The Religion of the Nords

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Tristior
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The Religion of the Nords

Post by Tristior » Fri Sep 01, 2017 9:59 am

Right! This here is Tristior's much-pondered proposal for the Nordic religion.

Disclaimer
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  • Firstly, this is an attempt to codify the cultural religiosity of the Nords, for the sake of enriching Skyrim: Home of the Nords and other Project Tamriel works. This is about what the Nords think Kyne is, for example, not what Kyne actually is.
  • Secondly, the story beats below are not intended to be The Official Nord Creation-Myth™. They are a rough outline of the recurring stories and key points in Nordic mythology, from which poems, stories and religious beliefs can be built - they form the trunk from which the literary branches and leaves we see in-game grow.
  • Thirdly, I have worked extremely hard to square what’s written here with what has been written before, both officially and unofficially, about the Nordic pantheon and belief system. The canon of the more recent games - Skyrim and ESO in particular - has been demoted to ideas-stash, so for example Alduin is no longer the literal, killable son of Akatosh. Everything written prior to the story-beats was written with close reference to TES lore, and after that things were given more poetic licence (but are still consistent). Many contradictions with existing lore will be cases of scholarly errancy (in-game) but if there’s a mistake that you think is particularly egregious, please point it out.
  • Lastly, there are appendices down the bottom regarding everything from language choice to sources to my competing ideas on a certain topic. Check them out.
Character: The Nordic religion is far from a unified, codified set of beliefs. Instead, it is a series of poems, fairy tales, epics and parables that exemplify Nordic values and tell the adventures of their gods and heroes. The Nords believe that the world is cyclical, and that ultimately Alduin the World-Eater will awaken and end this kalpa, whereupon Shor’s wives will gather up the pieces that he has secreted away and remake the world whilst Alduin sleeps off the meal of the last. In Nord mythology, the Hirser (good gods) are always trying to prevent Alduin from awakening, and Shor’s avatars always oppose the machinations of the suicidal, world-hating elves. Despite this, Nords acknowledge that the world’s end is inevitable, and that Alduin will eventually awaken despite the efforts of gods and mortals alike (as MK says, “things are likely to turn out badly, and it will probably be caused by some foreigner.”)

Key Characteristics (conveyed in-game):
  • The religion itself is a blend of Norse, Hindu and Tibetan Buddhist beliefs, and Nordic culture should visually reflect this (with subtlety).
  • Pessimistic resignation to the world’s ending (but also anticipation of its rebirth) is a key feature of Nordic religion. Nords will be inclined to see events as cyclical and finite.
  • Nords are not given to regimented or ostentatious forms of worship, instead preferring to invoke or propitiate their gods privately. Most families will have a murti (representation) of their chosen god(s) by the hearth, to which the matriarch will give offerings. Priests will conduct their ceremonies in places of significance to their deity.
  • Instead of a codified set of beliefs, Nords compose stories and songs about their gods and heroes that are passed down through each generation. These tend to be wildly divergent (if not outright contradictory) tellings of the same events and characters, especially from region to region.
  • Although it was a later introduction, Nords view the gods of the elves (and thus, partly the Nine Divines) as hostile demons that killed their creator and constantly plot against them. This makes particularly-religious Nords hostile to elves and foreign religions.
Nordic Cultural Eras
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These are the different periods of cultural, religious and political change within Skyrim. They should influence the kind of works we create, to believably tie Nordic culture to Nordic history. Note: I will term each cultural era CE1, CE2, etc. to differentiate it from standard historical eras - that way we can change the names of each period without getting confused.
CE1 - Atmoran/Totemic Period (ME? - ME?)
•Period of simplistic animal nature spirits (fox, dragon, hawk)
•No written records survive, but oral traditions continue as animal fables
•Lasted past the settlement of Skyrim and the Return

CE2 - Rippling Kingdoms Period (ME? - 1E139)
•Period of expansion and war with the Snow Elves
•Poetic cycle begins, especially tales of mighty mythic kings and great heroes
•Nords begin to anthropomorphise their totems, Nordic pantheon emerges
•Dragon Cult gains popularity, eschatological teachings conflict with nobility
•Various avatars of Shor emerge to found and then abandon Nord kingdoms
•Elf-demons/adversary gods are first introduced to the pantheon, encouraged by the rantings of Shor’s avatars

CE3 - Old Empire Period (1E139 - 1E401)
•King Harald drives out the Snow Elves and suppresses the Dragon Cult, leading to the founding of Skyrim
•First period of record-keeping and historical inquiry
•Nordic mythology is codified, and elements such as the death of Shor and the founding of Sovngarde are introduced
•Tales of conquest feature prominently

