Pharasma

Birth and death are written in the bones, but bones can be broken.
- The Bones Land in a Spiral

Lady of Graves
Goddess of birth, death, fate, and prophecy
Alignment  N
Domains  Death, Healing, Knowledge, Repose, Water
Favored Weapon  dagger
Centers of Worship  Brevoy, Nex, Osirion, The Shackles, Thuvia, Ustalav, Varisia
Nationality  Garundi
Obedience  Collect small bones whenever it is convenient and respectful to do so. When it comes time to perform your obedience, lay out the bones in a spiral. At one end of the spiral lay a slip of parchment on which you have written the name of someone newly born. At the other end of the spiral, lay a slip of parchment on which you have written the name of someone newly deceased. Chant hymns from  The Bones Land in a Spire  while proceeding solemnly around the spiral, trailing a black scarf on the ground behind you. Gain a +2 profane or sacred bonus on attack rolls made with daggers. The type of bonus depends on your alignment-if you're neither good nor evil, you must choose either sacred or profane the first time you perform your obedience, and this choice can't be changed.



Pharasma is the stern observer of life and death, scrutinizing the tangled webs of fate and prophecy, mercilessly cold in the administration of her duties. Having seen infants die, the righteous fall too soon, and tyrants live to advanced age, she makes no judgment about the justness of a particular death, and welcomes each birth with equal severity. At the moment of a mortal's birth, she knows the many possible paths each soul could follow, but reserves her official verdict until the last possible moment. Legends claim that Pharasma saw Aro den's death approaching-and even judged him as she does for all those born as mortals-but did nothing to warn even her own followers, many of whom were driven mad by the event. Though prophecy is no longer reliable, prophets continue to be born, and most of them are rendered insane by their confusing and contradictory visions.

In art, Pharasma is depicted as a midwife, a mad prophet, or a reaper of the dead, depending upon her role. Her visage usually has gray skin, white eyes, and white hair. As the midwife, she is efficient and severe, hair pulled back and arms bare from hands to the elbows. Pregnant women often carry tokens of this image on long necklaces to protect their unborn children and grant them good lives. As the prophet, Pharasma is wild-eyed and tangle-haired, and her words echo like thunder. As the reaper, she is tall and gaunt, with a hooded black gown and an hourglass with fast-flowing red sand, and is often shown seated on her throne and passing judgment on mortal souls.

Situated atop an impossibly tall spire, Pharasma's realm in the afterworld-the Boneyard-looms over the perfectly ordered city-plane of Axis. When mortals die, their souls join the vast River of Souls that flows through the Astral Plane, and eventually deposits them in Pharasma's Boneyard at the top ofher spire. Once there, they stand in a great line, filtered through several courts according to their alignment and supposed planar destination. Those who die before experiencing their full fate might be lucky enough to return in this life or the next, either spontaneously or by getting called home by resurrection magic, but more often those who feel that they've met an untimely end discover that their destiny was in fact always leading them to their particular moment of death, however unjust or ignoble.

Though she allows resurrection, the Lady of Graves opposes undeath as a desecration of the memory of the flesh and a corruption of a soul's path on its journey to her judgment. She encourages her followers to hunt undead, as the souls of the destroyed undead will then reach her for judgment. At the heart of the Boneyard is Pharasma's Palace, a gothic structure built over the exact center of the Spire. Psychopomps walk its pathways and quietly fly above its walls, performing the administration of souls, and Pharasma's faithful are housed within. Despite its light color and mood, the Palace is obviously a creation of the goddess. It's unknown whether she made the Spire itself.

Pharasma manifests her favor through the appearance of scarab beetles and whippoorwills, both of which function as psychopomps (both in the figurative sense as guides for dead souls, as well as in the literal sense as manifestations of the outsiders called psychopomps). Black roses are thought to invite her favor and good luck, especially ifthe stems sport no thorns. Her displeasure is often signified by cold chills down the spine, bleeding from the nose or 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 also sometimes allows the spirits of those who have died under mysterious conditions to transmit short messages to their living kin to comfort them, expose a murderer, or haunt an enemy.

Pharasma's holy symbol is a spiral oflight, representing a soul, its journey from birth to death to the afterlife, and the confusing path of deciphering prophecy.


The Church

Pharasma's church is a somber and structured organization, and staunchly neutral in matters unrelated to its tripartite roles-as stewards of life and death, most priests see nationalism and other petty concerns as beneath them. Traditions passed down by the goddess and her prophets are followed stringently, though the various branches of the church differ with respect to which rituals and practices they assign the most weight. These differences are never severe enough to force different factions to open conflict, but may make it easy for worshipers to distinguish between members of their sect and other adherents. Most members of Pharasma's priesthood are clerics, though a significant number are diviners, oracles, and adepts. Roughly two-thirds of her clergy are women, though the gender mix varies regionally, and worldly details like gender and species matter little to most Pharasmins. Pharasma's followers are expectant mothers, midwives, morticians, and so-called "white necromancers" who study other applications of the magic than undead creation. Harrowers, palmists, oneiromancers, cloud­readers, and others who use nonmagical forms of divination also call upon her, although their allegiance has dropped off dramatically since Aroden's death and the end of reliable prophecy. In smaller communities, a Pharasmin priest may assume several of these roles, or a team of spouses might split the duties between them.
Prophets often go mad in this age of conflicting omens, and the church has taken it upon itself to care for these poor souls, devoting portions of major temples to be sanitariums, which are operated by the goddess's clerics. Of course, as the goddess ofbirth 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.

