[Basics] the Ophelia

Overview

  • Name: the Ophelia
  • Main Epithet: the River
  • Domain: Time
  • Placement: Second
  • Color: Blue
  • Symbol: Hourglass
  • Element: Water
  • House: Hull
  • Court: Blue
  • Order: Rue

Origins

the Ophelia was the second of the first Four Gods to reveal herself. She is strongly associated with the Laetha and arrived almost alongside him. Opposite the Laetha’s fire, the Ophelia is a water and river god. This association has stuck through the years, though her river connections have expanded to include lakes as well.

Stories involving the Ophelia show her meeting the Clarene at the edge of fairyland and mankind. This might imply she was an actual river. She was a certainly an established spirit before meeting the Clarene and might possibly be older than the god. It is implied that she is not a god until the Clarene deifies her (sometimes by eating the Ophelia’s heart then spitting it out, or by resurrecting the Ophelia after death). She may have been a river in Europe (perhaps Germany or France, both countries tied loosely to the Clarene) or in the United States. She’s been connected to the Hudson by some of the Other People.

She can be found among many rivers and lakes, and the best way to understand her is to explore any bodies of water near you. Living in the desert, water is not as available – the Ophelia seems more connected to my local mountains. Try looking for her essence (dark, cold, tinges of sorrow) in unexpected places.

Appearance

In her traditional humanoid appearance, the Ophelia is a tall, statuesque woman with black hair that flows into the river she is associated with. She wears heavy blue shawls, though they may occasionally be mixed with white and black cloths. Most of her body is obscured. At times, she may wear a veil over her whole face or her eyes. Her skin is often translucent or a muddy blue.

Her expressions tend toward neutrality and blankness. She is reserved in her emotional expression. She may at times appear with tear-stained cheeks, but her solid gaze remains.

Her tears are an important part of her appearance. Sometimes her cheeks are stained or wet. In other appearances, her tears run so long and deep that they have cut her flesh to the bone. At times she may have only dark pits for eyes and cry blood or oil. This form may harken to before her apotheosis, when she was a river spirit polluted with waste from the human and fairy worlds.

She is associated with a sacred landscape called The Wastes, an area of Western Fairy which receives the pollution created in the otherworldly land. The Wastes are a place of constantly cleansing and purification locked in balance with continued toxic dumps and damage. When associated with The Wastes, she can appear in simple functional clothing and boots, seeming reading to work and clean. She may also appear pox-ridden and oozing oil-stained water.

the Ophelia has ties to masks and obscuring, similar to the Dierne. She may don a solid white mask with no marks or one that is a stylized crying face. These masks are tied with her more martial forms, and she may carry a spear or a weapon made from water with her. Her martial associations place less emphasis on weapons, focusing on the body and the manipulation of elements and energy (i.e. magic). Her own style of ‘battle’ emphasizes drowning and freezing her opponents.

Opposite of the Laetha, the Ophelia may appear at times as a giant bird made of blue fire. This is the form known as the Bluebird. This form is tied to the Laetha as a warring force and also embodies the post-deified Ophelia. Her appearance as the Bluebird can herald great emotional distress and change to those it appears to. It can also be used as a sigil against the more violent and destructive variants of the Laetha.

Though it is likely we will most often perceive the Ophelia as humanoid, her ‘truest’ form is that of a giant, winding river coursing through the otherworld. Her river is dark and deep at points, while glistening clear and shallow at others. We might best understand her various forms and relationships to us as if we were walking down an endless river and seeing her different depths.

Temperament

This god is even-keeled, for the most part. Though she is tied to sorrow and despair (and her appearance often shows her crying), her actual behavior is notable for its calm and patience. She has a level of impartiality as well which serves the gods and mortals very well.

On a surface level, the Ophelia may seem uninterested and even cold. She doesn’t have a lot of time for play and fun, unlike the Clarene. She views her godhood as a very sacred charge, and she does her best to put her duty first. She shows up and does her work, leaving us when she is done.

