House Bonisagus, the First House
Time to read: 7 Minutes
Perseverance and Wisdom are the Keys to Understanding
Bonisagus, a scholarly patrician student of the Cult of Mercury obsessed with cosmic order and form from a Roman-descended family in the southern foothills of the Alps, and Trianoma, a witch from Thessaly, descended from the tradition of Circe and Medea of legend. Trianoma chose not to found her own House but instead joined Bonisagus’. Story and legend depicts them as equal partners, lifelong friends (after a rocky start) and in some stories, lovers.
“…Laws and words and codes and rules if we must. But learning and understanding and trying new ideas and opening up the great vistas of magic before us – having no fear of asking a question - not if we must, but because we must. How could we not? Are we not magi?” - Bonisagus, at the Founding, 767AD
“What we have built, he and I, will not last forever. But while it does, it will shake the very roots of this shabby world. Have a care that those who lead know when to shake, and when to stop, sit and listen instead, and remember always that magum means wise one, not spellcaster.” - Trianoma, on her deathbed, 849AD
Symbol and Iconography
House Bonisagus traditionally uses two crossed keys, symbolising perseverance and wisdom. However, the House is also occasionally portrayed by the symbol of the caduceus, Mercury’s staff, which was Durenmar’s heraldry and is often used as a symbol for the Order itself.
Bonisagus in iconography is usually represented with a scroll or a book in his left hand instead of a staff, and a stylus in his right, scribing a mystical symbol for Vim into the book. A key is depicted at his belt. A common image of Bonisagus has him sitting on a throne wearing a simple toga, holding a key in one hand and making the Vim symbol with the other. His hair and beard are white, but his eyes are large, blue and clear and he and wears a simple wreath on his brow.
Behind him and to his right stands Trianoma, her head gently inclined as though ready to whisper counsel in his ear. She is dressed simply in the Roman style. She leans against a staff in her left hand, tipped with a gold eagle. Her right hand holds an unopened scroll.
What The House Is All About
House Bonisagus has for many years seen itself as the elite nobility of the Order of Hermes. Bonisagus is the First Founder, the genius whose understanding of magic was so comprehensive and esoteric that he managed to encompass it all and make it understandable for others. Trianoma is openly acknowledged nowadays as the political genius who made the Order happen. Bonisagus training is seen as such an honour that a special provision in the Code allows Bonisagus magi to take the apprentices of others. Bonisagus magi make the big political and magical breakthroughs in the Order – it is their duty, their right and their purpose. They are Hermetic aristocracy.
To be a Bonisagus is to be a breed apart. Only the best, the brightest, the most talented are taken to apprenticeship by the First House. Even their failures are spectacular.
There is something of a growing shift of focus between the House's two traditions. For the Bonisagi, all effort is focussed on breaking through some of the remaining barriers in Hermetic theory - especially those preventing further development of longevity or standing in the way of magic being able to affect time or the world beyond the lunar sphere. To many Bonisagus, a key breakthrough in one of these fields would demonstrate that Bonisagus' theory still has relevance and dynamic potential in the modern world, and that there are still worlds left to conquer. House Bonisagus is obligated by law and disposition to be at the heart of these breakthroughs. Nothing else matters.
For the Followers of Trianoma the question is subtly different. They have begun to ask difficult questions about whether the Order of Hermes, as currently concieved of and constituted, is fit for purpose any longer. Realisitcally, five Houses remain, with three more on the brink of dissolution. More than half of the Order's philosohpical, and the vast majority of its geographical, territory has been lost. If the Order is to survive, what should it look like and what must it do? And how can House Bonisagus lead this transformation, as is right and proper?
