The Lore of Funerary Rites of the Tundra
March 22, 2011
Funerary Rites of the People of the Tundra
South of Glacier Falls and east of Tundra Head lies a lake that is perpetually frozen. This lake has earned the name the Lake of the Dead. As the only two long-lasting communities, Glacier Falls and Tundra Head are the most populated areas. Because of this, they have great cultural influence over the entire frozen region. Over the centuries, the people of these communities have evolved some unique funerary rites that were influenced by the frozen wasteland that they live in. Because of the density of population in these two centers, their rites have spread across all of the tundra, eventually reaching out to lone families that live solitary lives on the ice away from civilization.
Specifically how these strange funerary rites evolved is still a mystery, but you cannot ignore the influence that living in the frozen wasteland had on their decision making in this regard. The water of the Lake of the Dead is frozen year round, and is too thick to fish through. During what would be called summer in this frozen place, the top layers of the ice and remaining snow melt during the day and refreeze every night. This is almost a natural purification process for the lake, which creates ice free of bubbles and imperfections.
The people of the tundra carry their departed friends and family here, making the journey as if in pilgrimage. Special tools called “isoks” are used in a ceremony by the friends or family to scoop and chip out the ice to make a hole large enough for the deceased to lay with a foot extra depth over the body.
When the grave is chipped out, the body is laid in and any important trinkets or memorabilia are laid in as well. The chipped out ice is collected by the friends or family, and by one handful at a time over and over from each person who dug the grave, it is all melted with their body heat and allowed to drip into the hole. This process sometimes takes several hours or longer in the case of a large man. This may seem a trivial step to take, perhaps inspired by the grieving family as a way to grieve a little bit at a time symbolically until it is all gone from their hearts. And this may be the original purpose. The final result is something different entirely. By melting the ice into water one handful at a time, the people are causing the water to freeze in very small increments with no room for bubbles or imperfections. This creates a completely clear ice that covers the body, devoid of any imperfection large enough to be detected through regular means.
Over the centuries, this is what has given the Lake of the Dead its name. If you travel the lake in the tundra’s summer months when the blowing snow is melted away, the entire surface of the lake is a scene of sadness. Bodies of loved ones, carefully preserved for eternity, lie in gentle repose to be viewed as they were last remembered just a foot below the surface of the ice.
Other cultures view this as heathenish behavior, but the people of the tundra believe it is beautiful. Imagine being able to see your loved one as they were, not as your subconscious recreates them from memory. The ability to see them with the gifts you gave them to pass the ages of the afterlife away is a balm to the people of the tundra, and a way for them to never forget.