The Nords' Totemic Religion [TES V]

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roerich
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The Nords' Totemic Religion [TES V]

Post by roerich » Thu Mar 10, 2016 10:46 pm

Excerpt from a TESV: Skyrim design document, with slight changes for wording. Art by Adam Adamowicz. Source: http://michaelkirkbride.tumblr.com/post ... ument-with" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

The gods are cyclical, just like the world is. There are the Dead Gods, who fought and died to bring about the new cycle; the Hearth Gods, who watch over the present cycle; the Testing Gods, who threaten the Hearth and thus are watched; and the Twilight Gods, who usher in the next cycle. The end of a cycle is said to be preceded by the Dragonborn God, a god that did not exist in the previous cycle but whose presence means that the current one is almost over.

The Dead Gods

Dead Gods don’t need temples. They have the biggest one of all, Sovngarde. Nord heroes and clever men visit the Underworld all the time. They bear a symbol to show that they have, which garners much respect.

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The Fox - Shor

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The Bear - Tsun

The Hearth Gods

The Hearth Gods have temples appropriate to their nature: Kyne’s are built on peaks, Mara’s are the halls of important Witches, Dibella’s are the halls of important Wives– the temples aren’t like those of the Imperials; as Hearth Gods, they are always homes to someone, and the highest-ranking female of that home is their de facto high priestess.

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The Hawk, Kyne

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The Wolf, Mara

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The Moth, Dibella

The Testing Gods

The Testing Gods don’t really have temples – they are propitiated at battlegrounds or other sites where they caused some notable trouble. Nords understand that the Daedric Temples are something else entirely and think them as much of a waste of time as the formalized religion of the Nine Divines of Cyrodiil.

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The Snake, Orkey

The Woodland Man, Herma Mora

The Twilight Gods

The Twilight Gods need no temples– when they show up, there won’t be any reason to build them, much less use them – another waste of time. That said, Nords do venerate them, as they always venerate the cycles of things, and especially the Last War where they will show their final, best worth.

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The Dragon, Alduin

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 Dragonborn God, Talos

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.

Nord view of Imperial Religion

The Eight Divines are viewed by the Nords as a “Southern” import. They retain some of the taint of the Alessian Order, and are basically viewed as a religion for foreigners. Their gods are fine for them, but Nords need Nord gods.

Some of the gods are the same (or similar) – significantly these are the three female gods, which are far more important to the Nords than they are in the Imperial Cult. (Kyne is in fact the de facto head of the Nord pantheon.) The Nords are perplexed and disturbed by the Imperial Cult’s focus on the Dragon God – they regard this as a fundamental misunderstanding of the universe, and one likely to cause disaster in the end. (Which fits perfectly with the pessimistic Nord view of the world in general – things are likely to turn out badly, and it will probably be caused by some foreigner.) Lucky for the world that the Nords are so diligent about keeping Alduin asleep, while the southerners are busy trying to get his attention! Any mention of Akatosh in a Nord’s presence is likely to bring a muttered invocation to Alduin to stay asleep in response.

The Nords believe that, During the Oblivion Crisis, it was Talos (Dragonborn, Martin’s forefather) lending his aid, not Alduin.

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Re: The Nords' Totemic Religion [TES V]

Post by worsas » Sat Mar 12, 2016 12:17 pm

This was a really helpful read. The section about Kyne makes me think that we should, indeed, elaborate the function of Snowhawk Peak as a Kyne Sanctuary. The name of the mountain already suggests a connection and the hermit living up there consequently would be the priestess.

The focus on the cyclical character of things, is something that should be mirrored everywhere. Round shields instead of the imperial rectangular tower things. Round or at least organic town layouts. Carvings or paintings that symbolize the cycles of things. Also, animal motifs are something to keep looking at.

Also, what's interesting is that he called Sovngarde the Underworld. It reminds me of the old germanic 'Hel', which was probably thought of as the place the dead go to, mainly, before there was Walhalla. All in all this text by MK is a good bridge between what we learned in the Varieties of Faith and the contradictory stuff that came with Bloodmoon and TES V. If Sovngarde would ever be something that could be entered in our mod, I'd like to visualize it very differently from how it was in TES V, myself. Using this text as a base for our further work, I would feel comfortable about including references to the dragoncult aswell.

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Re: The Nords' Totemic Religion [TES V]

Post by Infragris » Mon Mar 14, 2016 11:11 am

Funny you should mention hell. I remember once having this whole debate with someone about the Nordic concept of hell and the underworld. The main point was that some of the texts (notably MK's) seem to refer to a place - literally called Hell by the Nords - which was distinct from Sovngarde/the Underworld, a mournful place for unworthy and defeated warriors.

