Calistria

Calistria-temple.gif

Temples and Shrines

Priest’s Role

Calistria (ca-LIS-tree-ah) is an old deity and the most widely worshiped elven goddess in Golarion—mysterious, alluring, temperamental, passionate, and with a long memory for old slights. Although most of her worshipers are elves, she is popular with other races as well, for at some point almost everyone has an interest in lust, trickery, or revenge. She is not so much a spiritual guide for the elven people as a cornerstone for their culture, never pushing them to act but always ready to assist when the time comes for action.

Calistria is sultry, attracting men and women with raw sexual magnetism, manifesting everything in elves that attracts other races to them. Although she is beautiful, beauty is never the first word that comes to mind when describing her, being typically characterized as sensual, desirable, arousing, and countless more vulgar words. Seeing her clothed makes viewers wonder what she looks like naked, and seeing her naked makes them wonder more explicit things. Although she considers herself female, she has been known to take the shape of a male from time to time, and in this guise she is every bit as attractive as her female form, enough to make any mortal weak in the knees and flushed all over.

She is mischievous, perplexing, devious, and silver-tongued, able to complement her most powerful rivals with pretty words that only after careful reflection reveal themselves as base and humiliating insults. She “surrenders” to enemies by convincing them to hand over their weapons, leads suitors on for decades with hinted promises of outrageous rewards, and outwits the most brilliant mortals as an afterthought. She is not a goddess of silly jokes or crude pranks, as she considers them beneath her station. She can convey an hour’s speech in one small gesture and a lifetime of emotion with a careful look. Lies are her meat and drink, half-truths are her favorite wine, and double entendres are a luscious dessert.

She is merciless, patient, and unforgiving, willing to punish someone who offends her to the seventh generation. She enjoys a quick resolution to petty affronts but takes a longer approach to more serious offenses. To her, revenge is a dish best served cold, scraped from the plate onto a midden, rained on for a decade, planted within a vineyard, made into wine, aged a century, and served as a minor part of an elaborate steaming feast of vengeance for your foe and his friends, loved ones, and offspring. Calistria does not forgive, she does not forget, and any evidence otherwise is part of her plan to sting you in the most painful way possible when you least expect it.

Calistria is welcoming and personable to those who wish her no ill will and haven’t made the mistake of drawing her ire. That said, she is fickle, changing loyalties as her needs and whims suit her. She doesn’t do this to be hurtful, she just never lets her interest become too strong or too emotional, as she believes anyone who does otherwise is a fool. Those who paired with her in the past are usually smart enough to accept this and move on, but the duller ones sometimes persist in the chase after she has tired of being the prey, and then the claws come out. She feels no guilt for taking an eye for an eye, or even more; she is a goddess of vengeance, not justice, and if vengeance pushes beyond an appropriate response, that should be a lesson to those who get in her way. She has no interest in love and sees it only as a weakness and a needless byproduct of physical pleasures.

Calistria welcomes the worship of any mortal who lusts, relies on trickery, or seeks revenge on another. She doesn’t care if the person is good, evil, unjustly accused, selfish, moral, criminal, or love-struck. She may not agree with an individual’s methods or motivation, but if it has to do with her demesne she is interested in the outcome and willing to help achieve it. This means at any one time her worshipers are a very diverse lot, though most of them are transitional, only seeking her aid when they need her. This satisfies her and she asks for no more.

Because of this attitude, many accuse her of being evil, but in truth she is just amoral—she eschews right and wrong and fairness because she knows the world is not a fair place. Is it right that the whole world suffered the Age of Darkness because of the Azlanti? Is it right that Shelyn’s brother became the plaything of unknowable horrors? Is it right that a leader-by-birth can tax his peasants-by-birth into starvation? Calistria is beyond these questions, and uses her abilities to survive. If others choose to follow her path, so be it. And if others get hurt as a consequence, so be it, as every creature has the right—and the responsibility—to avenge their injuries.

Typical long-term worshipers of Calistria are prostitutes, spies, gossips, hedonists, addicts, enchanters, and illusionists. Those who carry a grudge pray for her favor, as do rare non-evil assassins pursuing a justified blood debt. Most of her worshipers are elves, not because of an excessive prurient interest in flesh but because she represents independence from commitment and the freedom to pursue what you desire. These tenants offer a welcome relief to a race that lives hundreds of years and might consider remaining with the same partner for life worse than a prison sentence. Some crusaders, particularly elven ones, pray to Calistria to help achieve holy vengeance on their targets. Very few dwarves worship her, even those avenging a slight against clan or kin, for Calistria’s habit of disproportionate responses is generally too excessive for the lawful-minded dwarves. A fair number of halflings (especially those associated with shady merchant guilds) venerate her trickery aspect, and former slaves sometimes pray to her for vengeance against their cruel masters. Calistria is not a popular deity among the gnomes, largely because their trickery proves more whimsical and most prefer to live their lives rather than dwell on old slights and vengeances.

