Elder Scrolls Lore » Discussions

Yokudan Creation Myth: Analysis

  • July 3, 2014

    The deities are an interesting subject in the Elder Scrolls. They affect so much of the mythos, from the world itself to the inhabitants, but there is still a lot we don't know about them. Especially regarding the Yokudan gods, one of the least talked about pantheons. Why is that? I would put it to lack of coverage. After all why bother talking about something that is clearly wrong? The world wasn't created from the dead skin of a world-eating snake god of destruction and rebirth, and there's no skyfather who can move the stars and manipulate the fabric (or rather 'skin') of the world. Right?

    Actually the Yokudans may have been onto something, granted they, like every other race, probably only got bits and pieces of the whole story right. So let's dive into the unexplored world of sky-fathers, sword-gods, and world-skin.

    The Genesis

    First let's actually read the Yokudan creation. Good place to start.

    "Satak was First Serpent, the Snake who came Before, and all the worlds to come rested in the glimmer of its scales. But it was so big there was nothing but, and thus it was coiled around and around itself, and the worlds to come slid across each other but none had room to breathe or even be. And so the worlds called to something to save them, to let them out, but of course there was nothing outside the First Serpent, so aid had to come from inside it; this was Akel, the Hungry Stomach. Akel made itself known, and Satak could only think about what it was, and it was the best hunger, so it ate and ate. Soon there was enough room to live in the worlds and things began. These things were new and they often made mistakes, for there was hardly time to practice being things before. So most things ended quickly or were not good or gave up on themselves. Some things were about to start, but they were eaten up as Satak got to that part of its body. This was a violent time.

    "Pretty soon Akel caused Satak to bite its own heart and that was the end. The hunger, though, refused to stop, even in death, and so the First Serpent shed its skin to begin anew. As the old world died, Satakal began, and when things realized this pattern so did they realize what their part in it was. They began to take names, like Ruptga or Tuwhacca, and they strode about looking for their kin. As Satakal ate itself over and over, the strongest spirits learned to bypass the cycle by moving at strange angles. They called this process the Walkabout, a way of striding between the worldskins. Ruptga was so big that he was able to place the stars in the sky so that weaker spirits might find their way easier. This practice became so easy for the spirits that it became a place, called the Far Shores, a time of waiting until the next skin.

    "Ruptga was able to sire many children through the cycles and so he became known as the Tall Papa. He continued to place stars to map out the void for others, but after so many cycles there were almost too many spirits to help out. He made himself a helper from the detritus of past skins and this was Sep, or Second Serpent. Sep had much of the Hungry Stomach still left in him, multiple hungers from multiple skins. He was so hungry he could not think straight. Sometimes he would just eat the spirits he was supposed to help, but Tall Papa would always reach in and take them back out. Finally, tired of helping Tall Papa, Sep went and gathered the rest of the old skins and balled them up, tricking spirits to help him, promising them this was how you reached the new world, by making one out of the old. These spirits loved this way of living, as it was easier. No more jumping from place to place. Many spirits joined in, believing this was good thinking. Tall Papa just shook his head.

    "Pretty soon the spirits on the skin-ball started to die, because they were very far from the real world of Satakal. And they found that it was too far to jump into the Far Shores now. The spirits that were left pleaded with Tall Papa to take them back. But grim Ruptga would not, and he told the spirits that they must learn new ways to follow the stars to the Far Shores now. If they could not, then they must live on through their children, which was not the same as before. Sep, however, needed more punishment, and so Tall Papa squashed the Snake with a big stick. The hunger fell out of Sep's dead mouth and was the only thing left of the Second Serpent. While the rest of the new world was allowed to strive back to godhood, Sep could only slink around in a dead skin, or swim about in the sky, a hungry void that jealously tried to eat the stars." (The Monomyth)

    Despite the strangeness, it actually covers a lot of qualities the Redguards revere, liking overcoming hardships the right way not the easy way. But did you notice something? Or perhaps not notice something? There is very little information on the spirits trapped in Mundus, other than they eventually lived on through their children. We also know there are still many spirits outside of Mundus. There is also the topic of the Deadra. This lack of closure and concrete information is very unusual for a creation story. What's say we try and piece it together.

    Connection to the Magna-Ge

    Let's first talk about this seemingly unrelated topic: the Magna-Ge. But what are the Magna-Ge? The Magna-Ge are described as "Anuic ur-entities that separated from Magnus when that Divine withdrew from the creation of the Aurbis." (Exegesis of Merid-Nunda) In layman-terms, beings who followed Magnus out of Mundus. It is believed that the stars are actually the tears they created when they ripped through escaped Mundus, like Magnus creating the Sun when he escaped. So they, like some old Yokudan spirits, are outside of Mundus.

