But in the darkness Skotia came, and Ophalle saw her and was smitten, but he knew her not. He called to her and she did not answer, for she is the Silent One. He gave her wine, and she drank it, but she did not laugh for she was silent. Then he came to her, and together they lay down in the darkness, and the night lasted for many days, until she got up again from his couch and went away; but she was ever silent.
And she was his mother, so she was wroth that they had lain together; and when she came again and found that Ophalle was asleep, she took up his sickle for reaping, and she reaped the hair from his head, and it was wheat, and it wilted in her hand. And she raised the sickle again, and she reaped off his phallus, and it was a gourd that she devoured. Then she raised the sickle a third time, and now she cut apart his body, limb from limb, bone from bone, and she scattered the pieces across the earth and buried them.
Then winter was upon the world, and crops died, and the animals starved, and the people shivered. The sun himself was wan, for he feared the anger of Skotia, and the heat of the world had gone out of it when Ophalle's life-source was cut from his trunk; and the winter was dark.
But Skotia is the darkness, and in her belly Ophalle grew again. And out of the darkness again sprang Mother-born Ophalle, and again he walked the earth, and filled it with his seed and with growing things.
Skotia, that is, Σκότια,
She is the Darkness, the Silent One, the Destroyer, She of the Long Sleep
She is the Darkness (to quote Glen Cook), the darkness that was before the world, and which some believe comes with death, or will come after the crack of doom. Her shrines are either secreted in necropolises, or hidden away in unlooked-for places, and always shrouded in shadow. Her visage is fearsome: skin black as obsidian, she dances with her six arms upraised, each bearing a sickle, a harpe-sword, a kris-knife, and other symbols of her godhead--including the phallus of her son Ophalle, a Priapus-like god of sex and fertility, whom she castrated for the sin of seducing her.
|Yep, I just based Skotia on images of the goddess Kali ...|
a many-armed goddess of darkness was a fixture in my
dungeons well before I codified her as Skotia. Also, notice
the harpe (sickle-sword) in the top-right corner ...
Not specifically a goddess of the night, nevertheless she is associated with that darkness; and because she is Death, and sleep is a presage of death, and orgasm is metaphorically the "little death", so she is also a goddess of sleep and a fertility goddess in her own right. But ever is she silent, never revealing what happens to those who enter her embrace in the long sleep; not even her priestesses (and few priests) have ever received an answer from her after their most strenuous prayers--nothing but the vaguest of omens are offered to her followers.
This silence has allowed for a great schism to arise in her cult, and differences in the particular interpretation of her place in the cosmology are as myriad as the priestesses who serve her. Most devotees fall into one of the two major cults (and the majority of all devotees fall into the first): 1) the Silent Sisters, and 2) the Death Cult.
The Silent Sisters do not exactly worship Skotia, so much as recognize her embrace as the ultimate destination for all mortals, and so do what they can to aid the passage into the Long Sleep. They do this primarily by accepting the bodies of those who are too poor for proper funereal preparations, or those who have no family and so have no family tombs in which to be interred; these bodies the Sisters wash and prepare for burial, and then inter in their necropolis-shrines. The Sisters also take in and care for those who are too poor or downtrodden to receive proper care otherwise--beggars, lepers, plague-victims, etc. are received into their shrines to receive care under the Sisters until such a time as they are healed, or have passed on in Skotia's embrace, thence to be interred like the others ...
Most people understand Skotia in this light, that of an embodiment of a natural inevitability. Her footstep is feared as the tread of doom, but she is certainly not seen as any kind of demon or moral evil--all men die, and so all men must eventually come face to face with Skotia.
Some, however, would use Skotia as an idol and object of a Death Cult whose members revel in spreading death and destruction in imitation of the goddess' avatar as the Destroyer. These Death Cults of Skotia are some of the secret Evil cults that plague the world; and sometimes those who worship the Destroyer intermix secretly within the cults of the Silent Sisters, making their detection even more difficult.
The cultic imagery of the Death Cults is virtually the same as that of the Silent Sisters, including an idol of the goddess, six-armed and dancing, shrouded in shadow (sometimes magical, sometimes not); but the rites include monthly blood sacrifice, of kine or swine at least, but preferably human or demi-human, be they slaves, prisoners, or free and willing. Such rites take place only at night, in utter darkness and utmost secrecy; and those initiated into the higher mysteries of the Death Cult are often tasked with further secret rites.
Priestesses who worship the Destroyer are often accompanied by undead, which they raise as walking avatars of the end that comes to all mortals, and high priestesses are also often served by demons, much as any Evil cult might be. The Spiders of Darkness, those silent and implacable hunters, are their preferred servants.
Most of those initiated into the higher mysteries of Skotia tend to be women and priestesses; nevertheless, males are not excluded from the priesthood, and many do rise to power. Of these, however, many priests are self-made eunuchs! For in their enthusiasm in the greater rites, it is common for men to emasculate themselves in imitation of the myth of Ophalle or to become more feminine like Skotia (similar to the Galli, priests of Cybele and Attis, who castrated themselves during a certain holiday, and thereafter went about dressed as women)
She is the darkness. Out of the darkness of her womb sprang Seed-sowing Ophalle, who took the earth as his bride, and forced her to bear his myriad children.
The earth groaned with the pangs of her labor, and in her despair, she cried out to the gods to relieve her of her woes, but the gods denied her. "We have built our kingdom over your children," they said. "Shall we give up everything we have made?"
And the earth groaned, for her pains were great, and she called out to the sun. But he turned his face from her, saying, "Do not ask this thing of me. I would help if I could, but the gods have set me here to light their kingdom, and they would destroy me if I desert my place." So it was night because his face was turned.
Then the earth called out to the stars, whose children are the Elves, because she was wracked with the hurt of her labors. But stars only shone and laughed among themselves. "It is absurd," they said. "What do we, who are so high above you, care for your pains?"
"Will no one aid me?" the earth cried at last.
But Skotia had heard, and so she stepped down. In silence did she walk, and in the night Ophalle saw her, and was smitten. And he went to her, and he asked her name, but she was silent. And he gave her wine, and she drank it, but she did not laugh, for she was silent. Then she took his hand and led him to lay down, and he laughed, but she was silent.
And when Ophalle slept beside her after his exertion, Skotia rose up, and she took his sword, called Harpe, so that he would go unarmed at the final battle when the Gjallarhorn is sounded. And with Harpe she cut his hair so that she might bind him with it, there and thereafter; for witches often use the hair of their victims in rituals of binding and unbinding, and so Skotia would do at Gjallarhorn's winding. And raising Harpe again, Skotia unmanned Ophale a third time, cutting off source and member; these she took, and holds them yet.
So, taking Harpe, hair, and phallus, Skotia went her way again, and Seed-sowing Ophalle was left unmanned in his pain. And when Gjallarhorn sounds, he will try to rise up; but he will be weaponless, for his sword is gone; and his limbs will be bound with the magic of Skotia; and his blood will be cold for the lack of his life-source, and all things will pass again into darkness, and the earth will groan no more, but will know peace in oblivion.