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Warhammer Symbology: The Meaning of the Chaos Star

WARNING: Contains philosophy and ideas from a Physics teacher. Treat with extreme scepticism (and pity).

Warhammer 40K, and the creative sphere it creates, is predominantly a visual medium. Whilst there are models we can pick up, and abstract rules we can endlessly analyse, by far and away the most important aspect of the game is the things we see.

This is why you like playing against a fully painted army as opposed to the Plastic Grey Marines. We understand on an instinctive level that people with un-painted armies are not playing the game properly.

Since 40K is so heavily informed by visuals, it should come as no surprise that the symbols used are hugely important. I can guarantee that a number of new players are attractied to certain armies simply by the badge they wear, or the aesthetic of their icons. So it might be useful to know what the symbols mean as you go about making Your Dudes(TM).

One of the most easily recognised symbols in Warhammer (both 40K and Age of Sigmar) is the eight-pointed star of Chaos.


This rather fuzzy star, is the Tzeentch variant as posted on Warhammer 40K Wiki.

It features a central point from which arrows originate in all directions, at 45-degrees to each other. In this variant, the symbol of Tzeentch sits in the middle, apparently aligned with one of the arrows, whilst simultaneously pointing in the opposite direction.

This is a 3D representation of the star, showing what the eight arrows can represent:

The interpretation of the symbol is interesting. It shows a central object going in all directions at the same time, as in there is no clear goal it is heading towards, or even a single destination. This is what Chaos can be interpreted as, directionless movement.

It also shows expansion, something which the forces of Chaos tend to do in the Warhammer universes. They spread from a central point, outwards in all directions. For Khorne that would be a mad charge at anything and everything. For Slaanesh it would represent omni-directional excess, leaving no experience untouched. For Nurgle, you can imagine that would be the spread of plague and decay. For Tzeentch?

Referring back up to the Tzeentchian symbol, this is shown rather neatly by having Tzeentch's icon in the center of the Chaos star. It's showing the expansion and omni-direction of Tzentch's plans from his being. You could also argue that the two arrows emanating from the central eye in opposite directions is a reference to the multiplicity and contradiction in Tzeentch's plans. The eye is of course representing Tzeentch as the director and predictor of fate, being able to see into futures and possibilities.

I realise I'm speaking as an authority here, but my training is in Science and Education so take everything with a grain of salt. I think my interpretation of the symbol up there is pretty accurate, and might give you some ideas about more meaningful paint schemes for your army.

Until next time!

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