    Did you catch what Tall Papa said to the spirits trapped on Mundus? "...and he told the spirits that they must learn new ways to follow the stars to the Far Shores now." It is possible that Ruptga was referring to the Magna-Ge, who escaped Mundus. Coincidentally the Yokudans happened to be exceptionally advanced in the field of astronomy, which is the study of celestial objects like stars. (Pocket Guide to the Empire, 1st Edition/HammerfellSo is it possible that the early Yokudans understood what the stars really were? Stars do play an important in the Yokudan myth, as they guided weaker spirits to the Far Shores. Not to mention the innumerable unknown gods that the Redguards once worshipped which correlates with the countless number of stars. This worshipping of Magna-Ge, as opposed to solely worshipping the gods within Mundus, would also explain why the Redguards have gods such as Leki and Onsi who don't appear in any other pantheon in any variation.

    Where does Magnus fit into this? After all he's the one who basically lead the Magna-Ge out of Mundus. I believe Ruptga, while not a parallel for Magnus, fits the representation rather well. He was the leader of these Yokudan spirits who became the Magna-Ge. He has the power to manipulate the worldskin and the stars, and possibility could've freed the trapped spirits from Mundus anytime he wanted to; Magnus was the architect for Mundus so he clearly had some knowledge on manipulating the world even though he couldn't do it alone. Like I said, it's not a clearcut parallel: Ruptga was against the creation of Mundus from the start while Magnus was the architect. However they have many overlapping qualities.

    The Divines and Daedra

    But what about the Yokudan gods that do form parallels with the Aldmeri/Cyro gods like Tava/Kynareth, Zeht/Zenithar, etc? These, I believe, are the gods that "must live on through their children, which was not the same as before." But how do they live on? Reproduction? I would say yes, but I think there is even more to it. I think the Yokudan spirits live on through their children's worshipping. (Gods and Worship) This would explain why the Yokudan gods are still worshiped and godlike despite supposedly being mortal from being on Mundus.

    What about the Daedra? The creation story doesn't even mention them, so what do you do with this giant missing hole in the story? I say we take another look at that "Exegesis of Merid-Nunda." The part we're looking for is where it theorizes that Meridia was once a Magna-Ge before she became a Daedra. That begs the question of how similar are the Daedra from the other spirits? Evidently similar enough that a spirit could become a Daedra, and maybe even similar enough for the Yokudans to not feel the need to make a distinction between the two.

    The Ehlofney and the Stars

    The Ehlofney are one of the most popular ideas for the creation of the current setting of Tamriel. The Ehlofney were the ancestors of both Men and Mer. The Ehlofney that stayed put and fortified their settlement (called the Old Ehlofney) eventually became Mer and the Wandering Ehlofney became Men. (The Annotated AnuadI believe that the Wandering Ehlofney that went to Yokuda did so to avoid getting caught up in the war between Auriel and Lorkhan and instead wanted to follow the example of Magnus and the Magna-Ge. Prior to theorizing with Phil, I didn't think much on the Redguards' view on the stars. But read the creation story again, the stars set by Ruptga light the path to the Far Shores. So do the Redguards want to "follow the stars" and escape Mundus like Magnus and the Magna-Ge? It would take an incredibly stubborn group of people to think they could reach stars. But I think you'll find the Redguards to be quite fitting of that assessment.


    I may add more to this discussion later, especially if people poke holes in it. But even if this is totally wrong, this was a lot of fun to do, exploring the theology of my favorite race.

    I would like to thank Phil for not only helping me along the way, but also inspiring me to follow through with my original theory.

    Although most of this was my own thoughts and conclusions (with a ton of help from Phil, obviously), "The Ehlofney and the Stars" section was largely inspired by the comments of Ushnad gro-Udnar on /r/teslore.

  • Member
    July 3, 2014
    I'm not surprised you covered the Yokuda. Anyhoof, so, is the Far Shore Yokudan Heaven or something? The way they describe it, it seems that way.
  • July 3, 2014
    I don't think they ever specifically call it a paradise, but all Redguards want to reach there and it's where their gods are chilling. So Heaven is a pretty comparison.
  • Member
    July 3, 2014

    Great job here, Matt!

  • Member
    July 3, 2014

    Now that it's all condensed in one place it's much easier to follow  What do you think of this? See, I believe that the reason for popularity of Elhofney theory in Tamriel is the power of these Aedra and their noticeable impact on common people. They have the power to perform godlike deeds and thus more people worship them and, according to Gods and Worship, it gives them more power. But where does it live Yokudan gods? If that cycle continues, the old Yokudan gods will be left without worshipers and, therefore, power. They will be left in the past, like the old gods many nations in real life had. I haven't heard of Yokudan gods performing any magical deeds and it kind of supports that theory. I don't think spirits in TES can die but they may become so weak that recovering the way they were before will not be possible.

    Another thing that puzzles me is the lack of information on afterlife. There is a brief description of Far Shores and a vague instruction to "follow the stars" to get there. It's quite lacking compared to the amount of info in other religions, and, I think, an established religion can't work with such vague information regarding one of its most important aspects. Nords, Altmer, all have an ideal way of life that will get them to their version of heaven - I haven't heard of such thing for Redguards. 

