The Funeral Rites of Taungs and later Mandalorian Warriors
 
Since the turn of October and November is (at least in Poland) related to commemorating the dead & visiting cemeteries, here is a special meta about Funeral Rites of forefathers of Mandalorians (Taungs) and current Mandalorian societies.

Unfortunately, there is a negligible amount of sources, but I managed to find examples from the ancient to modern times.

I.

Starting from the oldest chronologically example, we have to go back in time to 200.000 BBY, to time of Battle of Great Zhell. The main source of the war between Taungs and Battalions of Zhells is an ancient epic poem known as Dha Werda Verda. It’s hard to tell if text was written around time of battle, or some ages later, but historians agree the poem is older than Mandalorian war chant known also as “Rage of the Shadow Warriors”.

The ninth chapter states:

“And so upon his funeral pyre burned the Doom of Ulmarah, and the warrior bands stood as ragged bandits, in zigzag lines of mourning.”


The body of Doom of Ulmarah - describes as mighty and noble by Hu Jibwe, a scholar of military history at the Salmagodro Grand Academy - was buried on funeral pyre while warriors mourned his death. It’s hard to tell, if funeral pyre was a common practice or reserved just for important warriors. There is no further information what happened with the ashes either; did Taungs put them in some type of urn and buried somewhere or let the wind to blow up the ashes around the area or have different post-cremation type of funeral rites? Hard to tell.

The same epic poem gives clue that ancient Taungs were familiar with idea of grave goods, since the narrator wondered / thought that their “once-bright armaments would become stacked grave goods, trophies for Zhell children”

(Sources: The Essential Guide to Warfare, Author’s Cut: Ancient Coruscant)


II.

The next mention of funeral rites comes from one of The Essential Guide to Warfare: Author’s Cuts:

“When enthusiasts stage recreations of the battle they tend to use replica great axes and swords known from the excavation of Taung burial sites on Roon,” he says. “But by the time the Taungs reached Roon these were ritual objects — species capable of traveling through hyperspace don’t still rely on edged weapons. Nor do you find such weapons still used by societies as sophisticated as the Zhell nations. It’s as if you staged a recreation of the Siege of Ramsir with the Imperial Army limited to parade sabers.”


Roon was one of planets inhabited for longer time by Taungs after they fled from Notron (Coruscant). From there, around 7000 BBY, led by Mandalore the First, they discovered and settled for good on Mandalore.

On Roon were found and excavate Taung burial sites - the plural form suggest more organized form of burials, maybe even whole graveyard. What makes sense, if they settled here for millennia, like Galaxy at War claims. Once again, there is little information what kind of the remains of the dead were found (skeletons, ashes, mixed form?) or how exactly they were buried. We know only that Taungs buried their dead with weapons like axes or swords, most likely as sort of grave goods.

(Sources; Galaxy at War, The Essential Atlas, The Essential Guide to Warfare: Author’s Cuts)


III.

During Mandalorian Wars [Knights of the Old Republic comics series], “Rohlan” said:

There are two kinds of Mandalorian Warriors, Jarael. The ones who figure out how to use their medkits — and the ones we bury.

It’s only indirect mention of funeral rites of course, and who knows, it may be just figures of speech. But looking how Mandalorian Wars took place on the broad war arena, the warriors may not be capable of taking care of all dead bodies in traditional way (pyre). Or this little passage may just means that Mandalorians had various funeral rites.

(Source: Knights of the Old Republic: Nights of Anger)


IV.

After Mandalorian Wars, Taungs became extinct race, but their ways - the foundations of Mandalorian culture - were passed to human and aliens adopted into warrior clans.

When Revan and Canderous joined Ordo clan in search of Mandalore’s Mask, the Mandalorians were forced to fight against another clan. After the battle, the situation looked that:

Clan Ordo’s victory celebrations continued late into the night. Six members of the clan, four men and two women, had died in the battle, a quarter of the casualties they had inflicted on Clan Jendri.

Veela had ordered all thirty bodies to be gathered together into a massive funeral pyre. Revan understood this mixing of friend and foe: they were all Mandalorians who had died in battle. By custom they were all due a warrior’s funeral, regardless of which clan they had been fighting for. The pyre burned for hours, the flames lighting the night and warming the camp as the brothers and sisters of the fallen recounted tales of their bravery. They honored their memories through song and feast, simultaneously grieving their deaths and celebrating the resounding Ordo victory.

