I played this game back before Vampire the Masquerade ever appropriated this fine concept, though I was still amused when Houses became Clans, and the Magi became Kindred. I didn't wade into these waters again until 2005 after Katrina, when I heard through old friends what a devoted and wonderful job Atlas had done to my first and favorite game.
I purchased several 5E books after the Storm out of a sense of nostalgia and appreciation for the most part, but my audience (both friends and convention players alike) proved hesitant if not outright dismissive of this rather more complicated (in their minds) storyteller system that takes place in a setting somehow more difficult for some folks to grasp than the Sword Coast of Faerun.
Eight years later (gods has it really been that long?) I have dusted off these books and gathered those players willing to take the plunge. I've eased them into the concept over the years, even playing Aberrant with them Troupe style, until they were the ones who initiated interested by pointing to that top shelf and proclaiming themselves thoroughly intrigued. They've been making characters over the last six weeks (we're still playing Aberrant) and we're almost ready to start. It is perhaps just another jump to a cool game for them, but for my own part I am having a wee bit of difficulty containing my excitement. I'll be recording it all via pencast which I'm told will work fairly well for purposes of documenting our story, though I cannot attest personally to the quality of such a documentation.
I missed 4th edition completely so the answer to my question may be readily apparent to many of you. I simply wonder at the lovely symbolism of the triangular serpents entwined together on the cover art; I see an Apple, an Ank, and some other thing that looks to me like an axe. Knowledge, Life, and Death? I'm not sure, and forgive me if this has been covered extensively in posts past, but I could not find mention of it. It's not like it will effect my upcoming game, but the symbol seems so curiously intentional that I could not help but wonder at it's true meaning.
It has never been defined in canon, in so far as I know.
I'd note that the axe is a fasces, which is an ancient Roman symbol of unity and legal authority. So, I see the symbols as the claims of the Order to enlightenment, immortality and unity. I also personally think the serpents refer to the dragon that sent Trianoma to Bonisagus, or to the snakes which were seminal to Trianoma's tradition (she was a witch of Thessaly).
I always took the axe/fasces to be a symbol of the True Lineages, with the ankh representing the Mystery Cults and the apple (with all its associations with temptation in the bible and with discord in Greek myth) to represent the Societates.
My favorite explanation is that they represent the long distant Egyptian (Ankh), Roman (Fasces), and Greek (Apple) origins of the Order.
I do quite like Timothy's idea of Unity, Enlightment/Knowledge, Longevity/Immortality. In character it probably means multiple things to different magi. In character, it may, of course, pre-date the Order and be something that Bonisagus (or others) appropriated/inherited from the Cult of Mercury.
Interesting! I did not know about the fasces so thank you for that information; it's lovely to have a word for that symbol as opposed to us calling it the axe thingy. I'm pleased to know that others have wondered about these symbols, and that your interpretations are not so different than my own initial assumptions. Now I suppose I must get back to planning this campaign, and if all goes well I think I'll be running Ars Magica instead of my usual stuff at the conventions next year.
Huh - I always saw those three symbols differently, and reflecting the non-magical members of Mythic Europe instead: The fasces for nobility (those who war), the ankh for the clergy (those who pray), and the apple for the peasantry (those who toil). The middle one is the biggest stretch, of course, and would be more representative of non-Christian methods of worship.
I've never even once wondered about the symbolism. But I will now
Have fun with your new saga. Perhaps some of the recent threads about choosing Tribunal, whether or not to use published material in full, which approach is best for newer players etc. can be useful.
And by all means start a thread if you want to ask something, or tell how you're doing it. It's always interesting to read about other people's sagas, one could even learn something.
...and this is an almost perfect example of why you should feel free to ask questions, even ones that feel "n00b-ish".
Christian has been playing this game for years and even writes for the line.
And now you've asked a question that showed him something new!