    Thoughts on Magna-Ge theory. Exgesis of Merid-Nunda mentions that

    The Lords of the Chaos-Realms chided Merid-Nunda for her trespass and bade her return to Aurbis, claiming all existing spheres as their own. But Merid-Nunda formed of her substance a great drag-lens, and the light of Magnus was bent thereby. The rays [carved? focused?] a new sphere from the chaos, which Merid-Nunda, [laughing? sparkling?], did claim for her own.

    I'm quite interested in underlined words. So it seems that Meridia's interest in mortal plane got her exiled from Aetherius and she used magic (light of Magnus) to form her own plane of Oblivion. But that will mean that either

    a) Redguards' worship of Magna-Ge is purely one-sided as interest of those spirits in mortal plane leads to their exile. That would mean eventual ceasing of that worship in light of all "more prominent and responsive" deities around;

    b) Redguards worship Daedra - Magna-Ge spirits who took interest in mortal plane. That kind of contradicts their high mistrust of Conjuration and Oblivion-meddling magic.

  • Member
    July 3, 2014

    This is an incredible piece of work Matt, very well written and extremely coherent.  Wow.

    The ramifications of what this theory represents to our carefully constructed and well drummed-in Aldmeri based Cyrodiilic worldview is immense. For starters the whole lack of any concept of Daedra in Yokudan myth is very interesting - the idea that there is little special distinction between "those who stayed" and those who didn't as you discuss above with the Magna-Ge being included in the ranks of the latter is extraordinary. At the very least it means we need to re-examine what we think we know, which is exactly what you have done here.

    The Magna-Ge is something we know so little about and I am delighted to see Exegesis of  Merid-Nunda in this work for that reason. Meridia being the proof that these Star-Orphans can come back from Aetherius (whether willing or not) and have an impact on Tamriel. In our discussions I mentioned how I theorise that Tava is the "missing link" between Kyne and Meridia. If that connection turns out to be accurate it could mean that the Yokudan viewpoint is closer to the truth than the Elven.

    In short, I love the way your theory ties in and explains the Redguards viewpoint encompassing their cultural affinity for astronomy and the number of gods in their pantheon. I really enjoyed the idea you convey of the Elhnofey becoming the Yokudans out of a desire to escape the war, preoccupied with their own attempts to get home. It also illustrates how the gods can at once be mortal and divine.

    With all these revelations you make perhaps it is high time we stop trying to shoe-horn all the different gods into the Eight and One and accept that what we think we know is wrong.

  • July 3, 2014
    On the afterlife, that's a little tough to respond to. There's no source (that I've seen) that says "Do this and you'll reach the Far Shores." But there are themes and morals in the Yokudan theology that they are expected to follow.

    We don't quite know the limits of the Magna-Ge. Merid-Nunda directly gave someone more power, which is why she was banished. It's possible that Magna-Ge are allowed to indirectly guide mortals. Leki, for instance, showed the Yokudans the Ephemereal Feint, yet we haven't seen her in any Daedric quests (though maybe the Lords of Chaos just don't want to mess with her). And there's also the possibility that Yokudan gods are Magna-Ge who don't reside in the Chaos-Realms and thus aren't subject to the laws there. There's really just a lot we don't know, so I'm not gonna make definitive statement on this.

    As for the intervention thing, well I brought up Leki a second ago. HoonDing shows up every once in awhile. But besides HoonDing (who is a huge anomaly), I've never seen a divine act performed by a Yokudan god in-game. Remember the Redguards embrace hardships and are famously stubborn, if their gods leave them hangin', they'll keep chugging along.
  • Member
    July 4, 2014

    Vaz you raise some interesting points about the worship of Yokudan gods and Magna-Ge but they tend to be value based in terms of what the gods can do for the worshippers. I get that, so had to change  perspective and view those spirits who got to the Far Shores as being the Yokudan ideal - maybe this'lll give you an idea as to why they are held in such esteem - even if they can't influence the Redguard people directly, what they represent could be more important than anything else.

    The Lords of the Chaos-Realms chided Merid-Nunda for her trespass and bade her return to Aurbis.

    I love this book, it finally validates the "Imperial Census of Daedra Lords". I love how it implies Meridia doesn't give a damn about what the other Princes think, and suggests she can in some way influence time. This makes sense from a physics point of view if you think about it. Maybe that manipulation of time and her ability to travel the "rainbow road" is what sets her apart from the other Princes? She can actually go back so that she can be a part of creation, thus increasing her influence over Nirn.

  • February 9, 2015

    "So do the Redguards want to "follow the stars" and escape Mundus like Magnus and the Magna-Ge?"

    Or the Dwemer, or the Dunmer. 

    This "escape" idea is all over the place in lore. 

  • February 9, 2015
    Didn't know the Dunmer wanted to escape Mundus. But yeah, about half of the races see the creation negatively. It's how and why they plan to escape that's the important part.