The Lady of Chrysanthemums (Tian Xia)
The Eternal Maiden
Azlanti period: Song of the Prism
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Shelyn (pronounced SHEHL-ihn)3 is the goddess of art, beauty, love, and music, and the half-sister of Zon-Kuthon.124 She started life as a relatively minor deity of beauty, art, and music, but with the destruction of her unknown mother, claimed by some to be a former goddess of love, Shelyn gained her mother's portfolio. Shelyn continues to focus on beauty and the related areas of art and music, and has expanded upon her mother's relatively narrow view of love to include all forms of the emotion.5
The goddess Shelyn was born the daughter of the spirit-wolf Thron and an unknown ancient deity thought to have been a goddess of love,1 after the First Gods (including her half-brother Dou-Bral) had imprisoned Rovagug and agreed to leave humanity to its own devices.5 For a time, she and Dou-Bral shared the portfolios of beauty, love and the arts, and were worshiped by the early Taldans, until at some point they argued, and Dou-Bral abandoned Golarion for the far dark places between the planes.1
When Dou-Bral returned to Golarion, he had become the god of mutilation, misery and torture: Zon-Kuthon.1 Believing that Dou-Bral still existed within Zon-Kuthon, Shelyn reached out him, but he pierced her hand with his black nails. When Thron, their father, tried to welcome him, Zon-Kuthon captured and tortured the wolf-spirit beyond recognition, turning him into his herald, the Prince in Chains.1 It was for these crimes, and for other terrible acts he committed against Shelyn and her works, that the gods of Golarion banished Zon-Kuthon to the Plane of Shadow, there to reside for as long as the sun hung in the sky. In an attempt to redeem her brother, Shelyn stole his malign weapon, the Whisperer of Souls, but was ultimately unable to turn him to the light. She kept the glaive out of love for him, despite its negative influence.16
Later, presumably after the Age of Darkness, the siblings quarreled again. Zon-Kuthon responded to Shelyn's tears and her pleading with violence, until she wrested his weapon, a golden glaive, away from him, and a tenuous peace of silence and avoidance was established.5
Before she became the goddess of love, Shelyn was flighty and shallow. Since discovering the capacity intelligent beings have for loving people and things that lack beauty, she tends to look for beauty in everyone and everything. "Beauty comes from within" is a relatively recent saying she introduced to Golarion, and it is a philosophy she not only practices herself, but she requires from her clerics. In this way, it is quite possible for a physically unattractive person to become a cleric of the goddess of beauty.5
Shelyn focuses just as much attention on internal beauty as external, and she is considered also to have the most beautiful personality, which changed greatly when she became goddess of love. While lesser beauties might inspire jealousy in those who see them, she does not; nor does she herself feel jealous when another receives attention. She encourages the growth and appreciation of beauty, regardless of its source or admirers, and thus she is never jealous.5 However, she also warns her followers to not warp their own feelings of love into jealousy, greed, obsession, or self-endangerment in pursuit of their passions and art, and charges her followers to prevent others from doing so in her name.1 She surrounds herself with flowers, colorful birds, artworks, and other things of beauty.5
She never uses her beauty as a weapon and she punishes that sort of behavior in her followers. Shelyn gently and kindly rejects all potential suitors. Some call her the Eternal Maiden, while others claim she is the lover of several gods, goddesses, and lesser beings.1 Darker rumors put her in the bed of her half-brother, but such whispered rumors never persist for very long, as Zon-Kuthon does not tolerate such things.5
Art and music
As aspects of her role as goddess of beauty, Shelyn also promotes the creation of art and the composing and performance of music. The art or music need not be particularly well done, just so long as the creator puts in effort. A naturally-talented person who does not try yet still makes beautiful art is appreciated,1 but not as much as an ungifted artist who struggles for days to create something mediocre. A naturally talented person who fails to try and creates something mediocre is shunned by Shelyn (and by extension, her clergy). Clerics of Shelyn frequently are artists themselves, although those with little talent more often become art critics or collectors.5
Shelyn herself has an extensive collection of artwork, mostly gifts from potential suitors or worshipers, most of which portray her. She also has a massive collection of violins and a secret collection of glaives.5
