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Arcana Mystara: The Mystaran Zodiacby Kit Navarro
Origins of the Zodiac
The astronomers of ancient Milenia were the first to record the steady movement of twelve constellations in the night sky. The Milenians astrologers were also the first to infer the cosmic significances of those stars, determining their influences on the lives of mortals on the Prime. The creatures from their mythology and legends were assigned to each constellation as totems, producing the twelve Houses of the Zodiac as they are known today.
The Manticore is the first sign in the zodiac and its House marks the beginning of the Thyatian calendar. The Manticore is ruled by Vanya, the Planet of Ventures, as Vanya lends it the bravery to start the year. In Alphatian astrology, the Manticore is influenced by the Planet of Ardor, Rathanos, as it needs the fiery nature to withstand the dead of the winter season.
While boldness and cunning does have its time and place, the Manticore has the danger of becoming short-tempered, violent, and always looking for a fight. The symbol of the Manticore, with its barbed wings and tails, give this warning that the very source of strength and power can also be the cause of its troubles.
Survival through the winter season demands resourcefulness and shrewdness, and what better sign to do that than the Hydra? Its many heads, as shown in its glyph, allows it to consider many options at once, and to spot opportunities that have not become totally apparent yet. The Hydra does all this to survive, but this can lead to self-centred and avarice in the name of self-preservation.
The changeable planet Asterius gives the Hydra its adaptability, while the risky planet Alphaks helps the Hydra take chances within chaos. Both of these lend a fickleness and a randomness that may seem haphazard, or ever deceitful, to the more steadfast and more secure signs.
The House of the Centaur is placed on the first month of the Alphatian calendar, which begins with spring. Its ruling planet is Ixion (the sun), the planet of life, birth, and beginnings. Its radiant influence makes the Centaur vigorous, strong, and generous, but also egotistic, overly dramatic, extravagant and spendthrift.
In Milenian myth, the centaurs were children of Ixion, and the Sun-Prince raised the most revered of its race, Chiron, in this place in the heavens. Chiron was a teacher, a healer, a mystic, and a hunter, and his bow and arrow is depicted in the sign's glyph.
What better time for the most passionate sign of the zodiac, the Basilisk, than the middle of spring when flowers are in their bloom? This sign's ruler is the planet Valerias, named after the beautiful Immortal of fervent love and fiery romance. The Basilisk's passion grants it robustness, enthusiasm, and inspiring leadership skills, but it can also drive the Basilisk to become overzealous, obsessive, and domineering.
Basiliskos (meaning "king" in ancient Milenian) was an amorous king of legend, who romanced six women of perfect beauty to be his wife, one after the other, each with a fervour-and passion-as much as the first, but each he eventually tired of and abandoned. The seventh beauty that he wooed turned out to be the Immortal Valerias in mortal guise, who upon seeing his heart of stone, punished him by transforming him into a petrifying six-legged lizard. This lizard wearing its crown became the glyph of the Basilisk.
This mysterious creature of legend is said to be a strange mix of different animals. Its body of a goat or a lion holds three heads of a goat, a lion, and a dragon. Its tail is that of a dragon, a giant scorpion or a snake, or the body and head of a snake itself. Aptly, the glyph of this sign shows three vague heads on one large body.
The Chimera rules over the end of spring. Its ruler in ancient astrology is the planet Valerias, giving the Chimera the qualities of an earthy confidence and enjoyment of material pleasures, which sometimes leads to heedlessness, hedonism, and possessiveness. Its ruler in modern astrology, however, is the Dark Moon, Patera, adding a mystique of being set apart from others, which can be charismatic or quite off-putting.
The start of summer brings the Gorgon, a sign ruled by the moon Matera. The Gorgon is a symbol of reserve and quietness, and thus for also for studiousness (Matera rules the mind and the consciousness). But the Gorgon can also become reclusive, inexpressive, and quite bookish, preferring study than action. Its symbol is the bullhead with horns.
In ancient Nithian myth, the Immortal Orisis slew this terrible Gorgon that was plaguing the land, and threw its horns made of solid silver into the sky, which eventually grew and became the Moon.
Perhaps the calmest and most constant zodiac sign is that of the Griffon. The glyph depicts it eagle head and lion torso, with its wing poised to take flight. No other sign is known to be as warm, practical, and steadfast, be it in work, in relationships, or in love. But the unvarying Griffon can succumb to banality, fatalism, or resistance to change. This is because its ruler is the Planet of Time, Khoronus.
In ancient Milenia, the Griffon was considered sacred to the Immortal Khoronus, as they flew across the sky at very predictable times, marking the months and seasons of the year. To remember this loyal creatures, Khoronus placed the Griffon as a constellation in the sky, which appears brightest in midsummer.
