House Bjornaer, the House of the Beast
Time to read: 4 minutes
Power Over Yourself is Power Over Others
Founder: Birna (“Bjornaer”), a female shapeshifter believed to have come from the Baltic region. She broke the laws of her people by combining the powers of the sun (magic) and the moon (the taking of shapes) and so was made outcast by her kind; she taught Bonisagus much about Animal and Muto magics, and in turn was taught Hermetic magic by the Founder Merinita. To this day lingering hostility between the shamanic tribes and shapeshifters and House Bjornaer often broke out into open warfare along the Order’s northern and eastern peripheries.
Symbol and Iconography
House Bjornaer uses one of two symbols; either a cone, viewed obliquely or a Worm Ouroboros. Both, according to Bjornaer iconography, display the power of the House to assume two forms while being one thing in essence.
Very rarely is Bjornaer herself depicted in human form; when she is, traditionally she is garbed in tunic and britches. A bird of some sort is perched on her shoulder, speaking into her ear. Around her shoulders is the skin of a bear worn as a cloak, with the paws tied around her neck. In one image she stands on the bearskin. Her eyes are always those of a beast. All other images of Bjornaer depict her either as a bird or bear with a halo. Sometimes the bird is shown grasping a staff in its talons.
What The House Is All About
Every Bjornaer magus has the ability to take a “heart shape” – usually that of an animal (sometimes a mythical beast), although some Bjornaer have existed historically whose heart shapes have been vegetable or mineral. This facility with shapes makes the arts of shape changing second nature to Bjornaer magi. It also gives them an advantage in all magics to do with the summoning and control of beasts and birds.
Additionally House Bjornaer is, almost without exception, pagan in outlook. Every twelve years the Gathering of the House occured, where all Bjornaer magi who can travel visit the Sacred Grove and commune with the spirit of their Beast – the King of the Eagles, a great horned serpent, the Salmon of Knowledge, the Queen of Cats or the Wise Toad… it takes a different shape to each who see it, depending upon their Heartbeast. This patron spirit, this Lord of the Beasts, has been at the heart of the magic and mystery of House Bjornaer for centuries and is the spiritual centre of all that the House is and wishes to be.
House Bjornaer has always had an uneasy relationship with the rest of the Order – after the loss of the House Forgotten, they were the only House clearly descended from a non-Roman tradition. They tacked a careful course, playing by all the rules and over the centuries becoming more and more like other Hermetic magi – but they never quite shed their pagan roots, and when the Teutonic Order started their Crusade against the pagans of Lithuania and Livonia, the Bjornaer took steps to defend their covenants and communities from the chaos.
The Teutonic Knights seemed to target villages and communities close to Bjornaer-dominated covenants with unerring accuracy, and in 1317, they landed on the island of Rugen, plainly aiming to attack Crintera itself. Their initial party was eliminated with little fanfare, and the Bjornaer sent word to the Grand Tribunal of 1318 that they were under attack and they requested the aid of their comrades.
The timing was terrible. The same Grand Tribunal was in the process of renouncing House Guernicus for its meddling with the Knights Templar and was frightened of further accusations of mundane interference. The Tribunal narrowly voted against sending help, abandoning the Bjornaer to their own devices. The only aid that came was the very Guernicus magi the Grand Tribunal had renounced, and a handful of others sick to their stomach at the cowardice on display. Simeon, an Archmage of the House, was attacked at Icy North by an unknown assailant and driven into a Twilight which it took him over a year to recover from – and by the time he did, events in the north had taken a final turn.
The details of the battle on Rugen Island are known only to the survivors, if any there were – but the vast majority of both House Bjornaer and the remainder of House Guernicus died there, as did over three quarters of the Teutonic Order. Over the years since the few Bjornaer who did not rally to Crintera have either died, or turned their back on the Order, taken beast form, and vanished into the wild. Few blame them.
Simeon, for his own reasons, remained in post as Praeco of the Greater Alps. Many think it’s because he owes Carpocrates a life debt; those who know him better think his continued presence is a constant reminder and rebuke to the Order that turned their back on his House when they needed them most.
- Simeon, Archmage and Praeco ex Bjornaer (Covenant of the Icy North)
Player Guidance for Playing Into the Tropes for House Bjornaer
House Bjornaer magi are generally very close to their inner beast, even in fully human form. They tend toward shows of faintly animalistic behaviour even when fully human – occasional lapses that often become more pronounced when Twilight occurs or when they are under severe stress. Bjornaer magi tend to favour either materials traceable to their own inner beast, or a combination of practical clothing and half-transformed flesh, especially for the more outré magi.
Not every Bjornaer magus has a battle-worthy Heartbeast. And not all battles are resolved with tooth and claw. Because other Houses tend only to see the mightiest of the Bjornaer in battle, the lions and the bears and the wolves and the stags, they forget the wisdom of the serpent, the cunning of the flea and the secret knowledge of the toad. And what they cannot see, they forget completely.