CE4 - Broken Sky Period (1E401 - 1E2703)
•Skyrim is fractured at this point, with many squabbling lords and kingdoms
•Poetry and mythology from this period is noticeably darker and more esoteric, focusing on both internal strife of the gods and the crimes of the elf-demons (e.g. Shor, Son of Shor)
•The Alessian Order begins to push out traditional Nordic religion, especially in the south and east (western Skyrim is largely Direnni at this point)
•Wulfharth appears again and again as a war-leader, exhorting the Nords to reclaim their empire and especially Shor’s Heart from Morrowind. He leads the attack against the First Council and for a century attempts to unite the warring Nord holds. Following his coronation as High King, he reverses the losses against the Direnni and purges the Alessians, but is unable to reclaim the First Empire and Skyrim fades from power
•Following the defeat by the First Council, Jurgen Windcaller founds the Way of the Voice as a means of studying and perfecting the thu’um (which was previously seen by Nords as innate)

CE4.5 - Middle Dawn (1E1300 - 1E2300)


CE5 - Imperial Protectorate/Interregnum Period (1E2703 - 2E855)
•Skyrim is peacefully integrated into the Reman Empire, and Imperial (particularly Colovian) culture begins to assert influence
•Less emphasis on heroes and individualism in Nordic storytelling; the gods become more removed and less personable, and Sovngarde falls away from cultural consciousness

CE6 - Talos Period (2E855 - 3E427)
•Although they initially resisted his expansion, the Nords became enthusiastic supporters of Cuhlecain and Tiber Septim (especially as Wulfharth’s influence spread and the “Nordic Talos” myth grew in popularity)
•Seeing the Septim Empire as a restoration of the First Empire (won by Nordic conquest and led by a supposed Nord) this period saw a restoration of traditional Nordic religion and the poetic cycle.
The Dead Gods
Shor, The Fox (Lorkhan)
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Killed by the elven gods who are gripped by an omnicidal desire to destroy the world forever (the circumstances of this murder vary from telling to telling). Rules over Sovngarde, the only part of the world that remains after Alduin’s feasting and thus the only hope of lasting immortality for mortals. It was Shor who drove the first post into Aurbis to build the great hall that became Mundus, and thus Nords honour him as their creator and their champion. However, since his death has severely curtailed his influence on events both metaphysical and mundane, he is not the head of the Nordic pantheon. From Sovngarde, he hoards “bits and bobs” of the world to remake it in the new cycle, as well as the souls of worthy Nords with which to repopulate it. His greater war, however, is with the Elven gods who killed him, and he is able to periodically send avatars to Nirn in order to counter their machinations (the extension of each kalpa is thus largely left to his still-living wives).
Tsun, The Bear (Zenithar)
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Shield-Thane of Shor, brother of Stuhn and Nordic god of worthy trials. Killed defending Shor from the elven gods at the beginning of time, and now holds the gate of Sovngarde. Tsun permits only those Nords who prove themselves worthy by bringing news from the front (in some tellings, he challenges them to a duel or wrestling-match) and eagerly awaits the next kalpa so that he may briefly remember life and lead the Nordic souls from Sovngarde into the new world. He is also a beserker, the patron of beserkers, and some stories state that he was punished with his eternal guard duty for the assault of Shor’s bed-wife, Dibella - he longs to join the Battle but can only escape his station when Stuhn turns up to take his place.
The Hearth Gods
Kyne, The Hawk (Kynareth)
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War-Widow of Shor and Nordic goddess of the storm. Leader of the Nordic pantheon and people, Kyne is the savage defender of this world and her fury is felt in both thunder and lightning; Nords will generally seek shelter during a storm, as they know that her wrath is neither focused nor fair. Kyne is the centre of Nordic religious practice, revered as the mother of humanity and often as the Sky itself. Her temples are built of stone on the peaks of mountains, home to priestesses and their families but open to all who would propitiate the Sky-Mother. Within the mythic cycle, Kyne is a war-leader who defends her home and children from the predations of elves and demons alike - often aiding heroic Nords in battle or turning nature’s fury against their enemies.
Mara, The Wolf (Mara)
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Brood-Widow of Shor and Nordic goddess of the family. Serves as Kyne’s handmaiden and a gentler authority for the Nords, though she sometimes weeps for the memory of dead Shor. Mostly Mara acts in the interest of harmony and cooperation, invoked by diplomats and the leaders of great enterprises, though in war she is a disciplined and skilled fighter. Her temples are the homes of important witches, who act as the advisors and conciliators of Nordic rulers, and trusted ears for the worries of the common folk.
Dibella, The Moth (Dibella)
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Bed-Widow of Shor and Nordic goddess of love and beauty. Dibella was by far the youngest of Shor’s wives and the least enamoured of him; instead, she focused her affections upon the Nords themselves and taught them the arts of music, feasting and sexuality. Her temples are the homes of important wives, who act as her priestesses and who may choose to impart her teachings at their discretion. In the mythic cycle she is rarely an active participant, preferring to observe or direct her attention elsewhere.
The Testing Gods
Orkey, The Snake (Arkay/Malacath)
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A heathen interloper who brought mortality to the Nords back in Atmora, since at the beginning of time the Nords lived as long as elves. The sinister Orkey whispered into the ear of sleeping Alduin, who in a dream robbed the Nords of all but six of their years (he made them all children, or gave them a life-span of six years?). The death-dream of Shor did battle with the maw-dream of Alduin and, though the World-Eater cannot be beaten in a fair battle, he was able to return many of the Nords’ missing years.
Herma Mora, The Woodland Man (Hermaeus Mora)

