Elder Scrolls Lore » Discussions

The Ancient Nordic Pantheon

  • Member
    July 22, 2014

    Tom and Chris Dionko were talking about The Traditional Nordic Pantheon in the Questions thread and I thought it would be good fun to compile a directory entry about these deities.

    If you're new to this, members of the Ancient Nordic Pantheon are nine animal totems which are believed to be depicted in the many tombs and ruins in Skyrim, particularly in The Hall of Stories just before a Claw Puzzle Door. 

    The principle reference text is The Dragon War in which the author notes the similarities between the modern Nine Divines, the Traditional Nordic Pantheon and The Ancient Nordic Pantheon with this sentence:

    In the Merethic Era, when Ysgramor first set foot on Tamriel, his people brought with them a faith that worshipped animal gods. Certain scholars believe these primitive people actually worshipped the divines as we know them, just in the form of these totem animals. They deified the hawk, wolf, snake, moth, owl, whale, bear, fox, and the dragon. Every now and then you can stumble across the broken stone totems in the farther reaches of Skyrim.

    Temples of the Dragon Cult also provides a nice atmospheric description of the ruins that once housed the priesthood of the cult.

    In the distant reaches of Skyrim, beyond the remote farming communities and hunter shacks, you may stumble over a broken stone, half buried and covered in moss and ivy. Look closer, in case these are effigies to animal gods, worshiped by Ysgramor's primitives. The deification of the bear, dragon, fox, moth, owl, snake, whale, and wolf have all been recorded by our field agents, and many believe these totems stand as sentinels over lost ruins. These tumbledown temples, guarded by half-woken draugr and worse, are from a time when the Dragon Cult supposedly ruled this province.

    So to begin, lets look at the Traditional Nordic Pantheon as outlined in Varieties of Faith in which the following deities are said to be a part of:


    The first difference between the Ancient and Traditional pantheons is the inclusion of three more gods. Our job now is to identify the three gods which don't correspond to the totemic animals. If we take The Dragon War's inference that the totems correspond to the Nine Divines, removing any deities not found in the modern Nine Divines should leave us with nine Ancient gods to match to the Nine Divines.

    I propose that we remove Herma-Mora who we know today as the Daedric Prince of Knowledge and the Tides of Fate, Maloch who we know as Malacath the Daedric Prince of the Ostracized and Spurned, and Orkey who appears to be yet another Orcish god and possibly the same as Maloch.

    This leaves us with nine to match The Nine. This is where you come in: Who are the nine Ancient Nordic gods and why have you come to that conclusion? Try and pick one deity each rather than spamming what you may already know in order to allow others a chance to contribute. I'm looking for quality over quantity so the more detail you give in your reasons will add a lot more to the final piece.

    Once we have all nine sorted, I'll edit this page so as to make it fit the Directory and also list each contributor for credit 

    Alduin (Akatosh), The World Eater, Firstborn of Akatosh. The Dragon.

    The grim and frightening wellspring of the Nordic pantheon, Alduin's role as world eater ushers in the next cycle. When Alduin chose to forsake his role and install himself as ruler of Mundus, the Dragon Cult worshipped him as a god.

    It is still unclear who or what the dragon totem represented before the Nord arrival in Skyrim. As some legends make references to the gods having names as far back as Ysgrammor's time, it is possible the dragon was Akatosh, since removed from the Nordic pantheon.

    Thanks to Chris Dionko for identifying this totem's god.


    Tsun (Zenithar), Shield-Thane of Shor. The Whale

    Associated with the Whalebone Bridge that spans the bottomless chasm of Sovngarde, Tsun, god of trials over adversity, guards the entrance to the Hall of Valour. Tsun died defending Shor from his enemies and is now considered extinct.

    Varieties of Faith links Tsun with Zenithar of the Nine Divines, although the connection isn't referenced in other in-game sources, an out of game book which has been referenced in-game hints at the connection too.

    Thanks to Tom and Vazgen for identifying this totem's god.


