Sarenrae (SAIR-in-ray) is one of the most popular deities on Golarion, and even those of other faiths respect her power, dedication, and generosity. Worshiped originally by Keleshite humans, her faith spread to the Garundi in ancient Osirion and into other human and nonhuman civilizations as well. Like the sun in the sky, she shines upon the entire world as a symbol of good, healing, and redemption.
Eons ago, Sarenrae was not a goddess, but a powerful angel, guiding the energies of the sun and smiting agents of darkness that would quench the day’s light and plunge the newborn world of Golarion and its sister planets into eternal darkness. Her skill and success at these tasks led other angels to lend her their support, and eventually gods as well, making her one of the mighty empyreal lords. When Rovagug sought to unmake Golarion, it was Sarenrae who was first on the battlefield, and she who faced the Rough Beast personally when the other forces of creation were engaged with his hideous spawn. Though the exact timeline is unclear, her willingness to sacrifice herself in this battle so that all could be saved inspired great hope in all of her comrades, and this gave her the boost necessary to elevate her from one of the greatest angels to a full goddess, and with this influx of power she smote him and hurled his broken body deep into the earth. As the gods mended the scars in the world and intelligent life appeared on its surface, mortals turned their eyes upward to thank the life-giving sun, and her faith grew roots in the early primitive peoples.
Sarenrae is a kind and loving goddess, a caring mother and sister to all in need. She joys in healing the sick, lifting up the fallen, and shining a guiding light into the darkest hearts and lands. She brushes off insults and deflects attacks, patiently trying to convince those who perceive her as an enemy that their belief is false. She is no victim, and once it is clear that her words and power are wasted on those who refuse to listen and believe, she responds to violence in kind with swift metal and scorching light. She dislikes cruelty, lies, quenching darkness, needless suffering, and thoughtless destruction. Ancient, timeless, and renewed every day, she has seen much suffering in the world but is bolstered by the inevitable appearance of hope, truth, and kindness.
Religious art depicts the sun goddess as a strong woman with bronze skin and a mane of dancing flame; in some cases this flame trails behind her for a dozen or more yards. While one of her hands holds the light of the sun, the other grasps a scimitar, so that she might smite those who do not change their ways. The church does not teach that Sarenrae is the sun itself; she is its guardian and conduit for its power, not a direct manifestation of the actual orb, and while fanciful art may show her face in place of the sun, the mainstream faithful recognize the difference between the sun and the goddess. Sarenrae is a popular goddess and worshiped by people of many interests, from the obvious farmers and healers to governors, honest jailors, redeemed evil-doers, and those who wish to make the world a better place. City-folk who have no particular interest in fate, farming, magic, or esoteric philosophy make up the bulk of her worshipers, regular people who believe in honest work, relief from suffering, and the idea that each new day brings hope and new opportunity. Her faith attracts those with kind hearts, but only those willing to harden them when kindness is a dangerous weakness.
Sarenrae indicates her favor with sightings of doves, or through the shapes of ankhs appearing in unexpected places. Other signs of her favor are rays of dawn or dusk sunlight lasting far longer than they should, the discovery of yellow stones or gems, or the sudden soothing of aches and pains. Her displeasure is most often made apparent through unexplained sunburns or periods of blindness that can last anywhere from only a few moments for minor transgressions to a lifetime for mortal sins. She has been known to befuddle the tongues of habitual liars and slow the healing of the unkind and unrepentant. Sunflowers may bloom around the faithful to show her favor, or a dead enemy may sprout them from its mouth. Formal raiment for priests of Sarenrae includes a long white chasuble and tunic decorated with red and gold thread depicting images of the sun, and officiating priests usually wear a golden crown with a red-gold sunburst device on top. Scimitars inlaid with gold sunbursts or golden gems are common ceremonial implements. This costume has changed over time and varies by region; older illustrated copies of her holy text show priests wearing pointed caps, decorative long-sleeved open-front coats over normal clothing, and even elaborate wings made of wood and feathers. Rose gold (a mix of copper and gold) is very popular among the faithful for its color, which reminds them of the dawn’s light. Any church items made of gold may actually be rose gold. Marriage ceremonies, dowries, and other events sanctified by the church may contain one or more finger rings made of rose gold, and in some desert cultures a man is not ready to ask a bride for her hand unless he has a rose gold ring to give her.
Sarenrae is neutral good and her portfolio is the sun, redemption, honesty, and healing. Her favored weapon is the scimitar. Her holy symbol is an ankh, though more stylized versions are a winged ankh or a winged female figure, arms outstretched, with a halo of flame. Her domains are Fire, Glory, Good, Healing, and Sun. Most of her priests are clerics, though there are many paladins and rangers and a smattering of sun-druids and sun-bards. Her titles include the Dawnflower and the Cleansing Light. To her enemies she is the Warrior of Fire.
The church has passive and active elements, and a priest of either flavor can usually find like-minded worshipers at any temple. Sarenrae’s paladins tend to be adventureseekers, many of them questing in search of penance for past failures or perceived flaws. The more relaxed clergy tend to the sick and injured, though even these are ready to brandish a scimitar in the face of evil that steps within reach of the temple.
Religious ceremonies for the Dawnflower always involve inging (or sometimes ululation or even speaking in tongues) and usually include vigorous dancing, with participants spinning or moving in great circles representing the sun’s path through the sky. Cymbals, bells, and drums are popular instruments, accented by hand-clapping.
