This is part of our basics series, seeking to educate newcomers on the Otherfaith and our gods. It is also part of the '30 Days of Devotion' project. The original prompts for the '30 Days of Devotion' can be found here.
This is a masterpost of the Ophelia and will include all her symbols, myths, and other basic information.
Main Role: Queen of the Waters/Life
the Ophelia is the divine lover to the Clarene, deified by drowning in her own river. She is heavily tied to water and all that means – flow, subtle power, health, time. She sustains the People and washes our shame from us. She is also tied to memory, because of her connections to time.
the Ophelia is associated with depression. She is seen as suffering from it and afflicting others with it. She also helps in recovery from depression (and those suffering from it should not avoid treatment or assume it is a ‘god-given’ illness). Her sorrow is not just the mental illness, however. We must be cautious and keep from ignoring or emphasizing her illness unduly.
- House: Hull
- Court: Blue
- Initiatory Order: Rue (Sorrow)
the Ophelia was the second of the Four Gods to reveal herself to me in 2011. She came to me as I gazed upon the Catalina mountains – she was veiled in blue, with hair like dark water. When she reached for me, I was filled with an endless chill, an overwhelming sadness, and a powerful sense of danger.
The God herself seems to be from the Hudson River, a connection actually made by another member of the faith. She was a small river spirit before meeting the Clarene and being deified. the Ophelia is also connected to the Mississippi River. Each connection is tied to suicide-by-drowning. So far, this is the closest we have to a ‘history’ of this god.
Still, no matter the impressions we receive about these gods, they are not attested to in folklore. Our ideas and even messages from the gods should not be considered fact or scholarship. We are not reconstructionists. Their origins are more important to us for mythic purposes, not factual ones.
from this myth:
She had drowned in a thousand rivers by the time she met Lyra. Her hair was dark and full of seaweed and she had donned a thousand masks (one for each river), and she was sure that Lyra – who glowed like the night sky and ran like the wind in a storm – would not notice her.
Lyra was, after all, the child of fire and stone, and Ophelia was King of cold and wet. There was no future to be found but longing.
from this myth:
…you walk to the River.
You expect her to smell like blood still, but all you sniff is lotus flowers. Your mother sits on a rock near the bank, watching over a few young water faeries. Of you all, she’s the best adjusted. She even smiles, on occasion.
You stand by her side as she babysits the teenagers, and even in all your sorrow your chest lightens seeing her spine relax when their parents come for them. She really is atrocious with children.
the Ophelia looks at you immediately after, and all the tension returns.
from this myth:
the Ophelia had noticed, with each winter. She had noticed, and sometimes in her noticing had neglected to keep the ice that crawled along the River’s edge at bay, had sometimes felt the cold seep into her bones, and only with glares and firmly placed kicks displaced the winter that curled along her skin. She had noticed the forward curved horns the Clarene donned, had noticed the snow and spiraled ice that the King of the West wore. She had noticed but kept it far from her mind, because the world moved and as these things go – and we know how they go – they had drifted apart.
Perhaps the best description of the Ophelia is withdrawn. She is a quiet god, most often working behind the scenes to sustain the West and her People. Rather than the homely warmth of the Clarene or the boisterousness of the Dierne, the Ophelia is about duty. This duty may at times strangle emotional response or engagement from the god.
Whereas the Clarene has restrained power, the Ophelia is everything-restrained. She is cloaked in veils and heavy silks, slowing her movement. She sits with her back ramrod straight, and her gaze is unflinching. Externally she is alien, awkward to humanity, too firm to be a water god. She is like rocks laying at the bottom of the river – edges worn smooth, discerning marks worn away.
She was originally a water spirit, dwelling in a place bordering the lands of faeries and humans, her body becoming a dumping ground of the toxins and pollution in both worlds. She was chaotic and fearful and lashes out at any who approach her. It is only the Clarene, captivated by the beauty she can see beyond the pain, who can reach out to her without being burned. But when she removes the Ophelia’s heart, when she created the West for her lover, she shifted the core of the Ophelia. What was once a bleeding, spluttering heart became sewn in by silver threads. the Ophelia was reborn into a world where she had obligation, where she was part of the landscape itself in a way she had not been even before.
Compared to her occasionally bloody and ravenous lover, the Ophelia’s harsh power is often directed at individuals with sharp precision. She is icy, and she has great cruelty in her. Her relationship to humanity is often one of a silent challenger, bringing unpleasant cold in her manifestation. She swirls around us with her cold and her river muck, her skin slimy, her face gaunt. Because she is so frozen over she can appear frightening. It is hard, often, for people to feel a connection to her. She is not the boisterous Clarene, nor the starry but human Dierne, nor the human turned god Laetha. She lends her freezing waters to the Ophelene’s swift justice and threads dark waters into the Laethelia’s bubbly personality.
She is as capable of love and compassion as any of the Four Gods. We see her challenger side more often, and she patrons those who confront established systems or bring cataclysmic change, but she just as often patrons those who are aching in suffering. She submerges us to wash away our pain, to strip us down to the bone so that we can see what truly hurts us. She can grant spirits entirely new bodies and identities to free them from suffering. She is a great transformer, just like the Clarene, but she transforms through water rather than soil.
She is a fierce defender of what she values. This is seen in her petitioning on behalf of spirits she adopts, and it is also present in her conflicts with the Laetha. The two are often seen as aggressors, locked in conflict, but it is more accurate to understand them as having similar energies. They do not fight because they are opposites but because of their similarity. The same cold expressionless mask that the Ophelia wears is worn by the Laetha.
And inside the Ophelia burns a blue flame. Underneath her silver threads and stony body is the blue fire that is connected to faeries, that hints at her original form as a faery spirit. Her appearance as a flaming bird of blue flame is rarely seen, though it is tied to her mysteries and is a symbol of great power, almost ominous in its appearance.