    Kyne (Kynareth), Kiss at the End, Goddess of Storms and Widow of Shor. The Hawk.

    The association with birds, sky and wind makes Kyne the clear match for The Hawk. In game dialogue from Felldir the Old also makes the connection between The Hawk and The Voice which has long been considered a gift from Kyne.

    Being the de facto head of the Nordic Pantheon after Shor's defeat, Kyne is held in the highest regard by the Nords. She is said to have exhaled on the land to form the Nords at the beginning and will guide the dead to Sovnguard at the end.

    Thanks to Tom and Vazgen for identifying this totem's goddess.



    Mara, Goddess of Love, Handmaiden of Kyne. The Wolf.

    The wolf is a very feminine figure in mythology, depicted in the crypts of Skyrim's Hall of Stories as a fur-clad woman.

    Seen throughout the Empire as a goddess of love, she charges her faithful to honour their parents and preserve the security of home and family. Her priesthood preside over wedding ceremonies.

    In Skyrim she is the Handmaiden of Kyne and receives prayers on behalf of the Goddess of Storms.

    Thanks to Tom for identifying this totem's goddess.



    Jhunal (Julianos), The Rune God, God of Wisdom and Logic. The Owl.

    Tales of the owl, often associated with wisdom, are surprisingly scarce in Tamrielic mythology aside from a few fleeting references. It is only by a process of elimination that this totem animal may correspond to Jhunal at all.

    Jhunal supposedly fell out with the other Nordic gods and so is absent in modern worship.

    The Temple of Julianos  espouse no moral philosophy other than the goodness of knowledge and view ignorance as the enemy.

    Thanks to Kiralla and Tom for identifying this totem's god.


    Dibella, Goddess of Beauty, Lady of Love. The Moth 

    The Ancestor Moth produces ancestor silk - and silk is a material that has a long association with beauty, sensuality, and love. Dibella as the Queen of Heaven, Goddess of Beauty and Lady of Love has many cults devoted to women, some to artists and aesthetics, others to erotic instruction.

    Furthermore, she is often depicted holding flowers or with flowers in place of hands - and flowers are, of course, associated with butterflies. In fact,  both butterflies and moths are lepidoptera, and both sip flower nectar as their sustenance. Thus, moths and flowers also have a significant association.

    Thanks to Kiralla and Tom for identifying this totem's goddess.


    Shor, God of the Underworld, Nordic version of Lorkhan. The Snake

    Shor is the Nordic aspect of Lorkhan, the trickster/creator god present in all Tamrielic creation myths. As such he suits the Snake totem both on a psychological comparison level and through his role in the myths.

    The Yokudan version of Lorkhan is Sep, the Serpent constellation who slinks about the sky, jealously trying to eat the stars.  

    Talos is depicted in Skyrim as victoriously standing over a defeated serpent representing his supplanting of himself as Lorkhan.

    Thanks to Shor, Tom and Kiralla for identifying this totem's god.



    Stuhn, Nordic version of Stendarr, God of Mercy. The Bear

    Stun, Shield Thane of Shor taught the Nords how to take prisoners of war which eventually evolved into the Imperial concept of Stendarr, god of Mercy and righteous might.

    He is also the god of strength which is a link to the bear connection and at one time the symbol of the Imperial Legions was the bear.

    The Ternion Monks revere the bear as one of the totems of the Three Old Gods and view the animal as strong and  mighty. A protector. The aspect of the Bear enhances strength and shields those who call upon him from harm.

    Thanks to Tom and Kiralla for identifying this totem's god.

    Ysmir, Dragon of the North, Nordic version of Talos, Hero-God of Man. The Fox

    The legendary immortal heroes Pelinal Whitestrake, Hans the Fox and Wulfharth are all Shezarrines, aspects of Lorkhan who wandered the world questing, leading armies and wandering again.

    One of these avatars was Talos, an amalgamation of Hjalti Early-Beard, Zurin Arctus and Wulfharth. All three of these people make up the soul who is Tiber Septim or Talos. This is why he is depicted as a conqueror, standing over the Serpent Lorkhan - it symbolises Talos-who- is- Lorkhan taking or reclaiming Lorkhan's place.