Dagon, The Leaper Demon King (Mehrunes Dagon)

Molag Bal, The Mighty Lion of Evening

The Twilight Gods
Alduin, The Dragon
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Alduin is venerated on the winter solstice by ceremonies at ancient Dragon Cult temples, where offerings are made to keep him asleep for one more year. Alduin is also the source of many common superstitious practices before any event of significance.

The World-Eater, the Nordic god of finitude, destruction and rebirth. Although there are many permutations of his nature in Nordic thought, Alduin is consistently portrayed as the most powerful and implacable god in existence - far more a force of nature than anthropomorphic being. It is Alduin who defines the length of the kalpa, and thus is universally revered by the Nords. He is rarely invoked, however, since mortals prefer not to disturb this sleeping destroyer god - indeed, much of the Nordic mythic cycle is concerned with the efforts of gods and mortals alike to prevent his awakening, and to extend this kalpa just a little bit longer.

Different places, cultures and periods of history have depicted Alduin in different ways; these include:
  • The most consistently popular is simply as the beginning and end of the world: an immutable cycle that is simply the way of things. In this way of thinking, Alduin is depicted as a broken circle - all that exists will vanish, and all that happens will cease. The dragon does not eat its tail.
  • Before the reign of King Harald Hand-Free, in the first century of the first era, the Dragon Cult came to prominence. Almost monotheistic in their veneration, they viewed Alduin as a moral force who would cleanse the world of impurity and suffering and usher in a pure, newborn kalpa. They rapidly fell from favour due to their enthusiasm for human sacrifice, and today mostly exist as small groups of ascetics who worship Alduin’s ability to destroy suffering and stagnation (both at the end of time and in the present day).
  • Several works personalise Alduin; mostly more lighthearted works that make him an irascible, sometimes-jovial spirit who does his duty at the appointed time and then returns to sleep.
Talos, The Dragonborn God
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Talos' totem is the newest, but is everywhere -- he is the Dragonborn Conquering Son, the first new god of this cycle, whose power is consequently unknown, so the Nords bless nearly everything with his totem, since he might very well be the god of it now, too. Yes, as first of the Twilight Gods, this practice might seem contradictory, but that's only because, of all the gods, he will be the one that survives in whole into the next cycle.

