Pharasma

LADY OF GRAVES
Goddess ofbirth, death, fate, and prophecy
Alignment N
Domains Death, Healing, Knowledge, Repose, Water
Favored Weapon dagger
Centers of Worship Brevoy, N ex, Osirion, The Shackl es, 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 o Spiro/ while proceed ing 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.

P harasma 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 SHRINES
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.
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 ofthe
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 shepherds 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.
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.
HOLIDAYS
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 ofUnforgotten Souls: In lands where the Lady
of Graves is a prominent deity, this ceremony is held nightly
in the weeks leading up to the harvest feast, during 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.
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.
RELATIONS WITH
OTHER RELIGIONS
All deities deal peaceably with Pharasma, for their agents
must have access to her realm to escort souls under their
protection to their respective homes. While she approves of
some actions and disapproves of others, she remains aloof
and distant, with no true friends or enemies. She detests
entities like Urgathoa and Orcus, who actively disrupt the
cycle of souls by creating undead, as well as daemons who
prey on the River of Souls, yet she leaves direct conflict to
her minions, and does not demean the honor of her role
as judge by withholding souls rightfully bound for such
patrons. Most of the other gods understand and appreciate
her impartiality, though Iomedae views her with some
resentment for keeping Aroden’s approaching death a
secret. Pharasma’s relationship with the enigmatic Groetus,
who floats above the Spire, is a mystery.
Like their goddess, the followers of Pharasma detest
Urgathoa, Orcus, and all those who exult in undeath, for
they represent both a corruption of natural existence and
a vile bending of the will of Pharasma. Pharasmins oppose
these foes whenever they encounter them, and vehemently
counter their attempts at evangelism. If they learn that such
cults are planning to raise undead, Pharasmins recruit
allies and spend resources without hesitation to stop the
abomination. Otherwise, Pharasmins are free-but not
compelled-to make alliances and enmities with anyone
they choose, on an individual level or as a temple, just as
the Lady of Graves works with all the gods to guide mortal
souls into their realms.
Pharasmin priests are renowned for their impartial
natures, and regularly minister to both sides in a given
conflict, caring foremost for the proper treatment of the
dead and newborns. Followers of the Pharasmin Penitence
might clash with the faithful of deities who focus on
alleviating or preventing suffering, but are more likely to
simply view them with cold distrust. A few fanatics take it
upon themselves to pursue wizards, sorcerers, and other
magic-users who attempt to improve the world through
magical means; the fanatics see these attempts as defying
the will of Pharasma.
REALM
Pharasma’s realm is enormous, and layered like an onion.
The whole of the Spire is hers, with no other god disputing
her claim on the thin mesa that rises far above the city
of Axis and supports her Boneyard. At the same time,
however, the Boneyard is split into several different
regions, with the most notable being the various courts
where souls with obvious destinations are divided
up and sent on to their just rewards. Particularly
complicated cases, however-such as those who
sell their souls and then genuinely repent and work
toward redemption-end up judged by Pharasma
herself within her palace, with representatives
from the planes involved arguing the
matter. Pharasma’s Palace is also the
eventual home of those who worship the
goddess directly. A soaring gothic edifice, he palace stands in contrast to Pharasma’s often somber
and dour nature. Constructed of white marble glowing with
an inner light and with floors paved in onyx, it represents
the goddess’s dualistic power over birth and death.
PLANAR ALLIES
Pharasma’s divine servants are usually psychopomps
(see page 303 and Pathfinder RPG Bestiary 4 217) , though
spirits whose destinies were especially bright or unusually
dark may visit the mortal world to carry a message on her
behalf, even if they went to another deity or realm as part
of their final judgment. The appearance of such a spirit
usually relates to its activities in life or the god it served. For
example, to warn her followers of a bloody battle, Pharasma
may call forth the spirit of a mighty warrior of Gorum. In
addition to her psychopomps, some of Pharasma’s servitors
include the following, which answer to planar ally and
similar calling spells from the faithful.
Birthed-in- Sorrow (unique linnorm): Resembling a gaunt,
gray, wyvern-sized linnorm, this creature can channel
positive energy like a cleric and can animate objects, forcing
them to serve her. She loathes undead, and often blasts and
grapples packs of them, reducing them to dust and vapor.
She prefers offerings of magic items useful for destroying
undead or healing the living.
Echo of Lost Divinity (unique ghost): This spectral
Azlanti soldier wears fine clothes in green and gold. When
his face is visible, he resembles depictions of Aroden as a
god. As he has only appeared in Pharasma’s service since
the death of the Last Azlanti, some believe he is a remnant
of that god. Echo of Lost Divinity denies this, however. He
prefers to heal and support those who call him rather than
attacking their foes directly.
Steward of the Skein: This skull-adorned, armor-clad,
winged woman is Pharasma’s herald. The Steward is a
loner, and has little interest in the desires of mortals. She
is personable with other planar servitors of her creator,
but her unique role places her above them in the religious
hierarchy, and she does not like fraternizing too much with
her underlings lest she distract them from what Pharasma
has planned for them. Conversely, she is extremely
interested when one of the goddess’s other servants is due
to give birth or die. Though the Steward has no interest
in procreating on her own, she arrives at the moment of
celestial and half-celestial births to witness them with
great interest-perhaps as a proxy for Pharasma herself,
whose presence would certainly overwhelm the newborn
and confuse its role in the tapestry of fate. Likewise, the
Steward has an almost morbid curiosity about one of her
fellow servitors dying, and has an almost precognitive sense
for such things, making her sudden appearance next to
other servants of Pharasma in the Material Plane slightly
worrisome.

Pharasma

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