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High Hallows of Minas Anor

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Tomb of Elessar

Gondorian burial customs


Wealthy Gondorians kept to Dúnadan custom of above ground burials. The old cemeteries of Pelargir were surrounded with brick walls and catacombed with vaults for families of modest means. Because of the lack of natural stone, tombs were made of brick. When death occurred, the body was laid out and waked. A guardian was named to keep the corpse safe from any looters and defilers. The guard standed a post of honor at the body, wherever it might lie, until the embalmers claimed it. In times of peace, a close friend, brother or sister usually served as guardian.

The Cleaning and Embalming of the Body was carried out in accordance of ancient Númenórean traditions. The art of embalming was a respected profession among the Dúnedain and painstakingly sustained. The people of Gondor took the notion of enduring most seriously - if Death was Eru's gift to the mortal spirit, then so shall mortal flesh endure it. The Embalmer's Guild of Osgiliath had representatives all over the kingdom. When Osgiliath was later abandoned after the Plague, Embalmer's Guild moved to Minas Anor. In case of more primitive circumstances or instances when desecration of the body was feared, some Gondorians choose the cremate their dead; but this was considered a pagan act and not honourable for a Dúnadan.

Gondorians considered it absolutely necessary for the living to have a chance to say farewell to their friends. Likewise, paying tribute to the deceased and his or her family was a mark of respect. Lying in state could take several weeks to allow the friends and relatives to receive word and travel to the location of the funeral. Thus again the important role of the embalmer comes into play. Such times also allowed, as shallow as it might seem, old acquaintances to be renewed and new bargains and deals and rumors to be struck and exchanged, particularly among the most powerful Gondorian families.

Before the Ceremony of Departure, the floors were scrubbed with yellow ochre powder in water. The family was expected to be dressed in black, including little children three and over. The wife was in deep mourning for a year and had to wear black, after that she could wear grey and white. Once the mourners had assembled and paid their respects, a family member lead a simple ceremony marking the departure of the deceased to partake of Eru's gift. Usually, this was the closest male relative - a husband, father, elder brother or perhaps a commanding officer - who began by recounting the life and death of the deceased. Others who wished to speak briefly on the life of the departed were also welcome to make presentation. Noteworthy deeds were mentioned, and though no one was discouraged from displaying their feelings, it was more a time for tales of honor and glory than wailing and misery. Many Gondorians wrote epigrams for such occasions. Most praised funeral poet was Kalimac Ainaril of Osgiliath (1182-1296), whose works Epitaphs (1233), Remembrance of Akâllabêth (1253) and Lamentation to Narmacil (1294) earned widespread acclaim.

On Airilatailë (12. Hithui) the graves were decorated with white flowers such as alfirin (simbelmynë) or white crysanthemum. Coxcomb was used by the poor. In rural sections were daenic traditions still prevailed, local laymen would light blessed candles on graves and perform their ancient rites for the souls of the dead. Some family members would spend the night by the family tomb replacing the candles as they burn out. Faithful Dúnedain waked in absolute silence, to revere their deceased ancestors and the Downfall of Númenor.



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