“All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.”
-Edgar Allan Poe, Dream within a Dream
The Song of the Spheres, the Tender of Dreams, and the Goddess of the North Star….
Desna is one of the oldest of the Deities known to the people of the material plane.
She has been worshiped for centuries, and despite her somewhat chaotic nature, she has changed little in all that time. Desna asks her followers to explore and push back the boundaries of the unknown.
Desna Deific Lore
As an older deity, there is a great deal of lore and history to the worship of Desna. She has been around since the world was born.
Desna is a Chaotic Good Goddess. Her symbol is a butterfly with its wings spread out wide. Her favored weapon is the starknife, her favored animal is the butterfly, and her favored colors are blue and white.
Desna’s full portfolio covers Dreams, Luck, Stars, and Travelers.
When the world was born and the first deities turned toward building the mortal world, Desna looked upward to the sky. Rather than busy herself with the minutiae of the land, Desna instead took to the night sky and hung the stars.
Originally Desna’s portfolio was just limited to Freedom and Luck. Her mentor was the old god Curchanus, but he was caught in a trap and stripped of his divine powers by the Mother of Monsters, Lamashtu.
As Curchanus died, he bequeathed to Desna the domain of Travel. Since that day, Desna has traveled almost constantly. She explores all of creation, opposing the forces of evil and oppression. Lamashtu especially has earned her ire.
Desna stood with the other deities during the Age of Creation where she participated in the battle to seal the monster Rovagug into the Dead Vault at the center of Golarion.
During her travels, she has participated in the elevation of mortals to divinity and the accidental freeing of several other minor evil beings like Ghlaunder, the God of Infection.
Most recently, Desna took part in the destruction of the Demon Lord named Aolar. Aolar, also known as the Lady of the Hunt, had a penchant for possessing recently dead mortal heroes and then doing everything possible to ruin their legacies.
This included such things as possessing a Desnian Priestess and slaughtering everyone they loved.
Desna would wreak bloody vengeance on Aolar, destroying her utterly and smashing her Abyssal Fortress along with the deities Calistria, Sarenrae, and Shelyn.
This event almost sparked a war with the Abyss but for the machinations of Calistria, who narrowly averted war by playing the “allied” forces of the Demons against each other.
Desna’s appearance varies a great deal depending on the worshipers to whom she is appearing. Most often, Desna will appear as an elven woman of ethereal, otherworldly beauty.
She will have long, dark hair either black or deep blue, like the night sky. On her back will be a pair of magnificent butterfly wings with all the colors of a star-filled night sky.
Desna has silvery eyes and a coy smile that is almost teasing to look at. She is often accompanied by a flutter of butterflies who play around her.
Finally, she is sometimes seen also as a single bright star in the night sky, guiding travelers to their next destination.
As a deity of travelers and explorers, Desna does not have her own plane. She does have a demi-plane that coexists on the material plane and the plane of Elysium. This demi-plane is known as Cynosure and manifests as a bright silvery blue star in the night sky.
The Sevenfold Cynosure is the fortress palace at the center of the plane and is the resting place for Desna when she rarely stops on her journeys.
Allies and Enemies
Desna has many friends but few close relations. As a goddess of travel and exploration, she is constantly on the move and has very little time to settle down.
Closest to her are the gods Cayden Cailean, Sarenrae, and Shelyn, with whom she is both companion and lover. She keeps more aloof from most other godly affairs though.
She is friendly to the church of Elion but is often considered too flighty by Elion and his followers. She is also very friendly to Acavna, whom she shares the night sky with.
Desna does have a few enemies as well.
She actively pursues and hunts Lamashtu and Ghlaunder. The former is because of the death of her mentor, and the latter is because of her accidental awakening of him.
Desna also fights against the forces of Rovagug and Zon-Kuthon. For Desna, the time of night should be a time of peace and wonder. These two monstrous deities would use the night for fell deeds and cause nothing but fear and death.
Night Hags often hunt followers of Desna, attempting to kill them and steal their souls.