Nords are not entirely sure of what to make of Talos. As an incredibly recent addition to the Nordic mythic cycle, Talos has not yet settled into a common understanding and instead is held to many different interpretations by different religious traditions. These include, in roughly increasing order of complexity:
  • That he is nonsense
  • That he is Imperial nonsense
  • That he is an aspect of Shor
  • That Tiber Septim was an avatar of Shor, whom the Imperials (incorrectly, self-aggrandisingly) deified upon death
  • That Tiber Septim - as a Dragonborn - is an avatar of Alduin, and that Talos is not a distinct god but at most some new aspect of the Dragon. What exactly this means is unclear… did he conquer Tamriel in preparation for its consumption? Are his conquests what is meant by “World-Eater”? Does Talos herald the end of the kalpa? Perhaps Talos is the one to finally rouse Alduin - it would certainly explain the Imperial veneration of Akatosh.
  • That Tiber Septim was Shor fully reborn into this world, and that after his death he reclaimed his full godhood as Talos. The implications of this are similarly unclear… does Shor/Talos now have the power to defeat Alduin at the end of the kalpa and thus extend the life of this world? With Shor reborn, do true Nords owe unthinking loyalty to the Empire he founded? If Shor has taken his place as head (give or take) of the Nine Divines, does this mean that the Imperial Cult is actually on to something?
  • That Talos is the avatar of Tiber Septim - that his might was such that he forced himself into Aetherius and took the form of a god, rather than the much more common reverse. Similar to the Walking Ways, but simpler and more superstitious. Similar to the previous entries, what he chooses to do now is a subject for debate.
  • That Talos is, as Michael Kirkbride states here, a new god - the first of the Twilight Gods, who heralds the end of the kalpa but will survive into the new one. Is this a natural part of the cosmic cycle, or a(n un)welcome change of events?
    That one of the above is correct, and that the sacred mysteries of the Talos Cult are how he will maintain his Empire and the primacy of man over mer. Very popular in the military, as in other provinces.
  • That he was a Dragonborn human who, with assistance, was able to soul-trap an avatar of Shor and ultimately mantle the Dead God to become him again, old-but-new. Perhaps he can even realise Shor’s plan to defeat the World-Eater and extend this cycle (but probably not).
What is clear is that Talos means many things to many people, and thus it is easy to see why “the Nords bless nearly everything with his totem, since he might very well be the god of it now, too”. He does not, however, have an overabundance of stories and poetry written about him, being both a new god and an Imperial import (however appealing and worthy of worship he may be). Therefore, his appearances in Nordic mythology are limited and his impact upon the culture is mostly folkloric and speculative. It is also part of an oral tradition rather than a literary one - ubiquity of the Dragonborn totem notwithstanding.
The Missing Gods
Stuhn, The Whale (Stendarr)
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Shield-Thane of Shor and brother of Tsun, who wandered out of the Nordic pantheon and became Stendarr. When Shor and Tsun were killed by the Elven gods, Stuhn was dogpiled and captured instead, and tortured and worked and ransomed and raped, and from this he learned the value of taking prisoners in war. He brought this knowledge back to the good gods and the Nords, but was met with with vehement ambivalence and so Stuhn walked away from the north and into the role of Stendarr, god of mercy. At other times, he wanders into Sovngarde and takes his brother’s place for a time, allowing Tsun to joyously join the Battle for a brief time. However, he always lets in any souls without testing them first, and swims away before Tsun can return and punish him.
Jhunal, The Owl (Julianos)
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The Clever-Man of Shor’s tribe and Nordic god of language, mathematics and esoteric knowledge. The architect of Mundus, who hid many things within it for the Sky-Children to find, and who became obsessive and withdrawn after the death of Shor. Has now vanished from the Nordic pantheon, and his worship has faded now that people use language for communication rather than a deeper understanding of the world; there are, however, hermetic orders who continue to study and pursue these rune-truths. He engages in a clandestine war of occlusion with Herma-Mora, one perpetually hiding what the other seeks.
Story Beats/Recurring Themes + Events
  1. Shor creates the world from the pieces of the old.
  2. Tsun leads the Nordic spirits out of Sovngarde to repopulate the world.
  3. The gods and their people adventure together and make war on the elf-demons.
  4. Shor and Tsun are killed by the elf-demons. They journey through the underworld until they found Sovngarde in a place that Alduin will not eat.
  5. The world exists (basically in its current form) - Shor hoards Nordic spirits and bits of the world. Gods and mortals do their best to maintain the cycle and keep Alduin sleeping, elf-demons do the opposite.
  6. Alduin inevitably awakens and devours the world.
  7. Back to 1.
Commonalities of Nordic worship
  • The Hearth Gods are revered through representations (see murti) kept over the fireplace. These are often wooden carvings of the family’s chosen deity, or a carved skull that acts as a divine conduit.
  • Women are the religious leaders in any family, and the ones who provide offerings. Female priests are far more common, and male priests will tend to present themselves as female in their religious duties (this is not considered unusual)
