Good morning folks, and welcome back to another astrological article here in the Mirror Gallery on Hipsters of the Coast. This is part two of the Secret Layers of Secret Lair series covering The Astrology Lands. It will talk about the second six lands that dropped last year and all the research and astrological consultation that went into each of them. While I know full well we’re in the middle of Phyrexia: All Will Be One preview season, these lands deserve their time in the sun (and for a writer, a Part I without a Part II is like holding in a sneeze).

The series was traditionally illustrated in its entirety by new Magic artist Jeanne D’Angelo. Each calendar month a new sign was released in accordance with their astrological dates. The cards themselves were available all year long on the Secret Lair site, but only until December 31st, 2022. If you missed out, you’ll have to search the stars to find some of your own.

This entire collection has been a learning experience of this extraordinary description of the universe. As someone who is still not overly familiar with astrology, I’d like to share some of what the artist has published alongside what I’ve parsed through this entire exploration.

The Project & The Artist

Jeanne D’Angelo, wearing her handmade Humbaba mask

Jeanne D’Angelo, wearing her handmade Humbaba mask

In her own words, Jeanne M. D’Angelo is an artist of myth, magic & monsters, and what better cross section could there be than basic lands based upon the zodiac. This project was completed in the first three months of 2021 and art directed by the inimitable Wizards of the Coast ex-Creative Director, now Chief of Staff Jessica Lanzillo. D’Angelo mentions in her first blog post surrounding the cards that Lanzillo was inspired by her Endless Sky zine from 2019. You can certainly see it was the perfect point of departure for what Wizards was looking for.

The Endless Sky zine

Together with astrologer Maya Brooks, the signs were thoughtfully mapped to basic land types, then designed and painted in accordance with their Magic: The Gathering roots as mana producers. Both D’Angelo and Brooks reside in Philadelphia, and that ongoing discussion last year between artist, astrologer, and an art director produced a twelve land series of psychedelic color, mythological magic, and symbolic storytelling. What follows is a mixture of information gleaned from D’Angelo’s blog, and my own research to try and better understand exactly what we behold in this set of work.

Cancer Plains by Jeanne D’Angelo. Traditional.

Cancer (June 21-July 22)

Our adventure resumes midsummer with the Cancer Plains, a basic land that many folks expected to follow Cancer’s Water sign tendencies and come forth as an Island. Jeanne drew her inspiration from two previous works that couldn’t be more different: an unassuming illustration of the Giant Crabs from H.G. Wells’ Time Machine:

Illustration by Brendan Lynch for Moby Books edition of the Time Machine

And N.C Wyeth’s masterwork The Giant. 

The Giant by N.C. Wyeth, 1923

She took these thoughts to her collaborative astrology consultation, and it turns out that sort of intuition is exactly a Cancerian superpower. So while folks were shouting online that this should have been an Island, little do they realize the equivalent of astrological divine intervention brought us one of the most interesting works in the entire series. It’s the spawn of a legendary story and artist which funneled into a contemporary solution. That’s pretty darn cool.

Cancer is also a complimentary work to the next land, the Leo Plains, as we’ll soon see. 


Leo Plains by Jeanne D’Angelo. Traditional.

Leo (July 23-August 22)

Though both shown as Plains, Leo is the inverse of Cancer, as explained to Jeanne during her meetings with astrologer Maya Brooks. She took that relationship of Sun and Moon, Fire and Water, to heart when creating this compliment. Cool becomes warm and left becomes right as these images work together. When overlaid, they create something truly out of this world.

The Cancer Plains and Leo Plains overlaid one another

As with much of this series, Jeanne elevated the concept of what a Plains could be. This is not a lion on a grassy field under a burning sun, but rather a Mesopotamian-rooted sphinx atop a lava flow underneath psychedelic rays. And if you look closely, it’s actually a portal to another world; where we do not know, for the sphinx’s riddles know no bounds. Again, this final artwork is simply innovative, in a way only Secret Lair and Jeanne D’Angelo can do.

Virgo Island by Jeanne D’Angelo. Traditional.

Virgo (August 23-September 22)

The Island continues Jeanne’s stylistic tradition of split horizons within the Island basic land type. However, this work is not above and below, but rather a perfect reflection. Taken from the auction listing of the final painting is the story summed simply:

“What we see is the embodiment of the “virgin” of Virgo, the star goddess Astraea. She used to live on Earth amongst the mortals and was the last to leave, but legend has it that one day she will return. The reflecting star shows both her ascension to the heavens and the promise that one day the stair maiden may return.”

It’s a departure from the traditional depictions of a long haired lady amongst the stars, but as with the others, provides a perfect narrative to let our minds wander. Virgo is grounding, but not without hope, a return to routine and the expected, but always looking forward. Sometimes it’s the simplest compositions that can tell the grandest of stories.

Libra Plains by Jeanne D’Angelo. Traditional.