Desna is served by a host of creatures. Beings that represent freedom (butterflies, sparrows, moths, caterpillars, and dragonflies) are often considered holy by those who worship Desna. Creatures like butterflies, the fey, and Star Monarchs are all considered her servants.
There are a few beings that directly represent Desna:
- Thyrlien are Desna’s divine servitor race. She specifically charges them to watch over those who journey by night and keep them safe.
- The Night Monarch is a Star Monarch who acts as Desna’s specific Herald. He goes where she goes.
- Nightspear is an Avoral who acts as a protector of Desnian Clergy. He often sings in battle, inspiring those around him.
- Sorrowbrand is a Lillend follower of Desna. He is covered in shimmering black feathers and scales and has a penchant for performing mortal songs.
Desna’s church is a fairly common church that you can find almost anywhere there is any kind of civilization.
Almost everyone will offer a small prayer to Desna when they begin a long journey. They will also seek out a benediction from one of her clergy as well as advice on what to expect along the route.
Desna asks her followers to let their hearts be free and not let themselves be tied down. Her worship involves exploration of the physical world as well as pushing the boundaries of what is known.
The Night is sacred and should not be profaned by evil or subterfuge.
Edicts: Aid fellow travelers, explore new places, express yourself through art and song, find what life has to offer
Anathema: Cause fear or despair, cast nightmare or use similar magic to corrupt dreams, engage in bigoted behavior
Desna is worshiped by many different people in many different aspects. Most commonly, she is worshiped as the Goddess who protects travelers but also is called upon to soothe nightmares.
Those who call the road their home (nomads, travelers, adventurers, and explorers) are all counted among her faithful, as are gamblers when it comes to the fickle nature of luck and fate.
In addition to the many humans who worship her, she is also revered by Halflings, who thank Desna for her favor when it comes to their inherent luck.
Desna’s clergy is a very informal group, matching the chaotic nature of their chosen goddess. Like many faiths, Clerics are the most common clergy of Desna, but Bards are also drawn to her church for obvious reasons.
Her primary worshipers become the Spherewalkers (see Prestige Classes Below), who are the paragon ideal of a worshiper of Desna.
Temples and Shrines
Desna rarely has full temples to her as her clergy are on the move so much that they rarely set down roots.
Most common are small roadside shrines to Desna where people offer prayers and offerings for safe travels.
The few temples that do exist often double as observatories to examine the night sky. They are stocked with star charts, maps, and navigational instruments — everything a voyager needs to start their next adventure.
Finally, legend has it that there are seven bell towers scattered throughout Golarion. These towers are built to represent the seven towers in Desna’s Palace. Each one holds a Bell of Mercy, a magical item that repels evil creatures and magic around it. These Bell Towers are pilgrimage sites for many of the faithful.
Most writings that pertain to Desna and her worship are often printed in easy-to-carry travel logs. This makes it easy for the faithful to keep her words close as they are on the road.
- The Eight Scrolls are the historical record of the early days of creation and detail the ascension of Desna to the heavens to hang the stars.
- Shrine Wall Writings are often writings scribed on the walls of shrines and temples. These are left by the clergy as a guide for what is coming on the road or warnings of hazards that could assail unwary travelers.
Desna has two important holidays during the calendar year. Spring is considered Desna’s favored month.
The Ritual of Stardust
The Ritual of Stardust is celebrated on the winter and summer solstice. The faithful gather at dusk for a feast in the light of a bonfire.
As the fire dies late into the night, the clergy will toss handfuls of sand and ground-up gemstones into the flames. This is a time for proclamations of love and swearing of friendships for the coming year.
Swallowtail Release, also known as the Swallowtail Festival, is held in autumn. The festival starts with the clergy releasing a large number of swallowtail butterflies over a crowd of the faithful.
Should a butterfly come to rest on a specific follower, they are considered blessed. The remaining day is spent in feasting and celebration.
For players who want to deepen their faith in Desna and show it off in-game, there are several options for customizing their character. These can be taken by both PC and NPCs and range from magic items to archetypes to character traits.
For obvious reasons, these character options are broken up into Pathfinder 1st Edition and 2nd Edition.
