An ash pit is a circular area of sand, usually surrounded by an open square for public gatherings. The sand itself is surrounded by a low wall. An adjacent shed holds the funeral supplies: cut wood and oil.
A shallow trench is dug in the sand, inside of which a funeral pyre is built. The body is placed inside of this, and the whole thing doused with a generous amount of oil. The pyre is then lit at sunset, and the mourners repeat a customary funeral chant. This chant varies from region to region. Sometimes it is not even a chant, but a song or a story. In some areas the mourners simply talk about the dead or stand silent.
The fire is allowed to burn all night, sometimes with more oil added. The purpose of the oil is to burn hot enough to reduce even the bones to ash. When the whole body has been reduced, the fire site is covered over with sand.
Symbology and use
Ash pits are used over and over again, for commoners and people of status alike. It is representative of the belief that all people are equal in death, as this is the core basis of the ash pit custom.
The tradition of ash pits is thought to have originated sometime during the Age of Darkness, and has been practiced by various cultures throughout all of recorded history.
Where the same ash pit has been in use for long periods of time, the addition of material will eventually raise the level of sand to that of the wall surounding the pit. At this time, the cutom is to build up dirt around the wall so as to bring the square level with the top, and then build a new wall on top of the old one. In areas where this as continued for millenia, the ash pits can be hundreds of layers deep.