Your soul separates from your body. The material body returns to its basic components, and for seven days, the soul lingers near the body, drifting farther from it and developing spirit senses. This process is like a yolk for the developing soul.
When ready, the soul flies inward into the heart space, which is a mirror that cannot be fully penetrated until you are dead or have acquired a heroquesting initiation.
On the other side of the mirror is an icy mountain top. Though no stars, planets, or Sun light the sky, the newly dead can see. The soul joins in a parade of others, all bearing the marks of their life and death upon them. Thus, some are old, covered with sores, and in their bedclothes, while others are warriors fully armed, sometimes even borne by their noble steeds. No one speaks. Paths converge, and many smaller groups join with each other.
The procession descends through a vast mountain range whose peaks and cliffs are all piercing and jagged, like shattered obsidian flints laid on end.
At the bottom of the mountains, where the black sand lies in piles, the path meanders. At this place, the ghosts of broos, and things like them, depart.
A bridge made of bone spans a great chasm. At the bottom of the chasm roars the River of Swords, and the only sound is the horrible clashing of arms. On this bridge stands Janak, with a long stick, who knocks all perjurers off into the suffering below.
The road leads to a great round tower, so vast that the edges of it cannot be seen from the road, nor can its top be seen. A hundred doors penetrate it, and the vast throng of the dead enter the Court of Silence.
The crowd is silent, each awaiting their turn. At the front of the hall is the throne of Daka Fal, Judge of the Dead. He used to be Grandfather Mortal, the first person to be made and the first person to die. And in galleries around all the walls of the hall wait the gods and their servants. Each soul approaches him, to be recognized and judged. Daka Fal asks for history on the person from anyone present. The gods who wish to speak descend from the gallery to serve witness. Then Daka Fal assigns a fate, and the soul departs, appropriately escorted, through one of the hundred doors at the rear of the Court of Silence.
The fate assigned by Daka Fal is based upon the actions and allegiances in life. Initiation into the secrets of a god is usually dispositive, as most gods protect the souls of their initiates and bring them to their home after death. The soul typically stays with the gods until it is ready to return to the world, clad in a new material form. Reborn souls rarely have any memories of their past lives, although such memories may be regained.
Sometimes, the soul is forced to go to a place where it does not want to go. This might be the result of a curse from a shaman or other powerful magician, or the soul might be carried off by a god or spirit. Sometimes the ruling god of the area or event associated with the mortal’s death will pass judgement on someone who deserves punishment (according to the inclinations of that god), most commonly an oath breaker, and demand the soul be sent to a place of punishment.
Those few that have acquired a Hero’s soul have a permanent presence in the God Time, which can be strengthened through worship. Even though their soul may return to the world in a new body, their presence in the God Time endures—like the gods, heroes can be in more than one place at the same time.
The souls of dead ancestors may be called upon by their descendants for aid. The ancestors give help where possible; they give advice to their descendants and, if necessary, fight off enemy spirits. They may also act as arbitrators with the greater gods for their descendants.
Some souls wander about after death without having any final resting place. This occurs for a variety of reasons. The soul may have to fulfil an oath sworn during life or may remain to fulfil a vengeance or guard something strongly associated with its life (or its moment of death). Dying in some places or in certain manners may interfere with the soul’s ability to travel inward into the heart spaces; such souls may need the aid of others to travel along its destination.
Finally, it is possible for a soul to be completely extinguished by being devoured by the Void of Chaos.
So, what is the purpose of grave goods? Grave goods go with the dead souls – you want to make sure your loved ones have what they need in the afterlife!
Remember that initiation links you to an entity in the God Time. If I am an initiate of Orlanth, Orlanth will make sure my soul (at least the “Orlanth-part”) rejoins the god in his home. If I am an Ernalda initiate, my soul (at least the “chthonic-part”) goes to Ty Kora Tek’s House of the Dead until it is time for it to be reborn in the living world. And so on.
This is not merely a matter of perspective – your initiation links you to that deity, and you are in a very meaningful way, part of that deity.
Do all people and creatures in Glorantha experience this? Most everyone’s story is to some extent comparable with this. However there is tremendous range for interpretation and disagreement as to what it means. For example some materialists (especially dwarfs and Brithini) reject the idea that the “spiritual energy” that goes to the Underworld is “you” in any meaningful way.
All Aldryami believe in successive births and rebirths through many lives in a long organic growth process which will lead towards the unification of their consciousness with that of their goddess – not a retention of individual “self” but rather an absence of self and a unity with Aldrya. They believe that adhering to the right worship will speed that process, and most rituals and magics of the race will intensify and prove these feelings.
As might be expected from a race which comes from the earth, the Aldryami bury their dead. They sing gentle songs, and then the priests accompany the newly dead to the Other Side.
If one has died violently and suddenly notices their killer’s soul while on the bridge, how would most souls behave? When I’ve seen the procession of the dead, most all have walked with total equanimity. Those few that spoke or acted without me prompting with use of magic or secrets were either heroes or somehow so tied to some temporal thing that they were twisted with passion.