  • Philosophically-inclined Nords, in a Buddhist/Stoic way, tend to reject rumination or attachment to particular emotions - since mortal considerations (except reaching Sovngarde) are always finite, any feeling will ultimately pass.
  • Clever-men (traditional Nordic mages) cultivate a tulpa or “thoughtform” which is a mental projection into Aetherius or Oblivion. In this way they are able to visit the Underworld and even (supposedly) Sovngarde. These thoughtforms will grow to become distinct from their thinker, acting as an advisor or conscience, and are related to (but distinct from) the Psijic Endeavour.
  • Certain expressions and invocations are popular in Nordic speech, e.g. “The Dragon does not eat its tail” - similar to “this too shall pass” or similar expressions of finitude.
Appendices
Notes of language
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Based on “Hrafnir’s Languages - Nordic”, these are the various options I proposed for naming conventions here. “Hirser” and “Skuldydrar” are what I went with, but you may have other preferences.
Nordic god names:
  • Radagode - guiding gods
  • Valdathyrrar - authority spirits
  • Vardathyrrar - watch-over spirits
  • Fultlav - birthless
  • Ragnar - gods
  • Bryggthyrrar - maintain-spirits
  • Bryggode - maintain-gods
  • Hirser - beams
Elven god/Shor-killer names
  • Skuldydrar - sin-monsters
  • Udyrthyrrar - monster-spirits
  • Siflavydrar - loveless-monsters
  • Skuldthyrrar - sin-spirits
Still need Nordic names for:
  • Anu/Padomay
  • Aurbis/Mundus
  • Nirn
  • Skyrim (?)
Timeline of Nordic History
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Merethic Era
  • Founding of Saarthal
  • Night of Tears
  • Ysgramor’s Return
First Era
  • 1E0-139 - Shor’s avatars found kingdoms
  • 1E68 - Last refugees from Atmora
  • 1E139-143 - King Harald purges Snow Elves, founds Skyrim
  • 1E221 - Death of Harald, founding of the Moot
  • 1E240 - King Vrage conquers Morrowind and High Rock, founds First Empire
  • 1E242 - Alessian Uprising
  • 1E358 - Direnni Hegemony take lands from Skyrim
  • 1E369 - Death of Borgas leads to War of Succession/end of the First Empire
  • 1E401 - Skyrim loses holdings in High Rock and Morrowind
  • 1E416 - Wulfharth leads invasion to recapture Morrowind
  • <1E420 - Skyrim loses holdings in Cyrodiil
  • 1E477 - Direnni Hegemony conquers western Skyrim
  • 1E500 - Wulfharth becomes High King
  • 1E660 - Mauloch defeated, Sun’s Death
  • 1E2703 - Akaviri invasion defeated, Skyrim made protectorate of Reman
  • 1E2704 - The Reach split between High Rock and Skyrim
  • 1E2804 - The Winterhold Rebellion against the Reman Empire
Second Era
  • 2E283-320 - Rebellions against the Akaviri Potentate
  • 2E430 - Interregnum begins
  • 2E852 - Nord/Breton forces defeated by Talos and Cuhlecain
  • 2E855 - Nords continue to resist Tiber Septim
  • 2E896 - Tiber Septim crowned Emperor
Third Era
  • 3E81 - Potema Septim marries King Mantiarco of Solitude
  • 3E121-127 - War of the Red Diamond
Existing Works within the Nordic Cycle
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  • The Seven Fights of Aldudagga (CE2)
  • Shor, Son of Shor (CE4)
  • Five Songs of King Wulfharth (CE4)
  • Arcturian Heresy (CE6)
  • Songs of Return (CE2)
Proposed Works
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  • A Nord-specific primer for the Imperial Cult, clearing up misconceptions (such as that Imperials worship Orkey the Snake) and laying out a Skyrim-flavoured take on worship of the Nine Divines. (CE6)
  • A Revelations-style book that outlines one interpretation of Alduin’s awakening and the end of the kalpa. A good place to talk about eschatological stuff like Sovngarde hoarding the world, Shor ushering in the next cycle and Tsun leading the souls of Sovngarde to populate the new world. (CE3)
  • Nordic creation stories (see below) (CE3)
  • Mysteries of the Talos Cult. Pretty inscrutable beliefs on the war-god Talos and what is demanded of his followers. (CE6)
  • Shoranishad - tales of adventures of Shor's avatars. (CE3)
  • Hymns of the Aldudagga - songs from the Dragon Cult (CE2)
  • History of pre-First Empire Nordic religion (CE3)
  • Nordic Vedas - codification of Nordic religious belief. Foundational text. (CE3)
  • New Nordic Vedas - reframing of Nordic gods more in line with Eight Divines; aloof and impersonal. (CE5)
Controversies to be resolved
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The summaries of the pantheon are what I wrote first, based on Michael Kirkbride’s document “On the Nords’ Totemic Religion” and other (semi-)canon sources, and thus probably hew closest to what has already been established. My story-beats are an attempt to sort this into a cohesive mythology - one that hits recurring TES themes like the Monomyth and enantiomorphs - but as a result they stray a little further. Some things that I’m still questioning:
  • Do the gods die at the end of the kalpa, or do they outlive it and build the next? Canon sources differ. My story-beats can be modified reasonably easily to accommodate either one (though I do prefer the gods surviving).
  • Will the gods die at the end of this kalpa, even if they generally survive? Is Shor, being already dead, doomed to always remain dead/inside Sovngarde?
  • How long is a kalpa? Are some of the inhabitants of Sovngarde left over from other cycles? (I don’t like this)
  • How influential is Shor now that he is dead, culturally and metaphysically? How much control does he have over Shezarrines?
  • Where are Sovngarde and the Underworld? How did Shor establish it? What does it do, exactly? What kind of battle is fought there?
  • I’ve painted the gods and Nords as wanting to extend the kalpa (even if they are currently resigned to failure). Is this contrary to the pessimistic fatalism of the Nords? Does it place too much emphasis on this cycle, and de-emphasise the significance of past cycles?
Last edited by Tristior on Sat Nov 11, 2017 3:19 am, edited 4 times in total.