The church is very supportive of marriage and a wedding in a temple is always cause for celebration. Because of their stance of forgiveness and redemption, there is no stigma for divorce, and the delight over a second or third marriage is just as joyful as a person’s first. Worshipers reconsecrate their vows every 10 years, though this doesn’t involve an elaborate ceremony with guests.
In Katapesh, Osirion, and nearby lands the harsh sun beats down upon mortals, and the line between survival and extinction is much finer. Thus, it is no surprise that even benign Sarenrae emerges as a more steely, dangerous force. As tribal nomads say, “there are no second chances in the desert,” and here the Cult of the Dawnflower has taken that to heart. These hard-edged priests offer mercy once and only once to their opponents, and if refused they are ruthless in battle, ignoring offers to parley or surrender, unafraid to judge neutral opponents as if they were blackhearted evildoers. This severe stance only applies to enemies of the faith and sinful folk—among their friends, family, and other respectable members of the community, the people of the Desert Dawnflower are kind, generous, and forgiving. As a whole this subset of the main faith tends to fall much closer to true neutral than neutral good, though never to actual evil.
Temples and Shrines
Temples are open-air buildings (with satellite buildings having ceilings) open to the sky, sometimes with large brass or gold mirrors on high points to reflect more light toward the altar (always in such a way as not to blind anyone present, though older priests tend to develop a squint and crow’s feet from the bright light). Sun-motifs are common decorations, as are white or metallic wings and images of doves. Most temples have a sundial and markings tracking the solstices.
Sarenrae’s sanctuaries are surrounded by sunflowers or other plants with large golden flowers. These may be flower gardens or simply wildflowers that flourish because of the goddess’ will. In poorer communities, sunflower seeds are eaten, either whole, as a nutritious paste, or dried into powder and used like flour to make bread. “Dawnflower bread” is small loaves of sunflower bread marked with an ankh on top, distributed to the needy by the church. Sarenrae has many shrines, typically a single stone marker with a sun-ankh, though trios of carved standing stones may mark the summer and winter solstices. Shrines may have niches for candles or small handwritten prayers, and visiting pilgrims typically scatter sunflowers or seeds at the base. In hotter lands, the stone might be part of a small shelter or have an overhang to create a bit of shade for a weary traveler.
A Cleric’s Role
The clergy of Sarenrae are usually peaceful, administering to their flock with a gentle hand and wise words. Such kindness vanishes, however, when the church is stirred to action against an evil that cannot be redeemed— particularly against the cult of Rovagug. At such times, Sarenrae’s priests become dervishes, dancing among foes while allowing their scimitars to give their opponents final redemption. Even commonfolk aid in these endeavors, though their contribution is more in terms of supplies and emotional support than taking up arms against evil, though even that has happened in extreme times.
Priests are responsible for blessing farmland, organizing planting and harvest celebrations, tending to the sick and injured, guarding or rehabilitating criminals, or simply preaching to others using simple parables. Like their goddess, priests of the Dawnflower tend to be caring and understanding, which makes them naturally suitable for working out disputes between neighbors or family members. Swordplay, particularly with the scimitar, is held to be a form of art by her followers. Martial-minded priests seek out evil in the hopes of redeeming it or destroying it if redemption fails. They understand that undead, mindless beasts, and fiends are essentially beyond redemption and don’t bother wasting words on such creatures. The church is not averse to using spells like lesser geas and mark of justice to help guide malcontents toward goodness. Priests of Sarenrae never seem to sunburn; those of middle or dark complexion just get darker, while those with fair features tend to become lighter as if sun-bleached.
Most non-adventuring priests live on donations from their congregation, as do those who work in church temples. Wealthier folk or nobles might hire a priest as a personal healer to deal with a particular problem or as a long-term retainer, likewise some receive a stipend from the city guard or army to take care of peacekeepers and soldiers. By tradition they normally do not refuse someone in need of healing even if the person cannot pay, but they are quick to assess who urgently needs medical attention and who will recover naturally, which prevents most exploitation and allows them to focus their magic on those who really need it.
The Dawnflower’s church is extremely flexible and allows its priest much mobility between temples—a legacy of its early popularity among the nomadic tribes. This practice helps diffuse pressure from personal feuds, as one priest can relocate to another temple until tempers cool. Individual temples are organized much like a family, with parental and sibling-like interactions between various groups. The head of a particular temple is called the Dawnfather or Dawnmother, and is usually an older person skilled at healing and diplomacy; members of the temple are expected to follow the decisions of the leader, though normally he or she encourages input from junior members before a decision is made.
Priests of Sarenrae are usually skilled at Diplomacy and Heal. Many also learn Knowledge (nature) or Profession (herbalist) to better understand medicinal plants. Those who make a habit of confronting evil usually learn Intimidate, as they prefer a foe that surrenders to one that must be beaten into submission.
A priest normally wakes around dawn and makes a thankful prayer toward the rising sun. A quick meal (preferably warm) follows, as does a short time of introspective prayer, no longer than an hour, after which the priest goes about his work. It is customary to utter a quick prayer upon exiting a building through a door that faces the sun, and another any time the sun breaks through the clouds (much as you might bless someone if they sneeze). They pause to pray a few minutes at the sun’s highest point in the day and shortly before sundown (priests who cannot see the sun, such as those in a dungeon or cave, estimate the appropriate time for these prayers).
Sarenrae’s followers record many myths in their holy books; these two are among the most popular.
