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Upon Celestial Divination
« on: April 30, 2023, 04:55:41 PM »

Upon Celestial Divination

Written by Kassian Cervantes


I. Definition

Divination is a wide-branching, expansive subject of various methods to largely achieve a similar end result - prediction and premonition. It is within our very nature to fear the intangible unknown, the strings of fate yet unravelled, and equally within human nature to try and make sense of the things, attribute them to patterns we might recognise and perceive, and thus similarly develop them into a cohesive understanding. We want to know of our futures, whether we'll be great rich lords, fat kings upon reinforced thrones, or renown conquerors of militaristic merit - or perhaps if the mistress of fate has crueller designs yet? This compulsive nature to know the outcome of events, of people and our world before they happen is what has driven the arts of divination; be it mundane, arcane or divine. From the most archaic and prehistoric omens, to more contemporary mathematical and formulaic methods, we look for new and improved ways to not only wilfully determine probable outcomes, but perhaps either encourage or mitigate them to our favour.

When we speak of divination in our civilised world, most commonly it is attributed to the arcane school under its namesake delegation. Spells categorised under divination are used to learn forgotten knowledge, spot hidden objects or places, predict the future and counteract illusory or otherwise deceptive magics. However, divination as a practice still has prevalence in more mundane mediums; such as astrology, horoscopy and the occult. No doubt, these bespoke methods have likely lessened in popularity since the rise of their arguably more versatile arcane counterpart, but celestial divination still remains utilised for more scientific hypothesis. This piece aims to cover the origins of mundane divination, how it was charted and the intention behind it.

II. Origin

Whilst the origin of celestial divination is now somewhat obscured since the fall of the University of Il Aluk, we still have historic knowledge available to us through the Nostophilia observatory of Nevuchar Springs. Supposedly, celestial divination and astrology deviated from the occult. Like most sciences and practices in their juvenile form, it was typically practised in confidentiality and away from the wary public until opinion would become more normalised, or at the very least tolerable. The earliest form of diviners would be that of oracles, seers and fortune tellers, typically wayward and nomadic in nature, selling their prophecies for coin, trade or other services. Normally, this form of divination is thought to be pioneered and product of the vistani, and their raunie. Before astrology, this was the most popular method of divination: the diviner would be able to answer questions (ideally 'yes' or 'no' for most accuracy), invoke a prophecy, grant a vision of something or someplace, or even herald an omen for good or for ill.

The diviner would need some sort of apparatus or instrument in order to achieve their answer - a font of water, a crystal ball, a silvered mirror or even the surface of an unscathed diamond - are all reportedly potential conduits of occult divination (specific to the vistani also, was the tarroka deck). Though these components would be later mimicked by traditional arcane divination, the difference with occult divination is that it actually calls upon the supernatural to be achieved. The vistani refer to this ability of omniscience as 'the Sight' among their people, but what precisely that entails remains completely elusive. As you can imagine, the vistani don't much like being questioned about it.

From the omens and prophecies of the vistani, came the Omen Watchers, a Darkonian collective of what would become astrologers, with their operations based in the enigmatic Sidnar upon the western frontier of Darkon, flanked by the towering Mountains of Misery. These stargazers began to watch and record the heavens of the night skies, attributing these omens to the movements of the stars and various other factors. Through a combination of meticulous recording of these omens, and tracking the stars, they began to compile some of the first recorded accounts of astrology and correlate them to significant events. Though, following the Grand Conjunction, the roads to the settlement of Sidnar became ever more perilous, and thus contact became dormant. In its stead, the observatory Nostophilia would be established in 754 B.C. by the Celestines, an order of astrologers across the Core. Despite their presence in Darkon, Nostophilia wouldn't be the first of these observatories. The first established observatory would be Midway Haven of Barovia, near Vallaki, in 740 B.C.