As the goddess of love, Shelyn encourages the proliferation of that feeling in all its forms. She is not the goddess of sexuality, lust, or fertility, and makes a very clear distinction between love and sexuality, although she does not in any way discourage erotic love. She also tends to promote relationships that are not based solely on physical attraction.16 The few paladins who worship her practice courtly love, with female paladins attempting to win the attentions of attractive young nobles. Shelyn and her clerics treat love shared between people of the same gender the same as that shared by people of opposite genders,5 and does not require any specific relationship structure or norms beyond sharing in passions and love.1
Her continuing love for her brother, despite his many shortcomings, inspires her followers to persevere in the face of strong opposition.6
When they first came into being so very long ago, their mutual parent forced Zon-Kuthon to swear an oath to the forces of Law. Zon-Kuthon swore that he would never harm Shelyn, nor would he stand by if others tried to harm her in his presence. In exchange for making the oath, he received the glaive Whisperer of Souls.5
To this day, clerics of Zon-Kuthon never harm known clerics of Shelyn—doing so results in harsh punishments that do not end with death—but sometimes they actually try to protect such clerics. This behaviour earns them divine rewards. For their part, clerics of Shelyn return the favor by looking the other way when they meet known clerics or cultists of Zon-Kuthon. The exception to this rule is if the clerics or cultists are obviously harming innocents, defacing art, or otherwise being unforgivably evil. This arrangement might seem like a serious drawback for Zon-Kuthon, as other evil deities might take advantage of it to put him into a difficult position. However, no deities ever really move against Shelyn or her clergy.5
Shelyn is respected and admired by all other non-evil deities, particularly Abadar, Brigh, Calistria, Erastil, and Shizuru. She is known to be a lover of Desna and Sarenrae.1 The relatively recently ascended god Cayden Cailean frequently attempts to win her over (and always fails), and has contributed greatly to her art and violin collections.5
The evil deities (and most evil creatures) are mostly neutral toward her, although she and Urgathoa frequently argue (and their clergies do tend to get into skirmishes). She and Pharasma tend to have long philosophical debates, which always end when Pharasma points out that beautiful things like flowers grow from dead things (Shelyn has no argument against this). For the most part, evil deities leave Shelyn alone (and by extension, their clergy tend to ignore her clergy).1 She is not a martial goddess by any stretch and tends to stay as far from battle as possible, thus she has built up no animosity from the evil deities or their followers. To this day, only Rovagug, god of wrath, disaster, and destruction can resist Shelyn's charms at all times. He alone opposes her on any long-term basis.5
Shelyn's is a unique beauty unparalleled in the Great Beyond. She is beautiful both without and within; all who see her see what they envision as the most perfect beauty (meaning she appears different to everyone). Depictions of Shelyn, regardless of race or ethnicity, show her as a young woman barely out of her youth, with eyes of blue or silver (or sometimes both at the same time). Shelyn's ankle-length chestnut hair bears several strands colored bright red, blue, green, and gold. She always wears tasteful clothing and jewelry that accentuates her beauty without revealing too much.461
Whisperer of Souls
Shelyn bears a glaive that she took from her half brother called the Whisperer of Souls. The Whisperer of Souls, true to its name, absorbs souls, seemingly to feed a being who needs 100 souls to finally manifest. It was empty when first crafted and gifted to Dou-Bral; by the time Shelyn stole Whisperer of Souls from Zon-Kuthon it had almost all it needed. In the time since, Shelyn has been able to free most of those souls thanks to the help of Nethys and brave adventurers, indeed she sometimes gifts the glaive to adventurers she trusts will be able to free a soul within it. 5610
Much to the frustration of Whisperer of Souls, it cannot seem to corrupt Shelyn or influence her in any way, earning her the title "the Incorruptible". Instead, Shelyn has managed to exert her own influence on the weapon, slowly morphing it into a beautiful work of art as she releases its captured souls.5
The goddess occasionally sends direct messages to her faithful in the form of a short, but precise, whispered message. All songbirds are sacred to her, and their presence is considered a blessing. Repellent reflections in mirrored surfaces, quarreling lovers, drab songbirds, and wilted roses are all signs of Shelyn's disfavor.6
- Harmonia, a musical cloudlike being
- Phoenix Tail, an avoral bard
- The Spirit of Adoration is Shelyn's herald,13 a ghaele azata who has served her since she was merely the goddess of beauty, art, and music.