Darkness and Light: When the primal forces created Golarion, Asmodeus planted a malignant evil upon the world under cover of perpetual darkness. The doctrine of Sarenrae’s faith tells how the Dawnflower brought light to the world, and with it came truth and honesty. All who had turned to evil in the darkness saw their wickedness illuminated in Sarenrae’s light; shocked at the ugliness within them, they asked for forgiveness and were cleansed of their evil by the goddess. The church uses this to explain its policy of redemption—it is there for anyone who asks for it with an open heart. Note that the church believes that divine forgiveness for evil does not excuse mortal punishment; a thief who asks the church for forgiveness finds his soul elevated, but must still compensate his victim according to local law.
The Punishment of Ninshabur: Legend holds that the Pit of Gormuz was once the great city of Ninshabur. Long had it been a city of wickedness and sin, and long had her priesthood tried to convince the people there to abandon their ways and turn to the healing power of the light. Their efforts failed time and again, and despite her warnings in the form of an earthquake and a night that burned bright as day, they still rejoiced in their evil. Finally, when her followers found cultists of Rovagug preaching openly in the streets, she decided that the taint was too deep and they must be destroyed like any other fiend. Sarenrae smote the earth with a scimitar of fire, creating a rent to the center of the world, and the city tumbled out of the light they had so fervently rejected.
Sarenrae is the patron goddess of summer, and its month of Sarenith is named for her. The church has two universal holidays, though regional temples may hold additional holidays to celebrate local events, such as the appearance of a saint. Services are happy events incorporating singing, dancing, bells, cymbals, and flutes; they always take place outside and during daylight hours.
Burning Blades: This takes place on Sarenith 10th, although technically it is the apex of a summer-long celebration in the Dawnflower’s name. The holiday represents the light of Sarenrae and its power to heal, both physically and spiritually. It is named for the dance of the burning blade, where the faithful coat ceremonial weapons in slow-burning pitch and dance with flaming blades. Church legend says that on this day the blades of the zealous will ignite with Sarenrae’s fire should their wielder be in mortal peril, and this miracle has happened often enough that evil folk avoid the faithful on this day.
Sunwrought Festival: Celebrated on the summer solstice, this holiday honors the longest day of the year as the day when Sarenrae pays extra attention to the people in the mortal world. Worshipers dance, give each other small gifts, light fireworks, and sell or trade their finest crafts in a market-like gathering. Fireworks, paper streamers, and simple kites are popular amusements. Many feature a reenactment of the battle between Sarenrae and Rovagug, with the goddess represented by a young woman and the evil god represented as a large frame-and-cloth costume that can exceed 20 feet in length and require four or more people to move.
The people of Katapesh and Osirion always swear oaths on Sarenrae’s name to prove their honesty. Among the faithful, there are certain phrases in common use.
The Dawn Brings New Light (Die Morgendämmerung bringt neues Licht): Often used as a litany against evil and despair, the faithful use this phrase to mean that each new day is an opportunity, a promise from Sarenrae that things will get better, even if that means the afterlife (records from Osirion during the purging of the Cult of the Dawnflower cult indicate several martyrs of the faith chanted this as they were executed for their beliefs). It is also used to welcome good things in life, whether blessing the birth of a child, an unexpected monetary gain, or a delicious meal.
For the Sun and the Fury (Für die Sonne und den Zorn): This battle calls upon the light of Sarenrae and her righteous anger at unrepentant evil. Paladins like to shout it when they smite, clerics when they invoke holy fire. Traditionally this is painted or carved on the cornerstone of every temple to Sarenrae.
Relations With Other Religions
The goddess welcomes all non-evil deities and treats most of the evil ones pleasantly in the hopes of convincing them to abandon their evil. Similar to how all gods love Shelyn in their own way, they understand that Sarenrae honestly wants their friendship, whether or not that feeling is reciprocated. She hates Asmodeus passionately, and though it is rarely spoken of, they share a deeper rivalry than merely their constant battle over souls. Likewise, despite her disgust at Urgathoa’s undead followers and disease, the Dawnflower tries to find some way to “help” the other goddess become whole again, though the Pallid Princess has no interest in her help. Rovagug is particularly loathed, for his mindless destruction opposes her generous nature and she still remembers the sting of his attacks in the battle where she imprisoned him ages ago. She gets along very well with the Empyreal Lords and often lends them
support in their causes (in some lands, these beings are worshiped as saints of the Dawnflower’s church, though Sarenrae makes no such claims).
was fast approaching and even judged him as she did all those born as mortals, but did nothing to warn her followers, many of whom were driven mad by the event. Though prophecy is no longer reliable, prophets continue to be born, and most of these are driven mad by their confusing and contradictory visions—and the church has taken it upon itself to care for these poor souls, devoting portions of major temples to be sanitariums. In art, Pharasma is depicted as the midwife, the mad prophet, or the reaper of the dead, depending upon her role. Her visage usually has gray skin and white eyes. As the midwife, she is efficient and severe, hair pulled back and arms bare from hands to the elbows. As the prophet, she is wild-eyed and tanglehaired, her words echoing like thunder. As the reaper, she is tall and gaunt, with a f lowing, black-hooded gown and an hourglass with fast-f lowing red sand—moving with deliberate care rather than aggressiveness. Pregnant women often carry small tokens of her midwife likeness on long necklaces to protect the unborn and grant them good lives.
Sitting atop an impossibly tall spire, Pharasma’s realm in the afterworld—the Boneyard— awaits all mortals. Once there, they stand in a great line, waiting to be judged and sent to their f inal reward. Those who die before experiencing their full fate may be lucky enough to return in this life or the next, though in some cases their fate is merely to die an ignoble or early death. The Lady of Graves opposes undeath as a desecration of the memory of the f lesh and a corruption of a soul’s path on its journey to her judgment.
