Rank: Lesser Deity
Areas of Concern/Portfolio: Vampires, Blood, Death, Lust, Sickness
Titles: The Red Goddess, the Blood Maiden, the Winter Maiden, Patron Goddess of Morgau and Doresh
Holy Symbol: Red Skull
Origin of Worship: Unknown, possibly Oeridian
Core Worshippers: Vampires
Common Worshippers: Humans of Morgau and Doresh
Uncommon Worshippers: Others, the vengeful and the lustful
Favored Weapons(s): Spear, whip (e)
Other Preferred Weapons:
Weapon of the Deity Spell: +1 keen spear
Domains: Charm, Darkness, Death, Law, Magic, Water
Subdomains: Decay, Ice, Loss, Lust, Murder, Undead
Marena is the dark face of human fears: all flesh fails, and unbridled lust and rampant plague can destroy any happy life. She is known and feared throughout parts of the Flanaess, and her cults flourish in secret, especially in small villages when times are hard. She is a goddess of Blood, Death, Lust, Sickness, and Vampires. The symbols worn by her followers vary, but always include clothes dyed red with blood, and skulls.
Depictions of Marena usually show her in traditional Oeridian garb, with short straight hair, bare of foot, and hands covered in blood. She is sometimes depicted wearing the red and white clothes of a bridesmaid, and wearing a garland. Her face is both beautiful and chilling, her skin alabaster and the bluish tint of frostbite. Those who see her and survive are invariably marked with white hair, wine-colored birthmarks, or haunted silver eyes.
Marena is thought to be the daughter of Telchur, though this is not known with any certainty. She is on excellent terms with the priests of her husband Hextor. She is on poor terms with most other gods, though some believe she has a secret pact with Doresain, the King of the Ghouls. Her enemies include Pholtus and Rao, and her portfolio of blood and vampires brings her followers into conflict with the worshipers of Kanchelsis, the Lord of Vampires.
Marena resides in Cania, the Eighth Hell of Baator.
The goddess of lust and death is stern. She demands her followers kill her foes (especially followers of Pholtus) and she requires rites of seduction, blood sacrifice, and flagellation. Her theology seems mostly concerned with deeds: lust and murder are seen as expressions of her power, and yet free reign of those divine gifts is permitted only to some of her clergy.
Although her worship is harsh and bitter, she is not unrelentingly cruel: she grants strength and magical power far more often than other gods, even to those who are not priestesses. Marena’s followers must make a pilgrimage to Morgau if they attain the age of 50.
Her books are banned in most places as treatises of corruption and illness. The most infamous volumes include the Book of Holy Lust, the Song of Blood & Winter, and the Scarlet Commandments.
Marena is popular in the Principalities of Morgau and Doresh, and she serves as the patron goddess of whores, vampires, undead, and the Order of Ghost Knights. Indeed, she is worshiped openly in the Principalities and her church is the church of the state. Most of her followers believe that her strict worship grants them power, and her orders in Morgau and Doresh include anchorites, flagellants, and orgiasts.
Her worshippers are divided into those who stress her role in sex and childbirth, those who lay emphasis on her control over winter, death, and suffering, and those who see her primarily as a patron goddess of the realm; the Red Sister whose blood feeds the undead and keeps the realm both safe and pure.
Marena’s priesthood is the Red Sisterhood, responsible for justice, law, and punishment. The Red Sisters are strict and their punishments are both harsh and public: floggings, quarterings, and brandings are all common, as are executions by beheading. The high priestess is Lileshka of the Chalice, Mother of Lust (LE female human cleric 15 [Marena]). She rarely executes followers and visitors, but sometimes attempts to seduce visitors when the goddess demands it. Those who permit this are granted an audience to petition for whatever they wish. Those who refuse are given to the harsher priests for chastisement.
Despite (or because of) her proclivities, the high priestess has the respect and good opinion of many of the elders of the realm. Her offerings are generous and yet she always demands favors in return. Most who underestimate her soon learn that her public congress with men and women does not mean she is weak or easily led; to the contrary, she chooses her conquests carefully.
In practical terms, Marena’s priests are the courts or justice system of Morgau and Doresh. While they are free to dispense a great deal of vigilante justice and to impose horrific fates on those who cross them, for the most part her priestesses refrain from arbitrary justice. They reserve horrid fates for only the worst offenders, but do so in dramatic fashion. Typically, a criminal will be judged by the Red Sisters in absentia, and sentence passed without his knowledge. The sisters then ride forth on roan horses in their dozens, surround the malefactor, and carry out the sentence immediately. In many cases, the victim is enchanted to offer little or no resistance, and even assists in his own scarification, bloodletting, flaying, or execution, depending on the severity of the crime.
Marena’s faith is supported by a number of militant orders, most notably the Order of the Red Shield. The Order provides soldiers for the faith to boost the numbers of Marena’s faithful who worship her more martial aspects. She is also the patron goddess of the Order of Knights Incorporeal, more commonly called the Ghost Knights; the order of undead nobility of the Principalities.
The greatest public shrine to Marena is in the Principality of Doresh. It is the great Temple of Aprostala, a site of pilgrimage and daily sacrifices. The Temple of the Scourging Goddess in Fenrill is where the Blood Maiden’s cult of slaughter worships death and mayhem. The Abbey of the Red Goddess in the foothills of the Drachensgrab protects pregnant women.
Most worship of Marena is frequent and public; offerings are loud and messy. In the Principalities, every village of any size at all has at least a small bloodstained altar stone, and her name is invoked at every birth, funeral, and battle. The religion is one of the few ways for living men and women to rise in status in the Principalities. Everywhere else, her worship is in secret.
Mortal rituals to the Blood Maiden typically involve blood sacrifices and flagellation. Some of her cults perform more orgiastic rituals celebrating her role as a goddess of lust.
The Blood Fast
The vampires of Morgau and Doresh undertake the Blood Fast, in which they starve themselves for a period of time. Eventually, they enter a state known as the Rapture, in which they revert to an animalistic trance and attack anything in sight.
- Marena’s Day. The week of Needfest is considered holy by the faithful of Marena, but the winter solstice on the 4th of Needfest is dedicated solely to her worship, and great sacrifices are made to appease the Winter Maiden.
- The Loss. The spring equinox on the 4th of Growfest is a day of mourning for the faithful, as it represents the death of Marena’s winter. Her faithful fast during the day, and feast and partake in orgies that night to celebrate her rebirth.
- The Vaulderie. Harvester 27th is the unholiest day of Marena’s faith. It is celebrated only by the vampires who worship her, and it is a terrible night of profane acts and perverse pleasure that mortals don’t survive.
Marena was developed by Wolfgang Baur for the Midgard Campaign Setting, published by Open Design / Kobold Press. She appears to be based on the Slavic goddess associated with seasonal rites based on the idea of death and rebirth of nature.
- Baur, Wolfgang. Midgard Campaign Setting. Kirkland, WA: Open Design LLC, 2012.
- —–. Midgard Worldbook. Kirkland, WA: Open Design LLC, 2018.
- Baur, Wolfgang and Scott Gable. Imperial Gazetteer. Kirkland, WA: Open Design LLC, 2010.