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Tristior
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Re: The Religion of the Nords

Post by Tristior » Fri Sep 01, 2017 10:05 am

An example of a Nordic creation story, using key points from TES lore.

The Monomyth
The Sideways Shore, where the desolate, unchanging land Is-Below is endlessly assailed by the roiling, cruel sea of Is-Not-Above. Also called the Sky. All gods and demons (bar Alduin) arrived here, walking up or sailing down.

Enantiomorph/Creation
Alduin was already present on the Shore when the gods arrived and would not let them stay. While the dragon slept, Shor persuaded all the gods to raise a world-hall in the Sky, which would shield them from the chaos of Anu and Padomay’s conflict. When Alduin awoke, he grew angry at the disobedience of Shor and devoured/burned the hall and its inhabitants, then slept again.

Kalpa cycles
This recurred over and over, with the mortal followers of the gods dying in droves as each world-hall was consumed upon Alduin’s awakening, until the gods capitulated and departed in disgrace to live naked and shivering on the bleak Shore. All except the clan of Shor, who understood that it was good to build the world-hall and so persisted.

Creation of Mundus
Shor drove the first post of this mighty world-hall into the Shore-Called-Sky, and this is the Throat of the World. His first wife, Kyne, summoned the wood from which it was built and so has mastery over nature. His second wife, Mara, made the little Sky-Children who grew into Nords, so that the hall would not be cold and empty but instead ring with the sounds of life. His third wife, Dibella, filled the hall with love and beauty, so that the children would know joy and be happy with their family. Shor’s clan thus became the Hirser - “the beams” that hold up the world.

Shor’s ruse
Shor had also watched Alduin’s world-eating and devised a cunning trick to stop him eating this one. He had been secretly hiding bits and bobs from the previous world-halls all along, keeping them in places that the World-Eater did not look for food, and now he put his plan into action. First, he lashed the finished hall together with the sleeping dragon’s tail, so that when Alduin awoke and began his devouring he would necessarily eat himself first. This is how the passage of time became interwoven with Mundus. Although this would be but a momentary distraction, Shor would then be able to switch it for a false hall made from the crumbs of all the old ones and thus deceive Alduin. The dragon would either eat so much that he exploded (as in Aldudagga) or have so much to eat that he ate forever, or maybe simply ate his fill on the crumbs and once again fell asleep. And thus the Hirser’s world-hall and the Sky-children would endure (maybe forever, maybe simply for twice as long).

Shor’s death
However, seeing this the shivering mortal children of the other gods clamoured to go into the hall, because they were trapped and exposed upon the Sideways Shore where the crashing waves of Is-Not beat endlessly upon bleak coastline of Is. These gods were jealous of Shor’s cunning and the strength of the Hirser clan, and so when their children began to curse them for refusing, they flew into a rage and resolved to destroy the world-hall of Mundus so that all would live in misery like them. All of Shor’s clan - his wives, his shield-thanes Tsun and Stuhn, the clever-man Jhunal - met them on the field of battle and cast them back time and again, but at every clash the Sky-Children suffered and died in great numbers. In despair at their suffering, Shor bade his wives usher them back into Mundus whilst he, flanked by his shield-thanes, held off their enemies. Though they claimed many, the heroes were finally overcome by the horde, who in that moment became the Skuldydrar - the “sin-monsters” - and their wretched mortal followers became the elves. Bloodied and aware of the magnitude of their transgression, the Skuldydrar fled, taking with them the heart of Shor as a trophy and the unconscious Stuhn as their prisoner.

Fate of Mundus
With Shor and his shield-thanes dead, the remaining Hirser and their children knew that they could not stop Alduin when he awoke. Mundus had been doomed by the cruel and fragile vanity of the Skuldydrar, and so the clan of Shor resolved to die gloriously in the end and live righteously in the meantime, extending the time until Alduin awakes and thus the life of the world. The Skuldydrar and their followers, driven mad by their sins, now seek only to rouse Alduin and achieve what they could not do themselves - to burn the world-hall of Mundus to the ground alongside all those who dwell within.