I agree that Sovngarde was not represented very well in Skyrim. Every text that refers to it and to Shor stresses its underground aspect, which makes it fairly unique in terms of TES mythology: everything else, from the gods to the Daedra, is envisioned as being among the stars. There's little interest in the chtonic nature of the world (despite all that earthbone business).

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Re: The Nords' Totemic Religion [TES V]

Post by roerich » Thu Mar 17, 2016 11:17 am

I think we can even incorporate the cyclical nature into questlines, though that already happens naturally on some level.

An example: 1. The Thian questline takes place on the base of the either the A. the War of Bend'r Mahk or B. the Imperial Simulacrum, both events now "dead"/finished and in the past, dead in order to set the setting for the current events. 2. The questline itself is the "hearth" part, offering some different opportunities and changes to influence the world. 3. When the questline is finished, a new dawn is looming in the horizon, the dissolvement of the Empire and the events of the Oblivion crisis. The "life"-part was about readying and moving into position for these events. This represents the twilight of the cycle.

Your concepts of Sovngarde are interesting. In Nordic mythology, there is both Valhalla and Hel. For either those who die in glory and those who die in their beds. It would be interesting to combine the two in some way, taking the underground aspects of Hel. Random thought: If we choose to include Sovngarde at some point, we could also show the inhabitants in their deceased state. Like Tsun here: http://i.imgur.com/C8gZ2ae.png" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Re: The Nords' Totemic Religion [TES V]

Post by Infragris » Thu Mar 17, 2016 11:32 am

I went digging around:

From The Five Songs of King Wulfharth:
The second song of King Wulfharth glorifies his deeds in the eyes of the Old Gods. He fights the eastern Orcs and shouts their chief into Hell.
Then Vehk the Devil blasted the Ash King into Hell and it was over. Later, Kyne lifted the ashes of the ashes of Ysmir into the sky, saving him from Hell and showing her sons the color of blood when it is brought by betrayal. And the Nords will never trust another Devil again.
From The Seven Fights of The Aldudagga: Fight Four:
Most of those that are Pitied accept their station. These are those Nords who, for various sanctioned reasons (Orc rape, unforeseen winter-taking, ashamed-but-acquiescent affiliation with the Borgas Clan when Wufharth Roared most of them straight past the Underworld into [Hell])…
From The Five Hundred Mighty Companions or Thereabouts of Ysgramor the Returned:
Afterwards came the crash of the longboat Bloodwood Tongue of Nhemakhela Stare-breaker’s belong, no souls aboard surviving. Its loss was grievous and hard enough to break the song out of any flourish, and immediately the Toll-Taker called Gald, Ugawen, Thehp, Naandl, Mjtujjor, Jarnnmegh, Sveinhelf, Nenthwen, Jaaril-ghur, Einmor, Lleymwnnem, Mnoor, Thurwhn, Ghrokarg, Nhsmir, Fire-kin Fhaal, Mjaaloc, Thletnn-li, Bjrochtehl, Nocnenue, Fhethe, Llaldesmiir, Wyndl, Maewyn, Svenredd, Kaene, Einnjoral, Jjarkaak, Nendlfaj, Ciriul, Gwemlthrest, Ruald, Einndmel, Mjuul, Sorshen, Swalne, Njnenya, Thoraj, Frendetter, Rrummrir, Grethnaal, and Swemnen to the Under-Hall some call Hell.

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Re: The Nords' Totemic Religion [TES V]

Post by Luxray » Thu Mar 17, 2016 12:52 pm

This was an extremely interesting read and sums up how to deal with the Nord pantheon really well.
<roerich> woah it's hot in here
<Lord Berandas> it must be Summer.
<Infragris> #hell is meant as a spam and off topic channel. Doing a great job already

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Re: The Nords' Totemic Religion [TES V]

Post by TheDVI » Fri Mar 18, 2016 8:52 am

How does Stuhn and Jhunal fit into the Pantheon? Stuhn I can see as a dead god like his brother Tsun, but I'm not sure about Jhunal.

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Re: The Nords' Totemic Religion [TES V]

Post by roerich » Fri Mar 18, 2016 9:58 am

Jhunal is a mostly forgotten god.

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Re: The Nords' Totemic Religion [TES V]

Post by LiquidHurlant » Thu Jul 14, 2016 8:15 pm

Infragris wrote:Funny you should mention hell. I remember once having this whole debate with someone about the Nordic concept of hell and the underworld. The main point was that some of the texts (notably MK's) seem to refer to a place - literally called Hell by the Nords - which was distinct from Sovngarde/the Underworld, a mournful place for unworthy and defeated warriors.

