Monday, January 16, 2017

Faiths of Sublanarya: Goddesses of Witchcraft Part 1: An Introduction and Hecate, Queen of the Night


In Naryan legends, there are many powerful female spell-casters that have attained enough power and longevity to stand toe-to-toe and spell to spell with the gods.

Queen Tytanya, for instance, has attained supernatural longevity for even a high elf, has assumed mastery and control of both the domains of ward and mirror magic in Sublanarya that give her, and her subjects, protection from outsiders and incredible awareness of all magical activity in the realm, and is a supreme monarch to her people. Her decisions have not only shaped the material plane but the immaterial as well-- as the militarization of the iaurdin has changed their patron god Iaur to better reflect their more imperialistic nature. That is the power of a great witch. And yet, Tytanya's power in firmly drawn from her mastery of the arcane. She is a wizard. She is not a witch.

In the world of Narya, a witch is a female spell caster that not only uses arcane magic, but also taps into the spheres of the divine and the natural.

Usually, witches are fenale humans whose magic sensitivity is higher than normal, drawing them towards it instead of away, and are often eccentric by nature. In places like Thule, magic and druidism are discouraged, especially for women. This makes it difficult for these magically gifted people to seek proper magical education and thus they turn to "The Craft".

The Craft of Witchery, witchcraft, is what some elitist spell-casters would call "common magic" or even "country magic". The most common witch practices a mix of medicine, fortune telling, and, for a price, putting hexes on people. A witch does specialized jobs from midwifery to exorcism. In many communities, such women have learned the trade from an older witch, even passed down from mother to daughter, and are respected cornerstones of country living. While reclusive, some witches form small groups called Covens. It is generally considered bad luck to gather more or less than three witches at a time: the Elder, is the oldest and is usually childless (called the "Crone" in evil covens), the Mother, has children and may even have a family, and the Maiden, a childless youth. They generally gather at special meetings to discuss local occurrences and collaborate on solutions to problems too big for a single witch.

These "good witches", according to those that call themselves such, help people. This doesn't mean, necessarily, doing what people want. Good isn't nice. Good does what's needed. Sometimes this means witches manipulate people, often relying on their knowledge and cunning over actual magic application, but always for the greater good. A good witch is a welcome member to any community in need. And yet, witches have a bad reputation in places, such as Thule and, perhaps, this is a mix of superstition and misogyny. After all, most spell-casters and those who seek and use power are at risk of being corrupted. But still, the prevalence and infamy of bad witches in folklore is indisputable.

There are plenty of reasons for a witch to go bad: they live alone, they are touched by magic, they are eccentric, they are persecuted and they meddle in the affairs of the outer planes. Some witchcraft relies upon drawing upon patrons, like demons or devils, for magic and that takes a toll. Their interests in the community turn from helping to hurting; they give potions with bad effects, they steal away livestock and children for dark purposes and, generally, become crazier and crueler. They basically become hags. And then somebody has to stop them.

Bad witches give their good counterparts such a bad reputations that, generally, good witches don't advertise their talents widely. After all, nobody wants to be burned at the stake.

The most famous and powerful witches attain godhood and today I'm discussing the first goddess related to witchcraft. (Expect more in part 2 and so on).


Hecate is a goddess as old, if not older, than Grimnir himself-- which is appropriate given her status as his only rival in the realm of magic. She is a contemporary of the Titans, descended from Primordial Asteria the Star, and has dominion over magic that is only rivaled by Grimnir. Oddly enough, despite having opposing goals, their relationship is oddly amicable and she is often depicted in the company of the other gods.

When Corona was stolen away by Nergal, in some version of the tale, it is Hekate who lends Terra her torch to search the night for the missing girl. She also helped Bellerophon and the  storm brothers in their quest to find Brigid and defeat Mal Dorig. She even was said to have shown particular pity for Puck, granting him a torch for light when he was imprisoned in the darkness, and from the shadow of that light Darkheart was born.

Also, famously among religious scholars, considered apocrypha by the stuffiest shirts of Grimnir and the crankiest crones of Hecate's cult, there are several tales of friendly wagers between the two gods in time:

They once held a magic duel, each taking turns at taking various animal forms in combat, until one came out a victor. When one took the form a mouse, the other took the form of a cat, and then mouse became a dog, and then the cat a snake and the dog a mongoose and then the snake a hawk and then the snake a leopard and then the hawk an elephant and then the leopard a mouse and so on and so forth they went back and forth. The story goes that the gods watched this battle rage on until, finally, a victor was crowned when one of the two became... a germ of a deadly disease. Some say it was Grimnir who came out the victor but others say only a master of medicine like Hecate would've come up with such a clever ruse.

Hecate is said to meet with mortals in the oddest of places; sometimes, found where the road splits, under the light of the moon on a foggy evening, a strange party is held. Often accompanied by a black hound and a company of ghosts, the dark mistress waits on company. With a head full of dark hair, eyes like stars, and wearing a gown of midnight, the queen of the knight is beautiful and terrible sight for ill-prepared mortals to behold. And yet, her true nature is even more impressive.

Hecate is said to be a tri-fold goddess. She has three heads or forms that she takes separately and all at once: the torch-bearer guides those lost in the dark of the night and reveals the truth to seekers of fate. The key-master reveals doorways to new possibilities and the means to open them. The dagger-maid is said to give the wronged a means for revenge and helps those who seek power. In a way, each of these forms is similar to the witches that make covenant with Hecate: the dagger-maid is the maiden, the key-master is the mother and the torch-bearer is the crone.

The Queen of the Night, The Night Mother, The Torch-Bearer, The Key-Master, The Dagger-Maid, The Tri-Fold Goddess, The Cross-Roads Mistress

New Gods

Power Level
Greater Deity

Lawful Evil

Serpents coiling around a star, two crossed torches

Fate, magic, night, witchcraft, ghosts,

Death, Nature, Arcane

Witches, magic-users, hags, revenge-seekers, druids
Favored Weapon
The dagger

Holy Day(s)
Festival of the Dead

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