Saturday 29 April 2023

Hex Crawl 23 #118: Lore Dump 6, The Fixed and Wandering Stars

 Three hexes southwest, three northwest of Alakran.

From sun and moon Urig astronomy turned to the stars, which wheel in time with the Moon and have all fled when the Sun shines. Their varied hues, too, argue against the perforation idea. The persistence of Urig civilization over millennia allowed for the difficult and at times unspeakable observation that the stars were shifting, too, independently of each other, and at different speeds, some growing brighter and some fainter, as if all were in motion at all angles of space. Other civilizations believe themselves to live under a dome or a tent; educated Urig know better, and place the edge of the universe, which makes the night dark, a calculable but vast number of world-lengths away.

Far more visible are the erratic movements of the six wandering stars. While many other lands take them to be the gods or saints themselves, Urig knowledge decisively posits that they are spherical worlds formerly ruled by the major Dead Gods. Predicting their motions is an eternal challenge that has greatly advanced Urig mathematics. But every algorithm proves inadequate to augur any but the grossest planetary trends. The general lament among skygazers is that Chaos has set the world out of balance.

The same inferred cataclysm that set the wanderers agog also reduced the number of them from the divine seven to the infernal six, and threw off the harmony of the calendar, with its 360 days and 360 nights a year (720 = 1 x 2 x 3 x 4 x 5 x 6), throwing in the five intercalary days. Each of these days has a traditional deity to guard it against demonic assault: the dual guardians Nabu and Tashmet of the scribes, Taweret who blesses birth, Bastet the catcher of spiders, Bes who laughs at the mighty, Gibil the shaper of the forge.

But once in every epoch there comes the sixth day at the start of the year, whose curse taints the whole generation in which it appears, dreaded for a decade before and lamented for a decade after. This day is dedicated to the ambiguous figure Pazuzu. Demon and scourge of demons, he gives free rein to both good and evil on earth while the sixth day lasts, usually to the detriment of good.

The science of astronomy has also been midwife to astrology. Due to the random motion of the planets this art has more to do with the casting of lots than the forecasting of determined fates. Still, astrologers are esteemed throughout the Urig cultural sphere for the imprint of inevitability they are skilled at marking on people's decisions. Their horoscopes are cast taking into account the position of the planets in relation to the Moon and stars, comparing the hour of birth with a significant hour of night at the present moment, through charts that borrow from geometry, numerology, and the overfitting of models. The stars are divided into thirty-six chambers with evocative names. The six chambers directly before and six behind the path of the Moon have special significance and lend their names to the months of the year.

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