- Carpocrates, Archmage and Quaesitor ex Bonisagus (Covenant of the Icy North)
- Medea Andrasta, Archmaga ex Bonisagus (Covenant of the Ends of the Earth)
- Hubert, Magus ex Bonisagus. Called Advocatus Diaboli (Covenant of the Ends of the Earth)
- Justus Irae, Magus ex Bonisagus (Covenant of the Ends of the Earth)
- Romulus, Magus ex Bonisagus (Covenant of the Cave of Twisting Shadows)
- Hesiod, Magus ex Bonisagus (Covenant of the Cave of Twisting Shadows)
- Velum Lachrymarum, Magus ex Bonisagus (Covenant of the Cave of Twisting Shadows)
- Tillita, Maga ex Bonisagus (Covenant of Valnastium)
- Yrjo, Magus ex Bonisagus and Lunarian (Covenant of the Shadow of the Moon)
- Aurore, Maga ex Bonisagus (Covenant of the Shadow of the Moon)
Also of Interest
- Elibheis ex Bonisagus (League of Trianoma, visitor)
- Karel Longstride ex Bonisagus (League of Trianoma, visitor)
- Regina ex Criamon (Cave of Twisting Shadows) - a former Bonisagus who willingly changed House.
The Limits of Magic
Bonisagus’ grand theory of magic was a revolutionary, awe-inspiring creation for the eighth century, but that was six hundred years ago and it’s starting to look a bit threadbare in places. The magi of today focus almost exclusively on breaking the key limits of magic to expand the theory further and that sits in two key areas – the limit of death and the limit of the lunar sphere. Enormous research effort has been poured into the effort to find immortality and now with the order nearing collapse and so many of its luminaries looking at their third century of life, it is becoming critical that a breakthrough is found. Ends of the Earth leads this research. The other limit, that of the Lunar Sphere, has long been a passion of House Bonisagus and Shadow of the Moon was founded to exclusively pursue it. The arcane rules of the Greater Alps Tribunal may place that covenant at threat – its research must be preserved and taken forward.
The House currently has no Primus, and therefore the Order of Hermes has no First Magus to lead it into the future. Malatesta’s spirit was broken by the fall of Durenmar and she provided no leadership after that – her passing, though sad, is a blessing. Word has passed through the hands of the Mercere to locate as many of the House as are known to remain, and they have sent their votes for a new leader of the House to the Tribunal in the Greater Alps – it’s said some intend to visit in person to speak with the candidates and cast their votes. The House decides Primacy on a one-magus-one-vote basis, with Archmagi given a second vote. Archmage Carpocrates has taken the reins of the process and intends that any hustings or debates occur over the first night of the Tribunal meeting before any formal business begins, which will allow for a vote and an announcement on the second day before the first sitting.
Wise money would have Medea Andrasta or Carpocrates in the big chair before the end of Saturday, but both have made clear privately they do not desire the role, and have suggested other candidates.
It is an open, unhealed wound; that the centre of the Order, the covenant of the Founding, should fall to “an unexplained magical catastrophe”. The covenant of Ends of the Earth predicted a disaster with days to spare and tried to organise an evacuation; had they not done so, the losses would have been incalculable, but questions remain over what they knew, how they knew it and why it happened.
Much of Durenmar’s libraries and magical resources were rescued, and an almighty legal row awaits as to their final disposition, with Ends of the Earth using their presence there as further weight for their claim to be the new Domus Magna. Others point out that the responsibility to fund Shadow of the Moon comes with that title, a responsibility Ends of the Earth appear reluctant to honour.
Finally, a group of Bonisagus magi from the Rhineland who survived the catastrophe seek to present themselves to tribunal and have their association ratified as a new covenant in the Greater Alps. Rumour has it they have significant data on the Event itself, and what it may mean for the forthcoming prophecy of Eschaton.
Player Guidance for Playing Into the Tropes for House Bonisagus
Think of the word Wizard. Give it a bit more oomph. That’s what a Bonisagus magus looks like.
House Bonisagus is for real wizards – either the Order’s most skilled politicians or its most out-past-the-border theorists. They have a tendency to go for the long-white-beard-and-pointy-hat and some – especially the “lab-rats” – tend to live in a world of their own and can be somewhat… lacking… in the basics of social interaction.
The more political magi tend to tone down their overtness, but they are, nevertheless, fiercely proud of their heritage and House symbols and magical regalia will still figure, though gauged more for taste and effect in the Tribunal chamber.
There is an air of the aristocrat - or at least of the upper class rogue - about all Bonisagus magi. Many are unconsciously snobbish or superior - not intentionally, but because of the ingrained upbringing they have received. They genuinely see themselves as the best of the best.
And don’t forget – It’s your bloody Order. You’re First House, and First Means Best.