Druid Funerals: A Piece of Y’ffre

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Author (in-game): Alleneth of Elden Root

When I first heard of the druids who reside on the Systres isles, I felt compelled to meet them. I know that plenty of other people across Tamriel prefer living among the trees as we do. But something in the stories I heard of druidic ways stuck with me. I’d felt disconnected from Y’ffre recently. Perhaps, I thought, a new perspective would help me find a path back to his embrace.

Traveling to Galen was simple enough. Finding the druids was the challenge. Eventually an innkeeper helped me meet Tyla, a member of the Stonelore Circle. She was kind to me from the start. Maybe she could tell I was far from home and very uncomfortable.

I offered what little coin I had with the hope she would agree to show me around, maybe talk to me about her people. She laughed in response, not unkindly. Gold wasn’t useful to her. But she agreed to introduce me to others from her circle.

As we entered Tyla’s village, a large gathering caught my attention. They stood in a series of rings around something I couldn’t quite see. The inner ring consisted of only five people. The ring around that, maybe eleven or so. The outside ring contained more. A ritual was taking place, and I expressed concern to Tyla that I’d come at a bad time.

She smiled warmly and shook her head. An elder had died and this was his funeral, Tyla explained. Natural causes, nothing tragic. Though she would miss the man, life walks hand-in-hand with death. A familiar sentiment.

I asked if I could attend the funeral. Tyla appeared concerned, maybe even nervous. She knew enough of life beyond Galen to realize that some druidic rituals could make outsiders uncomfortable. I may have smirked slightly on reflex. Wood Elves are quite familiar with traditions others find distasteful, I explained. She would receive no judgment from me.

As we approached the gathering, I heard low, wordless humming. Several tones overlapped, floating through the rings of people. It sounded like wind that grows and fades in strength as it blows through the forest.

At the center, the dead druid lay on a stone slab, naked, but covered in fresh branches and flower petals. I’m embarrassed that I took offense at first. They had stripped living greenery from where it grew. But I chastised myself—I’d come to learn the ways of others, not admonish them with my beliefs. Plus, I promised Tyla I’d make no judgments.

A woman named Rhedyn stood and addressed the group. She spoke in a language I didn’t understand, so Tyla generously translated for me. I didn’t want to be rude and write down the words in my journal, so here’s my rough memory of what Rhedyn said:

“It is a fine thing to die. To die means that we once lived. The end reminds us that there is always a beginning.

“The Singer saw fit to bless us with the same breath that flows across the world. For him to withdraw that breath is yet another blessing.

“We all know the way of this world. Life becomes life becomes life. And, so, we honor Emyr by taking his death and returning it to life.”

Or something like that. Rhedyn’s voice had a kind of certitude. She knew that this is just the way things are.

I watched as the members of the inner ring drew knives from their robes. One by one, they cut off a piece of the dead body. The first woman took an eye. The next man took an ear. After him, a child took a toe. She grinned impishly to another adult who returned the smile. Clearly some private joke between them that I sensed was in memory of the dead.

The ritual continued on until the inner ring completed. Then the next ring of people began the process of selecting pieces to remove. I felt uncomfortable watching; it was so intensely intimate. The choice of what to remove from the dead man’s body clearly meant something to each person. I was spying on very private decisions.

Once again, Tyla grew concerned for me. She took my arm and led me away so we could talk.

After a moment, she asked if I was familiar with the purpose of stem cuttings for garden plants. I gave a brief explanation for why I wasn’t. She explained that it’s a method of spreading a plant across many gardens. A person can take a cut of a plant then place it into new soil. If done properly, the cutting will root and grow into new life.

It’s the same with the circle’s dead, she told me. Starting with those closest to the person, each selects a part that represents something personal. They remove the part and are free to do with it what they will. Some will place it outside on a plate for animals to eat. Others might bury their piece in the ground near a tree. She suspected that the child would likely dry the toe and wear it as a pendant.

In each case, the piece returns to the living. The animal gets fed, the tree gets nurtured, and the child will laugh and play in the forest while carrying the memory of her grandfather. That last one is less common, she admitted.

Nonetheless, every member of the circle chooses for themselves how to reintroduce the dead back to the natural cycle. Each person knows in their heart the path to the Singer..

I’ve thought on that wisdom for a long time since. What piece of myself would I give to Y’ffre? Perhaps, my life’s goal is to make every part worthy of his acceptance.

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