Calistria shows her favor among the faithful with sudden runs of luck in attempts to find companionship, heightening of physical pleasures, and finding easy marks for schemes or acts of vengeance. Those who displease her often find themselves plagued by impotence, failure to achieve sexual satisfaction, schemes failing disastrously, or angry wasps with an unerring ability to sting in sensitive places. Sometimes her ire is evidenced by several positive events culminating in a horrible failure, such as having the first outing with a long-pursued paramour go terribly wrong.

Calistria’s avatar is a beautiful elven woman wearing a slinky black dress or gown accented with gold, often with a black or golden silk drape falling from her arms or drawn seductively across her face. Her eyes are dark and mysterious, sometimes flashing gold with passion or anger. She is commonly shown with giant wasps, her favorite creature—unlike bees, wasps can sting again and again without dying. In male form she looks like a slightly masculine version of her normal shape, wearing black leggings and a loose golden jerkin and cape, eyes smoldering with barely contained passion.

Formal clothing for her clergy is very scant, typically dark leather or yellow silk that covers little and conceals even less, often augmented with henna dyes on the palms of the hands and in narrow bands on the arms. Some priests like to add other accent clothing like a wasp’s colors but eventually grow out of this habit, as the insect represents the goddess but is not inherently divine or worthy of emulation. Adventurer-priests favor gold jewelry, gold decorations on their armor, or (in the case of metal armor) gold plating or magically-hardened gold throughout. Church paraphernalia is usually slender wood or fine gold, often including erotic carvings or sculpture.

Calistria is chaotic neutral and her portfolio is trickery, lust, and revenge. Her favored weapon is the whip. Her holy symbol is three daggers pointing outward from a circle (representing her three aspects), and because of this many of her priests carry a dagger. Her domains are Chaos, Charm, Knowledge, Luck, and Trickery. Most of her priests are clerics or bards, though in some places more exotic spellcasters are the norm for her clergy, and there are a few non-spellcasters who have reached moderate status in the priesthood. Her titles include the Savored Sting, the Lady in the Room, and the Unquenchable Fire, as well as many vulgar epithets bestowed by disparagers outside the faith.

As a group the clergy is a reactive force more than a proactive one, content to let the world progress at its own pace until something provokes them. Most people see the priests of Calistria as providers of comfort to those in need of solace, whether physical or emotional. They open their doors to those brimming over with lust, needing advice on embarrassing a rival, or seeking aid in striking back at those who have hurt them. Some dabble in divine magic but focus on other talents that express the illegal or semi-legal aspects of Calistria’s interests, whether burglary, spying, extortion, or even murder.

Ceremonies honoring Calistria may involve ritual sex but not always the orgiastic excess described in salacious stories by those outside the church. A typical ritual might consist of quiet chanting, blessed wine, and perhaps a few passionate kisses among interested parties. In others, priests tell how they deceived others or enacted elaborate revenge plots. There are no formalities regarding where ceremonies should take place, and most elven rituals occur outdoors in the natural settings that elves prefer, though meetings involving the telling of secrets or plans might be held behind securely closed doors. The ritual of a new priest to the faith usually involves sex with another member of the church, performed in a private antechamber unless the initiate wishes otherwise; priests often court an intriguing new initiate for this privilege, with the expectation that the priest will look after the initiate in the early part of his or her career.

The church puts little stock in the formalities of marriage. While it serves a valuable function in society, most of the worshipers don’t have a strong urge to settle down with one person (especially given elven longevity) and they usually don’t confuse physical attraction with emotional affection (which is seen as a weakness by members of most non-good churches). The faithful consider any relationship that lasts more than a few months to be a “marriage,” though this confers no legal rights. Ending a relationship has no stigma, though these ends are often the start of long feuds if one person feels slighted. Some do see the appeal of long, committed relationships, though even these tend to be tolerant of other partners or even polyandrous or polygynous. Lacking the weight of law in their relationships, most expect inheritance and similar matters to go to blood relatives rather than the mutable, tenuous passionate relationships.

Calistria

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