Harbingers of Hamlet
This is the god worshiped by Rafalca
Whether depicted as the midwife, the prophet, or the reaper, Pharasma is a cold goddess
with responsibility for the ultimate fate of all mortal souls. Yet though she represents death,
she is not cruel; she shepherds souls into and out of the mortal world with care, taking no pleasure in suffering. She has seen tyrants prosper and the innocent weep, and is necessarily amoral, yet she has also seen people change dramatically over their lives, and thus withholds
judgment until a mortal’s death. Though she can read the patterns and is said to know the fate of every life as it enters the world, she also understands the inconsistency of prophecy, and holds such knowledge close to her chest, maintaining the idea (or illusion) of free will.
Her alignment is neutral, her favored weapon is the dagger, and her domains are Death, Healing, Knowledge, Repose, and Water.
You follow Pharasma because you believe in fate, and in the inescapable path of destiny. Everyone worships the goddess to some extent, for not even the most hubristic 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 Aroden was judged after his 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 you adventure in her name, it is often to destroy undead (which are antithetical to the natural cycle) or to seek out and attempt to understand strange prophecies. You may seek to protect the dead from disgrace, and are exceedingly uncomfortable with the standard adventurers’ practice of tomb robbing (though you have no problem rooting out whatever abominations may have taken up residence in such places, provided the innocent
dead are treated with respect).
You carry within you the knowledge that life and death intertwine, and that every birth means another inevitable death. This view leads to a deeply pragmatic—yet still idealized—view of the world. You seek to simultaneously maintain the natural cycles of the world, putting right those things like undeath that are inherently against Pharasma’s order, and to give serenity to those who still rail against the Lady’s will.
As with any religion that focuses on death and dreams, the worship of Pharasma is rich in imagery and symbolism. The bird most identified with Pharasma is the whippoorwill, a psychopomp for the transition between life and death. In other climes, the scarab beetle serves the same purpose, and any large gathering of the creatures is likely to be seen as a sign of a great harvest
of souls to be borne away to the Boneyard. Pharasma’s faithful hold the black rose to be a sign of good luck, while a dead bird (especially a whippoorwill) is thought to be a sign of her displeasure, as is an unexplained taste of soil or bleeding from beneath fingernails.
The spiral is the holy symbol of Pharasma, representing both the soul’s journey and the confusion of prophecy. Many followers of Pharasma, especially in Ustalav, draw the spiral over their hearts for a variety of reasons—to ward off misfortune, swear an oath, or identify themselves to others of their faith. They may also draw it as a gesture of luck when undertaking difficult or dangerous tasks. The method of making the spiral differs from region to region as well, some drawing with a closed fist, others with one or two fingers extended.
Many who worship Pharasma do so casually, offering a half-thought prayer or drawing the spiral when speaking of death or an ailing family member, or seeing omens in the motions of whippoorwills or scarabs. Piety is strong during occasions such as funerals or childbirth, but frequently fades during everyday life as other concerns push the specter of death to the background. More orthodox members attempt to fight this willful ignoring of natural cycles, and are often considered unduly dour for their serious worldview. While the church maintains
various holy days and ritual masses in addition to its other duties, most Pharasmin worshipers believe that simply understanding the faith is enough for the layperson. As a religion recognized across all races and nations, Pharasma’s faith takes many forms depending on the cultural context. One extremist sect popular in Ustalav is the Pharasmin Penitence, which believes that suffering in this life tips Pharasma’s scales to reward the sufferer in the afterlife. These worshipers actively court suffering—though not to the extent that Zon-Kuthon teaches—and
some of the more radical may pursue wizards, sorcerers, and others who change the world through magical means, seeing the use of magic to prevent suffering as defying the will of Pharasma.
As a follower of Pharasma, you 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.
Otherwise, you are free to make alliances and enmities with whomever you will, 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 first and foremost for the proper treatment of the dead and the newborn.
TaboosThe taboos of the faith are largely local in nature, but there are a few that
remain constant across the faith. As her follower, you are forbidden to kill her psychopomps, such as whippoorwills and scarabs, for they are the goddess’s eyes and ears. While the goddess has no opinions regarding contraception, you may not partake in the abortion of unborn babies, for to do so is to cut short the destiny of a child before it has had a chance to make its own. While necromancy has many beneficial spells that allow you to care for both the dead and the living, you may not create undead, nor control them unless you do so specifically for the purpose of destroying them.
Pharasma’s worship is known across Golarion, and on other worlds beyond. Though she may be especially prominent in lands such as Ustalav that have suffered from the depredations of undead monstrosities, the Lady demands no special pilgrimages from her worshipers—the steps they take are the steps they were meant to take. Pharasmin churches are often large, gothic cathedrals, and even the smaller outposts of the faith attempt to retain some aspects of this impressive architectural style. Churches and temples often band together to create their own internal hierarchies within a region or nation, within which the larger urban cathedrals almost
always have more influence than their smaller, more rural cousins. Each church is run by three
head priests representing the goddess’s three aspects, though in practice one priest sometimes
has more power than the others, and a church too small to support the conventional structure may
have a single priest fulfilling all three roles. Though their rituals may be somber and their
demeanors uncomfortably frank, Pharasmins are a cooperative and communicative people, and
the servants of their goddess work well together. Priests from one temple are always welcome in
another—and sometimes expected ahead of time, thanks to the church’s focus on prophecy.
The Bones Land in a Spiral, Pharasma’s holy text, is a compilation of predictions from a
long-dead prophet. Its prophecies are vague and inconclusive, and a cunning reader
can apply their words to fit any number of situations, either past or future.
Later additions to the book include more practical information on midwifery, proper burial of the dead (with a special section on the treatment of those who might rise as undead), and other matters useful to everyday life.