The Web of Arachne Solara

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Glorantha is held together by the Web of Arachne Solara, a vast net woven out of the strands of myths – each the encapsulated deed of gods or heroes in the Godtime. We can understand these myths through stories, song, and worship – or we can enter the Hero Plane and follow along these strands, experiencing and participating in the events of the Godtime. We can even learn to travel from strand to strand and explore the Godtime itself.

Each time we follow a strand and participate in the deeds of gods and heroes, we experience a new story. The story can change in details each time – in one version the hero was ambushed by Gagarth, in another by Ygg, or perhaps in one version the hero had a romantic detour to the island of singing nymphs, and in another the hero bypassed the island entirely. But even though the stories change, the underlying myth-strand usually remains visible.

Through great imposition of will or the use of dangerous magics, it is possible to change a strand of the Web. Perhaps it is forcibly tied to a new node or is cut and bifurcated, and now barely resembles the original strand. Or even worse, with the power of Chaos it can be mutated or warped beyond recognition, or even destroyed entirely. Such actions threaten the Web itself, which is why the Arkat cult demanded no heroquesting without respect.

All cults know how to follow some strands – these myths are recited in song and story, and even experienced during cult worship ceremony. These strands are the source of your Rune Spells and allied spirits. Some cults know more – they know some strands that lead outside of the domain of the god. These paths can be followed by those brave enough to enter the Hero Plane. They contest with the same powers the gods or heroes did, and can gain boons or bring terrible curses upon themselves and their supporters.

And a few individuals know much more – how to change the story through your own will and power, or even how to jump from strand to strand. These are Heroes, Masters of the Tournament of Luck and Death, or other such individuals.

Art composition sketches by the amazing Mike Perry, done for the Guide to Glorantha.

I personally tend to think of Spider Rock in Canyon de Chelly:

Source, Wikimedia.

When we remain within the domain of our god – the sacred circle of the worship ground, the walls of the temple, or the Elysian Field of their Godtime presence – we do not heroquest. We enter the Hero Plane, experience the divine realm, offer of ourself to the god, and gain magic and spirits – but this itself should not be described as a heroquest. We do not leave the security of that sacred ground to enter into the dangers of the Web. It is only by going outside the safe and familiar that we heroquest and become heroes.

And thus although it should not be surprising that the Red Goddess has a deep and mysterious connection with the Cosmic Spider, it should also not be surprising that Orlanth, her rival, is defined by the Mastery Rune. More than any other god in Glorantha, he is the patron of heroes and adventurers.

Now an interesting thing comes up when we think about the Lunar Religion. Like everyone else, Lunar cults have their own myth-strands they know and follow. They are unusual in that the Moon Rune is woven into them, which makes them hard for many others to access or understand, but they are there.As far as the God Learners records go, there was only a few fragmentary Lunar things – the Blue Moon and Artmal mainly. And that was a strange overlap of Sky, Darkness, and Water. So it is safe to say that the appearances of the Moon in the Hero Plane date to the Third Age, most likely since Castle Blue. The Red Goddess said she encountered Arachne Solara on her Goddess Quest, and some of her initiates (all illuminated Rune Masters) claim similar encounters.

We know that the Red Goddess is tied to Chaos – did this allow her to introduce something new to the Web? Or does her changes threaten the Web itself? What did the Spider whisper to her?

And it should not be surprising that Arachne Solara is central to many of the Red Goddess’ own deeds.

The parable of Arachne Solara’s web reflects our experience as gamers. There is published material on Glorantha – that material is eternal and timeless. Even today, we can go and explore Snakepipe Hollow or defend the Cradle (using our RQG characters even!). These are our myths, our strands of the web.

But every time we experience these materials, we have a different experience. At one level it is the same – sure that’s Snakepipe Hollow or the Cradle – but an another, it can be very different. This is why when Argrath summoned the Champion of Pavis a score of different Rune Lords showed up, each carrying Balastar’s Axe!

This is also how myths and heroquesting operate. We have a myth – a strand of Arachne Solara’s Web. We can experience that myth by following along the path of the strand through the Hero Plane. But our experience of that may differ significantly from that of another group of heroquesters following the same path. Regardless of that, both are right, both have experienced the true myth. And their followers may end up telling rather different stories about the same myth.But this is not because of “pr spin” or the demands of the powerful – it is primarily grounded in experience.

Arachne Solara traps the Devil in the Web of the Great Compromise, held in place by the gods and goddesses of Glorantha. By Mike Perry.

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