Re: Heler Initiation Ritual

From: julianlord <julian.lord_at_uqs4bNYy6pVn3AOJgrudlBUSPIjtOtWyeCQsIIBl5rFM1-c9WQVBIu_DVujq3spD>
Date: Sat, 02 Jun 2012 07:23:22 -0000

David :

> Also, Heler is not a male with the power to change gender, but is genuinely of ambiguous gender - neither Heler nor Helera is the 'true' or preferred form, so there is no reason why Orlanth would have got together with Heler rather than Helera (especially as Orlanth himself seems very much more interested in the ladies, if flexible enough not to be a jerk about it).

You make several very good points, including unquoted ones :-) - but the question is actually complex, and is somewhat disputed from within a Gloranthan point of view as well.

What you are saying is pretty much true of the Orlanthi generally speaking, in that these are the general Orlanthi understandings of things as regards Heler's sexual identity -- BUT even in that framework you are going to have exceptional individuals, and the mythic and cultic and cultural elements are multiple, and occasionally contradictory.

At the heart of it, Heler is from the Blue Age, and sexual differentiation simply did NOT exist in the Blue Age. That is his deepest nature, sexually.

However, in those unusual parts of Glorantha, in Maniria especially, where the Heler cult is actually the major religion, not a minor cult, the cult naturally provides for the various specifically differentiated sexual and gender archetypes (though there's a male preference in the Manirian cult, Esrola being the normal women's goddess) --- and some of that differentiation does filter through to the more broadly spread cult in other regions, at the very least by the tales and stories of travelling Rainmakers (inspired in their religious lives by the peregrinations of Heler's own sheep in the Middle Air, carrying their waters from place to place).

The perception of most Orlanthi is nevertheless still that "Heler is not a male with the power to change gender, but is genuinely of ambiguous gender", as you put it, reinforced by the fact that this is indeed a deeper mythic attribute of the god.

But one insight that I've had as to the nature of Heler's shapechanging, as is actually evidenced in the many different stories and myths, is that when you consider most of the shapes that Heler has taken, the general case seems to be that he takes a new shape and then keeps it. He becomes the Blue Ram, but then he is *always* the Blue Ram from that point onwards. He lives with the flock, and fathers many healthy young lambs upon the ewes, and he defends them all from the aggression of the wolves and the raiders, and he carries on doing so for as long as he must, as his social and magical and mythic responsibility.

This is thematically VERY different to say the shapechanging of the Trickster : "Responsiwhatchusay ? What's that mean ?" (changes into a little bird and flies away)

But there's also a magical aspect to things here -- shapechanging itself is very difficult magic, so that ambiguity of shape is liable to be the norm among mortal shapechanging magicians, rather than the exception.

YES there are some small numbers of Heler cultists who have permanently become blue rams who used to be men (or women), and whose place in the Tula is in the meadows living with the flocks, although they still get a vote in clan gatherings and invitations to the feasts, belong to the fyrd, and go on Quests etc -- but MOST Blue Ram cultists (including nearly all player characters) will instead appear to be men and women with some blue ram-like features -- whether physical, magical, ritual, or psychological.

The typical gender ambiguity of the Sartarite Heler cultists is likely to be a combination of all of these various factors, into a specific mythical requirement concerning their place in the Storm Tribe. And of course, even in Maniria where there is a lot more gender/sex specificity among the Helerings than in Sartar, such gender ambiguity is bound to exist there as well, frequently -- because it is a fundamental possibility due to Heler's nature, his myths, his magic, and his underlying ambiguous social functions of both/either male and/or female.

The way I look at it personally, Heler's _nature_ is to be ambiguous and shape-shifting -- but his _purpose_ is to take whichever very specific and stable shape happens to be needed in whichever circumstance ; which is one of the principle reasons why Heler cultists nearly always focus on one specific shape of Heler only, because that is the shape that is needed.

So a male Heler cultist who fully worships Helera to the exclusion of Heler's other shapes will not always be content with his cultic gender ambiguity, but might seek to become a blue woman permanently -- except that this is magically very difficult to achieve, and would actually be a life purpose for such a character in the game.

Then of course there are many others whose ambiguity is desirable to them -- and some, in Sartar a minority, with no gender ambiguity at all, but who are worshippers of some other aspect of the cult entirely.

(Heler cultists who actually *specialise* in shapechanging into multiple different forms are *extremely* rare BTW -- and those who are actually very good at it, are maybe a bare handful in the whole of Genertela)            

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