Entropist writes "I am dreaming an economy
made out of fibers of light--
'Light upon light!'
--a world where my mind melds
into the fabric of being."
Soban-Flammel-Ban, circa -700 CY
--Ancient Bakluni metaphysician, astrologer, mathematician, poet
Ancient Bakluni Astrology
By: Entropist (firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.)
In the west, the fate of Istus is the fundamental ruling principle of the universe, governing the natural world around us, the internal movements within us, and the heavenly bodies above us. But this world-view is quite foreign for those of us who grew up in a part of the Flanaess dominated by Oeridian culture. We are taught to analyze our world into disconnected entities: entities that are ultimately ruled by different, even antagonistic gods. Our business life is ruled by Zilchus; our love life by Myhriss or even Kurell. War is fought by Heironeous and Hextor. Pholtus and Celestian divide up the sky; the seasons and weather are broken up into five different gods. The seas are ruled by Procan, and even our soul is analyzed into reason, Delleb, and our emotions, Erythnul, Kurell, and Myhriss.
This fundamental conceptual difference undermines our ability to understand our Bakluni neighbors and the importance astrological speculation plays in everyday life. The Bakluni understand astrology, theology, psychology, meteorology, navigation, mathematics, business, and warcraft not as independent sciences, but each as an integral part, a mirrored reflection, of the whole. The nomadic shaman who knew nothing of the skies could not predict the weather, navigate her clan, or advise the chieftain on war or trade. For the educated Bakluni, whatever her role, astrology forms an essential part of the entire holistic, intellectual framework.
A historical treatment is widely regarded as the best methodology to understanding the most important aspect to present-day Bakluni astrology. Unfortunately, not much is known about the early tradition of Bakluni astrology. Their astrology, like their history and religious traditions, was passed down orally, and much of what was put down on papyri by later monk-scribes was destroyed in the Invoked Devastation. Thus, much of the work that focuses on early Bakluni astrology is largely speculation derived from diviners, cryptic statements, historical extrapolations, and fragmentary, often unintelligible, historical scrolls. The following, then, begins with a largely speculative historical perspective as a means to introduce the greatness of Bakluni astrology.
The Phases of Celene
An ancient Suloise trading receipt dating back to -3,756 CY is the first known written reference to the Bakluni people (OJ 1, 11). The entry refers to the subject of the trade as "Ar-Agribir" with quantities listed for imported herd animals, horses, cloth, and pottery. Scant Suloise references such as this one, as well as the lack of any Bakluni written material for another thousand years, indicates that compared to the Suloise, the Bakluni were a comparatively backward people. The earliest surviving Bakluni papyri we have, dating from the period of about -2,200 CY to -1,600 CY, are primarily of two subjects: trade and folk stories.
The content of these writings indicate an almost exclusive reliance on nomadic subsistence; a fact revealed by the ubiquitous Bakluni nomads even in modern day Bakluni territories. Many of the folk stories also reveal the hard life of the ancient Bakluni against the elements: stories of great floods, suffocating droughts, violent storms, and terrible fires. So great was their fixation on these subjects that though this period was also a time of the great Suloise expansion, we do not have a single surviving folk story about the Suloise or their enslavement of the Bakluni people.
The Bakluni are as much a contemplative people as they are a nomadic people. They must have seen the sky above as a great map to traversing the natural world below. The most primitive solar observation would have been the division of daily life by the fiery Liga: the revolutions of light and heat with cold and darkness. The next most important discovery for basic survival would have been the discovery of the year and the cycle of the seasons. Predicting raining and flooding seasons, breeding habits of herd animals, as well as the migration patterns of favored game animals would have been a great boon for the early Bakluni. Having correlated the year to the annual revolution of the stars, the female menstrual periods to Luna's winking, and noticing the great daily changes governed by Liga, it would have been natural for the early Bakluni to lay great significance on the movements of the solar bodies. The contemplative Bakluni must also have seen the natural world around them as containing clues on how to survive their often-tumultuous life.
