Rise of the Runelords
Desna (pronounced DEZ-nuh) was one of the first deities, but while her peers burdened themselves with the task of creating Golarion she spent her time building the heavens. She’s changed little since those earlier days, and she and her followers delight in exploring the world.
Desna is an ancient goddess of freedom and luck, and is credited with the creation of the heavens. In her earliest days the god Curchanus, an enemy of the goddess Lamashtu, was her mentor. Lamashtu laid a trap for Curchanus and stripped him of his beast domain, ripping it from his godly essence. As he died he gifted Desna with the domain of travel; she has traveled the planes and worlds since, opposing both oppression and Lamashtu wherever she encounters them, and spreading her word while making an effort to experiencing new wonders when she can.
Desna is a Varisian goddess often described as a beautiful elven woman, with butterfly wings containing all the beauty of a clear night sky. She is oft depicted as having dark hair, silvery eyes, and a coy but distant smile, wearing diaphanous gowns and sometimes accompanied by swarms of butterflies.
Additional details vary among the races that worship her; the Bonuwat people of the Mwangi Expanse worship a variant form of Desna, a janiform amalgam with Gozreh, whom they call Shimye-Magalla. The nomadic Kellids of northern Avistan depict Desna not as the elegant elven woman she is generally seen as in the south, but a stately human woman riding an elk.
Desna is the goddess of travel and journeys, and there are few who traverse the roads who wouldn’t spare her a prayer or a simple-worded plea for benediction. Scouts, sailors, and those who travel for travel’s sake make up a large amount of her following, though her domain of luck also makes her a favorite deity among gamblers and thieves. The informal clergy of Desna is primarily composed of clerics, though on occasion bards are called by some song or whisper in the night to follow her path. In addition, spherewalkers are paragons of the Desnan ideal of seeing new sights each day and finding locales unheard of but often dreamed of. The individuals that comprise the clergy usually garb themselves in white robes and silk caps, emphasized by varied decorative elements and usually accompanied by one or more starknives.
The Nomen centaurs of the River Kingdoms worship Desna in an aspect called ‘Mother Moon’.
In Tian Xia, Desna is known as the Resplendent Goddess of Fortune, and the Goddess of the North Star.
Desna is held in special affection by most halflings, especially those who travel or seek adventure. Traveling halflings take tokens of the goddess and frequent her shrines along their journey. They attribute their special luck and some halflings’ ability to jinx as a gift from the goddess. This luck is personified in the goddess Chaldira Zuzaristan, who is seen by halflings to be Desna’s loyal friend.
Temples of Desna are few and far between, with most locations dedicated to the goddess being no more than roadside shrines erected in her honor; her faithful often leave markings and dedications in newly discovered areas and secluded locales. Those few temples that do exist often serve as observatories and are as open to the night sky as possible.
Writings sacred to Desna tend to be easily portable, written in simple language and often containing references to exotic, beautiful places and roads containing a shrine.3
Almost all Desnan shrines are covered with the observations and prayers of travelers and priests of her faith, containing the wisdom of the road and hints for the start of new journeys.
Taking place on both the winter and summer solstices, when the fires burn low the faithful throw stardust into the embers and make wishes and pledges for the months to come.
Every year on the first day of the month of Rova the followers of Desna release cages full of swallowtail butterflies, an act that honors a story told by the faithful.3