[The Old Republic: Revan, chapter 13]


In the short passage we learn that all fallen Mandalorians - regardless of which clan they belonged - were gathered together into one, massive funeral pyre. Since all of them fell in battle, by Mandalorian custom, they were given warrior’s funeral. This of course raises a questions like did Mandalorians have different type of funeral rites for warriors and no-warriors? Or for warriors that didn’t die in battle, but let say, from old age or disease or lack of the ability to use a medkit?

Once again, there is little information beyond that (human) Mandalorians made a funeral pyre for fallen in battle brothers & sisters and mourned them while their bodies burned. Burning the corpses seems to be a continuation of an older culture of Taungs.

(Source: The Old Republic: Revan)


V.

The Old Republic game takes place in realities of galaxy ages after Great Sith War & Mandalorian Wars. From it we learn about Mandalorian Death Ceremony:

The Mandalorian Death Ceremony - kote ky'ram or “glory death” - is reserved for those who died with the highest honor. Traditionally, only warriors who have fallen to Jedi or faced impossible odds are awarded the kote kyr’am.

To ensure the warrior’s spirit can join those of other Mandalorian paragons, the body is burned on an elevated pyre. Clan members send shouts into the sky, bellowing war cries and retalling feats. The night becomes a celebration of drunken feasting and brawling in honor of the dead.

The only non-Mandalorian to receive the kote ky’am was Lord Raze, a Sith warrior who fell while singlehandedly rescuing a Mandalorian clan from a battalion of twenty Jedi on Dantooine. The clan was so moved by her skill and fearlessness, they broke tradition and honored her as a fallen sister. No outsider has received such a distinction since.


This time the source is clear that Mandalorians have a special ceremony reserved only for outstanding warriors, who either die in fight against Jedi or faced impossible odds. What seems to be more about bravery of warrior than his/her/their accomplishment itself. This funeral ritual is reserved only for Mandalorians, with one exception of Lord Raze, a Sith warrior who saved one of Mandalorian clans fighting against battalion of twenty Jedi.

Once again, the body of dead is buried on pyre, albeit this time the pyre is elevated. We don’t know what happens with the ashes later, or if weapon or other goods were put on pyre with the body.

What happened to Doom of Ulmarah’s remains mentioned in epic poem could be precursor of Kote Kyr’am ritual, or the ritual could come into being much later, when Taung were forced to travel through the galaxy or renamed themselves as Mandalorians. Kote Kyr’am does not negates the possibility of cremation as a common funeral rite of Taungs and later Mandalorian. Frankly, looking at examples from TOR: Revan & TOR game, the mourning of dead warrior, and retelling stories of his/her/their bravery is part of ceremony, no matter how great a fallen warrior was.

(Source: The Old Republic game (screenshoot here))


VI.

After Taung warriors passed away, human & some alien species became new brand of Mandalorians. Unfortunately, the new mandalorian society changed, split into smaller branch - some kept old traditions, some became bandits & bounty hunters more focused at getting good paid or thrill of hunt, some slowly changed into more pacifist groups. Modern Mandalorian Funeral Rites most likely evolved too.

Mandalorian: People and Culture states:



From article we can learn:

  • burial is unusual practice, with exception of burial for Mandalore(s) and other nationally important people

  • Mandalorians, as nomads, aren’t supposed to have a cemeteries (arguable information, since Taungs most likely have some sort of cemetery on Roon, but this practice may changed over the ages)

  • communities cremate their dead and scatter the ashes and keep one of deceased’s possession as memorial. The armor is the most popular - and value - thing to keep and use after someone’s death. The cremating is possible only If the body can be retrieve. In case when body can’t be taken, leaving it behind is fully acceptable and understable. Mandalorians are pragmatic people above sentimental.


In short, the article confirms a diverse funeral rites, whose form depends on the importance of the deceased person for the community. Somehow through the ages, Mandalorians decided to bury their leaders and other influential people instead of cremating them, like they did in previous eras. We may only wonder when and why Kote Kyr’am ritual lost its significance. The fact that Mandalorians aren’t nomads in the way the Taung once were may be part of the reasons for such cultural changes.

(Source: Mandalorians: People and Culture [Star Wars Insider 86])


VII.

Now, time for examples from modern times.

