Serena Butler

Serena Butler
Aliases Saint Serena
Gender Female
Date of birth 221 B.G.
Date of death 164 B.G.
Occupation Priestess of the Jihad
Spouse Xavier Harkonnen (separated)
Parents Manion Butler
Livia Butler
Children Manion Butler (deceased)
Siblings Octa Butler
Fredo Butler
Affiliation Army of the Jihad
League of Nobles
First appearance The Butlerian Jihad
Final appearance The Machine Crusade

Serena Butler is a character in Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson's Legends of Dune series, a trilogy of novels set during the Butlerian Jihad, the war against thinking machines only vaguely referred to in Frank Herbert's original Dune series.


Dune: The Butlerian Jihad

A beautiful and ambitious woman, Serena Butler (b. 221 B.G.) and her murdered baby Manion Butler inspired the Butlerian Jihad, and became its namesakes in Dune: The Butlerian Jihad.

Serena, the daughter of League of Nobles Viceroy Manion Butler and his wife Livia, was a strong voice for the human rebellion at a young age. She was romantically involved with Xavier Harkonnen, who led the military force on the League capital world of Salusa Secundus. As the story began, Xavier was repelling an attack on the planet by Omnius' army of cymeks, fearsome weaponized machines controlled by disembodied human brains.

In 203 B.G., Serena was captured by the machines and put under the watch of Erasmus, an independent robot on Synchronized Earth who sought to understand humans completely so that the thinking machines could be truly superior. Unfortunately, his methods of study often entailed human vivisection and torture. Erasmus took a liking to Serena, as did the young Vorian Atreides, a human trustee working for the machines. Serena realized she was pregnant with Xavier's child, and later gave birth to a baby boy whom she named Manion (after her father). Erasmus eventually found this distraction inconvenient; he not only removed Serena's uterus, but killed her young son in front of her and his slaves by dropping the child from a high balcony.

This single event incited the entire Jihad against the machines. Seeing Serena subsequently attack and destroy a sentinel robot with her bare hands encouraged Erasmus' slaves, already groomed for rebellion by slave leader Iblis Ginjo, to rise up. Vorian, witnessing the murder and realizing the lie he lived as a machine trustee, betrayed his machine masters and fled with Serena and Ginjo. Young Manion was soon labelled the first martyr, Manion the Innocent. The first human victory of the so-called Butlerian Jihad was the destruction of Earth and the Earth Omnius using atomics.

Dune: The Machine Crusade

As Dune: The Machine Crusade began, Ginjo (now Grand Patriarch of the Holy Jihad) and Serena (Priestess of the Jihad) had become the religious leaders of the human rebellion, and Xavier and Vorian its two generals. Xavier, thinking Serena was dead instead of a captive, had married her sister Octa and started a family. In 191 B.G., Ginjo created the "Seraphim", an elite force tasked with protecting Serena. She became interim Viceroy in 190 B.G. on her father's retirement, but was later relegated to a figurehead by Ginjo as he consolidated his power.

In 164 B.G., the humans were tired of war, but Serena and Ginjo knew that true peace was not possible — the machines had to be destroyed. Serena visited machine leader Omnius on Corrin as an emissary of the Jihad under the pretense of negotiating peace; secretly she planned to provoke Omnius into killing her, thereby making her a martyr and reenergizing the Jihad. Although Erasmus stopped Omnius from murdering Serena, one of her Seraphim bodyguards, on orders from Ginjo, killed her instead. Ginjo manufactured images of Serena being tortured at length and murdered by the thinking machines, using a Serena clone manufactured by the Tlulaxa. The plan worked; dissenters fell silent and the Jihad was galvanized back into action.

Legacy of the Butlers

Cult of Serena

The fanatical Cult of Serena was founded in 108 B.G. by Rayna Butler (b. 119 B.G), the great-granddaughter of Xavier Harkonnen and Serena's sister, Octa. Rayna's father, Rikov Butler governed the planet Parmentier (a former Synchronized World recolonized by the League), which was being ravaged by the Demon Scourge, a catastrophic virus genetically engineered and unleashed by the Thinking Machines to destroy humanity. Having seen her parents succumb to the plague and barely surviving herself, young Rayna began her personal crusade against the machines. Claiming to have had a vision of Serena (possibly a hallucination caused by her illness), Rayna began destroying both electronic and mechanical machines, including innocuous devices and desperately needed medical equipment. The subsequent antitechnology mobs hampered the work and threatened the lives of Mohandas Suk and Raquella Berto-Anirul (granddaughter of Vorian Atreides), doctors who had established the Hospital for Incurable Diseases on Parmentier. Suk and Berto-Anirul barely escaped the planet. A new group known as the Martyrists, who venerated The Three Martyrs (Serena Butler, Manion the Innocent, and Iblis Ginjo), were instantly taken up by Rayna’s mission. In 88 B.G., the Cult started destroying machines on Salusa Secundus.

Led by Rayna, the Cult of Serena caused more mayhem for humans than the thinking machines. After the Butlerian Jihad, machine destruction spread to the inhabited planets in renewed waves, wiping out most machine-based technology and also the majority of historical documents. Culture based on the production of highly developed machines survived only on Ix and Richese.

Despite inherent double standards (such as the destruction of some technology, but the continuous use of spaceships) within the group, the Cult’s legacy endured. One of the primary commandments in the Orange Catholic Bible, “Thou shall not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind,” is attributed directly to Rayna Butler. Furthermore, the group is responsible for the strict rules banning all thinking machines under pain of death (and sometimes torture).

The Great Houses

Xavier and Octa's grandson Abulurd resurrected House Harkonnen; their grandson Faykan established House Corrino and became the first Padishah Emperor of the Known Universe after the Battle of Corrin ended the Jihad. The Butler bloodline extended itself for millennia through Houses Corrino, Harkonnen and eventually Atreides (and no doubt others).

Butler family tree

Manion Butler
250 - 166 B.G.
Livia Butler
247 - 166 B.G.
Serena Butler
221 - 164 B.G.
Xavier Harkonnen
223 - 164 B.G.
Octa Butler
b. 219 B.G.
Fredo Butler
219 - 205 B.G.
the Innocent
202 - 201 B.G.
Roella Harkonnen
b. 201 B.G.
Omilia Harkonnen
b. 199 B.G.
Wandra Harkonnen
174 - 87 B.G.
Quentin Vigar
d. 88 B.G.
Faykan Butler
b. 145 B.G.
Rikov Butler
138 - 108 B.G.
Kohe Tantor
d. 108 B.G.
Abulurd Butler
b. 126 B.G.
House Corrino
Rayna Butler
b. 119 B.G.
House Harkonnen

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