What are the haibane?

I've got a theory about what the haibane are meant to represent. This is only my own interpretation, mind you. This is certainly NOT what ABe had in mind. It's far too Christian in orientation. It is an interpretation I think Westerners are likely to find, however. Until I have enough familiarity with Buddhism and Shintoism to consider it from something closer to ABe's point of view, I give this for your consideration.

I got started on this train of thought by Nemu. Well, mostly by Nemu. I was wondering just what was behind the haibane being in Glie, and the way Nemu's always been teased about her name caught my attention. I realized that she could very well represent sloth, one of the Seven Deadly Sins.
After some further thought, I realized this could account for all the haibane. I'll explain my reasoning below.

Nemu really is the obvious one. From the whole "sleeping in her dreams" thing to napping on the job. She's overcome her trial, so she is more than able to fill her job and even takes on side projects, but she still sleeps late all the time. A lot of this is probably due to Kuramori's influence and probably Sumika's as well, but it's hard to tell. We don't find out a whole lot of what happened then from Nemu's perspective. Reki was also a push in this direction, since Nemu went and researched the day of leaving the nest to try and help Reki.
Note that the main reason she's still in Glie is because she's worried about Reki. In fact, I think the only reason she is allowed to stay in Glie is because she's worried more about another than about herself. The day of leaving the nest seems to be set pretty arbitrarily, but Nemu still seems to be a bit of an exception. Now that Reki has left, Nemu probably will leave soon as well.

Kuu is also fairly obvious as a representation of envy. The stories Kana tells about her emulating the older haibane fit the pattern. When Rakka is hatched, Kuu talks about how she wanted a little sister, someone to look up to her. Although she doesn't say it this way, someone to be to her what she was to the others. Her favorite animal, the frog, is also associated with envy.
This is Kuu's trial. After Rakka is hatched, Kuu realizes that she didn't need a little sister after all. Instead, she simply tries to help Rakka. Instead of envying someone older, she helps her. Rakka's acknowledgment of her as a role model pleased Kuu quite a bit. When Kuu gives Rakka her coat, it's a symbol of just how far she's come, a final sign of her readiness to leave.

Kana is fairly obvious as well, although it will take a little explanation. Kana represents avarice; not in the usual sense of the word, love of money, but in a focus on the material over the spiritual. She's really interested in her clocks, but doesn't much care for more ethereal things. The clearest example of this is in episode four, when she and Rakka are riding back to Old Home together. Kana, all impatient to get to work on the clock, makes faces at Rakka's desire to remember a song to sing. This also shows in the beginning of episode seven, where Kana is the only one who isn't attempting to comfort Rakka. Kana really doesn't know what to do here, so she reacts differently than the rest. Not in tune with spiritual things, all she can do is wonder if Kuu could hear the bell, too.
This seems to be Kana's trial, to learn to stop and smell the roses. Hikari is probably her main teacher in this. Hikari is the one always pushing Kana to do things like sew or cook. Also notice the breakfast scene in episode four; Hikari savors her tea, Kana chugs it to help swallow the food she literally crammed down her throat.

Hikari will take some explanation, so don't just think I'm crazy and close the page. Hikari represents lust. Not in the way you're thinking, you hentai you, but in her poor impulse control. Giving in to your impulses is at the root of lust, and this is Hikari's biggest failing. The entirety of episode three lays this out, from her dancing on the bridge to her experiments with the halo mold. Reki's comments suggest that Hikari is known for this sort of thing. This is also shown some later in the series. In the later episodes, Hikari has a tendency to get extremely grumpy. This comes after she's volunteered to help Reki out more. Once again, she probably didn't think things through, and very much underestimate the amount of trouble raising a group of kids can be. This probably put rather a strain on her temper, which showed in her irritability.
She is starting to overcome her trial, but she still has a long way to go. More and more of her impulses seem to be related to helping others, rather than just satisfying her own whims. She's probably learning mostly from Kana, who at the least knows how to be precise and methodological, at least as far as dealing with machines goes (especially with her very punctilious boss).