She does not have a large holy House. House Hull is populated by infamous spirits associated with rot and decay, ones that are often rejected by the majority of Otherfaith spirits. She attracts and accepts those tinted with sadness and molds them into great forces of nature and emotion. She teaches them to wreak havoc with a simple touch. Her mysteries and magic involve despair and the dissolution of identity. Everything flows back to her river – that is the lesson she teaches.

However, past this apparent ruthlessness is compassion. She regularly catches and saves spirits thrown into emotional trauma. She may drag them into her depths – but under her waters lay a variety of worlds. These include the idyllic Lakehouse and the barren Wintertime. The Lakehouse is a healing realm and represents the empathy and patience of the god. These landscapes are tied to her body – which she offers to help the spirits explore their minds until they can resurface into the wider West. Her claws are not daggers she digs in to punish us but webbed fingers that secure us until we can steady ourselves.

She is impartial to humans, carrying neither great love or hate. She gifts based on need. And if we come to her with petty wants and childish tantrums, she won’t gift us. Unlike the Clarene, who is the indulgent mother, the Ophelia holds herself back. She lets us stumble and fall. She catches us when we need it.

Her solid emotional state helps her make good decisions. This is also tied to her ability to see through time. She contemplates and waits. She often confers with the other gods, though her advise is ignored an unfortunate amount of the time. When she speaks, she speaks with purpose. When she acts, she acts with intent. She does not rush. She even avoid acting many times, not wanting to tamper with time and consequence (the closest concept to ‘fate’ in the Otherfaith).

This can sometimes cause problems. She at times sees horrid events and does nothing or acts too late. This is especially in the case of the Laetha. She warns the Clarene too late of the horror that will befall the West if the Laetha becomes a god, causing the exact event she was trying to avoid. She can also act over-protectively, such as when she keeps the Dierne in her Lakehouse rather than letting him into the wider Western Fairy. Much of her hesitancy, inaction, or inappropriate action stems from fear – a fear of loss, of more destruction, of going off the timelines she sees into unexplored waters.

Her wrathfulness is rare, even against other spirits. When it does flow to the surface, it commonly takes the form of all the sorrows the Ophelia has carried from the many souls who have perished in her waters. It is best thought of as weaponized despair. This isn’t a side likely to be seen by most people and seems to mostly play a part in the myths.

Function

the Ophelia is the overseer of time and ‘fate’ in the Otherfaith. These heavy duties influence her interaction with her spirits and the world. She is able to see many timelines and watch as actions and consequences play out. Time, in the West, plays to her key – as fast or slow as she desires. Being in charge of such a serious role, however, she usually does not tamper with time.

‘Fate’ in the Otherfaith is better understood as action and consequence. There is no concept of a predetermined path created by the gods or universe. Instead, our actions and those of people around us shape our lives. These actions can have unexpected consequences down the line. Add in the oddities of the otherworld and these actions can ripple back and forth throughout time (the essence of time travel within an Otherfaith and mystical/spirit-work context). This is how we should think of ‘fate’. the Ophelia watches over the consequences that ripple out into her waters and decides which to avert. Because of the People’s understanding of fate, we lack any meaningful concept of predetermination or complete free will. We are both acted upon and actors in our own lives.

As a guardian of time, the Ophelia runs counter to the Laetha and her spirits. the Laetha is associated with bending time and reality, skipping to different timelines and sliding back and forth between past and future. Their talents are intertwined. the Laetha could not travel through time without the Ophelia, and the Laetha’s meddling keeps the Ophelia from having to interfere as much. the Ophelia is able to keep memories and knowledge of timelines that have been changed, however, being a witness to the entirety of the river as well as part of it.

The erasure of memory and of the self is another function the Ophelia fulfills. She will wash away memories or traumas from the spirits that come to her, remaking them. the Clarene does this as well, but through burial. the Ophelia’s cleansing is seen as a bit weaker than the Clarene’s burial; unless the spirit or person is ready to move past their pain, the wound will resurface no matter how many times the Ophelia washes it away. The river god also performs complete drownings, destroying the entire identity of some who come to her river. This usually results in the spirit taking on a completely new form. Humanoid become animal and vice versa.

