© Copyright 2008 - Wendy Belltolls - Used by permission
Storycodes: MF/f; ritual; buried; cons; X
Our village has always lived by the cycle of the forest, we rely on it for our food, our shelter, our materials, every aspect of our lives is provided by the spirit of the forest. And so it was that our religion developed around a respect and reverence for the forest, which is demonstrated most significantly in our Spring rituals.
We believe that to take from the forest, we must invest back, and to each year send one of our number to join the forest as a gift, or a delegate as you will. Each year someone is chosen, someone of good pure spirit who can represent us well, to be buried in the ground where their spirit will leave it's human form and be taken instead into a fresh sapling which will grow into a sacred tree, our gift to the forest.
This past year the chosen person was my sister, Candice. She was twenty-three years old and had always been an inspiration to all who knew her, she was kind, considerate and conscientious, the perfect spirit to join our representatives with the trees.
The preparations for the Spring rituals begin months in advance, the festivities that surround the affair are a focal point for many of the village's craftsmen, bakers and seamstresses and the chosen delegate is dressed, educated and generally prepared for their role. Despite the high status her role afforded her, Candice did not become arrogant, nor did she fear the prospect of being buried alive to allow her transmission from her human form, she carried her responsibility with the beautiful composed dignity for which she was loved.
The day of the ritual was a celebration of feasting, music and dancing, the climax of which came in the mid afternoon when Candice, in beautiful ceremonial costume, led the procession to the sacred area of the forest where our other representatives of previous years stood in their tree form, where she was to be buried in the ground to join them.
Our high priest helped her through the ceremonies, she made her official vows to do all she could for the partnership of the forest and our people, made a beautiful farewell speech and was helped down into the hole, which had already been prepared. There she laid back peacefully as the men of the village begin to shovel the earth on top of her. She smiled as the earth showered around her, filling up the hole, covering over her feet, dress and hair until only her face was still visible.
The workmen paused to allow her to mouth a final farewell and she closed her eyes to signify she was ready to be covered over completely. The earth was allowed to fall over her face and the hole was filled in, completing the burial.
The ceremony completed, the procession returned to the village where the celebrations continued late into the night.
Recently there has sprung up in that spot a small sapling. Its progress is checked regularly to ensure its survival, before long it will grow into a small tree. Candice, my sister and our representative, is growing into her role just as we always knew she would.