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The burial customs and practices of Tamriel are as vast and varied as the races that inhabit it.
Altmer or High Elves
Very little is known of the Altmer burial traditions, but what is known has been gathered from their treatment and opinions of other "lesser" races. Most High Elves look poorly on the Dunmer for their practice of cremation and think even less of the cannibalistic tendencies of their Bosmer cousins.
Rather than cremate their dead or bury them in the ground, the High Elves prefer to inter their dead at the top of large towers that are spread across the Summerset Isles.
One of the mass burial sites of the Altmer is the Crystal Tower. The Crystal Tower, also known as "Crystal-Like-Law," was built by the Aldmer and is considered sacred to the Altmer. The top of this tower was dedicated to the internment of their most honored dead.
"Woe to the unwary explorer who delves deep into the burial crypts of the ancient Nords, and disturbs the Draugr that dwell within."
— Loading Screen from Elder Scrolls: Skyrim
Not much is known of traditional Argonian burial. Environmental factors play a large role because the Black Marsh greatly accelerates decay rates and prevent many standard burial practices.
For a time, the Argonians were known to practice sea burials, but the practices of the Sload stopped this tradition.
Nords traditionally bury their dead in open-air tombs known as Halls of the Dead. Almost every Hold in Skyrim has a Hall of the Dead in its major city. It is here that they are dedicated to the god Arkay and tended to by His priests. Friends and family visit to pay their respects and leave offerings of flowers, gold, and other tokens of affection.
Frequently, the bodies of deceased Nordic warriors reanimate into creatures known as Dragur. While the exact origins of this reanimation are unknown, some believe that it may have something to do with their possible interaction of the Dragon Priests of long ago. They attack any living thing they see and can pose quite a danger in large numbers. When this happens, many family members regard it as their sworn duty to re-enter their tombs and kill their ancestors. However, the Nords don't view this practice as bothersome or disrespectful, but rather view it as putting their family back to rest and reuniting them with Sovengarde.
More ancient Nord dead are buried in vast burial tombs dotted throughout Skyrim's frozen tundra. Some of these tombs, such as Labyrinthian, were entire cities whose ruins are now dedicated as chambers of the dead.
Other Nords are buried in the ground, such as the vast and ancient graveyard that made Falkreath famous.
On Solstheim, the ancient Skaal Nords used to entomb their dead in traditional burial crypts encased in Stalhrim.
The burial practices of the Bretons are split geographically. Those who live in their native High Rock practice two distinct methods of funerary customs: cremation and traditional ground burial.
In the north, cremation is practiced almost exclusively and has a deep cultural tradition (Corpse). It also proves as a useful deterrent to the practice of Necromancy. In the south, however, Bretons prefer ground burial.
There is a noteworthy case of a Breton being turned into a Nordic-style Dragur, however, in the legend of Red Eagle. This transformation is due to his association with Hagravens in life.
Dragur are unique in that they are almost exclusively associated with the ancient Dragon Priests.
The Bosmer have a much more lax view of burial rituals than their Mer cousins.
While it isn't considered a ritual, the Bosmer are known for their cannibalistic nature under the guidance of the Green Pact.
The Redguards have a strong kinship with their ancestors and a deep reverence for their ancient Yokudan culture. They also purportedly have the strongest worship of Arkay of all the races of Tamriel, although this may not be true, as a large population of Redguards worship Tu'waccha, a distinct entity from Arkay (Corpse). What is known, though, is that the importance of burial rituals and last rites is important through Hammerfell and the greater Redguard culture.
The burial rituals of the Redguards, or Ra Gada, is divided in part by their two major political parties: the Forebears and the Crowns. The Forebears are the more progressive of the two and have allowed a certain level of assimilation with other cultures, adopting traditional underground burials. The Crowns on the other hand are staunch advocates of the old ways and entomb their dead.
The Asha'bah play an important role in many burial customs in Hammerfell. These are a nomadic tribe (presumably Crowns) that are seen as a pariah-- untouchable but neccessary. Redguards are forbidden to harm their honored dead, known as Ra-Netu, even when those dead rise from the grave. The Asha'bah are tasked with returning them to the afterlife.
The Forebears and other Redguards who live outside of their native Hammerfell have buried their dead underground in graveyards for generations, and have also been victims of the Sload's necromantic practices.
A Note on Necromancy
Necromancy is a widely debated practice throughout all of Tamriel. While only technically illegal in Morrowind, it is looked down upon universally in all cultures. Perhaps the most hated of the races, the Sloads, were famous for their skill in Necromancy.
More on Necromancy
All sources are from in-game books.
- Congonius, O., Br. (n.d.). Reverence of the Dead. Tu'whacca and Burial Rites in Contemporary Redguard Culture
- Corpse Preparation, Volume One. (n.d.).The Acquisition of the Corpse
© 2018 Dani Merrier