The river god also grants wishes. Tossing coins into water, making earnest prayers over a body of water, and other fairy tale-esque wishes can be granted by the Ophelia – for a price. Like any typical wish in a fairy tale, there’s almost always an unexpected problem. For example, the spirit Casimir asks for the chance to live a better life after dying a brutal death at the hands of his lover. This spirals into a repeating cycle in which Casimir and the two spirits connected to him live many different lives again and again, until they are hardly the spirits they originally were. Lilibell, the right hand of the Dierne, asks for her twin Althea Altair to be freed of her restrictive bonds to the Laetha, and the Ophelia accomplishes this by turning Althea into a fiery unicorn that rampages across the land and almost kills Lilibell before being turned back into her human form.

These problems are sometimes created intentionally by the Ophelia (such as the case with Althea), while others are simple results of the powerful magic involved in granting reality-bending wishes (such as with Casimir). When a wish goes incredibly awry, the Ophelia has little power to stop it. Her magic, chthonic and dark and wild, is normally held under her tight fist; wish-making involves asking her to release that power.

Along with the Clarene, the Ophelia is one of the basic ‘initiators’ in their Western Fairyland. the Clarene teaches spirits how to tend to her fields and uphold the basic functioning of their world. the Ophelia emphasizes duty further, having those under her guidance clean the Wastes, explore and maintain her Wintertime, and learn how time flows in the West. the Ophelia, being duty-bound, is an excellent teacher of how to approach our own duties and obligations.

Applicability

the Ophelia is the second god of the Four/Four Gods. She can act as a balancing force to all the other gods, especially the Clarene and Laetha.

She is tied with purification and cleansing and a good god to call upon when engaging in those practices. Her and the Laethelia and Ophelene can be called on as a triad to help with purification. the Ophelia focuses on clearing away wounds, patterns of behavior and thought, and moving past trauma. She is the most general of the cleansing gods in the Otherfaith.

This god is very much tied to deeper mysteries and chthonic magic. She navigates emotions and spiritual plights, both initiating them and guiding us through them. She is more ethereal than the Clarene and Dierne, more emotional and intellectually based. We understand her through emotion foremost and through action afterward.

That said, she does have ties to sewing and housekeeping. Keeping away clutter and grime is part of purification and should not be ignored. Her sewing associations come from her ability to create magical cloaks, and pursuing sewing as a devotional practice for the Ophelia lends itself to creating magical objects.

the Ophelia is tied to decay and decomposition – the work after death and slaughter. Tending to graves and the dead can be part of devotional work for her. Anything tied to decomposition, especially composting, is a good topic to pursue for those who want to be closer to this god. However, those interested in this should be aware that dead things tend to be pretty dangerous for living things – use proper safety measures, especially when it comes to any work with dead animals or animal parts.

Restraint is another focus for this god. Learning how to maintain our emotions and act in line with how we truly want to (rather than being driven back and forth by desires or despairs) is the work of the Ophelia. Enjoyment and luxury comes after that and is very much a private affair. the Ophelia is rather icy, after all.

When it comes to approaching devotion as duty – or really any work as duty – we can turn to her for aid. She cultivates habit and welcomes those who wish to learn. We should be aware of her patient attitude, both as a pro and con. She will wait for us, not punishing us for forgetting devotion, but this may lead us to ignoring any duties we set up. She teaches us how to uphold our own obligations out of a combination of desire and commitment.

Caveats

the Ophelia is the God of Sorrow. She is both comfort and instigator – she can create wells of sadness and sorrow in us as much as she can offer sanctuary. She has an aura of darkness and depression around her that can rub off on us, especially if we are near her often. For this reason, it is better to work with her in purification and cleansing roles, where her sanctuary elements are more prevalent. It is important to monitor yourself when working in depth with her and important to discern between her divine influence and our own mental health and emotional fluctuations.

She is also a drowning god. Those who do more spirit-work oriented practices will encounter this. One of her ways of cleansing is through drowning. She does this to the other gods and spirits and will do this to her people. Though highly purifying, it carries elements of destruction and erasure. Drowning in this sense is similar to the immolation the Laetha causes to her devotees. the Ophelia leads us to her river and waits for us to step in, however. She is patient. We should be aware of the expectation for radical change when we embark on more intense or intimate devotion with her.

