THE NINE GREAT FAITHS & THE IMPERIAL CULT
The Imperial Cult of the Nine Divines, sometimes referred to as the Citizenship Cult, is a loose alliance of the Great Faiths who worship the common orthodoxy of the Nine (or Eight-and-One) Divines under the auspices of the Empire. These are the most popular faiths in Cyrodiil: state-sponsored, endorsed by the Emperor and his kin, and present almost everywhere. Worship of the Nine Divines is an essential aspect of the citizen identity.“By the intercession of St. Alessia, you may be so filled with grace, and the strength and wisdom that comes from grace, that through these teachings you may come to the true meaning of the Nine Divines and Their glories.”
Most citizens worship the Divines in the most abstract of terms - as powerful but indifferent spirits to be emulated and appeased, but never approached on personal terms. As a result, many Imperials worship a more personable saint, spirit, or god in addition to the Faiths. Imperials also do not worship each Divine in equal measure: usually, they focus on two or three preferred Divines who have special relevance to their life or profession, paying only lip-service to the others.
The Great Faith of Akatosh: worships the oldest spirit and head of the pantheon, associated with invincibility, absolute authority, and everlasting legitimacy. Imperials think of Akatosh as the protector of the Empire and shield against foreign enemies. Patron of authorities, historians, and legitimate birth. Akatosh demands absolute submission to his will, which he rewards with eternal stability and permanence. He is assisted by the Jills, feminine drake spirits considered personifications of the Hours and Minutes.
The Great Faith of Arkay: spirit of the wheel of life and death, cyclical events and the passing of time in general. Arkay is both the first-born of Akatosh and the last god to come into being. Considered a god of change, both in a negative and a positive sense. Patron of funerary workers and ferrymen. Priests invoke the Blessing and the Law of Arkay across the land, protecting the body and soul of the deceased. They provide blessings at funerals, births, weddings, harvest and spring festivals, etc. but refuse to give blessings or heal the sick outside of these holy days.
The Great Faith of Dibella: goddess of beauty and joy, associated with rapture, lust, desire, and sensuality, but also ethereal beauty and esthetic purity. A popular deity whose worship is very personal and intimate, but far removed from the public sphere. Patron of artists, lovers, and poets. Worship of Dibella is splintered in almost a dozen charismatic sub-cults, devoted to different aspects of the deity.
The Great Faith of Julianos: spirit of wisdom and logic, associated with law, literature, and contradiction. While depicted as a god-figure for the laymen, his priests consider him an exalted and impersonal symbol of learning. Patron of scholarly inquiry (magical and non-magical), scribes, tutors, and mentors. Lesser spirits under its command are seen as mathematical mantras or equations. The Cult is divided into several monastery-schools, the leading one of which is based in Skingrad. They provide higher education to the rich and talented. Julianite theology is more concerned with understanding the Divines and heir creation than their worship.
The Great Faith of Kynareth: goddess of the winds, the elements, and the heavens. Associated with the natural way of things, freedom, and wild luck. A free and unbound spirit, though often moody and melancholy. Patron of vagrants, sailors, and nomads, protector of the unjustly imprisoned and enslaved. Her retinue is known as the Chorus, the unseen spirits of the winds, the first of whom is the bull-god Morihaus. Initiates wander in pilgrimage throughout the wilderness, providing blessings and aid to communities along the way. Though Kynareth worship was very important in the First Era, it has waned under the Septims.
The Great Faith of Mara: the mother-goddess, spirit of love, fertility, community, and the bountiful earth. In Imperial thought, Mara is wedded to Akatosh, and sister to Arkay. While harvest traditions are still popular in rural areas, most Imperials think of Mara as a spirit of peace, diplomacy and understanding. She is patron to farmers, parents, midwives, and diplomats. Maran hospitals serve to aid the convalescent, the elderly, or the insane. Though any priest or cult leader can perform the old rituals of union, upper- and middle-class Imperials usually prefer to be wedded by a Maran priest.
The Great Faith of Stendarr: worship the god of mercy, charity, and well-earned luck, but also the god of justice. A double-faced spirit, patron to rulers, magistrates, judges, and the Imperial Legion, and thus representative of righteous rule and the given order, but also the protector of the weak and the small, a spirit of compassion. Priests of the Cult care deeply for the well-being of the common man, the worker, the soldier, and the beggar.
The Great Faith of Zenithar: spirit of work and commerce, the trader god. A cultivated, civilized spirit of merchants and the middle nobility, associated with wealth, labor, and communication. Though sedate, he is also a warrior god, concerned with safety and peace though oppression. Patron of traders, merchants, moneylenders, craftsmen, and all those who earn their bread through hard work. The Cult is very wealthy, involved in trade and in the defense of trade: they have their own caravans and merchant fleet, and finance a mercenary force in their defense. Their home is the temple-market of Leyawiin.