The church works much like a strong, predominantly matriarchal family, though some have compared it to a severe, conservative nunnery. Though neutral as a whole, the church has many traditions passed down by the goddess and her prophets, and members of the church follow these teachings stringently. However, different branches of the church give some rituals and practices more weight than others; though this is never enough that church factions war on each other, it is easy for one of the faith to recognize a member of his own sect, or realize a visitor is unfamiliar with local practices.
Pharasma manifests her favor through the appearance of scarab beetles and whippoorwills, both of which function as psychopomps and serve to guide recently departed spirits to the Boneyard. Black roses are thought to bring good luck, especially if the stems sport no thorns. Pharasma will also sometimes allow the spirits of those who have died under mysterious conditions to transmit short
messages to their living kin to comfort them, to expose a murderer, or even to haunt an enemy. Her displeasure is often signified by cold chills down the spine, bleeding from under the fingernails, an unexplained taste of rich soil, the discovery of a dead whippoorwill, or the feeling that something important has been forgotten.
Pharasma is neutral and her portfolio is fate, death, prophecy, and birth. Her weapon is the skane, a special dagger with ritual signif icance. Her holy symbol is a spiral of light, representing a soul, its journey from birth to death to the afterlife, and the confusing path of deciphering prophecy. Her domains are Death, Healing, Knowledge, Repose, and Water. Most members of her priesthood are clerics, with a significant number of diviners, oracles, and adepts. Roughly twothirds of her clergy are women, though the gender mix may vary regionally. Pharasma’s followers are midwives, morticians, so-called “white necromancers,” expectant mothers, and (though much less so since Aroden’s death) Harrowers, palmists, oneiromancers, cloud-readers, and others who use non-magical forms of divination. In smaller communities, a Pharasmin priest may assume several of these roles, or a wife-and-husband team might split the duties between them. Of course, as the goddess of birth and death, Pharasma has many lay followers as well, and even in lands where her faith is not large or organized, commoners pray to her for guidance or protection, much as farmers everywhere pray to Erastil for good crops.
Worshipers of Pharasma—as well as most commoners— trace the goddess’s spiral-symbol on their chests, typically as a form of prayer when hearing ill news or a spoken evil, in response to blasphemy, and before or during an event that is dangerous or has an uncertain outcome. Different lands perform this gesture differently—in Ustalav, it is with a closed fist, while in Osirion it is with the first two fingers extended. Especially devout folk see or repeat this gesture in everyday activities, such as stirring soup orscrubbing a f loor.
Prayer services to Pharasma are a mixture of somber chants and joyous song, with local celebratory or somber music mixed in. Services usually end on a positive or uplifting note, for while death comes to all, there are new generations of life to praise (at least, until the end comes, which they will deal with at that time). Each temple keeps a record of births and deaths of its members, and priests speak their names on anniversaries of these events (while those close to the departed light candles to honor them).
Pharasma is in favor of marriage, as it leads to births, but is not against having children out of wedlock, or childless couples adopting, or children being raised in orphanages. Church weddings may be simple or ornate, depending on the social status and wealth of the participants. Though she is the goddess of birth, she does not oppose contraception, and her temples have been known to provide this assistance to women with a history of stillbirths and deformities. However, she believes killing a child in the womb is an abomination, for it sends the infant soul to the afterlife before it has a chance to fulfill its destiny; thus, the goddess’s midwives refuse to aid in such matters, even if bearing the child would be a great risk to the mother. Some church midwives, called casarmetzes, are so skilled in a combination of medicine, magic, and surgery that in dire circumstances they can cut a living child from its mother’s womb and save both. Curiously, the church does not frown upon suicide, though individual priests may debate whether taking one’s own life is the natural fate of some souls or a means to return to the goddess for a chance at a different life.
A traditional bread associated with the church is kolash, made from braided dough and bent in a tight spiral until it forms a round loaf. Often, the dough is filled or topped with diced fruit, and eaten with sweet cheese. For the winter feast, the center portion of the spiral is left open to allow for a wax candle, lit at the start of the meal and extinguished when the bread is to be eaten. The church has a tradition where a family calls a gathering on the third day after a child’s birth, to welcome it as a new soul in the world. Superstition holds that the child must be given a name before this gathering, else the child will be unlucky. Visitors bring small cakes, seeds, salted peas, and watered beer to share with the family and other guests. A priest or family elder lists the names of
the child’s maternal or paternal ancestors (matching the child’s gender), calling for the child to be named and grow up with good health, and for the parents to live to see the child married and grandchildren born.
When a member of the faith dies, the body is cleaned, immersed in water, and dressed in a special multi-part shroud (consisting of 5 pieces for a male, 9 for a female). A prayer written on parchment, bark, cloth, or stone is tucked into the shroud, and the corpse is sealed in a casket (if one is to be used). A guardian sits with the body the night before the burial—sometimes to honor the dead, sometimes to guard against body thieves, sometimes to watch that the body does not rise as an undead.
Those who can afford it usually pay to have their remains interred on holy ground by priests. The cost varies by the local economy and the nature of the burial; a tiny burial cell in a catacomb or ossuary is inexpensive (especially if shared with other bodies), whereas a room-sized private tomb may be something only a wealthy merchant or noble can afford. Disinterring a buried corpse is considered a violation of the dead, and the church normally refuses to do this—even when a city government has sought to break ground for a sewer, aqueduct, or other vital construction, the church has refused to permit it. However, if a priest discovers a worshiper’s corpse that has been buried improperly and exposed, he or she usually arranges for a proper burial in accordance with church teachings.