This next one had me stumped for a bit. There are only six older haibane at Old Home, but seven Deadly Sins. Then I realized that Midori was classic wrath. She and Reki used to be close friends, but after Hyouko was injured Midori turned against her. Even though she surely realized that Reki was not solely at fault, she drove her away, even going so far as to use physical violence. She maintained this attitude for several years.
Midori does seem to be overcoming this. Thanks to Rakka and Hyouko, she's finally able to reconcile with Reki. If Reki had left before this happened, it is quite possible that Midori would have been stuck in Glie.

I've saved the two main characters for last, as is my wont.
Rakka is another one that will require a little explanation. Rakka represents gluttony, not of food, but of the company of others. Simply wanting to be in someone's company wouldn't be enough to count as gluttony, of course, but I think Rakka does take it to the kinds of extremes that would. After Kuu leaves, Rakka is seriously depressed for months. Even after she learns about what the day of leaving means to the haibane, she's still wishing that Kuu was still in Glie. This is the key point; she's wishing for someone's company even when she knows it would be detrimental to them for it to be that way. This shows again later, when Washi tells her that Reki's time is almost up. Although she says she wants to help, when Washi tells her that helping Reki means saying good-bye to Reki, she can't answer that she's willing to accept that. This even shows up in what little we find out about her previous life. She wanted to disappear because she felt she was alone.
In the end, Rakka is able to get over Kuu's departure, and to actually help Reki leave. Rakka is able to see Reki off with a smile, even though it is a sad one. She hasn't overcome her trial, but she's cleared some major obstacles.

I've save Reki for last for a good reason. She represents pride, which is considered chief among the Seven Deadly Sins. She tries to stand by herself, not to burden others. She never asks for help, mostly out of pride. If I'm not mistake, suicide is often also consider prideful, since you're taking God's matters into your own hands. It's been a while since I've read up on this particular part, but it fits.
Pride also leads to other deadly sins, which is why it is considered the worst of them. Reki shows this clearly. She herself says she feels envy, both towards Kuu and towards Rakka. Her relationship with Washi shows the same kind of wrath that Midori showed towards her. She felt the same kind of gluttony for Kuramori's company that Rakka showed towards Kuu.
Pride is supposedly the most difficult to overcome, and it takes Reki until the very last moment to do so, when she asks for Rakka's help.

That covers the Seven Deadly Sins, but there are still two haibane left unaccounted for. This theory wouldn't work if it doesn't cover them either, so here it goes.

Kuramori is somewhat difficult to place, but only because of lack of information. What we do know is filtered through Reki, and her view of Kuramori is definitely not impartial. What Kuramori represents, at least to Reki (and therefor to us) is virtue. In specific, she represents kindness, which is one of the contrary virtues to the deadly sins.
It's not possible to guess what Kuramori's trial was, but she seems to have left not very long after Reki appeared. Reki was probably the last stage of Kuramori's trial.

The only one left is Hyouko, and this is where I'm less certain of things. I could try to dismiss him entirely, since the rest of the main characters are female, but that would seriously weaken the theory. At first glance, he seems to represent shame, in that he's ashamed of being a haibane and tries to hide it. However, that doesn't really fit in with the above very well. I think he's actually meant to represent denial. His attempts to disguise that he's a haibane are a symbol of his refusal to accept what he is. This can also be seen in the last episode, where he refuses to watch the lights as Reki leaves the nest. This ties in with the sin symbolism of the show since forgiveness requires repentance. If you refuse to admit (or hide) that you've done something wrong, you can't be forgiven for it.
It's hard to say how far along in his trial he is, but he does seem to be making progress. At the end of the series, he's actually sitting in the open without his hat or backpack on.

I want to also address Washi. As I indicated in the episode commentary, I think the Haibane Renmei is composed of those haibane who have failed their trials. This is probably better addressed in my thoughts about the city.

I should also touch on the other three older haibane we meet. It's hard to draw any conclusions, of course, since we only see them for one scene, but there are a few clues. One of them has painted wings, and could quite possibly stand for vanity, which was considered a deadly sin at one point, but was replaced by pride. The guy with the fireworks seems to stand for petty malice or spite of some sort. The other girl gets a couple lines, but I'm not sure where she fits in, except in the same way the guy with the fireworks does.

Okay, now all that is what they represent, but what are haibane? This one's pretty simple. They're good people who have died with something important left unfinished. Reki was hurt deeply and could no longer trust others. Rakka, in her desire for company, ignored someone who meant a great deal to her. The others we don't know for sure, but the same pattern is likely.

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