Worldbuilding Wednesday 6/22/22: Gods of Calormen (Narnia XXXIII)

What I think Zardeenah looked like.

In contrast to Narnia’s monotheism and its “true” God, Aslan, the desert nation of Calormen was polytheistic. Three gods are mentioned: Tash, Zardeenah, and Azaroth, all referenced in the book The Horse and His Boy, which was written by Lewis after The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, but published later.

HHB was Lewis’s ode to British-style Orientalism and its gods call to mind those from ancient Biblical kingdoms. Tash was the most important god and likely the pantheon’s leader, who had the capitol city named after him with a silver-roofed temple at its apex. Zardeenah, Lady of the Night, was the patron of maidens, while Azaroth was only referred to by name. Interestingly, Azaroth is only one consonant-sound off from Azathoth, H. P. Lovecraft’s mad, piping, amorphous deity at the center of the universe. IMO it’s a Lewis tip of the hat to Lovecraft; he also did another, the unpleasant carved deities on the Giant’s Bridge in The Silver Chair. In HHB we are not told what these three deities looked like, though Zardeenah is implied to be human by the honorific “Lady.”

There’s nothing said about more gods then these, but neither is it said there are only three. If Calormen does follow an Egyptian, Assyrian or Babylonion template, there were likely many, and as in Greek and Roman mythology, major ones, minor ones, demigods, and divine heroes.

Any gods would have had influence in areas the Calormenes considered important to their society. For example, the ancient Greeks considered Poseidon, the God of the Sea, powerful and important because they were a maritime people relying on ships and the bounty of the Mediterranean. But for Calormen, which was stated by Lewis to have less adept sailors and slower ships than Narnia and its island nation neighbors, a sea god would not have been so important.

So, I headcanon it this way, from what is available from the books.

Tash is the leader of the other gods and also the god of War, Power, Leadership, Fire (because sacrifices to him are burnt), the Sky, Storms, and Weather (that bird head, plus “the bolt of Tash falls from above”), and the patron of the Tisroc, the distant ancestor who gives the Tisroc his power and authority. Vulture-headed with wings and four arms with clawed hands. Lewis waits until The Last Battle to describe him in detail.

Which creates yet another in-universe contradiction by Lewis, as in HHB the Tisroc states:

[Narnia] is chiefly inhabited by demons in the shape of beasts that talk like men, and monsters that are half man and half beast. It is commonly reported that the High King of Narnia (whom may the gods utterly reject) is supported by a demon of hideous aspect and irresistible maleficence who appears in the shape of a Lion.

Which is quite the pot calling the kettle black, as Tash is a four-armed humanoid vulture! Really, a lion is the most hideous demonthe Calormenes can come up with?  (Then again, Calormenes are masters of double-speak.)

Zardeenah, as Aravis says,  is “Lady of the Night and of Maidens.” She sounds like the Greek goddess Artemis, who was associated with the moon and female virgins. Like Artemis, we can assume she’s young, female, and beautiful. If she has a city it’s Zardeenahbaan.

Azaroth I am going to proclaim as the god of Wisdom, the crafter of those windy, inadvertently humorous proverbs the Calormenes are always sprouting. Gonna says he’s an elderly man with a city called Azarbaan (because Azarothbaan is too awkward to say.)

The three are mentioned in the same phrase only by Aravis, so they are the gods most important to her.

Then I randomgenned some more gods, giving them appearances that vary between human, animal-human, and grotesque, to contrast with Aslan’s pure, lionlike, golden goodness. I also gave some of them cities, as Tash had one. Tehishbaan was one of the cities mentioned, so I speculated that Tehish, too, was a god, and perhaps had a rivalry with Tash.

If any of these gods are “real” that is up to fanfic writer. My guess is that, like Tash, they are not, or at least not in the way the Calormenes thought they were.


Gods of Calormen

Armira: Goddess of equilibrium, moderation, balance, justice, and silence. Her left side is white, the right side, black. Below the waist, she has a snake’s body evenly patterned with gray scales. Though her face is lovely, she has no mouth. Her city is Armirabaan.

Barush: God of crafting and calmness.

Charuman: The warrior god of mercenaries, a leopard-man wearing Calormene armor and spiked helmet, his face locked in an eternal snarl.

Dhamiyah: Goddess of motherhood and childbirth.

Falgadi: God of mystics, farseeing and prophecy.

Flauraz: God of both torture and rejuvenation (resurrection) who wields a copper whip. He looks like a demon with red skin, three eyes, clawed hands and feet, and bat’s wings.

Ghazind: The child-god of mischief, who takes the form of a monkey with multiple tails.

Hamadous: God of mummification and the blind. He has brown, wrinkled skin and wears linen strips over his eyes.

Harase: The god of perfumes and unguent creation. He has green skin, a handsome, angelic face, and six arms each holding a vial of some fragrance. His city is Harasebaan.

Ithydris: Known as the patron god of scholars. He has two heads and four arms, basically twins from the waist up. One twin writes on a scroll while the other holds a scroll and reads.

Lephna: The mermaid goddess of water: rivers, lakes, fountains and the desert oasis. Though lovely she is  more fish than human.

Munda: God of encryption, codebreaking, diligence, and intelligence. He appears as a hunched elderly man wearing an orange turban. His city is Mundabaan.

Nezganeen: God of speed, a mash-up of human and grasshopper.

Parvad: Goddess of tea, coffee, hospitality, and gossip. Her holy symbol is a cup carved of ivory.

Rubimen: God of merchants and caravans, expeditions and exploration. He looks like an anthropomorphized camel dressed as a traveler.

Sabreza: Goddess of dance, pantomime, singing, celebrations, color, and splendor. She is honored with colored pigments and chalk. She wears rainbow-colored garments and has the head and green wings of a parakeet. Also known as “The Lady of Happiness.” Her city is Sabrezabaan.

Shauzu: The god of librarianship and libraries, whose symbol is a crystal of golden chalcedony. He looks like a man with the head of a greyhound wearing glasses.

Sumna: Goddess of massage, courtesans, and other forms of sensual entertainment. Her city is Sumnabaan. also known as The City of Twenty Thousand Vices.

Tarjina: Goddess of mirrors and beauty.

Tehish: The god of agriculture, healing, labor, and husbandry. He resembles a minotaur: a man with the head, hooved legs, and tail of a bull.  His city is Tehishbaan.

Zarael: God of drugs, sleep, corruption, and lassitude. Appears as a handsome youth wearing the skin of a wild beast. Some think he’s the same god as Bacchus.

Zardeenah’s Handmaidens: A group of stars in the night sky (like the Pleiades) who are personified by the Calormenes as the goddess’s companions. Their names are Zhenaë, Ranna, Sarondra, Mirambis, Sherael, Ilrisha, Lazhora, and Madjira.

Zilne: The goddess of richness and plenty. Appears as a richly dressed, very weighty, sensual woman on a cushioned litter, holding a bunch of grapes to eat.

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