I keep finding, more and more all the time, that worldbuilding and/or writing in my Traipah storyverse is how I deal with things in my own life I need to work on. Sometimes it's something in a story that points to something in me I need to pay attention to, like how for years and years there were things happening in the stories or worldbuilding stuff that had to do with Multiplicity, long before I consciously recognized that that's what it was, and that it meant I was a Multiple too. Or how the entire societal structure of Traipah is ideal for me, or how the Ah'Koi Bahnis are basically all autistic by human standards.
Or, as in my latest project, a short story about a human visiting Traipah and going to something called Tahl'Bahn Continental Civic Park (like a National Park, but Traipah doesn't really have nations), which is in fact a centuries-old graveyard of sorts, where all the trees are grave markers, because they have a number of ways of disposing of the dead that are eco-friendly and end up with the remains being used to feed the Grave Tree, or "Memory Tree" (Coi'liir'morHK) as they call it. (Including Resomation, which is a real thing on Earth, and when I die I want to be Resomated.) So this particular civic park is a centuries-old forest made by people, because it was a former strip mine that nature was having little luck reclaiming after the Reformation, so they planted soil there, and started planting Memory Trees. I'm also going to include something I read about recently, where the dead body is put in the fetal position inside a biodegradable pod, and the sapling is planted just right so the roots go into the pod and use the decomposing body as food. (I even have a version that combines the pod idea with the Resomation idea.) And it's a very popular place to put people who have died, and as I mentioned it is centuries old, so here you have miles and miles of forest that's a mix of trees of all ages, and species. (Because everyone has their own idea of what kind of tree they want to feed when they die.) There may even be family trees: ancient trees that keep getting new remains added to their soil every time a member of that family dies. So, basically, you have new life arising from death, in a place that was once stripped bare of all life in the hunt for coal.
Now, some people have commented that this is a creepy idea, that such a forest would be creepy. And as I told one such person, yeah, sure it's creepy, if you live in a culture that fears death and shuns the dead. But Traipahni society isn't like that. The people of Traipah are very
Pagan, both in the polytheist sense and the "revering nature" sense,1
and while this giant forest and others like it are pretty popular - worldwide - on Traipah, they generally do not have that desire to segregate the dead and the living the way we do. There are Memory Trees inside Traipahni cities, just like normal trees in Portland are everywhere, and several very popular Memory Tree species are fruit trees. There are even entire Memory Tree orchards, their fruits mainly used for strictly religious/spiritual purposes. This isn't seen as even a tiny bit
creepy to the people of Traipah, because they're not afraid of the dead. They're not afraid of ghosts. They believe that ghosts can happen, but they aren't afraid of them. Their basic view of our fear of ghosts would be like an adult's view of a child who was afraid of the dark. (Or maybe a child afraid of rabbits.) To them, ghosts are harmless at worst, revered as proof of the afterlife at best.
For me, this represents both a little of my own views, and views I would like to have. I am afraid of dying, because that's the culture I was raised in. But I want to be unafraid, or at least merely nervous as opposed to the overwhelming terror I feel when I let myself really think
about dying, by the time it happens. The Ah'Koi Bahnis... I wouldn't say they're unafraid of dying, but the subject of death isn't segregated from the rest of life like it is with us. Us, we put our dead in special areas underground and/or behind tall fences, often outside city limits if we can, marking the graves with stark stone slabs or statues, as if to highlight the fact that they are places of death. All graveyards I've seen have a kind of uniform, sterile, non-living quality to them, even when they have trees and bushes in them. And we don't talk about death much unless we have to, and when we do, we often joke about it to disguise our discomfort and fear.
