From Avaria
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Nirzali is one of the chief deities of Idiri, and the faith that bears her name is widespread throughout the continent. While most gods and spirits worshiped in Idiri are local ones, Nirzali transcends geographic boundaries and is revered alongside the deities of given places and peoples. Represented in the sky by the pole star of the north, often called the Outcast, Nirzali watches over mortalkind from afar, distant from her people yet ever-present.

Deity Nirzali ("the Outcast")
Texts None
Founder Unknown
Community Nirzalites
Symbols Many-rayed star with the bottom ray depending as a teardrop
Origin Idiri
Positive Domains Rain, fresh water, healing, compassion, guidance, purification by water
Negative Domains Storms, floods, drought, isolation, sorrow, selfishness
Most Sacred Site Nirzali's Mirror

The Nature of the Goddess


Like the mortals she looks after, Nirzali is a mix of positive and negative aspects. She is a goddess of compassion, healing, and purification, the bringer of the rains that allow crops to grow and livestock and people to flourish. But in her dark moods she brings instead the violence of storm and flood, and in her exile she represents solitude, selfishness, and sorrow. She guides travelers through the night and lends comfort to those who are alone and forsaken as she is, but woe betide the mortal who forgets her during times of merriment and revelry, and fails to make their offering to the eternal Outcast.


Nirzali is most often depicted in art as a dark-skinned woman with blue-green stars for eyes, and long black hair worn in a multitude of braids. However, various watery motifs such as showers of rain, waterspouts, tidal waves, and stormclouds are often used as a symbolic stand-in for the goddess. In Amunati art, she is occasionally also shown as a figure with the body of a woman but with a radiant star in place of a head.

Her particular sigil is a many-rayed star in which the bottommost ray depends as a teardrop. The sea hawk or osprey is also sometimes associated with Nirzali.

Organization & Practice


As with many pagan deities, the way in which ordinary people worship Nirzali is relatively simple. It is common to appeal to Nirzali in times of drought, famine, and illness, either asking for her merciful blessing or seeking to appease her anger. She is not considered responsible for famine and illness in themselves, but her healing and benevolent aspects are appealed to in order to alleviate their effects. Drought, on the other hand, is believed to be more directly connected to Nirzali and to suggest that she has allowed her face to be turned away from her people, either in distraction or disdain. Whether in appeasement or appeal, or in simple thanks, it is common for prayers and votive offerings to be offered at shrines or temples by individual worshipers, while the priesthood is responsible for carrying out more elaborate rituals and coordinating the prayers of the faithful.

For most Nirzalites, the chief holy observance of the year are the days of Solitary. This is a time of self-isolation and meditation meant to encourage mindful solidarity with the goddess who remains outcast, yet from afar still serves as a guide and beacon for mortals.

Religious Structures & Sites

Formal worship of Nirzali by her priesthood is carried out in temples. The style and layout of these temples varies from place to place, but all of them share a pair of features: an opening in the temple's roof called an ocular, through which rain falls into a small pool beneath it. The waters of the lacrimal pool, as it is known, are considered to have sacred powers from Nirzali herself and are treated as her sacred tears. The pool is used for divination, while water taken from it is used in various purification rituals. Often the lacrimal pool is in the public center of the temple, but in some places the ocular and lacrimal are located deep within the temple and off-limits to all but senior members of the priesthood.

Nirzalite temples are often found in prominent places in cities in lands where worship of the goddess is widespread. They are usually set apart from the surrounding city in some way while remaining close to its heart; most commonly they are built on high ground within the city limits, or they may be surrounded by a canal or parkland. Worshipers are allowed access to the outer portions of the temple at any time, but certain inner areas are restricted in access to priests only. Temples may be found outside cities as well, and again are typically located on higher ground than the surrounding area or encircled by water.

More widespread than temples are shrines dedicated to Nirzali. These can be seen scattered across the countryside, usually set slightly apart from villages though within easy access of them, sometimes simply located near major routes of travel. These shrines are small and simple constructions of stone or wood, usually consisting of a raised altar with a basin set into or on it, beneath a small roof with its own ocular opening. The very simplest shrines consist of only altar and basin with no roof at all.

The most sacred site to Nirzalites is the immense lake known as Nirzali's Mirror, located in the Izendi Highlands. The crater in which the lake rests is believed to have been formed by the fall of Nirzali's friend and lover Nthanda, while the waters that now fill it are the tears the goddess shed in her great grief at Nthanda's death. Nirzali's Mirror is a pilgrimage site for her faithful, and the merfolk-like jengu who dwell within the lake are considered to act as messengers between worshipers and the goddess.


Nirzali has an extensive and well-organized priesthood throughout Idiri. There is no single authority at the head of the faith, but each large temple is headed up by a High Priestess who coordinates most of the activities in that temple and communicates with her sister High Priestesses in other parts of the continent. Although these highest leadership positions as well as some other special roles are filled exclusively by women, the middle ranks of the priesthood includes both sexes and other roles are performed relatively indiscriminately.

Nirzalite priests and priestesses have a number of duties depending on the needs of their temple or on their own particular calling. Caring for the goddess herself is the most important of these, as the priests consider themselves both the servants and companions of Nirzali. This involves such tasks as keeping her temples and shrines ritually cleaned and purified, creating objects of beauty with which to adorn the temples and give in offering, caring for the ritual pools, and periodically collecting the offerings cast into them by both priest and common worshipers. Carrying out both daily rituals in the service of the goddess and special rituals in times of celebration or crisis is also a central responsibility of Nirzali's priests.

