Worldbuilding Wednesday 12/4/19: Birth Signs

An Asian Zodiac adapted for Australian use, with Australian animals in place of the traditional Chinese ones. I’m a platypus.

One of the perks of worldbuilding is creating a zodiac, or set of birth signs, for your particular setting.

The Western Zodiac* is the most familiar model and is named for the path the sun, moon, and planets take through the constellations on their journey through the sky. The constellation the sun is in when it rises becomes the birth sign for those born on that day, but the constellations other heavenly bodies reside in have an influence too. Such influences, in ancient times, affected all aspects of civilized life: when to plant and harvest, get married, wage war.

But there are other systems. Asian cultures have birth signs delineated by year instead of month, as everyone who eats at a Chinese restaurant with a paper placemat knows. They also come in a cycle of 12, each year named after animals, and each year also receives an elemental designation from a list of five (earth, water, fire, metal, wood) so the whole forms a cycle of 60 years. A Fire Monkey person is likely to be dying as new Fire Monkeys are being born.

Mesoamerican birth signs are a little more complicated, based on four interlocking cycles, one a year cycle of 365 days, the other a 260 day sacred cycle in which each day has a unique name, a number from 1 – 13 and a day sign from a roster of twenty. The cycle repeats every 52 years, so in that period, the only people sharing the same birth sign are those born on the same day.

But, back to the birth signs. The fun thing about them is creating correlations. My Western Zodiac sign, Virgo, has as its gemstone the sapphire, the aster as its flower, the hummingbird as its bird, and the maiden as its symbol. According to various memes, my Disney princess is Belle, my bread is whole wheat, and my wakeup time is 3 AM, “but then goes back to sleep and wakes up at 12.”

Whatever system you design, it’s easy to create a bunch of correlations for its birth signs through random generation or the roll of some die. Here’s some samples.


Semutal the Boar

Color: Scarlet
Number: 7
Item of clothing: Stockings
Part of body: Feet, ankles, calves
Scent: Clover
Habitat: Wetlands
Foods: Salmon, figs, parsley
Metal: Copper
Element: Metal
Time of day: Dawn
Symbol: Three crossed spears
Characteristics: Confidant, teasing, fortunate, generous, self-indulgent

Goiox the Key

Color: Gold
Number: 5
Item of clothing: Gloves
Part of body: Hands
Scent: Tobacco
Habitat: Mountains
Foods: Chicken, turnip, onion, anise
Metal: Gold
Element: Ice
Time of day: Evening
Symbol: Key
Characteristics: Bold, righteous, energetic, stubborn

Acas the Young Doctor

Color: Gray
Number: 4
Item of clothing: Wig
Part of body: Hair and scalp
Scent: Hazelnut
Habitat: Urban
Foods: Lobster, bananas, lovage, nutmeg
Metal: Lead
Element: Earth
Time of day: Midnight
Symbol: Three interlocked cubes
Characteristics: Wise, faithful, inquisitive, detached

Shaajot the Wolf

Color: White
Number: 20
Item of clothing: Ribbons
Part of body: Neck
Scent: Spearmint
Habitat: Tundra
Foods: Eel, truffles, lemon
Metal: Iron
Element: Wood
Time of day: Evening
Symbol: A fang above a quarter moon
Characteristics: Determined, mysterious, passionate, intellectual

One could go on and on with this, including chord, state of matter, sexual position, drug, type of literature, compatability with other birth signs, etc.

* Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces. To make things complicated, some consider Ophiuchus, the serpent-bearer, a Zodiac sign also, bringing the count to 13.

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