Bubun (Kind)

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Bubun (pl. bubunne, literally 'corpse') are one of the six Kinds into which all humans are categorized. They are temporary creations of the Hand of the Dead who use the body of an Ancestor as a husk into which temporary animacy is bestowed. Improperly called 'zombie' or 'puppet', a bubun has no will, no selfhood, and no spirit. The word bubun can be used to refer to a corpse in general, but here refers only to this animated body. The connection between body (ibu) and spirit (lemu) is temporarily severed, and the body is instead animated with a more general lifeforce.


What is a bubun?

A bubun is a husk or a shell, essentially, a body separated temporarily from its spirit, in order to be controlled and used for labour by the Hand of the Dead. Whereas a living person or ancestor has both a body (ibu) and spirit (lemu), there is only a corpse (the literal meaning of the word bubun).

Are bubun evil?

Bubun are neither good nor evil, except insofar as they can be put to evil purposes by a nefarious controller. They are a part of the natural order of Coherence, according to the Corps, and are one of the Six Kinds.

How did bubun come into existence?

The bubun came into existence at the time of the Corps, first in small numbers but later in much larger quantities. Zunuga returned from the dead with new knowledge, part of which was how to revive the dead, which she shared with her female priesthood, the Hand. Prior to Zunuga, there were no bubun anywhere, as they never emerge spontaneously.

Is it ever wrong to create a bubun?

There are certainly circumstances when a Hand is not supposed to render a person bubun. For instance, if there are known kin who object to the rendering, or if the body has not been left to see if it becomes a saint (the derdis ritual), one should not be rendered. Children (younger than about fourteen) should not be rendered, although this certainly has happened in the past.

Is it considered morally good to become a bubun?

It is neither good nor bad to become a bubun. Definitely some lineages will consider it an obligation to allow the Hand to render at least one member per generation, as a means of signalling their continued respect for that order. Some people actually request to be rendered bubun after death out of some similar motivation. In times of war or pestilence, the need for bodies to fight or farm is sufficiently great that the pressure to do so is increased.

What happens to the spirit of the person?

Well, that's a great question, isn't it? Because a dead person's spirit can't answer questions about what happens after death, no one exactly knows what the severed spirit (chusufurdi) does or where it goes. A folk belief is that the spirit resides in the clay bustul that the Hand creates and that is worn by a relative of the rendered bubun, but that is definitely not right according to the priestesses themselves. One theological position is that the spirit essentially is nowhere during the period of the bubun's service, basically dissolving into the Coherence and then reemerging at the end of the bubun's service. Another is that it basically travels with the body and is linked to it. Yet another is that it remains in the temple or area where the sagasolt took place.

What do Hulti think of bubun?

Hulti are horrified by bubun and will do anything within their power to prevent their own dead from being taken and rendered, and to eliminate any existing bubun. Separating an ancestor from its spirit intentionally is regarded as a grave violation. The use of bubun in religious wars of the past has left a long and dark memory for the Hulti.

What happens when a bubun 'dies'?

Technically a bubun is already dead so cannot die again. But if its body is damaged so that it falls, its ancestral spirit is restored to it, at which time the bubun is an ordinary Ancestor who can be communicated with. It is not possible to re-render such a body.

What happens when you lose a bubun's body?

This is always a risk, either that a body will be lost altogether, or that it is damaged so severely that it cannot be recovered in a way that it can become an Ancestor. This is a tragedy, and is one reason why many people are reluctant to have their relatives rendered. The training of Hands around bubun emphasize how to avoid losing your bubun mid-task.

What happens when a bubun's temporary existence ends?

The bubun's period of service, jugoras, is no more than seven years. In the sixth and seventh years of its existence, a bubun starts to become more stilted in its gait, more awkward in its fine movements. At that time, typically the Hand will restrict its activities to simpler ones, and tend to keep it around the temple rather than taking it afield.

Can you end a bubun's service earlier than seven years?

Yes, there is a ritual that the Hand can undertake to reverently end or 'unrender' the jugoras prior to the time limit. It is essentially destroying the bubun, while leaving its body intact for its reunification with its chusufurdi.


What is rendering?

Rendering (sagas bubunar) is a process by which a Hand of the Dead performs a ritual known as sagasolt on a recently-dead body, which separates the spirit (the aspect of the person that gave them individuality and memory) from the body. The sagasolt takes about an hour.

How intact does the body of a bubun have to be?

In general, intact enough that it can stand and move on its own. The Hand are very reluctant to render a bubun who is missing one or more major limbs. The body can have various wounds and injuries so long as the basic structure of the body is whole.

How recently must a person have died in order to be rendered?

Normally a body will have been left in a Hand temple for the derdis waiting period to see if it becomes a saint. This is normally around a week, and it is not unheard of for a body to be rendered two or three weeks after death (for instance, if there is a lineage dispute over whether the rendering goes forward). However, once decay has truly set in, it is not possible to render a body bubun?

What is the state of a newly rendered body?

The ritual preserves the body in a state where it will undergo no further decay (although it can still be damaged). It has neither blood nor other fluids, but essentially becomes an inanimate husk. No one would ever mistake a bubun for a living person except in shadow, deep fog, or some other circumstance where vision was impaired.

Can humans other than members of the Corps be rendered bubun?