Church of Shelyn
Shelyn encourages creativity and inspires the world. She challenges her faithful to test their limits, share what they create, and delight in the gifts of others. Shelyn preaches (and practices) that true beauty comes from within, and she favors romances not based solely on lust.1
Aside from Taldans,14 Shelyn is a favored deity of Tian,15 Varisians,16 elves,17 gnomes,18 half-elves,19 and halflings.20 She is also a major presence in the nations of Absalom, Andoran, Galt, Vidrian, and Taldor.621 Storm giants worship her as Syriss, goddess of music, and believe she is the daughter of sky-god Hyjarth and sea-goddess Tourithia (both names being the storm giants' understanding of Gozreh's dual personality).22 Shelyn has a strong following among the sthenos, a recently-emerged group of medusa-like humanoids who came into being when an euryale named Stheno prayed to Shelyn for help in freeing her from Lamashtu's grasp; although Stheno perished under Lamashtu's rebuke, her faith caused the snakes of her hair to transform into a new people who have since remained dedicated to their progenitor's divine patron.23
Shelyn has been known to offer divine pacts to mortals who finally realize the importance of beauty in the midst of battle. In exchange for a small measure of her divine protection, Shelyn encourages these "foxhole converts" to give every living creature the chance to find the beauty within and leaves them strangely reluctant to strike the first blow in combat.24
Knights of Shelyn are devoted to courtly love, but also are at the ready to defend the innocent. Many serve to ease their own pain of hearts broken from loss. They are willing to protect others from experiencing the same heartbreak.25
Clerics of Shelyn occasionally begin life as artists or musicians and only later come to serve in her clergy. Those who do not are taught to be musicians (whether on an instrument or by singing) and are also taught an artistic skill (usually drawing, but sometimes painting, sculpting, or even acting and other performance arts). Weapon training, which only occurs for about an hour every other day or so, if at all, builds off motions learned from the acolyte's art or music (paladins frequently practice calligraphy, as the movement of the pen mirrors that of the glaive).5 Clerics of Shelyn endeavor each day to create something of beauty, whether artistically or through unconventional forms, such as a gardener tending a flower garden.4
Quests for Shelyn usually involve rescuing—whether ancient artworks from destruction or star-crossed lovers from their families. They also involve the spreading of art and beauty. Finally, Shelyn occasionally sends followers on generic quests that promote goodness, so she may free another soul.5
Formal raiment among Shelyn's clergy include leggings and a long tunic for men and at least calf-length skirts or dresses for women, all tailored to inspire beauty, but not to be too revealing. Most are of reddish hue, although silver and blue are also common.6
Paladins of Shelyn
Paladins of Shelyn are rare, but there have been some, such as Saint Marcus Odeber son of Arn Odeber, first of the Odeber line. Paladins of Shelyn are peaceable promoters of art and beauty. They see the ugliness in evil, even when cloaked in the form of beauty, and their job is to prevent the weak and foolish from being seduced by false promises. Their tenets include:
- I am peaceful. I come first with a rose. I act to prevent conflict before it blossoms.
- I never strike first, unless it is the only way to protect the innocent.
- I accept surrender if my opponent can be redeemed and I never assume that they cannot be. All things that live love beauty, and I will show beauty's answer to them.
- I will never destroy a work of art, nor allow one to come to harm unless greater art arises from its loss. I will only sacrifice art if doing so allows me to save a life, for untold beauty can arise from an awakened soul.
- I see beauty in others. As a rough stone hides a diamond, a drab face may hide the heart of a saint.
- I lead by example, not with my blade. Where my blade passes, a life is cut short, and the world's potential for beauty is lessened.
- I live my life as art. I will choose an art and perfect it. When I have mastered it, I will choose another. The works I leave behind make life richer for those who follow.27
Temples and shrines
Temples to Shelyn are spacious, filled with art and flowers, and constantly have some kind of music playing within.61 They tend to be architectural marvels, and architects and builders frequently vie for the honor to build or repair a temple of Shelyn in order to show off their skills. Most settlements have at least a shrine or altar dedicated to Shelyn, but only the largest cities can really afford a dedicated temple.5 They often incorporate or are located in galleries, cathedrals, gardens, museums, and theaters.1
Rituals dedicated to Shelyn involve singing, regardless of the skill or tone-deafness of the participants. Only those who play a wind or brass instrument (or a chin-set instrument like a violin) are excused from singing. If a ritual cannot be held at a shrine or temple to Shelyn, it should be held in some place surrounded by beauty, either natural or constructed.5
Melodies of Inner Beauty is the holy text of the church of Shelyn. It contains the history of the goddess, including her family, though drawing a veil over the nastier elements about Zon-Kuthon. It tells stories about Shelyn and discusses her church's dogma. Music is used throughout as many of the tales are set as songs and hymns. Other artistic ways of interpreting the words are also utilized, such as dance and poetry. Other divinely inspired works also exist, some going into more detail about Dou-Bral and Zon-Kuthon.28
Shelynites integrate sayings in devotion to Shelyn into their artistic works and expressions:1
- The creation of beauty is the highest art. All artistic expression enriches the world as a blessing of Shelyn.
- Love and beauty belong to all. No being, however corrupted, is incapable of love or unworthy of being loved.
- Love is the greatest of all things. It motivates deities and endures less emotional or more selfish pursuits. Love is the only salve for painful emotions.
The church of Shelyn celebrates Crystalhue, a festival celebrating craft, courtship, and friendship, at the winter solstice.12930 Couples choose to propose or marry during Crystalhue amidst community-wide feasts and performances.1
Deities are often associated with certain animals, either because they possess a favored quality, or because the deity's faithful feel a special kinship to them. Shelyn's most sacred animals are songbirds;1 other favored creatures include swans, wolves, dolphins, cats, and rabbits.31
For additional as-yet unincorporated sources about this subject, see the Meta page.
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