III. Methodology

Now entails the methodology of celestial divination. Many components constitute the design of astrology and scientific prediction. This piece specifically will observe and highlight the Darkonian practice of astrology, since every region and observatory has its own unique perspective and dogma when it comes to divination. Note well that celestial divination is not deterministic, but rather indicative - the purpose of celestial divination was never to dictate the future, but rather to advise with reasonable certainty as to what is probable to happen, and how it might be avoided or mitigated. Or conversely, perhaps how it might be encouraged to increase the probability of it occurring.

Recommended material before proceeding:

⚙ The Dark Expanse: The Darkonian Crown of Stars ⚙ (K. Cervantes)
⚙ Astrológian Star-Map ⚙ (Y.P Ambrosiús)

a. Phases of the Moon

First, we look upon the moon itself, and its current state. As per the work of Ambrosiús and basic astronomy, we know that the moon can be categorised into several stages of its visible illumination.

(phases of the Moon illustrated)

A waxing moon is one that is becoming more and more illuminated, in these stages: New > Crescent > Quarter > Gibbous > Full
A waning moon is one that is becoming less illuminated, and thus follows the inverse: Full > Gibbous > Quarter > Crescent > New

And the cycle repeats. Barring an eclipse or other supernatural intervention, this cycle is destined to repeat every month. This is important to astrology as the state of the moon and its visible surface directly correlates to the probability of a desired divination. When the moon is waxing, this probability is in favour of the event occurring - when the moon is waning, the reverse is true. By this logic, one could estimate that a waxing crescent moon has an approximate 1 in 5 chance of being correct.

This poses the counter-argument however: why would you not wait until a full moon if this is the case? Even a full moon is slightly obscured. It matters not if the amount is infinitesimal, no recording can ever be perfectly accurate. Similarly, readings must be within a certain timeframe of the event you are divining to be accurate - taking a reading four years ago on whether you will win a decisive battle will be completely redundant. The reading is far more effective when fresh, or at the very least much closer to the event in question.

b. Positioning

Second, is the positioning of major constellations. The visible constellations are said to add an additional layer of complexity as they embody external factors that might interfere with the outcome of the event being divined. The brightness, intensity and relative position of the constellation supposedly correlates with how effective said factor might be as an obstacle, or perhaps a boon, depending on the symbology of the constellation in question.

(excerpt of Darkonian astrological arithmetic)

Following the Darkonian assessment, the Crown of Stars is the most pertinent player in this field, and regularly consulted. In my previous work, I referenced these as omens, and gave an example of how they might be perceived:

For example, setting sail whilst "The Snake" constellation was in plain view was said to bring bad luck, and a similarly bitter journey - thus, it would be avoided until the stars were not visible, or clouded. Conversely, a voyage under "The Hawk" constellation was said to mean for safe passage, pleasant waves and a successful trip.

Like how a tarroka deck can play a card upturned or reversed, the relative position of the constellation from the astrologer determines the result - if the net angle of the constellation relative to the moon is acute, it is considered a positive reading. Conversely, if the net angle is obtuse, it is considered negative. Do not be fooled into thinking a positive reading is always beneficial, as many of the zodiac embody undesirable traits when positive (The Snake, for example).

c. Miscellaneous

Lastly, this section covers the omens that do not fall neatly into a scientific delegation or category, but rather omens still derived from the occult. As mentioned before, prophecies hold weight, and so too do any and all supernatural events. These are indicative, and within themselves external factors, to be taken into consideration when we make our analysis. These can completely skew or reform our equation, as we are well-acquainted with following the Great Upheaval.

IV. Accuracy

We have the basis for our formula and application, but let us review the points of possible failure. Foremost, though the idiom "a good workman never blames his tools" comes to mind, when it comes to celestial divination all apparatus must be in immaculate care and condition. A fractured lens will only provide a fractured answer, resulting in erroneous conclusions. Similarly, a miscalculation in the arithmetic behind this model will only lead to improper predictions. Human error is the largest factor when it comes to mundane divination, but an experienced astrologer will know how best to mitigate this - and will take multiple readings to account for any that deviate from the pattern before providing their final analysis.