The independent Dragon is placed in the end of summer and is ruled by two profound planets, the constant planet Khoronus and the transformative planet Ordana. The divergent influences of Khoronus and Ordana gives the Dragon that detachment to worldliness and a keen sense of time, which allows the Dragon to plot its ambitions impersonally, coldly, and even antisocially.
An early creation myth from the Nithians (possibly taken from the Changese) recounts that the first of the Dragons offered to serve the Immortals of Time, who repaid them with extended life spans above all creatures. However, after their service and the payment, the Dragons went their own ambitious ways, heeding-but not loyal to-their old patrons.
The glyph depicts a dragon taking wing.
The second half of the Alphatian year begins with the sign of the Salamander, known for its calmness, practicality, and ability to see both sides of an issue squarely. On the downside, the Salamander has been accused of being overly critical, wishy-washy, and miserly.
It is ruled by the planet Tarastia, which governs justice and revenge and dispenses punishment and reward. Logically, the House of the Salamander heralds the autumn harvest season, where we reap the fruits of our labour earlier in the year.
The glyph of this sign actually shows two salamanders going in opposite directions. By tradition, one of these is a fire salamander and its partner is a frost salamander. A primitive legend tells of two warring tribes of salamanders, which threatened to destroy the land with their opposing forces of fire and ice, until the wise Immortal Tarastia arbitrated between them, thus saving the rest of creation.
When the winds blow fastest in mid-autumn, the much-loved Pegasus flies in bringing much fun into our lives. The Pegasus sign and its planetary rulers are both associated with the air element. The planet Asterius rules over thoughts, ideas, and opportunities, while the planet Alphatia inspires imagination and creativity. The enterprising Pegasus spirit is unafraid to take risks, sometimes to a fault, and its fickleness may hinder its projects from becoming anything more than flights of fancy.
According the Milenian mythology, the tricky Asterius rode a Pegasus to fly up to the Vaults of Pandius, and steal nectar and ambrosia, the food of Immortality. When he did join the ranks of the Immortal, he rewarded the Pegasus by allowing it to fly eternally in the sky.
The Warrior sign is ruled by Rathanos, the Planet of Ardor in Alphatian tradition, and the Vanya, the Planet of Ventures in Thyatian tradition. The courageous Warrior faces life astutely and efficiently, but is can also become jaded in its view and heartless in its efficiency. Later traditions also assign the planet Protius to the Warrior, giving it a profound wisdom and a sense of purpose that the hot-headed Rathanos and bellicose Vanya could not.
The symbol of the Warrior is a helmet, said to be worn by the warrior Immortal Vanya in battle, to disguise herself as a man. The House of the Warrior is in the end of fall, ready to face the hardships of the coming winter.
The cold, harsh winter is always a daunting time, much the ominous, looming Giant whose House marks the start of this season. The lawful planet Tarastia gives the Giant a strong, steadfast sense of self-preservation, making it more selfish that the already miserly Salamander (also ruled by Tarastia). The grim planet Thanatos gives the Giant a stubborn tenacity to survive the hardships of winter, warning that death will come when it is time, but no sooner. Definitely not the most pleasant of Signs, the Giant has the burden of imparting the hard but essential lessons to all mortals.
In legend, when the winter first came to Mystara, the Immortals feared the end of all living things. They sent a titan to come to break the ice and plough the frozen earth, and saved mortal creatures. As a reward, the titan was lifted into the heavens, together with his heavy ploughshare, as the constellation of the Giant.
Sign Glyph Month Planetary Ruler Traits Manticore Nuwmont/Nyxmir Rathanos/Vanya ardent, cunning, brave Hydra Vatermont/Amphimir Asterius, Alphaks shrewd, resourceful, self-centred Centaur Thaumont/Alphamir Ixion vigorous, strong, generous Basilisk Flaurmont/Sulamir Valerias robust, passionate, domineering Chimera Yarthmont/Sudmir Valerias, Patera confident, charismatic, possessive Gorgon Klarmont/Vertmir Matera reserved, private, studious Griffon Felmont/Islamir Khoronus warm, practical, steadfast Dragon Fyrmont/Andrumir Khoronus, Ordana ambitious, independent, cold Salamander Ambyrmont/Cyprimir Tarastia calm, practical, miserly Pegasus Sviftmont/Hastmir Asterius, Alphatia enterprising, imaginative, flighty Warrior Eirmont/Eimir Rathanos/Vanya, Protius astute, efficient, courageous Giant Kaldmont/Burymir Tarastia, Thanatos strong, selfish, stubborn