"... and as I watched Worf, it was like looking at a man I had never known."
Captain Jean-Luc Picard, 2364.[src]

The Klingon Death Ritual (also called the death howl) was a funeral ritual in Klingon culture that was carried out soon after the death of a warrior.

History[edit | edit source]

While being held prisoner aboard the USS Discovery, L'Rell was once called upon to perform the ritual. After Lieutenant Ash Tyler was found to be a Klingon sleeper agent named Voq and in danger from having two sets of memories in his system, L'Rell attempted to heal him by exorcising the remaining memories of Voq. Afterward, L'Rell - realizing that Voq was truly gone - performed the death ritual for her old friend. (DSC episode: "Vaulting Ambition")

When a Klingon warrior was dying, his or her comrades would hold the eyes open while looking into his or her eyes. Once the Klingon in question had died, the other Klingons would raise their heads and howl for several seconds. This howl was a warning to the dead, that a Klingon warrior was arriving. Afterwards, the body was considered to be only an empty shell, and was unceremoniously disposed of following the ritual. (TNG episode: "Heart of Glory")

Some Klingons referred to the warning howl as the Scream. While in most instances the ceremony took place as the warrior was dying or immediately after death, it was at times delayed if the deceased's comrades were in combat at the time. (TNG novel: Strike Zone, GKN novel: A Good Day to Die)

In 2269, when Malvak, son of Jorq saw that his friend Krov had been killed, Malvak performed the death ritual to warn the honored dead of Krov's arrival. This drew howls of laughter from other hemQuch Klingons present, as Malvak was a QuchHa' and thus not expected to observe a warrior's tradition. (ST novella: The Unhappy Ones)

When Chancellor Gorkon was assassinated in 2293, General Chang and the other Klingons in the room desired to perform the ritual. However Gorkon's daughter Azetbur prevented the others from doing so as she felt it would be inappropriate for a man like Gorkon. Gorkon's body was disposed of soon after his death. (TOS novelization: Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country)

In 2364, Kunivas died on board the USS Enterprise-D after being rescued from the freighter Batris. Fellow Klingons Worf, Korris, and Konmel performed the death ritual for Kunivas. This was witnessed by Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Doctor Beverly Crusher, and other sickbay personnel. Picard later described the ceremony to Commander William T. Riker and Lieutenant Commander Data. Data stated that this was probably the first time that non-Klingons had witnessed the death ritual. (TNG episode: "Heart of Glory")

Worf performed the death ritual for K'Ehleyr when she was murdered by Duras in 2367. (TNG episode: "Reunion" In 2374 he again performed the ritual after the murder of his wife Jadzia Dax at the hands of Skrain Dukat. DS9 episode: "Tears of the Prophets") He and a number of other Klingons performed the ritual for Gowron after Worf defeated him in honorable combat. (DS9 episode: "Tacking Into the Wind")

When a warrior falls in honorable combat, it was customary for the victor to perform the death ritual. (KE novel: A Burning House) When Ensign Toq of the IKS Gorkon challenged and defeated Lieutenant Kegren for the right to serve as that vessel's second officer, Toq performed the death ritual on him. (TNG novel: Diplomatic Implausibility) Captain Klag did likewise after defeating General Talak on San-Tarah. (GKN novel: Honor Bound)

When Dr. B'Oraq killed Tiklor in a seconds-long duel at Lukara Edifice, however, his accompanying friend forbade her from performing the ritual for Tiklor, claiming that "such as you are not worthy to herald his arrival into Sto-Vo-Kor!" (KE novel: A Burning House)

As a gesture of respect, Klingons have been known to sometimes perform the death ritual for non-Klingons, as Commander Toq of the Gorkon did for Imparter Mal Sanchit of the Elabrej after the latter sacrificed her life to save his. (GKN novel: Enemy Territory)

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