Libra (September 23-October 22)

The Libra Plains is the final air sign, and its emblematic sky returns to tie the three different paintings together under their unifying element. Along with Maya, Jeanne designed the Plains not as balanced scales, but as nature’s attempt at reconciling equilibrium: a tornado appears from the far background, and the stones of foreground are toppled and reassembled over and over. Jeanne was inspired, as she was with several of these pieces, by the work of Lithuanian painter Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis, whose Libra was two boats across an undulating sea, constantly weighing from side to side.

Libra by Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis, from Cycle: The Zodiac, 1907

We all know the constant push-pull of our everyday lives and as seen in nature. This is a completely different way to look at what the Scales of Justice can mean, beyond simply being “even.”

Scorpio Swamp by Jeanne D’Angelo. Traditional.

Scorpio (October 23-November 21)

The penultimate Astroland was the Scorpio Swamp. Being the only other of this type with a clearly defined ‘character’ afforded the opportunity to be a bit more on the nose with what we’re seeing. Scorpio is a water sign and Swamps are wet, easy. Scorpio is associated with the color red, and a red-hued bog evokes the feelings of danger, and poison, like the scorpion’s stinger. That makes sense. But then comes the bit of fun: we all know scorpions don’t actually live in the swamp, but as Jeanne said in her blog post, “that’s okay because this is not a nature documentary and those are giant tree scaling fantasy scorpions. So don’t worry.”

Sometimes it’s difficult to see the precision of balance between the literal and the figurative as these cards were released. But retrospectively, it’s honestly pretty incredible what went into this set to make it equally cohesive while remaining completely unique. 

Sagittarius Forest by Jeanne D’Angelo. Traditional.

Sagittarius (November 22-December 21)

The final land of this twelve piece series is Sagittarius Forest. It may be my favorite of the entire series, next to my own sign of Gemini. The adventurous spirit of the Sagittarius stands at the entrance to a tunnel of trees, a will-o’-the-wisp of sorts, to guide one through their journey. Its flame incorporates the fiery nature of the sign, and its shape as the archer’s bow and arrow that’s traditionally associated with the centaur Chiron, the arrow literally pointing onward.

It’s also been pointed out that, though unintentional, our guide likely sounds like when Mr. Burns from the Simpsons went alien after one of his medical treatments. But I digress, giggling…

This land is the fever pitch of what makes this series special; inspiration, story, ingenuity, new perspectives, and an imagination rooted in astrology and elevated to the fantastic. It’s perfect.

Wrapping Up

Here ends our journey through the stars, and we bid adieu to the Astrolands of 2022. These were something that Magic has never done before. They incorporated so many different skill sets and expertise into a single polished product.  As I said in the first article, they bring the elements of artist, astrologer, and card game, things that would never intersect on their own, together into a beautiful astrological anthology.

To keep up with Jeanne’s work, you can visit her website or follow her on Instagram, which is also where you can find her collaborating astrologer Maya Brooks. And in case you missed it at the beginning, much of what I’ve referenced here (and more!) can be found on Jeanne’s blog. Pop over and read that once you’re done here.

An Artist Proof Painting on a Leo Plains, for Magic: The Gathering in Miniature

Also, just because this series is over doesn’t mean Jeanne is leaving Magic forever! She has prints of each land along with their associated “emblem” in her INPRNT shop, and will be taking painted artist proof commissions, like the one above, as her schedule allows. She’s offering a unique opportunity creating “star chart” artist proof triptychs, where a collectors Sun, Moon and Rising sign will be created across their three respective signs. How cool is that? 

A Star Chart Artist Proof Triptych

I’ll end with a parting thought. As these lands were released, they received a lot of undue, nonsensical, keyboard-warrior-esque criticism online. Some folks thought the signs should be of a different land type, or have a different depiction, or simply wanted to yell that they didn’t like them for whatever the reason. From Day One I thought they were special. Now after hours of research into Jeanne’s process and inspiration, I think they were truly a gift amongst all of last year’s releases. A gift that many have taken for granted. Some folks, like Maria Bartholdi of Good Luck, High Five, knows what I mean:

Maria Bartholdi has chosen them for her new draft basics. Photo from Twitter

Chances are if you’ve made it this far, you’re not one of the people I mentioned above. But regardless, take a moment to peruse my two articles and read through Jeanne’s blog, even if only to learn more about your sign. Show them to a friend. Ask questions about things you don’t know. I’ve written about Magic art for nearly five years now, hundreds of thousands of words, and would have a hard time pointing to a collection of work more inspired than these twelve lands.  

We must not be afraid to open our eyes to something new, to consider not only that something may be unlike what we expect, but better because of its differences. We must widen our gaze, and in doing so, will discover things truly amazing. Thanks for reading.

Donny Caltrider (he/him) is a Senior Writer at Hipsters of Coast writing about all things related to the art of Magic: The Gathering and the larger imaginative realism genre. He has an M.A. in Museum Studies from Johns Hopkins University and enjoys telling stories about art, objects, and the intersection of fantasy with real-life. When he’s not writing for Hipsters or working with artists, you can find him traveling with his wife, petting his two cats, and watching the Baltimore Orioles.

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