One of the biggest themes related to the Ophelia is death, especially death through drowning. It is highly possible that she can be connected to other gods of drowning in some way, though that remains to be seen. Death-by-drowning in her only domain over the act of dying, however – she is much more concerned with the processes after death, such as decay and fertilization through corpses. Those spirits and souls in the Otherfaith who do not receive her tending after death are said to decay ‘improperly’, with parts of their soul turning to ash while others decay or even retain ‘living’ elements.
She strips that which was living and turns it into a new substance, tying her to rebirth as her opposite god, the Laetha, is also tied. She can aid those who commit suicide in her river by completely stripping them of their past lives and giving them a new life and body. This stripping away ties into the theme of cleansing. the Ophelia is one of the most powerful cleansing forces in the Otherfaith. She washes our bones clean; she strips from our souls pollution and shame. She is so skilled at this because she herself was once full of pollution and toxins.
This cleansing is facilitated by water – her rivers, her lakes, her streams. This process is usually seen as her filling up someone, permeating them or filling their lungs up with her substance. It involves a fair bit of ‘breaking’, as the Ophelia is a fierce god in her own right, especially in her desire to keep the People at their best state.
This brings us to the Ophelia’s theme of duty, one we saw highlighted in her personality. This connects her to structures of law, and she is frequently seen as a force of law and reprimand in the West. Though a ‘god of water’, she is concerned with structure, with the perfect temperature of her rivers, with the placements of stones and moss. Her duty is sacred. She wishes to uphold the West, to uphold its People, and she can be painfully single-minded in this pursuit. Though she will occasionally abscond duty for love (more often familial than romantic, though that too calls her at times), even then she has her obligations on her mind. She is the first of the Four Gods to have been deified (rather than born god-inherent), and she feels the weight of this. Her love is for the People. (This is why she can seem harsh at her interactions with us – she can see us at our best, and she wants us to become that.)
She is also the overseer of time and memory. This are what some would call ‘fate’, but the Other People do not have a concept of predetermination. Instead, the Ophelia teaches us about ‘action and reaction, rippling through time’. What is ‘fate’ is simply an action in the past, in the future, coming back to us – though not always our own action. And the Ophelia more than anyone else knows that sometimes things just happen, for no reason, and we are left with the impact of those actions, the fallout. She watches as time goes by, sometimes sticking her fingers in, bending it but most often watching. She is more likely to manipulate memory for her ends than the flow of time itself.
She is the faery who grants wishes in the Otherfaith. These wishes often involve altering time, space, or matter, and they inevitably have a repercussion of some kind. These are occasionally brought on by the Ophelia herself to teach the wisher a lesson, but just as often they are unintended consequences of her magic lashing out in unreliable ways. Wishing and the granting of wishes can be seen as an offshoot of her theme of duty.
What does having a god such as this in our religion mean for us, ethically? What does she teach us, and how do we live in right relationship with her outside of devotional activities? (And those matter! Our hands cannot fail to do the work our lips are extolling.)
The ethical teachings the Ophelia offers us are, to put it rather simply:
But we have to beware approaching those on just their face.
Though the Other People’s ethics are rooted in consequentialism and pragmaticism, the Ophelia teaches us of duty-bound (deontological) ethics. She is ruthless in her fulfillment of obligation, warning us of the dangers of adhering too strongly to duty over empathy, but she also reminds us that we all have duties. We all have things we must do to be in good relationship with our world, regardless of whether they are enjoyable or difficult. She reminds us that we are all, in some form, in a place of serving others and helping our world progress to a more just place.
Contractarianism, or a social contract, involves the relationship of the state or rulers to the people. Interestingly, though the Ophelia can seem solidly cold and assured of her godhood and rulership, her teachings in regard to this actually encourage us to critique this social contract. We must constantly strive for one that truly serves the people, that does not stifle justice or further oppression, and uplifts the other ethical impulses in the Otherfaith. Being a being-made-god, she does not teach of an innate right to rule but rather one based on duty and taking care of those under her, always with the purpose of protecting and furthering their care.
Situational ethics are vital to the Otherfaith. Within it, acts must be evaluated in the context they took place in, rather than by simple laws (interestingly, this can be at extreme odds with duty-bound ethics). Though the Ophelia is a fierce defender of the People, she also shows kindness toward those who have fallen out of right relationship, such as her adoption of the spirit Aster Aira (a spirit who killed the Ophelia’s own daughter). She teaches us both of context and of forgiveness, of seeing the entirety of a person and society rather than a single moment.
All these ethical teachings must be understood from the starting point of the consequentialism ethics that permeates the Otherfaith – we emphasize the actions and consequences of those actions rather than the intent or virtue of the person acting. We also have some influences of deontological (duty-bound) ethics, but those come secondary to the focus we place on whether an action is itself in line with our ethics are not. The intent behind the actions is not considered as important or relevant.
- (processes of) death
- fresh water (rivers/lakes)
- spiritual journeys/otherworld journeying
- black and blue colored birds
- blue fire
- ocean monsters
- river stones
- river weeds
- sickly/mossy green
- simplistic masks
- unpleasant bodily functions
- Blue Fire God
- Dead Women
- Dutiful God
- King River
- Lady Death
- Lady of the Veil
- Lady of the Waters
- River Women
- Silent Observer
- Sky Ophelia
- Vile Queen
- Without Fate
- Wounded One
- Aster Aira
- Neve Winter
Thank you for reading. ‘of the Other People’ is a site dedicated to the Otherfaith, a modern polytheist religion. You can find more about us here and here. You can contact us here if you have any questions or would like to get involved.