So let’s think a little bit about the presence of the Red Goddess in Time. She is a Greater God who appeared during Time, embraces Chaos, and her very existence violates the Cosmic Compromise. Many of the Old Gods refused to acknowledge her because of this – her victory at Castle Blue forced them to acknowledge her power, and many now accept and even embrace her (most significantly Yelm). However, several of the most powerful gods remain her resolute enemies (Orlanth most prominently, but also Storm Bull, Valind, Kyger Litor, Humakt, Eurmal, and Zorak Zoran). Many others (Aldrya, Magasta, Yelmalio, and the Malkioni) remain hostile to the Red Goddess.
Through Illumination, the initiates of the Red Goddess are liberated from the reflexive fear of Chaos and oblivion. They believe that by following along the path of the Red Goddess, they can thread this needle and embrace ego annihilation as a means of liberating the true self. Enemies of the Lunar Way point out that in many cases this path to “ego annihilation” results in an even greater false self – Gbaji. The parallels with Nysalor and the Broken Council are there for all to see, although many Lunar apologists claim that with the Red Goddess’ aid, Nysalor has now defeated Gbaji (Sheng Seleris). Others claim that at the Shadows of the Empire, Arkat or Arkats are being formed once again.More disturbingly is the rise of the Lords of Terror with at least the tolerance of the Red Goddess. The Lunar Empire sponsors the Chaos demon called the Crimson Bat, accepts worship of Primal Chaos, and is known to cooperate with such Chaotic cults Krarsht, Mallia, Thed, and Vivamort against the mutual foes. Within Chaos strongholds such as Dorastor, Snakepipe Hollow, and the Footprint, the Lords of Terror have awakened.
Some mystics claim there is uncertainty at the core of the Red Goddess’ existence that makes it impossible to resolve whether she is a deity of Chaos or of the Cosmos, or even that she is both simultaneously. This uncertainty and ambivalence is a key driver in the cataclysm later known as the Hero Wars.
This ambivalence of the Red Goddess – acting both as a deity of Chaos and as an upholder of the Cosmos – is key to her mysteries. She is both – or perhaps neither.
It is perhaps inevitable that the Hero Wars ultimately is conflict between the two most complex of Gloranthan deities – the Red Goddess and Orlanth. As we know, Orlanth is both a Destroyer and the Upholder of the Cosmos. Like Shiva, he destroys and creates. He plunged the Cosmos into Darkness when he slew Yelm, but his Lightbringers Quest was the key to the preservation of the Cosmos.
And their parallels go deeper still. In the depths of the Lighbringers Quest might one’s path cross that of the Red Goddess?
This awesome mystery at the center of the Red Goddess is the source of both tremendous devotion from her followers, and great fear and hatred by her foes. Is she a goddess of Chaos? A servant of Arachne Solara? Both? Neither?
We Are All Us, this slogan is often used unthinkingly by the Seven Mothers initiates. But the slogan contains within it deep and disturbing implications that can be deeply unsettling.
The definitive answer is that there is a mystery.
The only way to resolve that mystery is to experience it.
As an aside, people like to claim that in the Arrolian Territories the ambivalences and ambiguities of the Red Goddess are somehow “easier” to reconcile with. But are they truly – or does that just reflect our Dragon Pass-Lunar Provinces bias?
There is a reason that we see mainly the Seven Mothers at the frontiers of the Lunar Way. They prepare us for the Red Goddess, but they are more understandable than her and do not delve too deeply into her mysteries. They merely prepare the way.
How much of the ‘Cosmic Compromise’ is reflection of myth derived from history? This is the First Age version:The assembled gods then created the Great Compromise, which began the recreation of Glorantha. The gods all agreed to three universal rules:
First, they would concede previous claims, and mutually agree to define themselves as they were, making no further attempts to interfere with the realms of other deities. They shared Nature among themselves. No longer would Orlanth strive to be Lord of the Underworld, nor Yelm to be King of Middle Air.
Second, all the goddesses and gods accepted to include within their being all which had occurred to them before, each event being in appropriate measure. Thus Yelm would spend half his time in the Underworld, and half in the upper world.
They agreed too that no deity would directly manifest themselves into the world, but instead work through Nature, worshippers, proxies, avatars, and incarnations which would be inferior to the true deity.