When a person dies, their soul doesn't ascend to the afterlife automatically. The soul build's a connection with its body while alive, and remains attached to that body in death. Through natural decomposition, the soul gradually loses its connection to the mortal realm. At some point, when the body decays enough,the soul ascends to the next life where it will be judged by god. It will either be allowed into heaven or join the reincarnation cycle to be reborn and given another chance. The ascension of the soul however, is not guaranteed. While it is trapped in the body, it becomes susceptible to supernatural forces. There are invisible predators that prey on and consume vulnerable souls. These are called wraiths, which are angry spirits that have been unable to ascend properly and remain trapped on the mortal realm. These spirits are in constant pain, and seek to take out their agony and misery on the living by killing them. They are also given to consume other lost souls and grow in power. This has been common enough throughout history to be a real concern.

Priests are used to expedite the process of ascension. Through performing the necessary funeral rites and given a proper burial, they release the soul immediately and send it to be judged accordingly. These are rites only chosen priests can perform, which involve complex magical rituals that are learned through years of study. This has given the church a strong presence, and has made them a powerful force in humanity. Religion and faith play an important role in daily life of people, and priests are held in high regard in their community.

My question is about people whose bodies cannot be found: warriors who died in battle and can't be recovered easily, people who have been murdered and buried somewhere or have gone missing, etc. What is a good way to protect the souls of these people until they can be given a proper burial?


Universal morality

If this is the way your world works, then it may be a universal morality that all dead should be treated in such a way as to release their soul. I would suggest cremation for those for whom a priest is not available. For example, on the field of battle, it would be a universally 'good' thing for soldiers to burn the bodies of the deceased, no matter which side they fought for.

Standards of common decency abound, such as not killing women and children in war. Alternately, the fear of gods is something that could keep warriors from one realm from defiling the holy sites of another realm.

Of course, there are many instance where common decency is not followed, and those situations would occur in your world as well. But, the fact that the afterlife and spirits and wraiths and such are true and universally accepted would just serve to reinforce this universal morality. Anyone who did not take action to allow souls to depart from their bodies or allowed a soul to be consumed by a wraith might fear that they are now in mortal danger of the same thing happening to them. Perhaps there can be some sort of cosmic karma to make this happen.



Many cultures have had some kind of tradition of spiritual beings whose duty is to escort the souls of the dead to the afterlife. These beings are called psychopomps, which literally means "Guide of Souls". These beings are often gods or animals.

These guides could be a natural part of the world, provided by God/the Gods to ensure the safety of their followers. Perhaps one has to be sure to live according to the religious codes to ensure that their guide will be there for them when they die.

Alternatively, they could have been created by man, specifically to guard the souls of the dead; perhaps there are a handful of priests who train all their lives to become powerful spiritual warriors, able to leave their bodies to find and help the souls of those trapped in the real world. Perhaps there are warriors who are trained for years to become models of selflessness, powerful fighters and guardians, who are then sacrificed and their bodies are preserved, allowing them to remain tied to the world as psychopomps.

In any case, there would be those - mages or priests - who specialised in communicating with the guides in order to find these bodies as quickly as possible.


If there are no psychopomps, then there is an opportunity for profit. Adventurous people could be hired to go to battlefields, plagued villages, dangerous places, to find the bodies of the deceased and return them for proper burial.

Some body-finders would be respected, spiritual men, who journey ceaselessly across the land seeking out bodies, perhaps by magical means or by communicating with the dead, to return them without thought of reward. Others would be pure mercenaries, hardened fighters who go to places of danger to recover bodies and then hold them for ransom. Others still would be beachcombers and fishermen, finding bodies washed up on the shore or floating in the sea and taking them to the priests. The priests would have a duty to reward anyone who brought a body to them.

Blood Magic

Blood relations have always had a powerful folkloric connection, and in a situation like this that could probably be exploited. There could be people, perhaps mages or priests, who are able to trace a person's family from their blood. If father goes away to war and doesn't come back, a priest or a mage could take some of their blood or just their psychic fingerprint and use it to home in on the location of the body so that it can be retrieved.

Of course, this can be combined with either of the other ideas, or all could be used together.


Blessed Trinkets From the Church

Perhaps you could expand the notion of the soul binding to a body over the course of life, to include any object person keeps close to them at all times. Individuals could keep amulets or rings, blessed by the church, that are meant to protect their soul for some time after death.

The length of time for which an amulet will last depends on the materials. The degree to which they can keep the soul safe from supernatural forces may also depend on materials or the level of blessing placed upon it.

And of course you could use the price of such protections to generate revenue for the church or if you want to limit who can get their hands on such protection.


Pray for the unknown soldiers. That is why they have the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers for those who died in battle.


By the courtesy of the other dead

I don't know if all cultures believe in souls ascending to heaven, so relying on your enemies in battle may not be wise. However, since not all your dead are trapped (those who are reachable can be helped), it could be a matter of courtesy in those cultures to not ascend the minute you are free, but have a look around, especially in times of war, for fellow souls which are trapped and free them before you go.

Army units in particular can have it planned ahead that everyone who dies makes sure all the others are alive or descended.


Purification rights

Why wait until death to start preparing for the next step? Through appropriate rites, a person can learn to stretch their connection to their spirit and render it elastic, putatively for out of body experiences and such.

Warriors, on the other hand, may well have little rites that prepare their breath for departing. When their time comes, then, the noble dead could then break free easily and launch outward.

A special prayer card or potion could set things up in a similar manner, erroding the ties to the mortal coil while it lasts. Regular upkeep of the meditations (or whatever) could lead to an interesting world view, as the spirit grows freer to act apart from the body.


You want to free (or trap) a spirit? Make a symbol of it's body and enchant it to share that strength to bind them. You then lure the spirit to a jar with it or destroy the binding.


There is No Other Way

Consider keeping your current situation. Historically, cultures who believe strongly in burial rituals for the protection or honor of dead warriors view the denial of such rituals by the enemy as tragic in the extreme. In The Iliad, for example, Achilles' initial denial of traditional burial rights for Hector enrages the Trojans and serves as a major plot event.


Armies often employ chaplains--representatives of a church--during their campaigns. In your world, chaplains might have a protected status on the battlefield, similar to medics in many earth wars. Killing one, on purpose or by accident, might incur the wrath (or the belief thereof) of either one's superiors/peers or the divine.


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