The Talos Cult: worship the eternal Emperor, protector of Mankind and the Empire, heir to Shezarr and the spark of creation, the Red Jewel of Conquest That Makes All Things Right. Born a man, Tiber Septim ascended to the ranks of the Divine through his creation of the Empire, which equals the creation of the world through sacrifice. The Empire is an expression of Divine Will on the mortal world. Patron of all Empire-related affairs, generally associated with the new and the bold, with human endeavor. The Talos Cult is very young compared to others, more dynamic and active, but less organized. Unlike the others, the Cult has its own missionary arms in Morrowind and Argonia. They have close ties to the Legion and the Heartlands.
The Imperial Cult: missionary branch of the Great Faiths, founded by Pelagius I as a means of controlling the Faiths and using them as a tool to civilize and pacify the provinces. Though the primary face of the Faiths in the east, the Imperial Cult has less influence in Cyrodiil. They operate from the Imperial Seminary in Tiberiad.
THE MAJOR CULTS
The Order of the Ancestor Moth“The Nibenese find the numinous in everything around them, and their different cults are too numerous to mention...”
One of the oldest and most respected Orders of Cyrodiil, who find their origin in the ancient traditions of ancestor-silk making and moth worship. Though once a very widespread cult, membership has gradually become more restrictive and now only entails the moth-monks and blind readers. They are entrusted with the caring and reading of the Elder Scrolls. Mainly present in the Imperial City, along with their monastery in the eastern Jerall Mountains.
The Cult of Heroes
Empire-sponsored temple dedicated to every saint and hero without distinction, thus guaranteeing the continued support of the numberless Saints of Cyrod. Mostly present in the Heartlands and Colovia. The cult's lasting popularity stems from the complacency of the Empire's merchants and dignitaries, who consider it more profitable to tithe to one cult representing all the saints than to a thousand lesser cults representing one saint each.
The Red Dome Templars
Extremist crusaders with close ties to the upper ranks of the Legion. They worship a supremacist interpretation of Talos in support of further military expansion and disenfranchisement of local governance in favor of an all-powerful Emperor. Based in the Ruby Dome Temples, shrines founded on places where Tiber Septim shed blood during his conquest of Cyrodiil. Their militant activities are unpopular with the Heartlands governors, and most Legion Templars are dispatched to unpopular places like Morrowind or Black Marsh.
The Emperor Zero Cult
Honors Cuhlecain, the king of Falkreath, as a prefiguration of righteous rule, exemplar of the wise general and ruler, and protector spirit of soldiers. Emperor Zero is invoked in affairs that will have lasting significance, at the start of long-lasting projects, or at the laying of a building's foundations. Esoteric cults connect him to Arkay and the Nordic Underworld, where he is said to hold court over the murdered dead. A spirit of antecedents, mentors and teachers. The cult is strong in northern Colovia, but practitioners and wayshrines can be found across Cyrodiil. The typical initiate is a warrior or mercenary.
The Al-Estia Cult
Worship of Saint Alessia, the liberator, Perrif, First of First, Mother of Cyrod. The most popular saint and god-hero of Cyrodiil. She is a universal saint, but most often invoked by the poor, the dispossessed, the downcast, the orphan and the slave. Though a symbol of he Empire, her role as patron of authority is supplanted by later Remanite and Septimite cults. In governmental affairs, she is invoked by those seeking to rule wisely and with compassion. To many, Alessia has become a symbol of popular revolt against evil and unwise rulers. Shrines to Alessia are common across Cyrodiil, but most prevalent along the Red Ring Road and in the Imperial City. Major cult centers are in Sancre Tor and in the Temple of the One, both places rumored to hold her final resting place. Circling the Temple of the One nine times is a common pilgrimage for the faithful.
The almost-extinct faith of the Alessian Order is still practiced by some Nibenese enclaves and jungle communities. Considered high heresy, such cults are persecuted with unusual vigor. As a result, they are very secretive and hostile towards outsiders. The theology of these groups is a far cry from the original Marukhati Edicts, most of whom are now lost. Some of the cults still hold on to scraps of holy writ in the incomprehensible Imga language, which they worship as sacred relics.