The New Pantheon
In the world-hall of Mundus, the three wives of Shor took the now-vacant places at the warmest part of the hearth. Kyne, as the first wife of Shor, took up his mantle and became the ruler of the Sky. Mara, as the second wife, became her handmaiden, though she wept from time to time for lost Shor. Dibella, as the last and youngest wife, held the least regard to the dead god and instead turned her attentions to inspiring and pleasuring the Sky-Children, for her talents were in song and stories and sexual gratification.

The Founding of Sovngarde
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Infragris
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Re: The Religion of the Nords

Post by Infragris » Fri Sep 01, 2017 12:30 pm

This is all very promising material. A couple of thoughts:
  • About Talos being "an aspect of Shor (possibly a Colovian attempt to begrudgingly acknowledge their heritage)" doesn't quite fit, because the Colovian nobility still worships Shor - or at least, a Colovian version of him. Colovians tend to be very enthusiastic about their "noble Nordic legacy", so the average Nord would probably feel like they acknowledge their heritage a bit too much.
  • Stuhn: seems good, though it must be noted that Stendarr also exists in some Elven pantheons. He is not purely of Nordic origin, in other words.
  • Jhunal: see my notes on him in the discord: use of mathematics in seafaring and the different uses of the runic script.
  • About the language: I'm not sure if giving the different groups of gods nordic names is useful or worthwhile, especially since the original texts don't bother with that. I'm not inherently opposed to it, though (although I think Hirser lack a certain weight to it). I would not devise a Nordic name for Kalpa, though: Nordic texts are almost the only ones that speak of the concept, so we can reasonable assume that Kalpa is a Nordic word. It also reinforces the pseudo-hindu/tibetan influences of Nordic culture, which are otherwise neglected.
  • Talos Cult: this is going to get very confusing very fast. There's already the popular Talos Cult/Citizenship Cult in Cyrodiil, which already is mentioned as an Imperial institution in vanilla Morrowind. They represent the orthodoxy of the Imperial worship of Talos/Tiber Septim. I would advise you to find a different name for the Nordic cult.
  • For your questions about the death/survival of the gods throughout kalpas, I would look to Shor, Son of Shor for the most reliable answers. In my opinion, the difference between death and life is fluid in Nordic mythology, and not something the Nords themselves would be preoccupied with. Shor's death as a result of him founding he world is part of the beginning of each kalpa, so it stands to reason that he is alive before the founding of the world.
  • A kalpa, in hindu mythology, is 4.32 billion years. I would assume the Nordic kalpa to be something similarly long.
  • Monomyth/Enantiomorph: this should, in my opinion, never presented as the beginning of the kalpa cycle procession. The Nordic worldview is very clear in that it sees no beginning or end to the cycle. The arrival of the gods according to this scheme sounds like an initial arrival, which runs counter to this. Only if the gods' arrival happens again and again within the kalpa framework would this work. In general, my opinion is that the average mythology should not invest much attention in the monomyth framework: it is a gnostic, obscure concept, a trace mythology that is subconsciously present in most other cultures. The biggest mistake I've seen other creation stories make is that they try to make this framework explicit. I think you're on the right path here, though, so don't worry about it.

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Re: The Religion of the Nords

Post by Tristior » Fri Sep 01, 2017 1:59 pm

Wow! I appreciate your giving me so much to work with so quickly. It was actually your writing on all things cultural over at Province: Cyrodiil that inspired me to get involved with the project at all, so this is pleasing. Going through what you've written here:
- even if I've misread the Colovians, are we still happy with Skyrim Nords sometimes viewing Talos as a Shor-aspect (i.e. not a god in his own right)?
- Stuhn: indeed. My thinking here was down to what I said about "cultural beliefs" rather than fact - why would ancient Nordic saga-smiths care or even know what gods the elves worshipped?
- Jhunal I rushed, to post him here today. I did like the runic/seafaring angle as well, and will work to incorporate it.
- I found with the writing that I needed SOME collective names for the different groups of gods, whether it's a new word like "Hirser" or English words like "Shor's clan". My other favourite was Bryggode for the sound of it, but I liked the analogy of Hirser = house-beams too much (it also sounded a bit like "Aesir" from Norse mythology)
- Happy to keep "kalpa" as the word, then. I hadn't picked up on those influences on the Nords, and will have to reread everything with that in mind.
- Talos Cult. Not attached to the name whatsoever - I was just trying to tie it to the one in Morrowind. Figured it was a sort of Mithraic-mysteries kind of deal.
- Regarding the gods and kalpas, hmm. Hmm. I'll sleep on it.

