Funeral Rite

Immediately after death an eta will moisten the lips of the deceased with a mixture of salt and water. This is the ‘last food and drink,’ and it is intended to fortify the spirit of the dead for its journey into the next life. Next the eta will take the body to be washed and dressed in funeral clothes. The cleansed body is brought back to the bedroom to lie in state until the cremation ceremony, which is normally held four days after death.

Near the bed holding the body a small table will be set up. The table is covered with a white cloth and red ribbons, and displays a blank funeral tablet along with various talismans. All of these items are purified by a shugenja or monk. White paper lanterns and flower wreathes are hung throughout the house, and the doors of the family shrine will be shut and covered with white paper to protect it from being rendered impure by the presence of the corpse.

An honor guard of bushi will be appointed to keep watch over the body. This is a custom that originated in Crab lands, due to Tainted bodies’ unpleasant habit of reanimating, but over time it was adopted by the rest of the Empire. A chief mourner, usually a close family member, will also be appointed and it is his duty to make sure there is always someone in the room mourning the deceased. It is believed the spirit of the dead person lingers in the house for a few days after the death, and if it thinks it wasn’t sufficiently mourned it may stay and turn into a malevolent ghost.

On the day of the cremation the eta load the body onto an unpainted palanquin with white curtains and carry it to the pyre. After the family and the other mourners have gathered,a monk or shugenja will say the necessary prayers and the pyre will be lit. When the pyre has burned out and the ashes are cool the family will gather for a private ritual in which they pick the bones out of the ashes and place them in a funeral urn.

Special chopsticks are employed for this ritual. The family member closest to the deceased will pick the bones out of the ashes, transferring them to the next closest member, who passes them on down the line until the last family member present puts the bones in the urn. In addition, the bones are placed into the urn in a special sequence: legs, arms, hips, backbones, teeth, and finally skull.

The funerary urn is returned to the house and placed on the family altar for 35 days of additional mourning. During this time dishes of specially blessed salt are kept at the gate and doorways of the house so visitors may purify their hands and face before entering. When the period of mourning ends the urn is taken away for final burial. Depending on the wealth and status of the family, this may be a special burial plot, a family shrine, or a temple of Shinsei. In the Lion Clan, sufficiently well-regarded samurai have the honor of being buried in the great Hall of the Ancestors, where their name will be honored by generations of Lion samurai to come.

Funeral Rite

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