In the quiet night air, it was easy to follow the sound of a shovel biting into the soil with that familiar metallic chinking sound. Fi and Atin-totally silent-were hacking away in a clearing fringed by small bushes, somewhere that roots would be less of a problem. Darman paused to look at the two bodies and joined in the digging by the faint, shielded light of a glow rod laid on the ground.

Two meters was deeper than it sounded. The three of them eventually stopped to stare down into the pit.

“Should we have dug two graves?” Atin asked.

“Sergeant Kal said that Mando'ade use communal graves if they bury at all.” Darman racked his brain, trying to remember what else Skirata had taught them about disposing of fallen comrades. He didn’t care about what the book said about concealing signs they’d ever been there. This was about respect for men who were one simple designation prefix away from being him. “And no soldier wants to be separated from his brothers.”

[Republic Commando: True Colors]


Clone troopers knowledge about Mandalorian culture was limited only to their personal contact with Mandalorian warriors who trained them before Clone Wars. Some, like Kal Skirata, passed down knowledge about “proper” funeral rites, like in example above.

Once again the sources agree that Mandalorian use communal graves, if they bury dead at all, albeit cremation is not mentioned.

(Sources: Republic Commando: True Colors)

VIII.

In previous part, the sources established at least two type of funeral rites - cremation and (skeleton(?)) burial. What I think should be taken into account too, is access to materials by individual person. Mandalorian clans differ from each other, and so their living conditions. Those to some degree shapes people’s approach to religious / spiritual matters, like type of burial.

For example, young Boba Fett wasn’t capable of giving “proper” Mandalorian burial to his father. Orphaned boy left alone on Geonosis has limited access to relevant materials and tools:

The scoop made its dump and headed back into the stalagmite city, through an underground passage. Boba dragged his father’s body off the scrap pile and onto the rocky mesa.

The mesa seemed a better resting place. More peaceful, and certainly more beautiful.

Boba removed his father’s battle armor and set it aside. He took one last look at the strong arms and legs that had protected him. Then, using a broken droid arm for a shovel, Boba buried his father in a sandy grave overlooking the desert.

The broken droid arm made a “J,” and Boba found another that he bent to make an “F.” He arranged them on top of the grave.

Jango Fett. Gone but not forgotten.

[Boba Fett: The Fight To Survive]


There is question, how much Jango taught his son customs of Mandalorian culture? From the book itself, it’s clear that Boba thought that taking care of his father’s remains was his duty (“Boba knew what he had to do. He was not like the clones. He was Jango Fett’s real son. It was his job to take care of his father’s body”).But did he knew that Jango, as an important figure to Mandalorian society, should be buried or did he chose this way as only form he could afford at that time?

Lately Jango’s own status as mandalorian warrior is erased from “canon”, but back in the days of 2002, the tie-in material of Attack of the Clones, like Jango Fett: Open Seasons & Episode II Visual Guide firmy states that Jango Fett was adopted and raised by the legendary Mandalorian warrior army. It is logical then to assume that at least some Mandalorian ideology (faith) was passed down to young Boba. To support that, Episode II Visual Guide states:



The original question is does Boba, who knew since childhood that bounty hunter job is dangerous one, was taught the importance (or lack of therefor) of funeral rites in Mandalorian society. Are all Mandalorian taught that since childhood? Most likely yes.

(Source: Boba Fett: The Fight To Survive)

IX.

Since Jango’s grave is already part of analysis, here is another example, this time from much later events (post-Yuuzhan Vong’s invasion era)

He secured Slave I, out of habit rather than mistrust of his own people, and took the speeder bike up to the woodland where he’d re-buried his father’s remains after exhuming them on Geonosis.

Ailyn was laid to rest there, too, but Mirta was clearly still uneasy about not returning her to Kiffu. She seemed to see the interment as a temporary stopover. He’d marked the graves with simple stones because it mattered to him to be able to find them again, although he had never been one for visiting graves.

Not even yours, Dad.

Now he was going to put that right. He had no excuse. He wasn’t a galaxy away.

All the times I’ve traveled from world to world, all the light-years I’ve covered, and I never called in at Geonosis to pay my respects.

Fett grasped briefly at an excuse in his Mandalorian roots. Beviin had always told him it was the armor that mattered to Mandalorians, not the decayed shell abandoned by the spirit. I did that, didn’t I? I recovered my Dad’s armor and left his body. I did that much, at least.