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Re: The Religion of the Nords

Post by Infragris » Fri Sep 01, 2017 5:45 pm

Talos as a Shor aspect is definitely a valid interpretation. It's even fairly popular among Imperials, who see Talos as the inheritor or replacement of old Shezarr in the pantheon (possibly tied to the way in which Tiber "replaced" Cuhlecian/Emperor Zero).

Tibetan influences are perhaps more fanon than actual lore, but they provide a more interesting take on the Nords than the viking-tude. The cyclical time notion is obviously an important part of it, but also the veneration of what is essentially a destructor god (compare with Kali, for example) and the fact that their environment, and thus physical culture, is quite similar.

The cyclical time thing ties into the gods' mortality in multiple ways. In real-life cultures that believe in cyclical instead of linear time, we see that this concept is pervasive and applied on many different levels (reincarnation being but on of them). Knowing Nordic "laziness" when it comes to their storytelling traditions, they might simply not care enough to keep their facts straight, and tell stories featuring living gods doing alive things long after they are "supposed" to be dead.

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Re: The Religion of the Nords

Post by Tristior » Mon Sep 18, 2017 2:38 pm

Alright, I've given this a big revision and would appreciate some feedback. I've also tried to show how this would manifest in-game, besides in books and other exposition dumps. We probably need some assets (e.g. religious carvings) if we want to start depicting Nordic religion in the areas we've already built.

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Re: The Religion of the Nords

Post by worsas » Mon Sep 18, 2017 4:08 pm

One of MK's texts contained a reference to a nordic version of Magnus, Magnar. What is with the alternate nordic name of Talos, Ysmir? Is that still of a meaning somehow?

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Re: The Religion of the Nords

Post by Infragris » Tue Sep 19, 2017 12:00 am

Ysmir would fall into the broad category of the "Nordic hero-cults", which are said to give a counter-current to the dominant secularism of the Empire (Talos Cult is also an example, though). These charismatic god-heroes are a concept attributed to Nordic culture specifically. Ysmir is also considered the "Nordic Name of Kings" according to the PGE 1.

In the Talosian cults, Ysmir is one of the many aspects of the Many-Faced Talos (similar to Hjalti, Arctus, Wulfhart, Tiber Septim, Nordic Talos, Southern Talos, Legion Talos, etc who all represent different parts of Talos), dedicated to questing heroes. Likely the patron of Talos' time wandering the northern wilderness, defeating his foes and climbing Snow-Throat. Varieties of Faith names Ysmir as one of the members of the modern Nordic pantheon, "The Nordic aspect of Talos. He withstood the power of the Greybeards' voices long enough to hear their prophecy. Later, many Nords could not look on him without seeing a dragon." So Ysmir is Talos, but somehow even more Nordic. Or something like that.

Ysmir might be talked of by bards or storytellers as separate from the Talos oversoul, and some Nords might even worship him as such. In Cyro-Nordic cities such as Artemon or Bruma, the Ysmirathi sub-cult has a select following.

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Re: The Religion of the Nords

Post by Infragris » Sun Oct 01, 2017 12:37 am

Small but possibly important note: someone claimed that the Nords and/or their gods survive each kalpic cycle by leaping ahead to the next one with the aid of Kyne. Not sure on what this is based, but it seems like a valid concept. Also ties in to the concept of the "leaper-demons" who do likewise. This might impact the way sovngarde functions in this mythology.

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Re: The Religion of the Nords

Post by Tristior » Mon Oct 16, 2017 8:27 am

I like that association with the leaper demons. My figuring on all these smaller points (smaller ≠ irrelevant, at all) is that they can find their way into individual works/traditions, without necessarily being a definitive part of the overall cycle.

I'd also really like to know your thoughts on the "Nordic cultural eras" idea - the idea being a Nord-centric breakdown of history. They needn't even be explicit in-game; just a guide for positioning any works we create.

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Re: The Religion of the Nords

Post by Infragris » Mon Oct 16, 2017 6:53 pm

I like the cultural eras a lot, it's a very good idea. The only culture for which we have such a granular historical overview is the Imperial one, which is influential, but doesn't actually relate to other cultures at all for long periods. The only thing I would add is a notion of what Nords think happened during the Middle Dawn, the first Dragon Break. It might also be better to refer to CE3 as the Old Empire period, to avoid confusion with the Alessian First Empire (especially if this info makes it into dialogue topics).

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