Those mourning for the recent dead (typically the father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, and spouse) traditionally mark their eyelids with black ash or an herbal paste for five days after the burial. The faithful honor the deceased by burning a votive candle on the anniversary of the death. This squat candle lasts 24 hours; many tombstones have niches to protect soul candles from the wind. The church allows the dead to be cremated, though burial in earth is preferred; disposing of a corpse at sea, sky burial, and funerary cannibalism are generally considered disrespectful. The church does not mourn apostates, and priests refuse to give rites to those who turn their back on the faith.
In Ustalav, a belief called the Pharasmin Penitence has taken hold in the minds of those who worship the Lady of Graves. It is their understanding that the pains and trials of life add a certain weight to the soul, and when Pharasma judges that soul, she counterbalances that weight with rewards in the afterlife. Though most who share this belief merely take on ascetic-like restrictions in their diet and what meager pleasure they can find in life, some sacrifice more by blinding, deafening, or f lagellating themselves, or by wearing hairshirts to limit or counter what would lighten their souls, hopefully guaranteeing greater rewards in the afterlife. In some counties, extremists view enduring pain as a condemnation of pleasure and change, and hunt those who alter the world to satisfy mere mortal whims—specifically, users of arcane magic.
Temples and Shrines
Pharasma’s temples are often gothic cathedrals, usually located near a town’s graveyard, although a single bleak stone in an empty field or graveyard can serve as a shrine. Large temples usually have catacombs underneath, filled with corpses of the wealthy and former members of the priesthood, as burial under the goddess’s temple is believed to raise her opinion of the deceased when it is time for judgment. Even a remote Pharasmin monastery has a large area set aside for burial, and may be the final resting place of generations of wealthy and inf luential folk—as well as an uncountable accumulation of tomb treasures.
Each temple has a high priest or priestess for each aspect of the faith—birth, death, and fate. In theory they are equal, though the high priest of prophecy has assumed a secondary role in recent decades (and the position is often held by a strange or unstable person), and in smaller locales a single priest serves all three functions. Temples that include a crypt also have a cryptsmaster or cryptsmistress in charge of that facility. Ranking within a temple is usually based on seniority of service—those who have been in the priesthood longer outrank those who have served for a shorter length of time.
Hierarchy between churches depends on the size of the populations they serve; a large city temple has greater inf luence than a smaller town’s temple. Pharasma’s faithful dress in funereal clothes for religious ceremonies, always black (regardless of the local custom, though other colors and styles may be underneath a black outer garment) and accented with silver and tiny vials of holy water. Clergy living in monasteries dress in black or gray, depending on local custom; many of these take vows of silence to show their devotion to the Lady of Graves.
A Priest’s Role
Members of the priesthood are usually clerics, diviners, or “white necromancers” (wizards who study forms of necromancy other than the creation of undead and the destruction of life), though especially skilled midwives and hedge wizards have been known to gain authority in some areas. Priests oversee births, and having a Pharasmin priest at childbirth almost always ensures that the mother and child will live. They are the stewards of the dead, and most are familiar with funereal customs from their own and nearby lands. They are the protectors of graveyards and the memory of those who have died, guarding sites from robbers and corpse-animators and memorizing or recording what they know about anyone who dies in their presence. The church despises the undead as abominations to the natural order, and all priests follow the church’s teachings about undead without question; creating undead is forbidden, and controlling existing undead is frowned upon, even by evil Pharasmin priests.
A typical priest earns a meager living tending to women in labor, speaking words at funerals, or even digging graves or building tombs for wealthy patrons. Adventuring priests avoid entering tombs for the purpose of looting, though if a tomb is known to hold undead, they accept this transgression with the intent of dispatching abominations (though they still oppose desecrating non-undead corpses in such places). Followers of Pharasma tend to be brusque, as they spend much of their time dealing with the dead (who do not talk back and don’t get their feelings hurt) or folk under extreme duress (such as women giving birth). When their services are needed, they give orders and expect to be obeyed, as a mortal soul (either recently departed or about to arrive) is at stake.
All priests carry a skane, a double-edge ceremonial dagger with a dull gray blade, often with a stylized depiction of the goddess’s face and hair on the pommel. The dagger is used to hold open prayer scrolls, to touch parts of a corpse when performing death rites, to cut shrouds for the dead and the umbilical cord of newborns, and to slice kolash on feast days. It is not forbidden for a priest to use a skane to draw blood or take a life, but some refuse to do so, and carry a different weapon if they must fight. A casarmetzes carries a special skane, bearing Pharasma’s likeness on one side of the pommel and a crying child on the other.
The first month of spring, Pharast, is named for the Lady of Graves—a month of new life and renewal for the world. The church has two common holidays shared by all temples.
Day of Bones: On the fifth day of Pharast, priests carry the enshrouded corpses of the recent dead through the streets of the city in an honored procession. These corpses are interred at no cost in a church graveyard, tomb, or sepulcher, which is considered a great honor to the departed.
Procession of Unforgotten Souls: Practiced in lands where the Lady of Graves is a prominent deity, this ceremony is a nightly ritual for weeks leading up to the harvest feast in which the faithful ask the goddess to delay when she takes them to the afterlife. Priests wear thin, black robes over their festival clothes, and carry lit candles in a procession into a large fountain, pool, lake, or quiet river. As they enter the deeper water, the candles go out, but as the priests reach the other side, the candles re-light, and the water makes the black robes transparent, revealing the festival colors beneath.
