This starts with one song, but ends with another. And I promise you, I tried to make it shorter, but the damn thing kept getting longer and longer as I wrote. Oh, well. I guess you can’t be concise when writing about religion and religious folks.

The character description reads, "Qadira, a Sarenrae dervish."

I find out from the Pathfinder wiki that Qadira is the Pathfinder analogue for "the Middle East" and a Sarenrae dervish is a kind of warrior-priest for the Goddess of the Sun, Light and Truth.

Well, there’s a lot of different ways to go with that, but I had one in particular in mind.

A very long time ago, I stumbled across Loreena McKennitt and she introduced me to a song written by a Catholic monk and mystic, St. John of the Cross. The song is called "The Dark Night of the Soul" and its narrator describes the lonliness and emptiness of life without God. (St. John coined the term with this poem.) The official story (the one St. John told to the Spanish Inquisition after being brought to trial for various crimes–including this poem) is that the poem narrates the journey of a soul leaving its bodily home to union with God.

Uh huh.

McKennitt’s turned his passage into the chorus.

Oh night thou was my guide
A night more loving than the rising sun
Oh night that joined the lover
to the beloved one
transforming each of them into the other

If that sounds sexual to you, rest with the knowledge that you weren’t the only one who came to that conclusion. St. John’s official explanation was that the poem was not from his own point-of-view, but that of a woman going through a crisis of faith.

Yeah. A crisis of faith. Here’s another passage…

Within my pounding heart
which kept itself entirely for him
He fell into his sleep
beneath the cedars all my love I gave
From o’er the fortress walls
the wind would brush his hair against his brow
And with its smoothest hand
caressed my every sense it would allow

Uh huh. About a soul being reunited with God. Forget all that "meeting secretly in a garden at midnight" imagery. This is about a soul being reunited with God.

Well, regardless of what the poet (a Catholic monk, remember) had to say about it, I like the idea of an intimate relationship with a God. The Jews have a conversational relationship with their God, which is also cool, but the kind of relationship the narrator of this poem has with his God is far beyond conversational. It reminded me of the moment in The Odyssey when Athena strokes Odysseus’ cheek and says, "You were always my favorite…"

Do you get that? The Virgin Goddess touching a mortal in so familiar a way and calling him "my favorite?" I wasn’t even twelve yet and that made me hotter than anything ever has.

(Except Wonder Woman. But that’s another Goddess for another time.)

Anyway, I love the song and I love what I took from it: loving a God can mean all kinds of love. Even intimate love. Even sexual love.

So, anyway, here’s the song I started with.

Now, I wanted a character who had an intimate relationship with a Goddess. The Goddess of Light and Truth. Not just as a friend and not just as a mentor and not just as a guide. I wanted to write about a character who has felt the divine hand touch her heart. A moment of pure and sublime love. A moment that "joined the lover and the beloved one, transforming each into the other."

So, I picked a mercenary–your typical fantasy character–murdering people who don’t look like her for money and magic. And then, I had her hear The Word. A calling from a Divine Voice that cannot be ignored. And despite her best efforts, our girl cannot simply walk away. She tries. She denies the visions and the voices, but eventually, she surrenders.

Just like a lover surrendering to the lure of love at first sight.

And our girl converts. She becomes a worshiper. But not just a worshiper. She discovers a gift she never knew she had. In the churches, they sing to the Goddess and when she opens her mouth to sing for the first time, the Voice of the Goddess comes from her throat.

She sings! She sings! She sings!

She is a priestess of peace armed with a sword. For peace can only be protected with steel.

(Is there an "Exotic Weapon: Lasso" Feat…?)

She is the Warrior-Poet of the Goddess, writing and singing songs that make the other priests… a little less than comfortable. She sings of her love for the Goddess, but not just her love of the Goddess, but an unabashed, unashamed love of the Goddess.

She speaks of the Goddess of Light and Truth as beloved.

Love songs for the Goddess. Just recently, while away in Poland, I was awake during a very long and dark night. Jetlag would not let me sleep. I turned on my laptop, turned on iTunes and started writing. The very first song stopped my hands cold. It was one of those moments when you hear a song you truly need to hear. Without any pride in my heart, I write to you now, that my eyes swelled up and I cried.

So far from the one I love, this song slammed into my heart and would not let go. And I realized just how much I love her.

I hear a lot of people talk about the love God has for them. I’ve never felt that kind of love before… except from and for people. A kind of love that recognizes we are all flawed, all fucked up and just trying to make it through life with as few horrible missteps as possible.

I have that kind of love for a very few people in my life. And when I write about the love our girl has for the Goddess, it is that kind of love. The "I will forgive any fucked up thing you do" kind of love.

I hear this song and can hear my girl singing it to her Goddess. And, I admit without any kind of pride, that it makes me choke up just a little bit.

This is the kind of love we deserve from a God or Goddess. Not the judgmental, insecure, jealous love we all hear about.

"I will forgive any fucked up thing you do."

We all need that kind of love. And maybe if we give it a little bit more, we might even deserve it from each other.

* * *

PS: I sincerely hate to do this (HATEHATEHATE) but if anybody uses this post as an opportunity to tell me that YHVH/Jesus/L. Ron Hubbard/Your God Of Choice has unconditional love for me, I will point out to them that my grandfather–an atheist to the end and a man I love dearly–is in your version of Hell right now, being butt-fucked by your version of The Adversary for All Eternity and the conversation will END. Capiche?

The Paizo Project, Part 5
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