    Thanks to Shor, Tom and Kiralla for identifying this totem's god.


  • Member
    July 24, 2014

    So far then we are all in agreement with the Hawk being Kyne and the Dragon being Alduin/Akatosh?

  • Member
    July 24, 2014

    I agree 

  • Tom
    July 24, 2014


    EDIT: Alduin* Not Akatosh, Nords don't have an Akatosh figure that every other pantheon does.

  • Member
    July 24, 2014

    I think we all agree on Tsun as the Whale too?

    Tom, the way I see it is that Alduin is the ancient Nord version of Akatosh - literally a time dragon - in the same way Tsun is the Nordic version of Zenithar. They are both separate entities in their own right (indeed one is actually dead while the other isn't) but both are part of the same whole, different branches on the same tree as it were.

    On that subject though, any theories on how Tsun has gone from a god of "trials over adversity" to a god of work and commerce?

  • Tom
    July 25, 2014

    I don't think it's appropriate to shove Alessian/Elven gods onto the Ancient Nords. We aren't discussing those gods, we're discussing Nord gods, and they don't fit into the same whole no matter how much you want it to.

    Alduin is not Akatosh, we know this from the game and books. They might be related, but they are not the same deity and hold no common ground beside being dragons related to time (not even the same concepts of time). Alduin and Dragons are evil whose destiny is to destroy the world. Very different from the Imperial/Elven Akatosh/Auriel who is a benevolent god of order.

    Tsun shares a concept of "hard work" if you translate trials over adversity that way, and that's about it.

    We're wrangling with a completely different mindset here. Why shove Imperial gods onto a culture that predates it? It only shows favoritism or suggests that the Imperial pantheon is the "true" way by which others are judged.

  • Member
    July 25, 2014

    I hear you Tom, but we're doing this because another in-game source - The Dragon War says:

    Certain scholars believe these primitive people actually worshipped the divines as we know them, just in the form of these totem animals. They deified the hawk, wolf, snake, moth, owl, whale, bear, fox, and the dragon.

    So the scholars might be wrong but it's still fun to try, no?  We know the Dragon is Alduin, worshipped as the chief deity by the Dragon Cult, but for scholars - and even us right up until TES V cleared it up, let's not forget - Alduin and Akatosh were just different names for the same being.

    Archon's Picture seems quite definitive as to why the Snake is Shor. Anyone contest it?

    Hard work is probably a good call for Tsun, I imahine when Nordic culture changed to being more agriculturally oriented he might have been seen as a god to appeal to for the strength to eek out a living in that cold, hard land. I guess it's not to far of a leap to connect whaling, ivory and trading and have him as a god of commerce too?

  • Member
    July 25, 2014

    Good call on the whale and ivory trade for the commerce aspect. Thats profitable and adversarial.

    That picture is really cool. I don't dispute it, but I'm also just in awe of it.

    and then:

    "Akatosh has a thousand names and versions of himself. Auri-el, Auriel, Akel, Akatosh, Alduin, etc, etc. Fragments all different from one another and none reconcilable. Every time he gets a new worshipper, he fragments into a different Time god.

     Yet, Lorkhan has not changed. His depictions are consistent throughout every story. Even through his Shezarrines, their purpose, goals, and lives aren't any different from the last. He is, oddly enough, the most stable force in creation."

    This... is why I wub errbody here. I don't have anything productive to add. I'm just cheerleading for this thread. 

  • Tom
    July 25, 2014

    We're just going to have to disagree on the Nine. I don't think there have to matched perfectly, and they don't. Alduin is not Akatosh, now which way you look at him. Tsun isn't Zenithar and has no connection.

    I'm not sure where you get Atmorans as not having agriculture though, nor do I see why whaling would connect with commerce.

  • Member
    July 26, 2014

    Thank you Casey!  Feel free to contribute further with any thoughts you have.