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The Klingon death ritual

"... and as I watched Worf, it was like looking at a man I had never known."

The Klingon death ritual was a Klingon rite performed during, or directly following, the death of a warrior.

The Ritual involved opening and staring into the eyes of the dying individual, then bellowing loudly at the sky. The former served to observe and confirm the lack of recognition by the dying/dead Klingon's eyes. The latter served as a warning to the dead (presumably in Sto-vo-kor): "Beware, a Klingon warrior is about to arrive".

Once the Ritual was completed, the body was unceremoniously discarded in whatever manner was most convenient. Without the warrior's spirit, the mere body was considered to be "only an empty shell" which should be treated as such. (TNG: "Heart of Glory")


It was extremely rare for non-Klingons to witness the Klingon death ritual. (TNG: "Heart of Glory")

The first such case was believed to be in 2257, when L'Rell was called upon to perform the ritual. After Lieutenant Ash Tyler was discovered to be the Klingon sleeper agent Voq, and in danger from having two sets of personalities in his system, L'Rell attempted to heal him by exorcising what remained of Voq's personality from Tyler's mind. Afterward, L'Rell, realizing that Voq was truly gone, performed the death ritual for her old friend. (DIS: "Vaulting Ambition")

In 2364, Korris, Konmel, and Worf performed the rite, following the death of Kunivas. Soon after, Worf performed the Ritual for Korris, after being forced to kill him when Korris threatened the ship. (TNG: "Heart of Glory")

Worf performed the ritual again in 2367, following the death of his mate, K'Ehleyr, and in 2374 for his wife, Jadzia Dax. Though, in both cases, Worf did not open the eyes of the fallen warrior (each of whom happened to be his betrothed at their respective time of death). In the ritual for Jadzia, he recited the words: neH taH Kronos. Hegh bat'lhqu Hoch nej maH. neH taH Kronos. yay je bat'lh manob Hegh. ("Only Kronos endures. All we can hope for is a glorious death. Only Kronos endures. In death there is victory and honor.") (TNG: "Reunion"; DS9: "Tears of the Prophets")

Worf was last seen performing the ritual in 2375, after slaying Gowron in personal combat. In this instance, Worf opened the slain warrior's eyes. (DS9: "Tacking Into the Wind")

The fact that the opening of the eyes was not done for K'Ehleyr and Jadzia would seem to suggest that this aspect of the ritual is unnecessary or inappropriate for a fallen mate or for females, or that Worf was too distraught to open their eyes.
Evidently, not all Klingons observe this ritual. None of the Klingons aboard Kronos One performed the ritual for Gorkon in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (though doing so would have created a possible contradiction by having Kirk and McCoy witness it); none of Duras' comrades appeared to perform the ritual for Duras in "Reunion" (nor did Worf, though he may not have considered Duras worthy of such a ritual); and Kor did not perform the ritual for either Koloth or Kang in "Blood Oath", performing a dirge instead.

Other Klingon rituals concerning death

There is a Klingon mummification glyph, indicating that at some point in the past the Klingon mummified their dead. Spock identified this glyph during his mental retraining following his fal-tor-pan. (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home)

T'Kuvma and his followers followed this practice or one similar to it, preserving the bodies of their dead and placing them in sarcophagi on the surface of the Sarcophagus ship. (DIS: "The Vulcan Hello", "Battle at the Binary Stars")

Ak'voh, the act of watching over a fallen warrior's body, was an ancient Klingon tradition. (DS9: "The Ship")

These traditions seem to be inconsistent with the belief that after death, the body is only an empty shell; however, it is possible that the funerary practices observed by T'Kuvma fell out of favor by the 24th century. Since Worf calls the ak'voh an ancient tradition, perhaps it reflects an earlier conception of the journey to Sto-vo-kor, that, while likely no longer commonly practiced, Worf was familiar with due to his studies of ancient Klingon culture. It is also to be noted that Worf performed this for crewman Enrique Muniz, a Human, and perhaps since the ak'voh is much like an Irish wake , he may have felt this would have been a more appropriate and respectful gesture to join Miles O'Brien in doing so.

R'uustai, or "The Bonding", is a rite of brotherhood sometimes performed after the death of an individual's parents. (TNG: "The Bonding")

A funeral was held for Dax, son of Kang in 2290. At his young age, it is unclear if Dax completed the Rite of Ascension, becoming a Klingon Warrior. (DS9: "Blood Oath"; TNG: "The Icarus Factor")

If an individual dies in a manner that does not ensure entry into Sto-vo-kor, his or her relatives may fight a great battle in the deceased's name; an honorable victory will allow him or her to enter Sto-vo-kor. (DS9: "Image in the Sand", "Shadows and Symbols")

The Star Trek Encyclopedia calls this ritual the death howl.


See also


In Klingon for the Galactic Traveler, the Klingon language translation of "death ritual" is given as "Heghtay".

In The Genesis Wave, Book Two, when two Klingons are vaporised defending Doctor Leah Brahms from her would-be captors while Brahms is leading a Klingon crew in tracing the titular Genesis Wave, her first officer Maltz confirms that the dead died honourably and in a manner that left no body before he joins one of his crewmates in announcing the dead to Sto-vo-kor.

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