Derketo, the Fire Lady
A goddess of fertility and lust originally worshipped in Shem, the cult of Derketo could be found among the pantheons of many southern kingdoms, particularly in Stygia and Kush. In Stygia, Derketo was a decadent, licentious deity, serving as the religious counterpoint to the strict and humorless devotions of Set, the Great Serpent. Nearly every Stygian city contained a grand temple to the goddess, where young girls were initiated into the erotic mysteries of Derketo. Initiates of Derketo often served as courtesans to Stygian nobles and high priests, while priestesses of the temple practiced the arts of pleasure with devotees of the cult in return for financial contributions to the temple coffers.
Followers of the goddess celebrated the harvest and the equinox with wild, wine-soaked orgies that invoked Derketo’s life-giving powers. Though the arch-priests of Set frowned upon the wanton rituals of the temple and some would like nothing better than to see this other religion driven from their kingdom, they knew that the Stygian noble families and the merchant class would never permit it.
The symbol of Derketo’s faith was the fish, representing her powers of fertility and life, and in Shem she was frequently associated with the life-giving River Styx. In Kush and the Black Kingdoms, however, she was worshipped as Derketa, the malevolent Queen of the Dead and the Lady of Fire. Her priests and priestesses were called the Scourges of Derketo in these lands and were known for their command over fire magics granted to them by their goddess. The Scourges were expected to travel the lands of men, inspiring the flames of passion wherever they went, as well as offering the gifts of healing to all those worthy of the goddess’ fiery touch.