Atlas   Rules   Resources   Adventures   Stories       FAQ   Search   Links

Arcana Mystara: Mystaran Astronomy and Astrology

by Kit Navarro

Ancient Origins

For centuries, Mystarans have been gazing up at the night sky, watching the celestial bodies, and wondering about their place in the universe. The earliest of these stargazers belonged to Nithia and Milenia. These ancient peoples believed that the sun, the moon, the planets and the stars were manifestations of their Immortals on this plane, and that through them, the Immortals guided their mortal followers and revealed their divine will. The Nithians, ancient masters of arcane arts, employed magic in viewing the stars, predicting their movements, and-if legends are to be believed-even travelling to other planets and worlds! The Milenians, consummate scholars and sages, applied logic, reasoning and mathematics to study celestial phenomena, cataloguing thousands of heavenly bodies, calculating their course through the sky, and conjecturing their very nature. Though each culture fiercely rivalled the other, both traditions were profoundly blended religion and mysticism.

Ultimately, it could be said that the Nithian tradition proved to be the superior of the two, as the Nithians, with their stellar magic, were able to make contact with a powerful and ancient magical race wandering the cosmos, the Alphatians.

Planets in Nithian Tradition Glyph Alphatian Name
Horon the Sun Ixion
Osiris the Moon Matera
Isiris the Golden Planet Valerias
Ra the Red Planet Rathanos
Thoth the Silver Planet Asterius
Maat the Great Planet Tarastia
Ptarh the Ringed Planet Khoronus

Totems of the Milenian Zodiac Glyph Planetary Ruler
Manticore Rathanos/Vanya
Hydra Asterius
Centaur Ixion
Basilisk Valerias
Chimera Valerias
Gorgon Matera
Griffon Khoronus
Dragon Khoronus
Salamander Tarastia
Pegasus Asterius
Warrior Rathanos
Giant Tarastia

Alphatian Astronomy and Astrology

Since the Alphatian Landfall on Mystara, the Alphatians began to study the universe of their new world. The Alphatians adopted the traditions of both the Nithians and Milenians, but altered the ancient practices according to their own beliefs and tastes. They renamed the planets after their own Immortals and chose to use only the sun, the moon, and the five closets planets, to mirror the astrology of Old Alphatia. And as in all things, the Alphatians ubiquitously applied magic in the practice of stargazing, so much so that the Alphatians were said to have tapped into the magical forces of the planets and stars themselves! The Alphatians also demystified the sacred mysteries of stargazing, divorcing the scholarly study of astronomy from the arcane craft of astrology. The city of Starpoint in what would become the Kingdom of Ambur became the centre of stargazers and celestial sages throughout the Empire, while the once sacrosanct practice of astrology became a popular tool for divination, fortune telling, personal empowerment, and other irreverent, faddish purposes. This was a source of major disagreement between the Alphatian wizards and their mystic Nithian allies, but eventually with the destruction of Nithia and the expansion of the Alphatian Empire, their brand of stellar traditions eventually spread throughout the Known World.

Hecator of Kerendas and the Alphatian Conspiracy

In AC 2, Phoebus Asterius Hecatorus, commonly known as "Hecator of Kerendas", a brilliant Thyatian wizard, mathematician, astronomer, and astrologer, who had studied in Starpoint, made some startling pronouncements that shocked stargazing circles throughout the Known World.

In his book, De Empyrei Caelistibus Luminis ("The Celestial Lights of the Empyreum"), Hecator revealed that the Alphatians had known of the presence of three more planets, discovered since the times of ancient Nithia. These planets, Ordana, Protius, and Thanatos, collectively called the Outer Planets, orbited further than the planet Khoronus and were not visible without magical means. The planets themselves however were believed to be highly magical in nature, so much so that-as Hecator propounded-the Alphatians kept this secret for centuries, so that only they may reap the benefits of planetary magic, while confusing the rest of the Known World populations with fallacies.

This revolutionised the study understanding of astronomy and astrology throughout the Known World, which lead to fragmentation of beliefs from the ancient Alphatian body of knowledge. Hecator proposed a revised system using ten planets, reassigning the totems of the zodiac and their correspondences to the three Outer Planets. He also renamed the planet Rathanos after the Thyatian Immortal Vanya.
Planets in Classical Tradition Glyphs Zodiac Totem
Ixion Centaur
Matera Gorgon
Valerias Basilisk, Chimera
Asterius Pegasus, Hydra
Vanya (formerly Rathanos) Manticore
Tarastia Salamander
Khoronus Griffon
Ordana Dragon
Protius Warrior
Thanatos Giant

As much as Hecator corrected many errors and inconsistencies of the Alphatians, he was also guilty of promulgating his own fallacies and paradoxes-particularly with his predictions on the orbit of the planet Asterius and the comet Hel. Nevertheless, De Empyrei Caelistibus Luminis is widely used throughout the Known World and became the basis of classical stellar traditions.

