Worldbuilding Wednesday 11/29/17: Imaginary Constellations

cat constellation

In a pre-industrial society, stars and constellations had more impact on the viewer because there was less light pollution. Pictures could be traced, paths, and stories, all providing a commonality among members of a tribe or society. One common example is the constellation of the Big Dipper, or Ursa Major, imagined by many ancient cultures to be an animal hunters pursued across the sky. So many, in fact, that the path of those stories has been traced from the Americas back into Asia.

Tolkien himself included the Big Dipper in his works, referring to it as The Plow.

In the Western world, constellations are a hodgepodge from different eras. The Greek period shaped our skies the most, with some, such as the creatures of the Zodiac, dating from older sources such as Babylon and Sumeria. A fresh round of constellation creation occurred in the late 1600s by Petrius Plancius, who contributed the Southern hemisphere Volans, Musca, Pavo, and others named for various flying and water creatures. In the 17th century Nicolas Louis de Lacaille and Johannes Hevelius made up some more to fill in blank spaces on the star charts. Unfortunately, instead of memorable creations like Pegasus and Sagittarius, most of these were of dull objects like Horologium (the clock) and Sextans (the Sextant.)

Non-Western societies had different views of the skies. Australian aboriginals formed some constellations from star absences, seeing, for example, an emu in the dark sections of the Milky Way.

Chinese cosmology had an ordered view of four divine creatures, temples, palaces, and armies.

(Click to see larger version)

The final authority on modern constellations, however, is the International Astronomical Union, and their list tops out at 88. Those constellations that didn’t make the cut include Felis, the Cat; Bufo, the Toad; Hirudo the Leech and Limax the Slug; Solarium the Sundial; and Cor Caroli Regis Martyris, or Charles’ Heart, an attempt to flatter Charles I of England.

Here’s a list of randomly generated constellations to give inspiration for your own work.


Imaginary Constellations

Karnus, the Dancing Jackel

The Celestial Ash Tree, formed by the stars Ulateuse, Tergraz, Talithtor, and Julsud

Zarra, the Manticore

The Summer Diamond

Shaunus, the Sleeping Shipwright

Phridules the Fish

The Wise Man

The Fawn-headed Acrobat

The Beetle-headed Fool

Belium the Drover

The Silent Scorpion

The Royal Staff

Alraphone, the Skybound Nightingale

The Dauntless Minstrel

Isgnorabus, the Sextant

The Golden Glaive

Charzar, the Heavenly Smelting Iron

Zenium the Crone

The Holy Quince tree

The Devil’s Bridge

Taphnus the Dogfish

Torstrixus, the Poisoned Cup

The Winter Circle

The Autumn Pentacle, consisting of the five stars Forbaran, Kandash, Gorabuel, Karlschaat and Othmal

Udales the Bat

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