I agree that Sovngarde was not represented very well in Skyrim. Every text that refers to it and to Shor stresses its underground aspect, which makes it fairly unique in terms of TES mythology: everything else, from the gods to the Daedra, is envisioned as being among the stars. There's little interest in the chtonic nature of the world (despite all that earthbone business).
Deep in the hollow of mother rock is a literal sea of ghosts. Every Nord who dies unworthy, and without a boat, drowns in that sea. Those buried on their boat may, or may not, cross this hell to Sovngarde. But there are two tests remaining; an eternal battle rages in the hollows, and Tsun must have news of the front. If one deserves entry to Shor's Hall, it is only because they have something to say worth hearing. If one does not bring news of the front, they are a deserter or a spy, or presuming on the graces of Shor, in which case they are beheaded as Magnar. The worthy dine with Shor and are rewarded with pomps and ceremony.

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Re: The Nords' Totemic Religion [TES V]

Post by roerich » Sun Jul 17, 2016 7:27 pm

I like it.

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Re: The Nords' Totemic Religion [TES V]

Post by berry » Mon Jul 18, 2016 1:25 pm

I agree, this is good, intense stuff.

About Sovngarde; is there any pre-Skyrim lore source opposing what we learn about it in Bloodmoon, ie. that the truth about Sovngarde Halls is currently unknown/forgotten among Nords? We should decide on how we want to handle it, and what are current beliefs of Nords on the afterlife. Additionaly I think spreading such news in Skyrim:
Sovngarde, a Reexamination wrote:It is time for Nords to learn the truth. Eternal life can be theirs, without the need to spend an entire mortal life in vain pursuit of something completely unattainable. In the end, all valiant Nords can enter Sovngarde. Dismemberment, decapitation or evisceration seems a small price to pay for the chance to spend an eternity in Shor's wondrous hall.
would make a great quest, actually.

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Re: The Nords' Totemic Religion [TES V]

Post by roerich » Mon Jul 18, 2016 3:16 pm

I wouldn't mind having knowledge of Sovngarde be somewhat esoteric. In Bloodmoon it was indeed implied that Nords were oblivious of its existence, but I think we could go with a middle ground.

Clever-Men and shamans would have a lot of knowledge of the underworld, and sometimes travel to it. But to the average (and somewhat southernized) Nord, Sovngarde is just a myth from old legends. Belief in Sovngarde would of course be most prevalent among the old holds.

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Re: The Nords' Totemic Religion [TES V]

Post by Tristior » Fri Aug 25, 2017 4:33 am

I've been hunting around the forums - is this our only thread about Nord religion? I've been giving it a big ol' think at the moment, and have one or two pitches, but if there's somewhere else I should be posting them then fair enough.

I've just finished reading American Gods and have a big, throbbing... enthusiasm for Norse mythology at the moment. I'm very taken with the idea of the Nords having a much more personalised conception of their gods, in the same way that the Norse viewed the Aesir - characters, with personalities and relationships and with stories of their misadventures. It would give Nordic culture that additional bit of vibrancy, and make them a good foil to the more sterile and aloof Divines of the Imperial Cult.

For example, parables and fairy tales (would need to do much more reading before I felt I could write some) in-game about Kyne protecting the hearth from the predations of the Woodland Man, or Dibella outwitting Orkey's attempts to slander the legacy of Shor. Maybe most modern, cosmopolitan Nords really do see these as just children's stories but it also gives us a chance to show the Nords' personal investment in their religion (as stories about the Tribunal did in TES3, and as the absence of such stories failed to do in TES5). Mara singing sad lullabies to keep Alduin sleeping. The deeds of Shor's avatars, such as Wulfharth's war on the Heart of Lorkhan-profaning Dwemer and Chimer.

It would also be interesting to lay out the key themes of Nordic religion. They believe that Alduin will end the world, and they generally consider this a bad thing. How closely this ties in with Auri-el's punishment of Lorkhan and the elven wish to unmake the world, I do not know. Is Alduin the great enemy, or simply a fact of life? Do the actions of the Hearth Gods, and the avatars of the Dead Gods, focus primarily on halting Alduin's awakening? Perhaps the Woodland Man, as an aspect of Herma-Mora, is too curious and his dragon-disturbing investigations must be thwarted by the gods - perhaps some Nordic mythic cycles paint him as a great evil, and others as an irresponsible buffoon who must nonetheless be stopped.

These are all just very surface-level thoughts; I thought I would offer them and then go deeper if there was a good response. We might already have a very similar/very different conception of Nordic gods in mind. All good.

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