Besides these, some priestesses of Nirzali have more specialized duties as well. Divination in order to discern the will of the goddess and glimpse the future is a commonly employed skill. There are various methods for divination. The most common daily practice is for the High Priestess or other senior priestesses to observe the temple lacrimal each morning or after a rain, noting the color of the water and the patterns of any debris that may have fallen into it through the ocular, before ritually cleaning the pool each day. Another manner of divination is to sprinkle water from the lacrimal onto a non-absorbent surface and observe the patterns the droplets form. Combining some aspects of both of these practices, divination by the patterns and character of puddles or raindrops are also believed to give insight when performed by a properly trained priestess.

Other priestesses of Nirzali, called lodestars, find their calling in offering guidance to any who come seeking it and are also considered healers of the spirit. Some priestesses (and a few male priests) are itinerants known as wandering stars, who offer various spiritual services and also clean and reconsecrate shrines wherever they go. More unusually, a few women act as oracles of the goddess, though this seems to be an ancient practice and it is not officially condoned by the priesthood.

Lay Servants

Nirzalites have both a professional priesthood and a large body of laypersons who periodically offer their services to the goddess. These laypersons will typically step away from their other life duties for a period of weeks to months, and take up a temporary life at a local temple. This is especially common for young adults before they marry, and for older women and men after their children have grown, but it is not unusual for an adult of any age. Lay servants typically help keep the temple and its grounds clean and tidy, accept offerings to the goddess from the faithful, sing prayers to Nirzali, and assist the priests with daily rituals.

Some lay servants may eventually choose to be initiated into the priesthood, but for most a periodic alternation between ordinary work and service to the divine is a natural rhythm of their lives. Sometimes individuals will also become lay servants at a time of their lives when they feel especially in need of divine guidance or purpose.

Relationship with Azadi

Many Nirzalites live within the bounds of the Sirdabi Caliphate where Azadi is the official and most widespread religion. Although frictions do exist between the two faiths, there is also a fair amount of syncretism between the two which has allowed them to coexist relatively peacefully.

Many Nirzalites see the Prophet al-Azad and his first wife Adwa as semi-divine manifestations of Nthanda and Nirzali, and offer them both honor and prayers. Many temples to Nirzali within the caliphate include a special day of prayer devoted to Nirzali-as-Adwa, and some Nirzalites even go so far as to occasionally attend Azadi services (though traditional Azadi are irked by this and many Nirzalites are dubious of the practice). Both Azadi and Nirzalites observe the holy days of Solitary, and they share a belief in the importance of water and its use in purification. The Nirzalite lacrimal pool or basin also mirrors the Azadi sirdab with its essential water feature.

Most friction occurs simply due to the fundamental antagonism between the Azadi's monotheistic worship of Annur, and the Nirzalite's worship that is chiefly directed towards Nirzali but which acknowledges a belief in and often a duty towards other divine and semi-divine beings as well. A few Nirzalites, however -- no doubt influenced by the dominant faith of the western caliphate, and encouraged by the disinclination of the Azadi to assign a gender to their god -- have come to identify Nirzali and the One True God as one and the same.

Legends & Prayers

The Legend of Nirzali the Outcast

The bright blue-green northern pole star is known to most peoples of Idiri and the south Adeleantean shores as the Outcast. But this is not just a star; it is also the goddess Nirzali, goddess of storms, sorrow, loss, solitude, and compassion. She was cast out from among the gods of Idiri for her culpability in the death of the great hero Nthanda, who had been raised to a place among the gods for his wondrous deeds. But though he lived among the gods he was still mortal, and when he boasted thoughtlessly to his friend and lover Nirzali that he was so great he could best even her at anything, she vied with him in a series of increasingly ambitious challenges that led to the most terrible disaster. In jumping mountains that were leagues apart, even the wonderful hero Nthanda could not follow Nirzali's furthest leap between the two highest peaks of Idiri -- and he fell, plunging to the earth with such force that his impact created a deep crater, and he perished.

The goddess was beside herself with horror and sorrow, and in the storm of her grief she filled up the bowl of the crater with her tears, which also flowed off the land and created the great rivers of Idiri. The other gods, meantime, were aghast at what Nirzali's foolish pride and daring had led to, and she was exiled from among them, sent off to wander in the lands far to the north and cursed to solitude until such time that the other gods deemed her punishment sufficient. But she vowed that she would no longer lead others astray and would instead serve as a beacon for them in the darkest night, and so now she can be seen in the heavens all night long, every night of the year, always occupying a fixed spot in the cold northern sky and helping guide travelers safely to their destination. But all the other stars circle around her at a distance, and she must watch and guide their own wanderings while knowing she can never be reunited with her beloved friend until her penance is finally done.

Purification Prayer

This traditional chant is often used as part of lustration rituals of various kinds, as well as a simple prayer to Nirzali.

Tempest shake me
Blast remake me
Earthly tarnish
Scoured by storm

Monsoon melt me
Hailstones pelt me
Pound me in
More perfect form

Downpour drench me
Torrent quench me
Storm and shower
Soak me through

Flood wrack flense me
Cloudburst cleanse me
Rainfall sprout
My soul anew

Mist caress me
Wash and bless me
Sluice away
All cares and fears

Deluge drown me
Rainbow crown me
Impurities dissolved
By tears