Pharasma encourages her followers to procreate, whether they're married or in less formalized partnerships; she also supports childless couples adopting and orphanages taking care of those who have no living parents. Church weddings may be simple or ornate, depending on the social status and wealth of the participants. Though she is the goddess ofbirth, she does not oppose contraception.
Her temples are known to provide assistance to women dealing with pregnancies that would inevitably end in the death of both mother and child, or to end the torment of a mother whose child is already dead in the womb, but on the whole she believes killing the unborn is an abomination, for it sends the infant soul to the afterlife before it has a chance to fulfill its destiny. The goddess's midwives take all the precautions they can to reduce the risk of pregnancy and childbirth; 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.

On the third day after a child's birth, families devoted to Pharasma call a gathering to welcome its soul into the world. The child must be given a name before this gathering, else superstition holds that it 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 a girl's maternal ancestors or a boy's paternal forefathers, calling for the child to be named publicly and grow up with good health, and for the parents to live to see grandchildren born.
Worshipers of Pharasma-as well as commoners in many regions-trace the goddess's spiral symbol on their chests, typically as a form of prayer when hearing ill news or witnessing blasphemy, and before or during dangerous events or events with uncertain outcomes. Different lands perform this gesture differently-in Ustalav, it is often done with a closed fist, while in Osirion it is with the first two fingers extended. Especially devout folk repeat this gesture in everyday activities, such as stirring soup or scrubbing a floor.

Prayer services to Pharasma are a mixture of somber chants, stirring ritualized sermons, and joyous song, often based upon regional music, and usually end on an uplifting note-for while death comes to all, new generations stride forth in its wake. During celebrations, the goddess's followers often eat kolash, bread braided into a tight spiral and topped or filled with diced fruit or sweet cheese.
During the winter feast, the center portion of the spiral is left open and a wax candle is placed within; the candle is lit at the start of the meal and extinguished when the bread is to be eaten. Each temple keeps a record ofbirths and deaths of its members, and on the anniversaries of death dates, priests speak the names of the departed while those close to the deceased honor them by lighting votive candles that burn for an entire day and night. Many tombstones have niches to protect soul candles from the wind.

When a member of the faith dies, the body is cleaned, immersed in water, and dressed in a special multi-part shroud consisting of five pieces for a male or nine 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 local custom calls for one. A guardian sits with the body the night before the burial-to honor the deceased, to guard against body thieves, and to watch that the body does not rise as an undead. Mourners (typically the immediate family) traditionally mark their eyelids with black ash or an herbal paste for  5  days after the burial.
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. Those who can afford it usually pay to have their remains interred on holy ground by priests. Wealthy merchants and nobles are laid to rest in room-sized private tombs, while those with fewer resources rest in shared burial cells in catacombs or ossuaries. 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. Exhuming a buried corpse is considered a violation of the dead, and the church normally refuses to do this-even when a city government seeks to break ground for a sewer, aqueduct, or other vital construction.
However, if a priest discovers a worshiper's corpse that has been buried improperly or accidentally exposed, he or she usually arranges for a proper burial in accordance with church teachings. The church does not mourn apostates, and while priests do not withhold services from those of other faiths, they flatly refuse to give rites to former Pharasmins who turn their back on the church.


Temples and Shrine

In heavily populated areas, Pharasma's temples tend to be grand, gothic cathedrals adjacent to graveyards, although in smaller towns they might be humble structures with artistic flourishes meant to echo the great cathedrals, and even a single bleak stone in an empty field or graveyard can serve as a shrine. Large temples usually have catacombs underneath, filled with corpses ofthe wealthy and offormer members of the priesthood, as burial under the goddess's temple is believed to soften her judgment of the deceased.
Even a remote Pharasmin monastery has ample cemetery space, and might be the final resting place of generations of wealthy and influential folk-as well as an uncountable accumulation of tomb treasures.
Many local temples have only one ranking priest, but the largest temples have a high priest or priestess for each aspect of the faith-birth, death, and fate. In theory these high priests are all equal, though the high priest of prophecy has assumed a lesser role in recent decades, and the person holding that position is often strange or unstable. Temples that include crypts also have a cryptmaster in charge of that facility. Rank within a temple is based on seniority, as well as on knowledge of the faith, magical power, and personal achievements (such as the destruction of powerful undead).
Hierarchy between churches depends on the size of the populations they serve; a large city's temple has greater influence than a small town's temple.