The Temple of the One
The very last of the great Alessian temples, and the only form of legal Marukhatism today. This temple, close to the heart of the Imperial City, plays an important role in the Al-Estia Cult and the various Emperor cults, being the location of both the Dragonfires and the supposed burial ground of Empress Alessia. These cults live in a state of uneasy truce with each other and with the priesthood of the One, who maintain the Temple. These priests espouse the ancient semi-heresy of the One, claiming that the different gods and spirits are only facets of a single, unknowable deity.
Other forms of Marukhatism and Numidianism persist in various other corners of Cyrodiil, especially among scholars. They are also associated with the Arcturian Heresy. These forms of worship are all considered illegal, and and heavily persecuted by both the Legion and by other cults such as the Red Dome Templars.
The Order of the Triplicate Sun
Minor religion associated with the Mages Guild. Worships the Divine Magnus Trichotomos, architect of the world, who is responsible for the existence of magic. Many mages join the cult while studying in the Arcane University. The cult perceives three sub-spirits in the figure of Magnus: Magnus Architect, who designed the world, Magnus Transmittal, who sends down life-giving energies, and Magnus Warden, who guards the gates to Aetherius and prepares the final resting place.
The Temple of the Missing
Worship of the ancient Nedic spirit of Shezarr-Who-Goes-Missing, patron of magic, discovery, and human endeavor. Shezar is an unstable image, and his worship suffers for it: the Temple of the Missing in the Imperial City is one of the few lasting cults dedicated to him, in part because they focus on his absence. Shezarr worship is also popular among the marginalized deepwood tribes. Shrines for Shezarr are still found in Sancre Tor and in the deep jungle.
The Esoteric Order of Shor
The Nord-inspired leadership cult of the Colovian nobility. Worship of Shor is exclusive to those of Colo-Nordic blood, and chapels can only be found in the cliff-fortresses of the Colovian lords. Shor rites play an important part in the secret traditions of the Colovian Code of Virtue. Virtually all Colovian nobility is a member of this cult.
The Order of the Breath-of-Kyne
Worship of the Bull-god occurs across Cyrodiil, but is especially prominent along the Niben river. Son of Kynareth and father of the first Imperial dynasty, Morihaus is considered a fertility symbol by the Niben rice farmers, a symbol of authority for the antiquated eastern governors, and a master of border stones and ancient demarcations. As a symbol of previous dynasties, his importance has waned under the reign of the Septims. The priesthood of Morihaus maintains a temple-complex in the sacred city of Moridiil, known for its minotaur prophets.
The Remanati Cult
A philosophy dedicated to the example of Reman Cyrodiil, the Worldly God. Adherents follow the example of Reman in thoughts and deeds, living uncompromising lives of violence and the will. Considered antiquated and somewhat perverse, organized priesthood has all but disintegrated save for a stronghold near the mausoleums of Sancre Tor. Remanists live in continuous pilgrimage across the sacred lands of Cyrodiil, often working as sellswords or mercenaries.
The Pelinati Cult
Traditional hero-cult of the god-hero Pelinal Whitestrake. Its outdated views and rabid anti-Elven propaganda have made it unpopular in the Heartlands. Based in their monastery in Pell's Gate.
The Quaith Cult
Worship of the spirit Qaith, a somewhat obscure ocean god of presumed Elven origin. Qaith is worshiped along the southern Topal Bay: his Temple of the Wave Fracture can be found east of Leyawiin, and small wave-shrines are prominent fixtures near the mouths of mangrove waterways. While lacking any evidence of appearance, it is said that Qaith is as the waves, old and still at one moment, young and restless the next.
The Senna Cult
Minor agricultural deity of the Valley of Altars. The deity Senna, is thought by some to be an offshoot of the older Kothri god Z’en. Senna is a god of labor, of the field, the mire and the mudpit, depicted as a four-armed man wielding one of his sequential hammers in each hand. Scholars associate him with Zenithar and Dagon, also deities of particular importance in this region.
The Cala Cult
Worship of the deity Cala, three-faced saint and mother-maiden-killer of the Cheydinhal area. Often understood to be a Nordic import or fracture-expression of Dibella-Mara-Kyne, the ruling triumvirate of the Nordic pantheon. The spirit of Cala was born from the flowers of the Niben to subdue the awful Dmath, demons of the jungle. To this end, she utilizes a vast arsenal of weapons forged for her by her servants, and nurtures and empowers her mortal children to fight in her name by proxy or by incarnation. The Cala cult is especially powerful around the Serican Woods, and holds considerable influence in Ato. She is also considered a patron spirit of weaponsmiths and concubines.
The Hora Cult
Worship of Hora, acroamatic many-eyed god of prophets, seers, and fortune tellers. Sometimes described as a system of prediction rather than a deity, Hora is understood to be a sentient pattern spirit of omen, prediction, and fortune-telling. Under its tutelage fall eight discrete methods of fortune-telling.