Given its abundance of rituals, ritual objects, and ritual clothing, it is not surprising that the church has developed many habitual phrases. In most cases, a member of the faith makes the sign of the Lady over the heart when speaking one of these locutions. The three most common are as follows.
Not this year, not yet (Nicht dieses Jahr und nicht jetzt): This is a brief prayer, spoken in response to hearing a tragedy or bad rumor, asking that Pharasma delay when believers are sent to her realm, for they have much to do before that time. The devout speak it at each morning’s prayers and when they pray before bed.
All who live must face her judgment (Alle Lebenden müssen sich ihrem Urteilsspruch stellen): This is a promise that another person—typically an enemy, but often just a flippant or disrespectful person— will suffer whatever fate is in store for them, even if it takes longer than the speaker would like.
The Lady shall keep it (Die Lady soll es bewahren): This is an oath to bear a secret to the grave, telling no one, swearing that only Pharasma shall hear it in person (and only once the oath-maker has died), or that she will claim the oath-maker early should he break his promise of secrecy.
Pharasma’s holy book is The Bones Land in a Spiral; much of it was written long ago by a prophet, and many of its predictions are so vague that there is much debate about what events they foretell or whether they have already passed. Other sections were added later and deal with safe childbirth, disposal of the dead to prevent undeath, and so on. exists as a collection of illuminated scrolls organized by topic. Created with rare inks and metal filigree, some of these collections are historical artifacts worth thousands of gold pieces. As each scroll has particular prayers needed for various temple ceremonies, in many cases a priest only needs to bring the appropriate scrolls to the service, leaving the remainder in a safe place. Each scroll is held in a gray silk sleeve called a mantle to protect it from wear and mishaps. As mantles wear out after years of use, they must be disposed of, but church doctrine says they cannot merely be discarded, and a used mantle is either walled up in a tiny compartment within a temple, or (preferably) sewn into a burial shroud of a priest or other notable member of the faith who is about to be buried. Corpses fortunate enough to bear a Pharasmin mantle as part of their shroud are said to be especially resistant to the predations of the undead, including being animated or turned into spawn.
Relations with Other Religions
All deities deal peaceably with Pharasma, for their agents must have access to her realm to escort souls to their respective god-homes. She has no true enemies or allies, though Iomedae views her with some resentment for keeping Aroden’s approaching death a secret. Even Zyphus treats her with respect, though many believe he and she are at odds over whether certain souls are taken from the mortal world too quickly. Her relationship with the enigmatic Groetus is a mystery. The Lady, however, is disinclined to bargain with fiends, for she knows too well of their predations on unsorted souls as they pass through the Astral Plane to her realm and the harassment of her psychopomp servants.
Abadar is the master and guardian of the First Vault, a magical trove in his realm where a perfect version of every creature and creation exists—a perfect sword, a perfect deer, a perfect wheel, and even a perfect law. His mortal artists and craftsman attempt to emulate these perfect forms, inspired by Abadar’s mentoring. Likewise, his arbiters and judges keep these idealized laws in mind when crafting new laws or ruling on existing ones. It is said that centuries ago he allowed mortals to visit the First Vault in dreams. There has been no record of this in a long time, perhaps because he has not found someone worthy, because he fears his enemies might steal the perfect forms, or because he is pacing the advance of civilization to prevent it from growing too quickly and dissolving before it is ready.
The god of cities is stern but rewards those who work hard and whose actions benefit others as well as themselves, though he is morally ambiguous enough to recognize that not every person can benefit from every decision. Misusing slaves or beasts of burden is a waste of resources and detrimental to the profitability of a farm and civilization as a whole, and using cheaply-paid laborers rather than slaves is a better option, but Abadar understands that the world changes in small increments and the most advantageous option for society is not always the most workable in the present. He respects cautious thought and rejects impulsiveness, seeing it as a base and destructive whim. He teaches that discipline, keen judgment, and following the law eventually leads to wealth, comfort, and happiness. He does not believe in free handouts, and because of this his temples sell potions and healing spells or scrolls rather than giving them to those in need. Any who protest are pointed at the temple of Sarenrae.
His primary worshipers are judges, merchants, lawyers, and aristocrats, all of whom benefit from established laws and commerce. Those who are poor or who have been wronged also worship him, praying he might help reverse their ill fortune, for most mortals seek wealth and the happiness it brings. He expects his followers to abide by local laws (though not foolish, contradictory, toothless, or purposeless laws) and work to promote order and peace. He has no tolerance for gambling or excessive drinking. Abadar’s personal intervention in the mortal world is usually in the form of hints or opportunities rather than direct gifts. Worshipers who lose Abadar’s favor might find themselves short on money at a crucial time, tongue-tied in the middle of an important deal, or stymied in their craft or art. When he is pleased, deals are more profitable than expected, projects are completed early, and journeys to or within a city take less time than normal. His intervention is subtle, for he expects worshipers to do their own work.
Abadar is depicted as a handsome man with black hair dressed in fine garments, often with a gold cloak over a golden breastplate and bearing many keys. Humans, dwarves, and gnomes show him with a beard, whereas elves show him beardless and with long braids tied with golden thread. His voice is pleasant and even, his words firm but not harsh. Abadar is lawful neutral and his portfolio is cities, wealth, merchants, and law. His domains are Earth, Law, Nobility, Protection, and Travel, and his favored weapon is the crossbow. His holy symbol is a golden key, often with a city image on the head. Most of his clergy are clerics, with a small number of paladins. Due to the emphasis on cities and civilization, he has no adepts—even the most remote settlements paying homage to Abadar are watched over by a cleric or paladin. He is called the Master of the First Vault, Judge of the Gods, and the Gold-Fisted.