The Destruction of Asterius

At the turn of the Thyatian Millennium, a catastrophic astronomical event was to herald a new era in stargazing traditions. Known World stargazers, many of who followed the calculations of Hecator in De Empyrei Caelistibus Luminis, were aware that the strange comet Hel would be crossing the path of Asterius-a conjunction that unfortunately would not be visible in the night sky at that time of year. Months later, when Asterius was to make its appearance upon the horizon, it did not. No one from Mystara knows what occurred.

Astrologers saw the disappearance of Asterius as the gravest portents of the grave adversity and catastrophes to come. A great war would erupt that would embroil in the entire Known World. Plague and famine would ravage the land. A great meteor would crash from the sky and an entire continent would sink beneath the seas. Nations would fall and thousands of mortal lives would be lost. Magic itself would cease to function. History would come to know this as the Wrath of the Immortals.

Astronomers surmise that the comet Hel collided with the planet Asterius. Three major fragments of the destroyed planet were soon traced. One found an orbit close to the sun and was later named Alphatia. The second was jettisoned into the orbits of the Outer Planets and was named Alphaks. And the third, crashed into Mystara, as the meteor that caused the Great Crater on the border of Glantri and Darokin. The rest of the planet became an asteroid belt along the old orbit of Asterius. The thousands of planetoids were poetically named the Tears of Asterius.

In the aftermath the world-changing events of the Wrath of the Immortals, adherents of astrology desperately sought a new method of making sense of the planets and the stars, hoping to gain some guidance and enlightenment from the Immortals. On the other hand, astronomers had more pragmatic concerns, for the sinking of the entire Alphatian continent, including the city of Starpoint, meant the loss of the finest astronomers of the Known World and thousands of years of arcane knowledge about the universe.

The answers to both quandaries were to be found, of all the unlikeliest places, in the sands of Ylaruam.

Ylaruam and the Rebirth of an Ancient Tradition

Scholars and magi of the Dream of the Desert Garden University had been keepers of the stargazing traditions of the Nithians and the Milenians for centuries. Ancient texts long thought lost-or hopelessly bastardised by the Alphatians-were preserved, translated, and skilfully updated, in careful observance of the spiritual beliefs of their academic ancestors.

Perhaps most remarkable advancement of Ylari astrology was the introduction of the Dark Moon Patera (called Patrah by the Ylari, a variant name of the Immortal Sinbad). This second moon is invisible and was otherwise known only to the astronomers of Glantri, where it would evidence itself on the full moon in Klarmont every year as it transformed the moon Matera into an eerie red colour. The addition of Patera into the new system makes the number of the planets twelve in all, even with the twelve houses and totems of the zodiac.

Planets in Modern Tradition Ylari Name Glyph Zodiac Totem
Ixion Shams Centaur
Matera Materah Gorgon
Patera Patrah Chimera
Alphatia (formed from Asterius) Tal'ishaa Pegasus
Valerias Valtis Basilisk
Vanya (Rathanos) Rastam Manticore
Tarastia Manat Salamander
Khoronus Qayjar Griffon
Ordana 'Udnan Dragon
Protius Farath Warrior
Alphaks (formed from Asterius) Al-Fakish Hydra
Thanatos Azrael Giant

Astrological Cabals, Astromancy, and Other Traditions

A few other different systems of astronomy and astrology developed in Mystara, in nations not reached by the widespread influence of the Alphatian and Thyatian traditions. Elves throughout the Known World have recorded star charts for millennia, the most ancient of which interestingly hint that the stars-or the planet of Mystara itself-used to move along different axes of rotation. The ancient Oltecs and Azcans, consummate sun-worshippers, developed traditions of sky gazing focus on the cycle of the sun and the seasons, and they built their amazing ziggurats, their cities, and their entire civilisation, around the movements of the Sun. The Sindhi have astrological traditions so steeped in their ancient mysticism that even the gurus and swamis spend entire lifetimes gazing at the skies for the most infinitesimal bit of enlightenment from the stars; one renowned Glantrian astrologer once tried to decipher and translate an ancient Sindhi text on the neigh unfathomable meanings of the stars Rahu (The Dragon's Head) and Ketu (The Dragon's Tail) and went hopelessly insane. And the cultures of the Orient have many mysteries, including their own astronomical and astrological traditions, which the rest of the Known World has scarcely begun to explore.

While the study of astronomy has earned the status of a respectable body of scholarship, the practice of astrology has not been regarded favourably at all times. Many modern religions disapprove of astrology, claiming that the will of the Immortals cannot be discerned from the motion of the planets, and that the destiny of mortals is not determined by the movement of the stars. Even in the godless Principalities of Glantri, where the tradition is highly secular and devoid of innuendos of divine powers, the very idea that Immortals can influence mortal lives is objectionable. Not a few astrologers throughout history have been accused and executed for heresy.

Throughout history, there had been instances of occult cabals of astrologers, doomsayers predicting-or even attempting to bring about-disaster, death, and the end of the world. Perhaps most disturbing of all are the tales of wizards who claim their powerful sorcery is derived from the planets and the stars. Not unlike a cleric invoking his Patron, these astromancers invoke this magic akin to that of the Immortals themselves to use at their fancy.