The ancient Bakluni were also known for their great advances in the area of metaphysics: it as if these advances helped them to reconcile themselves with and understand the natural world. Ufa-thalier, the earliest known Bakluni metaphysician (circa -1,640 CY), is said to have first postulated the existence of four primary elements: the building blocks of all corporeal things. He also divided them based on four cardinal properties: fire is hot and dry; water is cold and wet; earth is cold and dry; and air is hot and wet. This analysis helped decipher the elemental contraries of fire/water and earth/air. Although there are no surviving papyri of his works, Bakluni astrologers about four hundred years later claim that he was able to first divine the relationship between these four elements, the four seasons, and the four cycles of Celene. Fire rules the summer since summer is both hot and dry - earth being cold represents the change to a colder fall climate: its dryness caused the dry season to continue into the darker months. The wet property of water signifies the beginning of the wet season of winter, and its coldness causes the temperature to continue to drop. And finally air, hot and wet, governs the change to a warmer season and the continuation of the wet season. The four full moons of Celene were seen by the ancient Bakluni as representing the peak influence of each of the elements on the seasons; Celene was thus seen as the ruler of the elements. Hence, the discovery of the basic properties of the elements together with the observations of the movement of Celene allowed the primitive Bakluni to navigate their most dangerous foe: the natural world.
Seeing the heavenly bodies as powerful agents acting upon the natural world, it was probably quite natural to associate the largest three with the three great ancient Bakluni gods. Liga, the fiery sun, represented Istus. She was the "all-coloring" for without her light, nothing could be seen. Later attributions of Istus being colorless followed the discovery of pure fire itself being invisible. The fate of Istus could be seen in how all the other solar bodies bended to her strength: the ancient Bakluni knew of the heliocentric solar system as the best explanation of the "wanderings" of the five planets. Bluish Celene was the physical incarnation of Geshtai, goddess of water, rain, rivers, lakes, and wells. Xan Yae, goddess of twilight and shadows, was physically manifested as the great silvery moon of Luna. Finally, each of these gods and solar entities corresponded to one of the elements: Istus and Liga were fire, Geshtai and Celene were water, Xan Yae and Luna were air, and our existence, which was also seen as divine, corresponded to Oerth and earth (and hence, the etymological correspondence as well).
The elements are not always viewed, in ancient or modern times, as a balance of power between all four. We know that ancient followers of Geshtai believed that water was the first of all the elements, the most potent, and therefore the source of all the physical world. Earth was condensed water, air was water spread thin, and fire was the absence of water. As a surviving epistle to Geshtai, circa -1,400 CY, proclaims, "Waters swallow up the earth - extinguish flames - ascend on high - and, by the stretching forth of the clouds, challenge the heavens for their own; the same, falling down, becomes the cause of all things that grow in the earth." Water was a precious commodity in ancient Bakluni life, as well as for many modern Bakluni living in the northern prairies and the parched plains south of the Drawmij. Rain causes vegetative growth, and the seminal seed of almost all animals is water based. Celene, herself, ruler of the elements, is a watery blue color.
According to the doctrine of Geshtai, the seasons are seen not as controlled by the elements, but are different phases in the cycle of water. One branch of Geshtai preached that summer saw water traveling upward and spring saw it traveling downward; winter froze water above as snow, and fall froze water below on the ground as ice. Another branch stressed the source of water: winter saw snow at times, particularly in the northern areas (adding the properties of cold and wet to water, you get snow). The source of water during the spring was rain (adding the properties of air, hot and wet, to water you get rain). The Bakluni had to travel to lakes and rivers during the hot and dry months of summer. Finally, during the months ruled by earth, when river and lake beds often had dried up, many Bakluni had to search for water in the earth by digging wells.
The centuries that followed till about the time of the Bakluni Renaissance (circa -700 CY) saw no great advancements in the area of metaphysics. There was still quite a bit of speculation as to the relationship between the elements (each element having advocates who proclaimed their supremacy). Different analyses of the elemental properties were made, and reputedly quite a few of the advocates dabbled in basic elemental magical arts.
However, it was not until -710 CY, that the eminent metaphysician Soban-Flammel-Ban made the next great advancements. He is regarded as the first elemental wizard, and his research is widely attributed as setting the foundation for the great elemental schools of magic: some say his great achievements helped propel the Bakluni into their renaissance. He viewed the four great elements hierarchically according to four primary properties. (His research included an analysis of sixteen total properties with fire as the cappingstone, then air, water, and finally the foundational element of earth.) One property was the ability to transfer light; fire, the source of light was first, followed by perfectly transparent air, semi-transparent water, and finally opaque earth. Mass/density was applied in the opposite order. Motion was a third property, air the first among these, then fire, water, and finally earth. Conductivity was the last property: water was first; earth, which is the second primary component (behind water) that makes up metal, was second; air came in third; last was fire. Fire was cited as the supreme element for many reasons, though only two of the least abstruse points will be repeated here. One, fire was the most potent effect in early elemental magic as can be seen in the great devastating effects of the Rain of Colorless Fire. Two, it seems to offer a solution to the ancient correspondence problem of the gods, elements, and solar entities: why, for example, was Istus, the most powerful goddess, and Liga, the most powerful solar entity, attributed to fire, if fire was just one element out a balanced set of four?