Sometimes called the "anti-temple" by its enemies, Temple Zero is a shadowy fraternity of scholars and sages dedicated to the finding and publishing of arcane verities. As their publications have often been highly critical of the Imperial authorities, this philosophy is currently being suppressed. Thought to be connected to the Arcturian heretics.
THE SAINTS OF CYROD
A Saint or Hero is a mortal being who has achieved apotheosis. This state can be achieved through the making of a Covenant with a Divine, living a perfect life in accordance to the moral law of the Mundus, or simply through overwhelming force of will regardless of purpose or effect.This is my best attempt at a listing of the pantheons and associated divine spirits of Tamriel's dominant cultures. This list is by no means complete (the Imperial City of Cyrodiil alone boasts a vast host of saints and holy spirits)...
Most saints are considered patrons of a certain Divine, though not all Saints are associated with them: some are patrons of other deities, or even completely unassociated. Many saints are known historical figures, such as Emperors. Saints are honored with petty shrines in public and private places, often along busy paths or crossroads. There are said to be thousands upon thousands of saints, and the Imperial City even has a market dedicated to the trading in saintly relics.
Currently, some of the most popular saints are Alessia, Pelinal, Un-Sar, Agdistra, Un-Sedr, Losha, Niisa, Al-Khered, Andrea, An-Tasha, Periv, Kantus, Kuric, Venir, Sten, Infrid, Marus, Rislav, Ithelsten, Wren, Naharine, Mukraeth, Potri, Mem-Sira, Un-Ta, Un-Lith, Delial, Kyma, Nen, Julia, Ra, Hestra, Goreath, Sed-Yenna, Shonni-Et, Pella, Adri, Kaladas, Jahn, Junia, Udran, Cirrha, Daum, Rosunius, Mors, Latalia, Horuscia, Heceri, Balyna, Osla, Amiel, Aka-Din, Elkhorst, Falx, Carvanus, Kintyra, Arianus, Somutus, Nille, Avita, Kaye, Uriel, Caius, Falced.
THE TOTEM SOCIETIES
“Restrictions against certain kinds of meat-eating, coupled with the sentiments of the blossoming animal cults, soon made agriculture and husbandry nearly impossible.”
These animal spirit cults are among the most prominent religious factions in the east. They act as political parties and union organizations, representing specific social castes, cities and professions. Arising from Marukhati suppression during the First Era, the Societies have remained perennially popular in the Nibenay, and continue to define much of the social life along the river. Worship of the totems is omnipresent in the lower-to-middle echelons of Nibenese society, and as such these Societies occupy a position of great importance in the political landscape of the east.
The Bull Society
Influential faction is associated with conservative landowners, middle-management dignitaries of the civil government, and the rural middle class. Prominent everywhere in the Niben, but especially in the villages around the Imperial City.
The Viper Society
Wealthy and influential faction associated with the Nibenese Battlemages. Its roots lie in the villages on the south-east bank of the Niben, where the Hierophants of old have their bulwarks.
The Moth Society
Ancient and venerable center of the wealthy Silk Weavers Guild. Popular in the major centers of the silk trade. Connections to the Ancestor Moth Cult, it is said that the Society is responsible for recruiting promising readers for the Elder Scrolls.
The Tiger Society
Illegal and reviled tiger worship, considered blasphemous by most. Infamous for their cannibalistic rituals and manhunts.
THE DAEDRIC CULTS
"It gives the Daedra Lords special pleasure to steal away from Shezarr and the Aedra the greatest and most ambitious mortals. 'Not only are you fools to mutilate yourselves,' gloat the Daedra Lords, 'But you cannot even keep the best pieces, which prefer the glory and power of the Daedra Lords to the feeble vulgarity of the mush-minded Aedra.'"
The Daedric Princes play a substantial role in the religious life of the Imperials, especially in the east. The Nedes worshiped Daedric spirits, as did the Ayleid. Most Imperials consider opposition to Daedra worship a provincial attitude, evidence of the backwards superstitions of other races. While the Imperials worship many spirits in many ways, they do not honor every Prince: like the Dunmer, their attention is mostly focused on spirits that appeal to their cultural needs. Important Princes have a major cults with territorial claims and political influence, though some Princes also have multiple minor cults.
Horned Negotiator Cult
Dedicated to Boethiah, Prince of Plots, enemy of lawful authority, and patron of betrayal. Boethite worship is discouraged by authorities, who like to cement their legitimacy by persecuting the enemy of rightful rule. Despite this, the sect is a politically influential faction with ties to the Curia and Heartlands politics. Boethites believe that treason, cruelty and the violent lie are unnatural impulses, gifts of Boethiah that allow men to attain greatness against the world's natural order as ordained by the Divines.
