Another week, another suggestion from the Chaosium discord. KungFuFenris wants ideas for expanding the mythical role of Chalana Arroy, ‘the weird healbot goddess’ who is also a lot more. I’m not going to write about the myths much directly, so much as the mythological space from which I’d draw them. What’s her demesne? What’s the magical responsibility that she occupies?
For one thing, she’s old. Perhaps she’s a daughter of Glorantha, whatever that means. She’s old enough to be associated directly with a Rune. She IS Harmony. She’s what sticks things together, and makes them stay. You get along better with her around. In fact, whenever an adventurer puts a hand up with three fingers extended to say that she comes in peace, that peace exists because of her. Heralds may follow other gods, but all over Dragon Pass, they make that sign to say they do not come bringing war.
In my opinion, Chalana Arroy is only a healer because she is harmonious. She is restoring the world, and injured bodies, to the state in which they should be. Chalana Arroy’s myths are about restoration, about putting things back to how they were before disorder struck.
Disorder, as I’m thinking of it here, is what you get when forces that are not the same meet. Yelm and Orlanth fighting is the big one, but every god represents slightly different things, and the more different they are, the more likely they are to strive against each other. Umath’s appearance in the world was a massive act of disorder. I think that as soon as that happened, Chalana Arroy knew a new thing had happened.
Some of the gods have recorded first thoughts. I wonder if she had a ‘first thought’ that wasn’t actually the first thing she had thought – but it was about damage. Maybe she was remade when disorder first appeared. “I can heal this, so I should.” Maybe she wasn’t able to think that about the damage that Umath did, which makes me think of a new thing. She’s sort of in opposition to Humakt. It’s not that he’s a warrior, it’s that he’s a separator. When he changes a thing, it stays in bits. And then she tries to unchange it. So Chalana Arroy trying to undo death is very important. And she can’t do it to Humakti – her power is imperfect. But she keeps trying. She goes on the most important quest in all of pre-history to try to undo Death, and with her friends she manages a functional success, even if she can’t wipe out Separation from the world.
She’s not like the Mostali, who have a Plan For This. They share wanting to restore the world, and I think that there must be a reason why that’s different. For the Mostali, it’s cerebral. They can see this is wrong therefore they must mend it. For the White Lady, it’s emotional. She can feel it is wrong, and so she will mend it.
The way we see her, she is always putting out today’s fire, always healing today’s wound, but a Temple of Chalana Arroy that really understands her message will do a lot of preventative medicine. Chalana Arroy is called on to hold things together, to keep societies from arguing. I can see that a Wyter for a clan might need a Lightbringers blessing, and that she brings the most important part; the bit that makes the community cohere. She makes it possible for them to get along.
That’s a hard thing to represent in a myth, because it’s so fundamental to everything that we can’t really see it. Air doesn’t have to exist for Glorantha to work, but Harmony? Without Harmony, there wouldn’t be a Glorantha. Maybe Chalana Arroy makes it so that the gods can trust each other, at the moment when they all hold the net.
So her myths will often be myths that don’t seem like stories you tell around a fire. She can do great things, but her greatest thing of all is just to exist. Because of her, Humakt can exist in a world which also has Ernalda and Uleria, great forces of Fertility, and more than that, they can co-exist. They can communicate without wiping each other out.
So to me, her biggest mythological role is a mediator, and only when that fails does she become a healer. It’s just that one of those things is more flashy and noticeable than the other. Her myths are secret myths, the ones we don’t see. Young healers probably have to learn that it’s more important to prevent harm than to heal it, and the best healing is when nobody knows you have done it.
And always remember that she’s old. She knows things that the younger gods never knew. She might know who Arachne Solara was. She might be the muse of the one who remade the world. She might have accidentally made the Mostali believe that things should be repaired. She might have persuaded Orlanth and Yelm to come together in friendship. She might have persuaded Humakt that just this one time, Death had already had its way, and mercy was needed, to save all that could be saved. If there is anyone who could make him believe that, it is Chalana Arroy.