A Priest's Role

Priests of Pharasma take responsibility for all three of her concerns in the mortal world. Priests (of any gender) who are skilled in midwifery assist at births, and the presence of a Pharasmin priest during childbirth almost always ensures that both mother and child will live. Priests focused on prophecy bear its questionable gift, or record and interpret the ravings of those who do. And all priests of Pharasma are stewards of the dead, familiar with both local funerary customs and those of neighboring lands.
They protect graveyards from robbers and necromancers, and the memory of the deceased from the ravages of time, memorizing or recording what they know about anyone who dies in their presence. Pharasmin inquisitors hunt down the undead and those who seek to create such monstrosities, but all priests have a solemn duty to oppose such abominations when they find them. Creating undead is forbidden, and controlling existing undead is frowned upon, even by evil members of the faith. Most priests are highly skilled in Heal, but often have ranks in Diplomacy and Knowledge (religion) as well.
A typical priest earns her living tending to women in labor, acting as a mortician, digging graves, selling spellcasting services, or building and blessing tombs for wealthy patrons. An adventuring priest will not violate the sanctity of a tomb simply for the purpose oflooting it, and if she enters a burial place to fight abominations, she still opposes desecrating any non-undead corpses encountered during the hunt. Followers of Pharasma tend to be brusque; some people attribute this to haughtiness, but more often it's simply due to the fact that most of a Pharasmin's interactions are with the dead or dying, mad prophets, or women in labor­groups who rarely care about social niceties.
When their services are needed, Pharasmins give orders and expect to be obeyed, as a mortal soul (either recently departed or about to arrive) is usually at stake.

All priests carry a skane-a double-edged ceremonial dagger with a dull gray blade, often with a stylized depiction of the goddess's face and hair on the pommel. They use these daggers to hold open prayer scrolls, to touch parts of a corpse when performing death rites, to cut shrouds for the dead, and to sever the umbilical cords of newborns. 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 item to use in combat. A casarmetzes carries a special skane bearing Pharasma's likeness on one side of the pommel and a crying child on the other, and uses this to perform her surgeries.

Though Pharasmin priests worship the death goddess, they have no taboo against preventing death through healing, either mundane or magical. Pharasmin priests who sign on with adventuring parties usually act as healers-if not particularly gentle or sympathetic ones­and most temples raise money by selling healing and other spellcasting services. Even spells like raise dead, reincarnate, and resurrection are not forbidden, though churches usually charge a great deal for these.


Adventurers

Many adventurers follow Pharasma because they believe in fate, and in the inescapable path of destiny. Everyone worships the goddess to some extent, for not even the most hubris tic of mortals or gods can deny that hers is the hand that  hepherds souls into the afterlife, sending those bound to other gods to their rightful destinations. It's said that even gods are judged after their death by the Lady of Graves.

For those who worship Pharasma above all others, the most important things in life are birth, death, and prophecy. When they adventure in her name, it is often to destroy undead or to seek out and attempt to understand strange prophecies. They might seek to protect the dead from disgrace, and be exceedingly uncomfortable with the standard adventurers' practice of tomb robbing-though they have no problem rooting out whatever abominations may have taken up residence in such places, provided the innocent dead are treated with respect.


Clothing

Pharasmin clothing takes two different routes. For many traditionalist or more ascetic priests, the only acceptable color for formal garments is black, sometimes accented with silver (such as spiral brooches or amulets) and tiny vials of holy water. In recent generations, however, there has been a movement in many temples away from such dour fashions. Pointing out that the solemnity of death is only part of their concern, such iconoclasts celebrate the birth of new life by wearing more colorful and fancifully designed raiment. Instead of traditional black robes, they gravitate toward silver, gray, purple, and the iridescent blue of the goddess's spiral. In addition to color, these iconoclast priests often add highly artistic elements to their clothing, designing their own unique outfits as a reflection of their unique threads in Pharasma's great tapestry. While outright conflict is rare, the two camps of Pharasmins have strong opinions regarding each other's clothing choices.


Holy Text

Pharasma's holy book, The Bones Land in a Spiral, mostly consists of the words of an ancient prophet. The faithful debate which events its predictions foretell, and whether the prophesied days have already passed. Later sections dispense advice on facilitating safe childbirth, properly disposing of the dead to prevent undeath, and other relevant topics.
In older temples, the holy book consists of collections of scrolls illuminated with rare inks and bound in metal filigree, each held in a gray silk mantle to protect it from wear and mishaps. Some of these collections are historical artifacts worth thousands of gold pieces, and priests bring only the scrolls they need to temple services, leaving the remainder in a safe place. Church doctrine mandates that worn-out protective mantles can't simply be discarded, so used mantles are either walled up in tiny compartments within temples or sewn into a burial shroud for a priest or other notable member of the faith. Corpses fortunate enough to bear a Pharasmin mantle as part of their shrouds are said to be especially resistant to the power of undeath, including being animated or turned into spawn.


Aphorisms

Along with its abundance of rituals, ritual objects, and ritual clothing, the church has developed many habitual phrases. In most cases, a member of the faith makes the sign of the spiral over the heart when speaking one of these locutions. Three of the most common are as follows.

Not This Year, Not Yet:  
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:
This is a promise that another person-typically an enemy, but possibly 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:  
This is an oath to bear a secret to the grave, 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 ifhe breaks his promise of secrecy.

Pharasma

LQ's Mummy's Mask melhex