The Raven Queen is one of the most mysterious deities of fourth edition, and, judging by various forum posts, one of the most popular. This is what’s known of her: She’s the unaligned goddess of death; she’s also the goddess of fate and winter. She opposes Orcus and undeath in general. Unlike most gods, she does not make her home within a dominion in the Astral Sea; instead, she rules from the palace Letherna in the Shadowfell.
And that’s about it.
There are some obvious parallels to Greek myth here. “Letherna” suggests Lethe, the river of Hades, whose waters caused total forgetfulness in any who drank of them. The word lethe literally means forgetfulness, but also concealment or deception — and it’s related to the Greek word often translated as truth, aletheia. (The actual meaning is something more akin to disclosure or non-concealment, from what I understand, and connotes recognition.)
Even more obviously, the Raven Queen is a “spinner of fate,” and she “marks the end of each mortal life,” which makes her analogous to both Clotho and Atropos, two of the Fates. (And arguably also of Lachesis, the third.) In mythology, Clotho spun the thread of life, Lachesis measured its span, and Atropos cut it when it had reached its end.
The Fates were, at least in some traditions, the daughters of Nyx, the primordial goddess of the night. Nyx was among the earliest of gods to emerge, perhaps coming into being alongside of creation. She’s the daughter of Chaos, the primordial state of existence, and sister to Gaia (the earth), Tartarus and Erebus (the underworld), and Eros (sex). Her offspring, in addition to the Fates, include Moros (fate), Thanatos (death), Nemesis (retribution), Apate (deceit), and Eris (strife).
I find this interesting enough to run with it in my game. But wait, there’s more…
The title Raven Queen is also reminiscent of the Morrigan of Irish mythology. Morrigan is a figure associated with prophecy, war, and death (especially death in battle). She sometimes takes the form of a carrion crow, a bird in the same family as the raven. (The Badb, who also embodies these traits, is sometimes considered to be a sister deity to the Morrigan.)
Hugin and Munin, Odin’s ravens, probably bear mentioning as well. Their names mean Thought and Memory, and their duty is to fly around the world and to bring back news of what they see to Odin. Odin himself is a god associated with prophecy, war, and death.
While we’re considering Norse mythology, there’s also Freyja. In the Eddas, she’s portrayed mostly as a goddess of love, sex, beauty, and fertility, but she’s also a goddess of… you guessed it, prophecy, war, and death. One story says that half of the warriors who die in battle go to her hall in the afterlife, with the other half going to Odin’s hall Valhalla. So here we have a goddess who’s associated both with life and with death. This particular dualism doesn’t seem to suit the Raven Queen, at first glance, but we’ll bear it in mind. It’s intriguing enough that we might find something to do with it.
Aside from the gods, there are of course the Valkyries, those who soar over the battlefield — sometimes in the shapes of ravens — and choose the bravest warriors to escort to Valhalla (or to Freyja’s hall, as the case may be).
Finally, there are the three main Norns, who are somewhat analogous to the Greek Fates: Urd (fate), Verthandi (becoming; the present moment), and Skuld (debt). Skuld, youngest of the Norns, is also a Valkyrie, of whom Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda says: “…and the youngest Norn, she who is called Skuld, (rides) ever to take the slain and decide fights.” So here, again, is a goddess of fate, battle, and death. (Skuld’s name, incidentally, also translates as shall, a nifty point of trivia.)
So here we have some parallels between the mysterious Raven Queen and various European mythologies. The correlations are interesting enough, at least to me, that I’ll use them as inspiration for the Raven Queen in my own game. (And probably for Skybreaker, too, unless our GM has something else planned already; our campaigns tend to share a lot of this sort of background material.)
My next post will cover exactly what I’m doing with my Raven Queen: fleshing out what role she plays in my game world, based loosely on some of the ideas from the mythological figures I mention above, and with some of my own thrown in for good measure.
- Defining the Raven Queen
- Encountering the Raven Queen
- Myth Direction: the Faerie Courts
- Ritual of Rejuvenation
- Rampant Sects
Categories: Myth Direction, Original Game Content | Comments (11)
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