Along with the Laetha, the Ophelia is a ‘Heartmaker’. Her devotees focus on restraint in emotion, making their emotion and mind bow to them. In practice this involves building habit and following through on commitments even when difficult. The teaching can be taken to dangerous extremes if one tries to stifle actual emotions or shames themselves for experiencing emotion. The point of the Ophelia’s teaching is that we can control our actions and, by doing so, gain greater control over all aspects of our lives.

Domains

  • Alligators/Crocodiles
  • Antares (Star)
  • Bluebirds
  • Contemplation
  • Decay
  • Dreams
  • Duty
  • Fate
  • Floods
  • Fresh Water (Rivers/Lakes)
  • Frogs
  • Green Herons
  • Healing
  • Hudson River
  • Intuition
  • Medicine
  • Memory
  • Music
  • Pain
  • Plague
  • Pluto (Planet)
  • Prophecy
  • Purification
  • Recovery
  • River Snakes
  • Sacrifice
  • Santa Catalina Mountains
  • Secrets
  • Sewing
  • Spiritual Travels
  • Sorrow
  • Therapy (job)
  • Time
  • Transformation
  • Turtles
  • Waste Collection (job)
  • Water Conservation (job)
  • Wisdom

Values

  • Accuracy
  • Adaptability
  • Anticipation
  • Attentiveness
  • Awareness
  • Capability
  • Certainty
  • Change
  • Charity
  • Clarity
  • Cleanliness
  • Compassion
  • Composure
  • Control
  • Decorum
  • Deference
  • Devoutness
  • Dignity
  • Discipline
  • Discretion
  • Elegance
  • Focus
  • Humility
  • Hygiene
  • Impartiality
  • Introspection
  • Intuition
  • Maturity
  • Meticulousness
  • Order
  • Patience
  • Perception
  • Poise
  • Restraint
  • Sacrifice
  • Shrewdness
  • Solitude
  • Stillness
  • Utility

Relationships

With Humanity:

  • Challenger-Placater

Lovers:

  • the Clarene
  • Lyra
  • Blaim
  • Blaire

Siblings:

  • the Clarene

Children:

  • Alice
  • Cordelia
  • Corliss
  • Joseph
  • Kallan
  • Malice
  • Malaise
  • Mallory
  • Neve Winter
  • Ossier

Rivals:

  • the Laetha
  • Aletheia

Associated Spirits

  • Aletheia
  • Alice
  • Aster Aira
  • Belle
  • Beryl
  • Blaim
  • Blaire
  • Casimir
  • Cordelia
  • Corliss
  • Dahlia
  • Dusk
  • Grace
  • Joseph
  • Kallan
  • Lilibell
  • Lyra
  • Malaise
  • Malice
  • Mallory
  • Neve Winter
  • Ossier
  • Pol
  • Sabia
  • Sophia

All Epithets

  • Bluebird
  • Blue Fire God
  • Dead Woman
  • Death
  • Dutiful God
  • Heartmaker
  • Keeper
  • King River
  • Lady Death
  • Lady of the Veil
  • Lady of the Waters
  • Ofelia
  • River Woman
  • Silent Observer
  • Sky Ophelia
  • Sorrowful
  • Soundless
  • Vile Queen
  • Wishmaker
  • Without Fate
  • Wounded One

Thank you for reading. ‘Of the Other People’ is a site dedicated to the Otherfaith, a modern polytheist god religion. We are supported through Patreon and want to give special thanks to our patrons Jack at Drawing Stars and Leithin Cluan at Treasure in Barren Places. If you enjoy the writing here, consider becoming a patron!

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About the Faith
The Otherfaith is a modern polytheistic religion. We are urban-centric, technology-loving, and always keep our eyes to the future. We were born from the modern Pagan and polytheist movements, and from them we have grown and become new, modern, evolving - a new faith. In 2015, we go into this our fifth year and seek to create more solid practices and structures for the faith.
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