Whereas the people of Traipah consider death just another part of life, both figuratively and literally. The dead are not viewed like a candle flame snuffed out forever, but as just another form of life. In fact, to them dying is like the reverse of being born, but they don't view conception and birth the same way we do, either; they don't view it as creating a new life, but as creating a new vessel for an existing life-form... a life form of pure energy, an immortal spirit come to have a mortal experience, which it will do again and again after it "dies." This is deeply ingrained in their culture. It even bleeds into aspects of their culture that aren't immediately apparent. Like, thanking the spirits that once inhabited what has become their food, for their sacrifice, and wishing them well on their journey in the "between-life."2
This makes sense for animals eaten by the Duenicallo and Shaokennah, but even the Ah'Koi Bahnis do this for the plants they eat. In farming/gardening, the person picking fruits or removing other parts of a plant that will continue to live after this is done to them, that person will ask permission first before harvesting, and then apologize for the necessity and thank the plant for its sacrifice. It is considered just as heinous to mistreat an animal or plant as it is to mistreat a person, but most Ah'Koi Bahnis (though herbivores themselves) have no problem with the Duenicallo or Shaokennah eating meat, so long as the animals are treated with respect and compassion, and the proper rituals are observed (those thanks and apologies mentioned before), because they don't view plants as being any less intelligent or less worthy of respect than animals, and therefore see little difference between killing an animal for food as they do their own killing a plant for food. Also, they're very friendly with the Duenicallo, and the Duenicallo are obligate carnivores. And, thus, most AKB would look down their noses at anyone who claimed that merely being a meat eater was a lapse of morality. (Though they freak the fuck out
at factory farms. The cruelty aside, the very notion of treating any living being like a mere product or resource is utterly reprehensible to them, and so, much about capitalism in general would have them going ballistic on people. The animal cruelty would turn that into "going nuclear" on people.)3
I got a little off track there. But basically, living beings are spirits residing in a vessel.4
So yeah, I strive to change my own view of death 100% over to the Traipahni view of it, to transmute the terror of dying to something easier to deal with, by the time my time finally comes. Because while I do believe those same things, it's not the culture I grew up with, and so it's not deeply ingrained like it should be.
Anyway, that's all for now.
Note: "MorHKahr seh Coi'liir" means "Forest of Memory," and in IPA it is pronounced Moʊrx
ɑ:r se kɔɪLɪəʳ (The x being a voiceless velar frictive
1 = Monotheism didn't exist on Traipah until the humans introduced it, and even then it never really took off; monotheists are an extreme minority on Traipah, and what few there are are more pantheistic than anything else. The closest Traipah came to inventing monotheism was a bi-theistic religion that was once popular.
2 = Since they view death as part of an infinite cycle in the incarnation cycle of spirits, they don't call it the afterlife, they call it the between-life, as in "between one lifetime and the next." It is viewed as a place for spirits to rest and relax before reincarnating again.
3 = Now, you might think with this, that their attitude toward abortion is pretty stern, and... well... you wouldn't be wrong, at least insofar as it applies to species native to Traipah. But it's... complicated. The Ah'Koi Bahnis have a remarkable degree of control of their own reproductive system (well, all races of AKB except the Yaingah do), and if they don't want to get pregnant, they simply don't. Whereas the other two sophont species can only get pregnant at certain times of the year, so if they avoid having sex at those times, they don't have to worry about getting pregnant. The Yaingah race of AKB don't have that ability. But there's nothing against contraception. Unlike a lot of humans, Traipahni people generally don't have any special feelings about conception. In fact, abortions up to a certain point are perfectly acceptable to most of them, because they generally don't believe the spirit has "moved in" to the body it's created, until the embryo is sufficiently developed to be able to survive outside the womb, with help. Abortions are always legal there, right up until just before birth, though any abortion done after the first quarter is generally frowned upon. (AKB have a 12 month gestation, divided into 4 quarters of 3 months each.) Socially speaking, AKB don't care what the other two species do in regards to abortion. Legally speaking, abortion is legal any time before birth. Since Traipahni people can impregnate themselves as well as others, paternity is hard to determine, and the father has no rights regarding the baby before it's born anyway, because the sanctity of bodily autonomy is one of the major sacred laws. The only time abortion is considered murder is if it's done to the pregnant person against their will. (Which also violates the sanctity of bodily autonomy.) And a conception resulting from rape or coercion/force is legally considered an artifact of the assault, and so there are no negative social or legal consequences of either aborting it or choosing to let it live, nor for either giving away the child or choosing to keep it and raise it.
4 = Until an outside spirit chooses to "move in" to a baby in a womb, the fetus is considered to be entirely filled with the mother's own spirit. And even after the outside spirit has moved in, the body still contains the mother's spirit as well, and since the mother was there first, she has first claim over it, until after birth. Then it "belongs" entirely to the baby's spirit.