Abadar’s church is well organized and has a city-based hierarchy. The church in each city is independent, encouraging friendly competition between cities to promote trade. Church law forbids the clergy from attacking each other regardless of political, national, or financial motivations. If two rival cities go to war, the churches of Abadar often become neutral territory, not participating in the struggle and acting as safe havens and mediators in the conflict. Warfare creates instability and chips away at the foundations of civilization. Ritual garb for religious ceremonies includes white silk cloth trimmed with gold thread, a belt or necklace of gold links bearing a golden key, and a half-cloak of deep yellow or gold. Ceremonial items are always crafted out of precious metals if available and often decorated with gems or inlays, though not to the extent that the item becomes fragile or unusable.
Services to Abadar include songs with complex harmonies, the playing of music (usually hammer-based instruments such as dulcimers and glockenspiels), and the counting or sorting of coins or keys (often in time with the singing or music). Services and ceremonies always take place indoors, representing the shelter of civilization. Faithful unable to reach an actual building make do with at least a crude structure or a even a sloping wall or cave that provides protection from the elements. Services usually take place in the morning and it is customary to thank Abadar after a profitable or advantageous transaction.
Temples and Shrines
Abadar’s temples are elaborate buildings with rich decorations and high, thick stained-glass windows. These windows have small frames (to guard against thieves) and usually feature vivid yellow glass that casts a golden hue on everything within the church. Most temples have a guarded vault for church treasures and wealth, and many also rent space in their vault to those who wish a safe place to keep their valuables. Any temple in a small town or larger settlement also serves as a bank, currency exchange, and moneylender, which helps keep interest rates reasonable and consistent. The head of the temple (known as a Banker or Archbanker) watches the local economy and adjusts interest to stimulate growth, encourage investment, or help recover from a disaster. As priests often serve as lawyers and judges, the temples are usually built near courthouses.
A Cleric’s Role
Abadar’s basic tenet is simple—people should use their gifts to advance civilization in the world so commerce happens and people can go about their orderly lives and achieve comfort and happiness. His clerics are the agents of civilization, turning trails into roads and towns into cities while always enforcing law. They eliminate monsters and troublemakers in urban and rural areas, adjudicate disputes, make legal rulings, and reassure law-abiding people that the forces of order are watching over them. Many city-bound clerics work with the local legal system as judges, lawyers, and clerks (donating their services much as a healing-oriented church might run a hospice or give food to the needy), although they are not usually part of the city’s government. In wilder areas, clerics act as judge and jury, seeking out threats to civilization and eliminating them. Younger priests who are physically fit do many tours through smaller towns and frontier areas to carry news and make sure order leaves its footprint. As meters of justice each priest traditionally carries a single golden-headed crossbow bolt for when a criminal must be executed. This bolt goes to the dead criminal’s family as compensation for the loss and a means to make an honest living.
Although Abadar’s temples are mercenary when it comes to providing healing, as guardians of civilization they are more generous when protecting the public health. Likewise, when traveling with others (such as an adventuring party) they do not charge their companions for healing any more than they expect a fighter to charge for each swordswing or a rogue to charge for each picked lock. Like a business, questing and traveling requires teamwork, and it is part of the cleric’s responsibility to provide healing and magical support.
A typical cleric has at least 1 rank in Knowledge (local) in order to be familiar with the laws of his home city. Most also dabble in knowledge of local history and nobility or practice some sort of craft or profession—always something useful to a developing or established settlement. Clerics are not permitted to give money to those in need, only to lend it at a fair rate and record the transaction for the church’s record. They are required to tithe, and most clerics have small investments in local businesses that generate enough income to cover the tithe. Those with no mind for business but a talent for dealing with people often work as teachers, educating children and adults so they can advance themselves and better serve the community. Every cleric belongs to a city temple, even those touring remote areas. If circumstances warrant distant travel or a long period near another city, the home temple files paperwork transferring the cleric’s affiliation to a closer temple.
A typical day for a cleric involves waking, breakfast, prayer, reading or hearing the local news for anything worth investigating, and a period of work. At night, there is a brief prayer before the evening meal, and the evening is reserved for hobbies, family, or other non-work interests. Spell preparation takes place after morning prayers.
A Paladin’s Role
Paladins are not common in the faith (with perhaps one paladin for every 50 clerics), as their zealous push for good doesn’t sit perfectly within Abadar’s more balanced approach to ethics. As many frontier areas are plagued by evil monsters, though, and the forces of chaos are usually aligned with evil or are evil themselves, the god understands that an active force for good is sometimes best for the job. Abadar’s paladins are unusual in that they tend to be flashy in their clothing and equipment, as a way to inspire others to join the cause, and use their money and influence to extend the reach of civilization.
Because of their specialized interests and abilities, paladins of the Judge sometimes work behind the scenes in lawful evil nations where the leaders are exploiting the economy at the expense of their subjects. In such realms, the paladins’ primary goal is to balance the movement of wealth in the area, but if a few evil leaders fall and in the end the region is more skewed toward neutrality or good, so be it. Paladins tend to be more fiscally aggressive than clerics, willing to invest in promising enterprises, take a loss on a deal in order to motivate trade, and take greater risks with their money.
The followers of Abadar are meticulous record-keepers, and the general population regards most of their stories and parables as fact.
