I wasn’t intending on starting this blog off on a morose foot, but I couldn’t help but be inspired based on a scene at work last week. One of my coworkers, a Cyclopasian who will remain nameless, returned from a family memorial. Recently the matriarch of her rather large family had passed on, and many of the relatives had made the rather arduous journey back home to memorialize her in the traditional Cyclopasian manner of cremation and plastering the memorial pillar. I found this to be fascinating and worth exploring. My hope is that my exploration is read with the utmost sincerity and respect toward the tradition while trying to convey some history.
Before I dive further into this issue, I must digress. For editorial purposes I must clarify that I am a dabbler in the visual arts and will be incorporating sketches with my posts. You will know if an illustration is mine if you see the following symbol, my signature.
With that point taken care of, let’s continue with the tradition of burial pillars.
The exact origins of the pillars in the mourning process are lost to history. What does exist is a great deal of myth and rumor, particularly given the somewhat complex nature of Cyclopasian religion. While it is too much to explore in this post, there seems to have been a rather severe upheaval in burial practices in their ancient history involving cremation. It seems that prior to this change, cremation was considered a form of desecration. Why this change occurred is a fact lost to history, but what is not disputed is that cremation became a significant part of the practice of mourning, so much so that a tradition of associating cremated remains with memorial pillars erupted around, roughly 1400 PGA.
At first these memorial pillars were composed of stacked and chipped stones. These stones were then bound in place through a mixture composed of water, clay, and most importantly, the ashes of the departed. This paste would hold the stones in place, and with proper upkeep we have seen pillars that have existed for well past 1000 galactic standard years. One interesting note is that there were variations in this practice. Some lineages would use a single pillar and maintain the upkeep over generations with the cremated remains of the departed, while in some circles there seemed to be individual pillars for the departed. In ancient traditions, according to the Cyclopasian historian K’elreth Vandys, memorial pillars tended to be treated as a familial shrine of sorts, but gradually shifted to an individual basis. Larger, wealthier families, however, would utilize a central memorial as a symbol of honor and authority in the area.
It is natural, then, that the age of space-travel and large-scale colonization eventually had an effect on the usage of these memorial pillars. While memorial pillars are still commonly used, there have been significant changes in the past few hundred years. One development was the integration of the ashes into concrete. Pillars are molded based on familial commissions specifications and reinforced by an alloy framework. Then concrete, with the departed’s ashes, are introduced into the mold and cast. Because of the spread of Cyclopasian lineages across the various planets, large family shrines are rare. Smaller, more intimate pillars are preferred and are often grouped into public memorial mounds. Memorial mounds are generally found in colonies with a larger Cyclopasian presence, however, so in communities that may not have a large enough population, pillars can be found in private residences. It is also not unusual, for a Cyclopasian spacer to use chips off of familial pillars and grind them into concrete for smaller, more mobile pillars. Often fist-sized at their largest. One particularly modern trend is the usage of an obelisk as opposed to the more traditional, rounded pillars with Cyclopasian features.