Little Key Cult
Clavicus, Child-God of the Morningstar, associated with the spheres of mockery, oath-breaking, and wish fulfillment. Imperials consider him a patron of merchants and traders, worshiped since the days of the early Nedes. Traditionally, marketplaces are marked with the sign of the dog. The Little Key Cult is a powerful merchant religion that exerts considerable influence over Cyrodiil's trade routes. They emphasize serenity through wealth.
Gilded Eye Cult
Hermaeus Mora, also known as the Gardener of Men, is instinctively associated with the eastern jungle. He is the hoarder of forbidden secrets, popular among mages and scholars. Hermaeotics are united in the Gilded Eye Cult, a spy network that considers the hoarding of knowledge a sacrament unto itself.
Quarter Palm Cult
Mehrunes Dagon, the Lord of Razors, is both an enemy of the Empire, as well as a Prince of Ambition and Energy, an inspiration for the audacious and a source of power for the disenfranchised. Before the Simulacrum, Dagon was worshiped by the respectable Shattered Mirrors Cult, which is now persecuted due to Tharn associations. The Quarter Palm Cult is a nihilistic death cult among the Niben Bay farmers, known to perform ritual strangulation.
Mythic Dawn Cult
Another Mehrunes Dagon cult in competition with the former. Esoteric and charismatic, the Mythic Dawn has made headway in replacing the Shattered Mirrors among the Empire's middle class and government agents.
Dark Brotherhood Cult
Mephala is an obscure goddess, associated with her spheres of sex and secret murder. While the Empire has officially outlawed all Mephalite cults, they are tolerated in the upper echelons of governance due to the need for assassination services. The Dark Brotherhood is mainly a business organization, with only a minority active in worship. Due to its controversial status, the Brotherhood hides behind another cult as a front: the sedate Latent Iris Cult.
Placid Drowner Cult
Imperials see little worthwhile in honoring Molag Bal, the King of Strife, and his worship is subject to a heavy stigma. Apart from vampiric ritual, the most popular Bal sect is the Placid Drowner Cult, based on the sailor folklore that claims Bal is the master of the deep ocean, and must be placated with sacrifice. Adherents maintain secret shrines in port cities and aboard ships, where the ritually drown their victims.
Black Dictates Cult
An unpopular Prince, Namira is associated with beggars, hermits, and ascetics. Her nihilistic teachings are anathema to Imperial materialism and capitalism. The Black Dictates Cult is a brotherhood of beggar-monks who proclaim existence to be a random and meaningless mutation from the primordial darkness, to which it will one day return.
Hollow Grain Cult
An offshoot of the Black Dictates Cult popular among merchants and politicians. Using ritual mantras and drugs, adherents of this cult deaden emotional response and empathy. Mainly used as a technique to advance social status.
False Worm Cult
Peryite, the Taskmaster, patron of accountants, archivists, clerks, and debt-collectors. Peryite is of special importance to the barristers and lawyers of Cyrodiil, whose guild is closely allied to the False Worm Cult. Humorless and myopic, the influence of the Peryisii is felt by all those who come in contact with the Empire's legal system.
Red Dancer Cult
Patron of debauchery and hedonism, Sanguine is one of the most popular Princes in the Imperial Province: the sign of the goat is a common marking for gambling dens and whorehouses. Some of the Emperors, like Reman or Antiochus, had a particular soft spot for him, and it is said that the lower halls of the Emperor's Palace still hold a shrine in his honor. His influence is strong in the Imperial City, where the influential Red Dancer Cult organizes the annual Crendali Festivals, which are accompanied by special celebratory fights in the Arena.
Derelict Mysteries Cult
In a society based on premises of law, speechcraft, and social standing, the effects of madness have a special significance. Sheogorath, protector and instigator of insanity, is worshiped by a collective of artists, poets, drunks, wrecks, and social outcasts, a refuge for those who have lost their social status through corruption, accident or incompetence. The adherents of Sheogorath maintain good relations with the Order of Mara, and often provide donations to her asylums and hospitals.
Dried Lotus Cult
Vaernima, prince of Omen and Dream, considered a protector of ferrymen and gondoliers. Thought to be a fortune spirit in the Nibenay, who can be invoked to ward off ill fortune or wish it upon another. The doctors of the Dried Lotus Cult have a monopoly on the trade in legal narcotics: shops, boats and market stalls run by Vaernimites can be found in every Nibenese city, selling any kind of sacred drug imaginable.