Pathfinder 1st Edition
The following archetypes are typical followers of Desna:
Adventurers who worship Desna could potentially have these feats to supplement their character builds:
- Butterfly’s Sting
- Cosmic Gate
- Guided Star
- Improved Stellar Wanderer
- Lady Luck’s Guidance
- Stellar Wanderer
- Trailblazing Channel
These magical items are all items that are associated with Desna or the Church of Desna. Some could be used in the worship of her or be gifted to her clergy:
- Altar of Desna
- Starsong Mail
- Ring of Stairs and Stars
- Staff of Slumber
- Shooting Starknife
- Cloak of the Night Sky
- Desna’s Coin
- Dream Candle
- Dreamwing Cape
- Necklace of Netted Stars
- Robe of Stars
- Starfaring Robes
- Stone of Good Luck (Luckstone)
These two creatures are beings directly associated with Desna. They could be used as allies or enemies:
These two prestige classes are directly associated with Desna:
- The Sphere Singer is a sort of fusion of Bard and Cleric with the flavor of an explorer. Sphere Singers let fate guide their steps as they always are on the move to discover new places and peoples. As they grow more powerful, they gain powerful abilities to manipulate fate in their favor and influence the dreams of others.
- The Spherewalker is the ultimate explorer and adventurer. Each Spherewalker takes on a great journey, traveling thousands of miles to see what is over the next horizon. They push the envelope to expand borders. The prospect of an unknown land is a siren call to a Spherewalker.
The following spells are often used by worshipers of Desna:
- Beacon of Luck
- Dream Feast
- Find the Path
- Guiding Star
- Haze of Dreams
- Traveling Dream
- Wandering Star Motes
Clerics of Desna have access to these listed domains:
They also have access to these Sub-Domains:
Traits are a unique addition to your character. Much like feats, they are specific bonuses gained from training, faith, fate, or background.
Most characters can only have 1 trait per campaign, so make sure to check with your GM before you get your heart set on a particular build.
Followers of Desna typically have one of the following traits:
Pathfinder 2nd Edition
Pathfinder 2e is somewhat more limited in what exactly it offers for specific worshipers, but that is mostly because it is still relatively new.
Followers of Desna typically have the following benefits:
- Divine Ability: Dexterity or Charisma
- Divine Font: Heal
- Divine Skill: Acrobatics
- Favored Weapon: Starknife
- Domains: Dreams, luck, moon, travel
- Alternate Domains: Star, void
- Cleric Spells: 1st: sleep, 4th: fly, 5th: dreaming potential
Gods in Golarion (for various reasons) are limited in the ways they can directly interact with the world. Sometimes, they can make subtle changes though.
When a follower does something particularly good (or particularly bad) they can bless or curse that mortal. This is called Divine Intercession.
Below are the ways Desna typically blesses those who espouse her dogma and live as she requests or curses those who break oaths or act anathemic to her.
Desna favors those who follow their hearts and whims without bringing harm to others.
Minor Boon: For those at the end of a journey, Desna gifts a deep sleep. Once, after you rest, you completely recover all Hit Points, remove all negative conditions, and become free of any curses or diseases.
Moderate Boon: Desna twists fortune in your favor. Once per day, after determining the result of a check, you can reroll the check and take the new result.
Major Boon: Desna bestows you with a swirling cloud of lights that forms a pair of wondrous butterfly wings. These wings grant you a fly Speed of 40 feet and shine dim light to a range of 20 feet.
Minor Curse: You always seem to lose your way or have strange mishaps on the road that delay your travel. You (and thus any group that travels with you) travel at only 3/4 normal exploration Speed before taking into account the terrain and other features that might slow you down further.
Moderate Curse: Misfortune follows you in your travels and requires acts of contrition or benevolence to keep at bay. You must always roll twice and take the worst result when attempting a check. This is a misfortune effect. You can express your remorse and ignore this effect for 1d4 rounds by spending an action, which has the concentrate trait. If you perform a truly selfless act of compassion, you ignore this effect for 1 day.
Major Curse: The stars rebuke you for your ways. You are sickened 4 and slowed 1 whenever you are exposed to starlight.
Source: Gods & Magic pg. 21 2.0