waystone a terrible tragedy. Not only does its fall diminish the magics of the Great Vortex, but with its destruction, the spirits within lose their anchor, and are left defenseless before the gaze of predatory gods.[2b]

Wood Elves

To avoid this terrible fate, the Wood Elves make a pact with Athel Loren that extends far beyond their mortal bodies. When a Wood Elf perishes, the forest he has tended for so long absorbs his spirit and keeps it safe from thirsting Slaanesh. The final result of this transubstantiation can vary wildly. Most souls immediately lose all sense of identity, and meld with the forest. Some spirits wander the paths they walked in life, hidden from the gaze of all but the most magically attuned, carrying messages and warnings to those who can hear their words. Others, driven by undying need to protect their woodland home, take root in deadwood hulks, animating the barren timbers into the battle-forms known as Tree Kin. Some Elves even believe that they have encountered loved ones reborn in the form of wild animals or as mischievous spite-creatures that flit between the boughs.[1b]

Such things might seem unlikely to outsiders, but there is little that is impossible beneath the eaves of Athel Loren. In this way, every grove and hall in the forest is overlaid with echoes of past, present and future, and home to both the living and the dead.[1b]

Mankind

The Empire

Innumerable traditions surround death in the Empire. From copper for the diggers to rum for the widow, there are rites and celebrations that vary from place to place, village to village. Generally speaking, all will want their body to be buried in a Garden of Morr, for his priests regularly honour the dead, whilst guarding against necromancers, accidental ploughing, and all the other calamities that might befall a corpse. For two shillings a person may be prepared and buried in an adequate grave. More money sees better positioning and rites for the departed. Some folk specify that a High Priest must guide their souls to Morr's Realm—and this service does not come cheaply.[3a]

Morr is said to guard The Portal, a gateway between the mortal world and the realm of the the gods. From there, souls enter the afterlife of a particular deity.[7a]

Kislev

Kislevite funerals are unusual in that they are almost never held for people who are actually dead. Instead, funerals are held for people who might as well be dead, given the risks they are about to face, including all members of a village's rota, as well as all women who aim to bear children. Thus, a boy's funeral is held immediately after he joins the warrior band, while a girl's is held immediately after her wedding.[6a]

A pyre is built in a public place and solemnly lit by the person (or persons) whose funeral it is. The relatives then begin mourning his death, as the "dead" person casts a symbolic childhood possession into the flames. After the mourning dirges—which vary from village to village—have been sung, everyone gathers in a circle to tell stories of the "dead" person's devotion to duty. The "dead" person stays outside the circle, moving to stand or sit behind whoever is currently speaking. These stories are an opportunity to tell the "dead" person what is expected of them in their new life and are often traditional tales of heroes or mothers with the appropriate name substituted.[6a]

Occasionally, someone dies before they have their funeral. In these cases, the corpse is dressed up and moved around by relatives, so it can play its normal role in the proceedings. Foreigners find this even creepier than a normal Kislevite funeral. Given Kislev's northern location, corpses are occasionally not as quiet as they should be, which is one reason why funerals are held around a pyre; if the corpse gets frisky, strong men throw it into the flames.[6a]

If there is no body, there can be no funeral, so the person in question is not regarded as formally dead. Such a situation is rarely a problem, however, as the transition to adulthood is, in most cases, marked by a funeral. In lands distant from Kislev, distorted reports of this custom have given rise to the rumour that Kislev is plagued by hordes of the Undead.[6a][6b]

But even in Kislev, people do actually die. Warriors are generally strapped to their horses and sent out into the oblast; although, depending on the cause of death, the corpse may be burned. If the horse also died, the warrior may be burned sitting on his horse. Non-warriors are almost always burned, but no one formally acknowledges what is going on. Informally, friends and family grieve and comfort one another, but officially, the village is merely disposing of some waste. Foreigners sometimes form the impression that Kislevites are callous. Such is not the case; they have simply already said their goodbyes.[6b]

Pre-imperial human tribes

In the time before the Empire, human warlords and kings were buried in large barrow-tombs. Similar to the kings of Nehekhara, they were lain out in their full wargear and panoply, protected by ancient runes and talismans conducted by the earliest forms of wizards or shamans to aid in warding off potential grave robbers and scavengers from desecrating their resting places.[9a] In modern times, most of these tombs have been defiled by Necromancers and their inhabitants been raised as Wight Kings.

While most of these funerary practices are forgotten and no longer conducted, isolated barbarian tribes in the Vaults still continue their old traditions.[9a]

Gallery

Source

  • 1: Warhammer Armies: Wood Elves (8th Edition)
    • 1a: pg. 21
    • 1b: pg. 26
  • 2: Warhammer Armies: High Elves (8th Edition)
    • 2a: pg. 24
    • 2b: pg. 26
  • 3: Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd Edition -- Core
    • 3a: pg. 173
  • 4: Dwarfs: Stone and Steel (Fantasy Roleplay Supplement)
    • 4a: pg. 12 - 13
  • 5: Warhammer Armies: Dark Elves (8th Edition)
    • 5a: pg. 22
    • 5b: pg. 25
  • 6: Warhammer Fantasy RPG 2nd ED -- Realm of the Ice Queen
    • 6a: pg. 49
    • 6b: pg. 50
  • 7: Warhammer Fantasy RPG 4th ED -- Core Rulebook
    • 7a: pg. 206
  • 8: Warhammer Fantasy RPG 2nd ED -- Tome of Corruption
    • 8a: pg. 107
  • 9: Warhammer Armies: Vampire Count (8th Edition)
    • 9a: pg. 29

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