I’ve recently been thinking about threshold or liminal gods. It’s a strange concept to have an entire god – or several – dedicated to doorways. However, liminality also refers to being “between” places, times or states. I created Tarsis – Goddess at the Gate – as an attempt to create a coherent threshold deity for use in roleplaying games. I’ve also included rules for using Tarsis with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and with Savage Worlds. If you find this article interesting, I suggest reading up about Hecate, who Tarsis is heavily based upon.
Goddess at the Gate, The Goddess Between, Watchgod
Goddess of protection, thresholds, crossroads, transitions
Domains: Animal*, Law, Protection, Sun, Travel
Favoured Weapon: Torch or mace
Tarsis is a goddess of protection and vigilance. She is associated with thresholds, transitions and the between places, such as the wilderness and dangerous roads. Tarsis watches over all gates, doorways, thresholds and crossroads, though she pays special attention to those flanked by torches, adorned with her shrines or guarded by dogs.
Tarsis is able to avert demons and harmful spirits, but if offended she may refuse to avert these dangers or even drive them on against those who have wronged her. Tarsis is closely associated with dogs and they are her servants, acting as guardians in the mortal realm. It is said that when dogs howl, Tarsis is near.
Tarsis is depicted as a rugged and mature but beautiful canine-headed woman in a long dark travelling cloak, ears pricked up in alertness. She is usually shown holding a torch in each hand and is often accompanied by two ghostly glowing dogs on either side of her.
Tarsis illuminates the darkness and helps identify and protect against danger. She is the patron of guards and those who work at night. Due to her connection with the night, transitions and dogs, she is also associated with lycanthropes and it is said that those attacked by werewolves have fallen from Tarsis’ favour. On the other hand, some believe that lycanthropes are actually Tarsis’ favoured servants and being chosen to become one is a blessing from the goddess.
Tarsis is linked to transitional and transformative times in people’s lives, such as puberty, marriage, moving to a new area and starting a new venture. She is often offered prayers and small sacrifices of incense and candles during these times. Her primary sacrifice is the burning of such objects and the solemn sacrifice of dogs. If these sacrifices are carried out improperly, Tarsis can take great offense, but if done with the correct rites and respect, Tarsis will listen to prayers and bestow her blessings.
Tarsis’ holy symbol is a flame-eyed dog-head with raised ears and a ring its mouth, resmebling a door knocker. Physical holy symbols of Tarsis have hollow eyes and a place for oil, allowing them to be used as miniature lanterns. Dog-head shaped bullseye lanterns with light emanating from the eyes are also favoured by followers of Tarsis. Even the heads of the maces they use will often have a dog or flame shape or motif.
Tarsis’ shrines are never far from city gates and it is common to carve boundary markers, doorframes and gates with her image or holy symbol. Her idols and shrines are also found at crossroads, where the goddess is depicted several times, each representation watching over one of the roads. Such shrines in the wilderness always contain fires or torches and it is good luck to relight one that has burned out.
Tarsis’ servants light the streets, and none of her faithful are ever without some source of light. Tarsis often sends warning through her dog servants: the howling of a dog, a dog running from fire or a dog with a torch or lantern in its mouth. Other warnings include the banging of a gate, a flash of bright light in the darkness and the guttering out or sudden flare of torches.
Savage Worlds Conversion
- Aspects: Protection, thresholds, crossroads, transitions
- Powers: Armor, banishFC, barrier, beast friend (canines only), bless/curseFC, boost/lower trait, darksightFC, entangle, shape change (canines only), smite, speed, stun, summon allyFC (ghostly dog), teleport
- Duties: Guard thresholds and crossroads, bring light to the darkness, keep streets and roads safe, protect those who cannot protect themselves
- Sins: (Minor) Covering or extinguishing lights in the darkness, denying entry to people in need, allowing acts of cruelty to canines; (Major) abandoning guard duties, permanently blocking a gate or doorway; (Mortal) Knowingly allowing entry to harmful forces, killing a canine that is not part of a ritual sacrifice, defacing or destroying a shrine or carving of Tarsis.