Nomadic mercenaries couldn’t have cemeteries, and they couldn’t carry corpses with them. It was probably based on pragmatism, but Mandalorians-with few exceptions, like the Mandalores-still didn’t have elaborate shrines and graves even here.

[Legacy of the Force: Sacrific]


Even though Mandalorian people fundamentally do not care much for resting place of their deceased and most likely do not visit graves too often - taking armor was more important than taking care of dead body - yet old Boba Fett had re-buried his father’s remains on Mandalore after exhuming them on Geonosis. Interestingly, Mandalore IS NOT home planet of Jango, but Concord Dawn. It may be related to Boba’s own difficult relationship with Concord Dawn, a planet on which he married Sintas and later from where was exiled - or maybe, he thought as a former Mandalorian leader, Jango should be buried on Mandalore, as symbolic place for his status.

Nomadic mercenaries may not have cemeteries, yet a lot Mandalorians settled down on various planets. We can only wonder, what kind of funeral rites have society of New Mandalorians or all those mandalorian smaller communities scattered throughout the galaxy. Because Mandalorians aren’t nomadic in a way the Taungs were and though many Mandalorians work as mercenaries & bounty hunters, we know that clans have their strongholds or hidden bases in which they are living and working for longer period of time.

Still, the graves of Mandalore or any well-deserved person are build in simply way, without any rich nor complicated design.

(Source: Legacy of the Force: Sacrifice)


X.

The next example to talk about is so called Fenn Shysa’s memorial.

The weathered helmet of Fenn Shysa still stood on a granite column in the clearing, firmly secured by a durasteel peg.

Only animals or storms would have dislodged it; nobody would have thought of stealing the relic of a much-loved Mandalore. It had even survived the Yuuzhan Vong’s attempt to devastate the planet. Shysa was revered.

“Been a long time, Shysa.” Boba Fett didn’t make a habit of talking to dead men, except his father. It was the first time he’d visited the site. “You got your way.”

The helmet had once been vivid green with a red T-section, but the paint had dulled to browner tones, and the scrapes and dents of battle were more visible. The memorial was a substitute for a proper Mandalore’s grave; Shysa’s body was still in the Quence sector where Fett had left it. The helmet was all he’d brought back. It was an apt memorial for a populist leader, to be commemorated in the same way as any ordinary Mandalorian. Only the Mand'alor, the head of state of a stateless people, was buried. Their nomadic warrior culture had no tradition of orderly cemeteries.

Where will they bury me? If I have any say in it, when the end really comes, I’ll just set Slave I on autopilot for the Outer Rim, and keep going.

[Legacy of the Force:Revelation]


Shysa’s body was left behind in the Quence sector and never retrieved. Instead of proper burial, there was just memorial build in his memory on Mandalore. Boba Fett brought with himself only Fenn’s helm that became part of the memorial. Mandalorian may not visit graves much, but no one would take away the cultural and/or historical relic away - even though Fenn died decades ago and the place itself wasn’t guarded. Mandalorians may not care where the deceased people will lie but they do not disrespect - actual or symbolic - graves.

Frankly, chakaar, one of Mandalorian insult means (along other things) grave robber. So, maybe even pragmatic people like Mandalorians do not like those who rob the dead.

(Source: Legacy of the Force:Revelation, Mando’a Language)


XI.

So far, there are evidences to assume that Mandalorian funeral rites usually depended on importance of the deceased person. What with bodies of “common” people then, those who didn’t die a glorious way nor did have any great impact on the society as some individuals did?

“What does everyone else do with bodies?” Fett asked.

“Turn left when we get to the river and I’ll show you.”

[…]

“There it is.”

“What?”

“The grave.”

Fett couldn’t see anything, just lush water meadows flanked by rich pasture, vibrantly green even after harvesttime. They said the area had beaten the Yuuzhan Vong’s attempts at environmental destruction because the fast-flowing water in the meadow and the river carried the poisons away downstream. Even to Fett’s urban and unagricultural eye, it looked like rich soil. “Where?”

“Try your terahertz GPR.”

Fett blinked his ground-penetrating radar into life. When he looked at the land now, he saw the variations in density and the pockets of less compacted soil. He also saw clusters of lines and debris so tangled together that he couldn’t make out what they were.

“It’s a mass grave,” Mirta said.

Fett stopped the speeder and they got off to look. His boots squelched in the sodden grass, and while it was far from the first time he’d walked on a carpet of the dead, this felt vaguely uncomfortable.