Oh, yes. In the past, when there were large numbers of non-followers in the region, war casualties (whose bodies were roughly intact) were normally rendered bubun. When tensions with Hulti are strong, rendering their dead bubun was often used as an act to shock and humiliate the enemy, seeing their own kin turned unnaturally against them.

Can non-humans be rendered bubun?

No, only humans, which fall under the Six Kinds, are capable of being rendered bubun. This has not stopped people from trying in the past, though!

Do bubun smell?

While bubun do not smell of death and decay, they can, over time, become musty, dirty, or mouldy. One of the duties of young Hand priestesses is to clean and tidy the bubun of the temple on a regular basis to prevent odours. In some regions, there is a special incense or perfume known as mochoshiji applied to the body of a bubun, which helps mask any incidental odours and avoid parasites and moths.


What can bubun do?

A bubun can ordinarily obey simple commands that allow it to walk, use tools, fight unarmed or with weapons, and serve any number of other basic labour tasks, as instructed by a Hand that controls it. It can be given a command and then will continue in that task as long as instructed.

Can bubun learn or acquire new memories?

No. There are some Hand who get an intuitive sense as if a familiar bubun (e.g., one used over weeks or months) becomes accustomed to a particular handler, but this is generally seen as an illusion.

Can bubun speak or communicate?

Bubun are incapable of speech, or indeed, any form of communication. They can be instructed by a Hand to make gestures or signals to communicate at a distance, and skilled Hands can even manipulate their vocal tract to speak at a distance, but there is no intentionality or communicative goal behind them.

Can bubun use abilities they had in life?

No, any skills or abilities are lost forever and are inaccessible to the Hand. A skilled Hand can however use her own skills through the bubun, if they are ones that are physically possible for the bubun to take.

Who can control a bubun?

A Hand who gives a command to an uncontrolled bubun controls it until such time as she releases it, or another Hand takes control of it (using an opposed Diplomacy check). The bubun will fulfil the orders given by the Hand who controls it until that time.

Can bubun react at all to external stimuli?

Bubun do have a simple capacity for sight, hearing, and touch, insofar as those are needed to accomplish a goal and receive and follow orders. So if you command it "Pick up that shovel" and point to it, it doesn't need further direction. If you say "Dig a trench up to the edge of the cliff", it can 'see' when to stop. It won't just run into walls mindlessly forever; if it reaches a barrier, it stops.

Do bubun ever get tired?

No, bubun never fatigue, and can work essentially without pause, which is one reason they are so feared in warfare (despite not being very good at fighting) and so valued in agriculture.

What does a bubun do when not being controlled by a Hand?

If they haven't received any instruction, nothing. They will stand, or lie, wherever left. If they have received an ongoing instruction (e.g. 'Dig a hole') they will continue as long as physically possible.

OK, you all want to know. What can you do to a bubun?

Filthy people. But the answer is yes, bubun can be physically manipulated for a variety of ... ahem ... purposes, but the Hand strongly, strongly taboo this practice. But it surely happens. A core ethical responsibility is to use bubun only in ways that serve the greater good of the Corps and that respect the sacrifice made by the individual whose corpse was rendered.

What about infirmities or diseases that the person had in life?

The physical capabilities of the bubun do matter in the sense that if it was missing a limb, it still is gone, and if it is short or tall, that obviously doesn't change. But ordinary afflictions including old age are effectively neutralized for the purposes of the bubun's capabilities.


Where do all these bubun come from?

The main sources of corpses are enemies slain in battle, executed criminals, and the poor. Impoverished families frequently will allow a family member to be rendered bubun in exchange for payment, a form of rental of the body that defers its time as an ancestor for a seven-year term. At points in history, certain regions have instituted a kind of random lottery to ensure enough supply. And, in times of war, pestilence, or other great need, lineages are pressured by the Hand to offer more and more of their dead.

How many bubun are there?

Bubunne are about 2% of the population in most regions of the former Omban Empire. The number of bubun depends greatly on the availability of suitable bodies and the number of available Hand. In Hasmala, which depends highly on bubun for agricultural labour, as many as 10% of the population at any time are rendered bubun.

What is a bustul?

A bustul is a nonmagical tablet, normally of clay, inscribed with information about the bubun's chusufurdi (its severed spirit), and lineage. It is like an epitaph or label, meant in part to recognize the sacrifice made by the person publicly. Often, a bustul is worn or kept by a lineage member, if there are any. A copy of the bustul is also usually kept in the temple where it was created, as a kind of accounting device to ensure that bubun are accounted for properly. It is not directly tied to the bubun's continued existence in any way, and if destroyed can simply be refashioned.

How do the kin of a bubun react to being around them?

It varies, of course, but in general there is a taboo around spending time around a bubun to whom one has a tie through kinship. The maxim (irtos) around this is that relatives need to mourn, and to be protected from falsely acting as if their loved one were still alive.

Are bubun slaves?

Bubun certainly occupy many of the menial roles that in a slaveholding society would be done by enslaved people. But bubun have no will or intention of their own, do not feel pain, and do not have memories, and, of course, their service is limited in time. The accusation has been levelled (by Hulti and others) at the Hand, but they strongly reject it. You are welcome to make up your own mind.

Where do bubun stay when they're not in use?

Every Hand temple (or at least, every temple of any size) has an area set aside where bubun are kept, known as the bubunneta. This might typically be a set of stalls or booths in a room or hallway, or a single chamber with stools or seats.