Symbol of Chaos
The Symbol of Chaos originates from Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champion stories and its dichotomy of Law and Chaos. In them, the Symbol of Chaos comprises eight arrows in a radial pattern. In contrast, the symbol of Law is a single upright arrow. It is also called the Arms of Chaos, the Arrows of Chaos, the Chaos Star, the Chaos Cross, the Chaosphere (when depicted as a three-dimensional sphere), or the Symbol of Eight.
Moorcock has stated that he conceived this symbol while writing the first Elric of Melniboné stories in the early 1960s. It was subsequently adopted into the pop-cultural mainstream, turning up in such places as modern occult traditions and role-playing games.
There are a number of traditional symbols that have the same geometrical pattern as Moorcock's symbol of Chaos, such as any of various eight-pointed stars, the star of Ishtar/Venus, the Eastern Dharmacakra and the Wheel of the Year, but none of these were symbols of chaos and their limbs are not arrows.
The '8' of Wands in Aleister Crowley's Thoth Tarot deck features prominently an eight-pointed star with arrows at the ends. Crowley described the card as representing "energy" scattering at "high velocity" that had managed to create the depicted eight-pointed figure.
Moorcock said about his version,
The origin of the Chaos Symbol was me doodling sitting at the kitchen table and wondering what to tell Jim Cawthorn the arms of Chaos looked like. I drew a straightforward geographical quadrant (which often has arrows, too!) – N, S, E, W – and then added another four directions and that was that – eight arrows representing all possibilities, one arrow representing the single, certain road of Law. I have since been told that it is an "ancient symbol of Chaos" and if it is then it confirms a lot of theories about the race mind. ... As far as I know the symbol, drawn by Jim Cawthorn, first appeared on an Elric cover of Science Fantasy in 1962, then later appeared in his first comic version of Stormbringer done by Savoy
The symbol's first appearance in a commercial role-playing game (RPG) was in TSR's Dungeons & Dragons supplement, Deities & Demigods which included the gods, monsters, and heroes from Moorcock's Elric books as one of 17 mythological and fictional "pantheons". Copyright problems led to its omission from later editions.
It then turned up quite naturally in Chaosium's Stormbringer RPG (one edition of which was published as Elric!). The 1987 edition of Stormbringer was published jointly by Chaosium in the U.S. and Games Workshop (GW) in the UK.
Moorcock's eight-arrow symbol of Chaos was subsequently used by Games Workshop and used as a frequent graphic element in their own Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 games and the related miniature figures, representing the forces of Chaos.
It has also appeared in Bungie's Xbox 360 game Halo 3: ODST as an emblem for playable multiplayer characters.
It also shows in Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, in the home of Aleister Grout, the Malkavian primogen.
The Chaosphere is a pick-up in the open source twin-stick-shooter heXon with a variety of effects.
The symbol also appears in the background during a dialogue scene in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Hearts of Stone, an expansion to Witcher 3, located in the home of a professor attempting to ward off a malevolent demonic entity that plays a key role in the expansion's plot.
A variant on the symbol is seen on the foreheads of the Silent Monks in 2017's Divinity: Original Sin 2
Other modern uses
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In modern times, the symbol of chaos as well as the chaos sphere has been used in a wide variety of settings, including the following:
- It appeared in some of the cover artworks of the thrash metal band Testament.
- It frequently appears in the artwork of the albums of the British death metal band Bolt Thrower.
- English cross-genre, experimental group Coil used the Symbol of Chaos as their logo.
- It has also appeared in a lot of artwork by Shock Rock/Thrash Metal band GWAR. It has been featured on the cover of their album This Toilet Earth and in the inserts of other albums along with being used on much of their merchandise and early flyers.
- It has also appeared as album artwork on the albums of black metal band 1349, including the album Liberation.
- The American metal band Chimaira use a modified Symbol of Chaos logo that seems to be redesigned for every new album release.
- A symmetrical Symbol Of Chaos was used as a logo (typically on LP record covers) by Roulette Records in the 1960s.
- The symbol is used in the music video for "Ugly Boy" by Die Antwoord.
- The TV series Sleepy Hollow (2013) uses the Chaos Star pattern in tattoo form as a mark of the Hessians, most notably on the center/back of the Horseman's Skull, as well as every Hessian's wrist.
- The American television show, Community, uses a six-armed Chaos symbol as the centerpiece of their school flag. The school on the show however, refers to it as an anus.
- The British television program Luther features a version of the Chaos Star that they refer to as a 'Bedlam Axis'.
- A version of the Symbol of Chaos was used as the symbol of Jack the Clown in Halloween Horror Nights Orlando 2015 show, The Carnage Returns.
- American chef and television personality Anthony Bourdain had a tattoo of the Symbol of Chaos on his right arm.
- The character of Discord from the animated series My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic carries a cane adorned with the Symbol of Chaos in the season 5 episode "Make New Friends But Keep Discord", referring to his being the Spirit of Chaos in the show.
- Chaos! Comics' logo was the Symbol of Chaos with a human skull in the middle.
- A colorful version is used as the logo for the CentOS operating system distribution.
- The symbol of Chaos is frequently used in chaos magic, as is its 3D analog, the Chaosphere.
- A variant of the Chaosphere has been adopted by the Eurasian Youth Union and the Eurasia Party in Russia.
- It is used as the logo for the National Organization for Development of Exceptional Talents in Iran.
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- 1980; ISBN 0-935696-22-9 http://www.rpgunited.com/product/default/tsr2013b.html
- 1980–2003; ISBN 1-56882-152-2