“Lost a lot of people,” he said. More than a million. Nearly one in three Mandalorians had died defending the planet. Mirta seemed to be expecting some statesman-like behavior, so he tried. “And no memorial.”

“This isn’t a war grave,” Mirta said. “Mando'ade usually bury in mass graves anyway. We all become part of the manda. We don’t need a headstone.”

The exceptional fertility of the soil suddenly made sense. There was no point wasting organic material.

[Legacy of the Force: Sacrifice]


From this passage we learn that Mandalorians still practice burying people in mass grave. In this case they chose to bury them all instead of cremate bodies, most likely for pragmatic reasons alone. ⅓ of Mandalorian people died during Yuuzhan Vong’s invasion, protecting their home (Mandalore). There were too many bodies to burn, so not only mass grave was an easier way to solve the problem, but also the dead bodies enriched the soil - and who knows, maybe in future, this area will be used for cultivation? If so many dead bodies in soil and so close to river will not negatively affect the water, of course.

Even though this is a place were so many Mandalorian warriors were buried, the living still didn’t feel like memorial or headstone was needed to mark the area.

Once again, the form of burial depended more about material possibilities of the living than strictly set rules. Also, the same like in ancient times, modern Mandalorians do not mind mass graves. The leaders and most important figures that had strong effect on Mandalorian society are the ones that, most likely out of respect - get more personal burial. Even then, they can choose otherwise (“You’ll get a marked grave, of course, being Mand'alor. Unless you choose not to.“)

(Sources: Legacy of the Force: Sacrifice)


XII.

Going forward, the next example comes from Legacy comics series that takes place around 127 ABY (After Battle of Yavin), in which one more time galaxy is torn by war between Sith, Empire and Alliance. Hondo Karr was a survivor of battle in which fellow Mandalorian Yaga Auchs betrayed and sold out their people to get the title of Mandalore. Karr tried to prove the man’s crimes while himself being unjustly accused of killing his father-in-law. His then ex-wife, Tes Vevec, spent 10 years to find him and kill. When Hondo actually managed to make peace with her by telling the truth, this scene happened:



On one hand, Mandalorians do not care much for graves, yet that does not mean they wouldn’t try to recover the body of loved one(s). Even if the task itself wouldn’t be easy. Tes not only risked life to get her father’s remains back - most likely for proper funeral - but also took her ex-husband’s armor to bury Hondo in it, after she found and kill him. I doubt it’s something she made up just to upset Hondo at that moment.

Interestingly, the armor itself was describes in previous sources as the most valuable item to keep after death of family (clan) member or friend. Tes was going to bury Hondo with the armor on. What may be a Mandalorian way to spat on someone’s grave. If armor is not passed down to anyone, the symbol of being warrior is buried with the rotting corpse; wasted and forgotten.

(Sources: Star Wars Legacy [2006] #41)


CONCLUSION?

A limited number of sources makes it difficult to track socio-cultural changes in the Taung and later Mandalorian community (or communities?). The fire seems like an important part of funeral rites in times of Taung hegemony, maybe even was related to some of their religious belief. Though even in ancient times, most likely there was distinction between burial of common warriors and more important figures (leaders, really brave warriors), the real diversification is visible in later eras. For unknown reason, in modern times, mass graves or pyre are used for regular people while rulers are more likely to get individual burial. On other hand, it seems like the Taung tradition of putting weapons (or maybe even other goods) to graves (like they did on Roon) lost its importance over the ages. Mandalorians, due to their nomadic lifestyle, were forced to put pragmatism over sentiments - the mass graves or pyres save a lot trouble and time, when there is too many fallen warriors to properly bury. Most likely due to such dilemma, Mandalorian people believed that body itself is just a shell for soul; after death, it does not matter what happens to corpse - and cremation may be a way to free a soul and help it get to afterlife / Manda.



We can only assume the reasons for all the change. Mandalorian Wars itself may be responsible for such change, when people from various species and cultures either joined Mandalorian clans on their own or were forced to do so. Like Mandalore the Ultimate said once: So many new recruits. Different species, different armors, different languages – and not enough time to learn our ways.

After Taungs died out, Mandalorian culture was shaped by the new followers in a way to meet their spiritual and economy needs.

Hashhana




Tekst napisany na Cienie-Isengardu 2018
 

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