|Titles|| The Bearded Lord|
The Mistletoe Monk
The Iron Hierophant
The Keeper of Lost Children
The Wiseman of the Wilds
The Lord of the First
|Realm||The Promised Land, Avernus, Hell|
|Areas of Concern|| Animals|
|Worshipers|| Mourners of damned souls|
Wicked trade magnates
|Cleric Alignments (1E)|
|Domains (1E)||Evil, Law, Magic, Travel|
|Subdomains (1E)||Arcane, Devil, Divine, Trade|
|Sacred Colors||Gray, red|
Source: Book of the Damned, pg(s). 32-33
(Evil, extraplanar, lawful, shapechanger)
Source: Bestiary 6, pg(s). 18-19
Avernus, the uppermost level of Hell, is ruled by the archdevil Barbatos (pronounced BAR-ba-tus). He holds the keys to Hell's gates and holds dominion over birds that consume the recently dead. His unholy symbol is a tri-cornered wave of darkness or shadows surrounding three eyes.
Unlike the other lords of Hell, Barbatos is not a devil at all. His origin is unknown to any save Asmodeus (and perhaps not even to him). Barbatos is also the only one of the nine archdevils not to rule his domain since Hell's inception.
The original Lord of the First, Typhon, was slain by the empyreal lord Ragathiel. Barbatos appeared at Hell's gates, bringing with him an entire mortal world's worth of souls as a gift for Asmodeus. When Barbatos transformed all of these damned spirits into the first barbazus for Asmodeus's armies, the Prince of Darkness deemed him worthy of ruling Avernus.
According to myth, Barbatos is responsible for the creation of the perytons. Taking the form of a bearded stag, Barbatos appeared before the hermit Osein in the last days of Azlant before Earthfall. Telling Osein he could spare the people of his home, Gibrav, from the coming destruction, he instructed Osein to open the settlement's gates at night. The beasts of the forest then stalked into Gibrav and devoured the people as they slept, taking their lives before the falling star could. Their tormented spirits are said to have taken the form of the first perytons.
Many gods condemn suicide, and Barbatos is known for claiming the souls of those who take their own lives. He is unusually willing to barter for the release of such doomed souls to be judged again by Pharasma, trading their freedom for the soul of another mortal's. Such bargains typically include committing numerous evil acts in the Bearded Lord's name, such that the bargainer finds him- or herself destined for Hell regardless. The final cruelty is that Pharasma's second judgment is always the same as the first, leaving Barbatos with two souls for the price of one. Souls of those who died by suicide are left to wander Avernus forever, rather than be press-ganged into slave caravans to be marched to other parts of Hell.
Barbatos dwells above Avernus on the floating, nation-sized island of the Promised Land, a seeming paradise that on closer inspection is subtly and terrifyingly warped and perverted. Plants squirm, animals are twisted and mutated, and the joyous revelers that inhabit the land are the souls of the damned, their mouths stitched shut with hungry worms to stifle their screams. The entire island appears as a cloud floating peacefully over Hell's blasted expanse, but in truth is a colossal knot of worms that rain down on the waste below.
The Wiseman of the Wilds makes his personal home in the shadow of the Penitent Cross, a massive willow hung with the corpses of servants who have failed him. There, Barbatos sits in meditation as he tallies the souls arriving on Hell's shores.
Although he is deemed a trusted adviser by Asmodeus, the other archdevils have little love for Barbatos, whom they deem an outsider in Hell's hierarchy, though none view him as either an ally or a foe. Baalzebul, Belial, Mammon, and Mephistopheles in particular distrust him. Conversely, Dispater, with whom Barbatos shares a border, regards him as a wise seer, but does not openly count him as an ally. Only the Queen of the Night Mahathallah, with her constant fear of the future, frequently seeks an audience with the Lord of the First and maintains a close, albeit strange, relationship. Mahathallah and Barbatos share predictions and prophesies with one another; the queen uses divination and her insight about the planes to make her predictions, but she has yet to determine Barbatos' method of foresight.
In counsel, Barbatos speaks simply and with unexpected, and sometimes obscure, wisdom. He travels simply and by foot and always defers to Asmodeus. He employs several infernal dukes to aid him in his tremendous responsibilities, and rules lightly but refuses to tolerate disobedience.
Barbatos occasionally leaves his post to wander the planes in search of answers, and his journeys have often taken him to seek the guidance of various powers of chaos, particularly the titans of Elysium, the protean Speakers of the Depths, and the demon lords Cyth-V'sug, Orcus, and Yhidothrus.
Although Achaekek, who has a den in Avernus,† and Barbatos do not like each other, they do not interfere in each other's affairs, and Barbatos sees to it that the Mantis God is not harassed by lesser devils.
Barbatos appears shrouded in a ragged old cloak, his features masked by impenetrable shadows, even other archdevils have not seen his face. What parts of him are glimpsed on occasion reveal an alien physiology, even to that of devils. He often walks hunched with a cane, greasy root-like tendrils like some grotesque mockery of a wise hermit's beard shudder out from the darkness surrounding his face, and his three glowing, alien red eyes form a pyramid shape.
More infernal dukes dwell in Avernus than any other layer of Hell, and while all pay lip service to Barbatos, most have stronger ties to other archdevils. Only four dukes of Hell serve Barbatos alone and are given especial prestige: Eaqueo, Furcas, Kalma, and Losarkur. Barbatos is a demanding master, and numerous other dukes have failed to meet his expectations, finding themselves dying slowly and painfully on his Penitent Cross.
As the creator of the barbazus, all bearded devils owe at least some allegiance to Barbatos, even as they serve as foot soldiers throughout Hell. Other devils commonly found in Barbatos's service include gaavs, magaavs, and edavagors.
Cult of Barbatos
Barbatos extols the savage laws of nature: survival at any cost, the strong crushing the weak, and a complete lack of morals or responsibility. While these "Old Truths" may seem chaotic, they serve to enforce a brutal order by hammering fear into "civilized" mortals and reducing them to animals to be led to the slaughter. The Bearded Lord draws outcasts to his worship: radicals, the deformed, runaways, and fugitives. Under his influence, such cults of druids and witches devolve into feral proto-societies in the wilderness. Followers of Barbatos use knowledge to corrupt, either by withholding information or intentionally giving out too much.
Rather than great temples, cults of Barbatos create simple shrines and chapels to the Lord of the First. Abandoned or condemned stables, slaughterhouses, kennels, abattoirs, sewer junctions, and crossroads are among the most common sites for his worship. In more public locales like crossroads, the signs of devil-worship are unobtrusive but evident on close inspection, such as a carving of Barbatos's unholy symbol. In private meeting-places deep in the wilderness, however, cultists practice their faith openly, typically involving caged and brutalized animals that serve as the focus of depraved rituals.
Barbatos does not demand sacrifices, but accepts them as signs of devotion. His cult practices a ritual known as "the Shearing" in which humanoid captives are stripped, shaved naked with rusted shears, and abused in animal pens until they give up all semblance of civilization. Such unfortunates are then sacrificed as mere animals, their souls condemned to Avernus and their entrails used to divine Barbatos's favor.
Barbatos is said to gaze upon the Material Plane through representations of his sigil, and can hear and understand 21 words of any language spoken after his name. To show their obedience, a worshiper of Barbatos crafts a small natural shrine in the shape of a tree, then spatters it with blood of a foe or companion while speaking 21 words pledging their fealty.
For additional resources, see the Meta page.
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- Barbatos (real-world demon) on Wikipedia