Eagle’s Eye: Eagles play a significant role in several Abadaran myths. The faithful honor them for their farseeing eyes that search for subtle details and the high flights that give them perspective. One prominent myth says that Abadar spends a day each year in the form of a two-headed eagle (representing his even perspective on both sides of every situation). He soars above the greatest mortal cities and observes their craft and commerce. If members of the faithful find and recognize him, he grants them boons that greatly profit them and their towns.
The First Vault: As nomadic tribes began to create permanent settlements, they established permanent places to keep important or valuable things. Sensing a need for a godly version of these caches, the young god Abadar sought a place in his realm where he could keep the perfect forms of anything ever created or witnessed by civilization. He found a deep cave with an even floor and used his powers to carve additional space and seal it with a huge door of gold. He placed within the vault pure, godly representations of the first mortal creations and was pleased to see that others appeared as mortals did their work. Abadar locked the vault with a great key so that if a civilization failed, its works would persist and could be taught to or discovered by those who came after. In honor of this great undertaking, the priests of the Master of the First Vault emulate him by keeping detailed records of their accomplishments.
Zorin’s Pledge: Long ago, an army of barbarians and undead besieged the home city of a priest named Zorin. Faced with grim odds and dreading the pillaging the army would bring, he swore an oath to Abadar that he would give his life and soul to protect his city from the raiders. When the horde charged the city gate, Zorin stepped forward to repel them, and with each hit he took more of his armor turned to gold. Even his skin took on a golden hue, until eventually he was transformed into the Lawgiver, the golden herald of Abadar’s faith. Zorin vanished after the battle, but he has been known to spontaneously arrive to defend a city in great need.
All of the Church of Abadar’s observed holidays have to do with trade or civilization.
Market’s Door: This holiday marks the first day the markets receive goods from the fall harvest. The actual date varies from year to year, but between historical trends and simple divination the church can announce the exact date a month in advance. Before the market opens, a priest blesses the market area and leads a group prayer for all present, thanking Abadar and asking for his eye to look favorably upon the season’s business. In cities where the vendors must pay a fee in order to use the market, the church usually subsidizes a portion of the fee on this day for the earliest arrivals.
Taxfest: The church views the annual collecting of taxes as a cause for celebration, seeing fair taxation as a necessary part of the building and maintenance of civilization. Whenever possible, the church sends a priest with each taxman to ensure that the process is respectful and to make sure the taxpayer knows the collection is being monitored. Once all monies have been collected, the church opens up its doors and invites the townsfolk to participate in an enormous feast with their civic leaders, both to help the experience remain positive and to give the commoners a chance to express their opinions on how the newly collected funds ought to be spent.
As Abadar is the god of cities, the sayings of his followers are commonplace in urban areas.
So it is judged (So lautet das Urteil): Used in trials to indicate Abadar’s approval of any verdict, this phrase is repeated for any legal proclamation or sentencing. It is also traditionally said at the end of any Abadaran prayer or blessing, weddings (a legal and religious matter), and funerals. Superstitious folk whisper it whenever an act in the natural world supports their idea of law and justice, and many gamblers say it when chance goes in their favor (a mildly sacrilegious jest).
This can help us all (Dies kann uns allen helfen): Because the church doesn’t believe in giving handouts, most choose to celebrate holidays by giving practical gifts such as tools, musical instruments, or even simple services like chopping a cord of wood or watching children. These kinds of gifts strengthen community bonds and show the advantage of living like civilized folk. This phrase is said when receiving a gift as a way of expressing thanks while acknowledging the benefit the gift extends to the community as a whole.
Relations With Other Religions
Abadar understands that an advanced civilization has many spiritual needs, and different members of a society pray to different gods, thus he tries to maintain an approachable coolness where other deities are concerned. Only those who directly oppose his beliefs and purpose—notably Rovagug and to a lesser extent Lamashtu—are his declared enemies, and while he might be willing to negotiate with them for some purpose, they routinely refuse to do so. He is friendly with Erastil (god of farming, necessary for transitioning from a nomadic lifestyle), Iomedae (goddess of justice and rulership, necessary to preserve peace in a society), Irori (god of history and knowledge, critical for a stable civilization), Shelyn (goddess of art and music, excellent traditions), and even Asmodeus (although only for the archdevil’s belief in upholding contracts). Abadar knows that his pursuits frequently anger Gozreh (god of nature), who would like to see the natural parts of the world remain unspoiled, but he believes the two can eventually reach a compromise.
The average cleric of Abadar is rarely without numerous documents related to the internal processes of the church, but their holiest texts have a more educational focus.
The Order of Numbers: This book reads more like a city charter or legal treatise than a religious text. It is the core book of the faith and most editions are elaborately decorated and exquisitely penned—usually a paid commission by the priest or temple, as this generates business in the community. In addition to more than two dozen chapters detailing the beliefs and taboos of the church, each copy has space for notes on local laws, how they interact with church doctrine, names of key figures in the city, and so on. Given its size, every copy has an index and includes pages at the end for the owner to note the location of favorite or commonly-referenced passages. The inside cover bears the name of the book’s owner, and possessing a book belonging to a prestigious family or passed down from a respected church official is a great honor.
The Manual of City-Building: This book is normally bound in heavy leather with bronze clasps and corners, designed for heavy use and frequent reference. It contains comprehensive advice on how to successfully found a town and build it up into a city, with sections on planning for water needs, sewage, roads, trade, defenses, and so on. Each section contains scriptural anecdotes bolstering the factual information, including prayers and blessings for each aspect of the building process. The church updates this book every few years with information it has learned since the last edition, and hence most older copies have an appendix for changes and footnotes. The oldest church in a city usually keeps its copy of this book on a special consecrated table, especially if the church was responsible for the city’s founding.