Metaphysics and Astrology
These early metaphysical speculations composed the theoretical background for much of early Baklunish astrology. For just as the passing seasons, the day, the heavens above, and all of surrounding environment are made up of, or ruled by, the four basic elements, so too are our bodies: bone is earthlike; the humours are primarily made of water; the fire element within us is our spirit; and our flesh is most air-like. It was no accident to them that there were also four primary physical virtues, and thus, each physical virtue was associated with one of the four elements: strength and earth, dexterity and air, water and constitution, and fire and beauty. Since our bodies are composed of the four basic elements and our physical capacities are ruled by them, it would have seemed only natural to the ancient Bakluni to associate the ruling element of our birthday to our physical characteristics. The Bakluni believe that these characteristics are passed down from generation to generation, which helps to explain why there are physical resemblances among relatives and why physical material is required to produce offspring. Much research was done in ancient Bakluna mapping the physical characteristics of children born to each element with the combinations of their parents', grandparents', etc., elements. In many educated parts of ancient Bakluna, astrologers were consulted to plan the conception of future children. The following is a basic breakdown of the physical characteristics associated with each element.
Fire is the lightest element and, hence, children dominated by this element grow up shorter, skinnier, or with less muscle mass. Fire children also prove extraordinarily resilient to sicknesses and diseases. Despite this, fire children often do not live to see their golden years, being susceptible to trauma, freak accidents, or other swift ends. It is also associated with the sense of sight, and fire children tend to have keen eyesight which often lasts longer than children of other elements. Those rare Bakluni individuals who have hazel or gray eyes are generally fire children. They also tend to be very attractive, many having quite exotic features. In some children, these features are exaggerated and the effect can be quite homely: it's not unusual for fire children to have, for example, an exemplary nose, or unusually high cheekbones. Personality-wise, they are fierce, domineering, emotional, loving, social, witty, with a susceptible disposition. Their cardinal vice is anger.
Air is also a light element, so children of air, like fire children tend to be skinnier. Unlike fire children, however, air children can grow quite tall and long of limb. And though their muscle is less bulky than those of the heavier elements, it can be more defined and sinewy. Air children are known for their speed, agility, and hand-eye coordination. It was rumored that an elite band of mounted archers during the Bakluni-Suloise War was limited to those who could prove a pedigree of air. Air children are the most susceptible to illness, and their numbers make up most of those who die early from lung diseases. Air is associated with the sense of hearing: some air children have been known to possess almost supernatural hearing capabilities. Many also have beautiful voices. The element of air can also lighten hair color to a dusky brown; and the amount of bodily hair is said to have been influenced by this element. Their character tends to be amiable, cheerful, industrious, energetic, though flighty, quick, intelligent, and calculating. Their principle vice is cowardice.
Water is the source of all life; hence, water children tend to live long, healthy lives. The only known diseases that they seem more inclined to suffer from are bowel diseases. Water children also very fecund, producing large families, though in a few exceptional cases individuals may suffer from sexual dysfunction. They have exceptional tasting capacities: many an exquisite Bakluni eatery is run by water children. Because of their sexual drive and love of food, water children are often said to be ruled by their basic desires. Also, some water children are known to have an exceptional sense of smell. They are disposed to be curious, creative, original, pious, and compassionate; though they tend to have bouts of sluggishness with tendencies to live slovenly or, on the other extreme, gluttonously.
The heaviest of the elements, earth, produces a shorter, heavier frame. Children of earth tend to be stronger but slower than those composed more of the other elements. They also tend to live longer lives, though not as long on average as children of water. Earth is the element associated with the sense of touch: though it can make the sense of touch more sensitive, it also allows for a toleration of extreme sensations like intense pain or ticklishness. Earth also darkens skin color. Earth children, personality-wise, are slow, but firm in action, loyal, contemplative, simple, unemotional, and patient. Their cardinal vice is greed."