Elder Scrolls Lore » Discussions

On Magicka, the Soul, Draugr, and Their Relation

  • Member
    December 27, 2015

    Disclaimer: Not only am I fairly new to the art of lore theorizing, but I am often wrong. This is just a THEORY, one I am sure is flawed, if not completely incorrect. Feel free to disregard and criticise as you wish, as that, I believe, is the only way to ever find the truth. Thank you for reading!


    On Magicka


    Magicka is the life force of Mundus, the energy which allows its incredible workings. This energy comes from Magnus and the Magna-ge, who departed Mundus, returning to Aetherius and creating the sun and stars, from which the Ayleid believed Magicka did flow. All of the details on this event and the flow of magicka facilitated by the worship of the Aedra (perhaps the Daedra as well?) are explained rather well in On Magic: Origins and Applications by Kynareth. While Kynareth addresses the applications of magic through the eight (nine if you count necromancy) established schools of magic, Kyrielle mentions something in her own discusion, On Magic: Magicka, Nirn, and You that I believe may be critical in an understanding of magic, though neither of these authors expressly state it.

    In her discussion, Kyrielle mentions the shooting stars that would sometimes provide the Ayleids with meteoric iron and glass, both of which having been saturated with magicka. If we are to take the Ayleids’ word for it (and I believe we should, as they were, and in some cases still are, the most magically advanced race to walk Nirn), these meteors come directly from Aetherius, the source of all magic and magicka. This would make the following assumption viable: these meteorites are composed of magicka; they are not just imbued with the energy, they are the energy given form. From a scientific standpoint, this assumption could be extended to all of Mundus, because, in our own universe, matter and energy are interchangeable and are thus one and the same. Even ignoring this aspect of our own universe, Nirn provides ample evidence to support this claim.

    Kyrielle explains that Nirn, like the Aetherial Fragments (the meteorites), is filled with magicka. The simple existence of the standing stones is evidence enough of this, and similar constructs exist all over Tamriel, if not all of Nirn. Kyrielle really gives the subject of Nirn’s magical landscape more justice than I ever could without simply reiterating that which she has already stated. The thing I am more interested in is the magicka found in living things on Nirn, and even all of Mundus. Kyrielle calls magicka a necessity for life to exist, and on this I agree; however, I would argue that magicka is life itself. If the whole of Nirn is magicka, then it would stand to reason that life, or at least the life of Nirn, is also magicka. The alteration spell, Equilibrium, would seem to support this claim, as it directly converts health into magicka, effectively allowing the caster to dip into a secondary pool of magicka, the magicka normally dedicated to sustaining life. This brings me to the issue of the soul, the only other aspect which is ubiquitous to life in Mundus (not including flora, of course).


    On the Soul


    Kyrielle has herself written about the soul in Two Parts of a Whole Make a Soul; however, I would like to apply my theory that magicka is Nirn and is life to the concept. She postulates that the soul is composed of two parts: the consciousness, the actual individual’s memories and experiences; and the life force, the energy that allows for basic processes to occur. She argues (I believe) that each piece is inherently different from the other. I would disagree. I argue that the two pieces (if there are indeed only two) are actually both composed entirely of magicka and are simply differentiated to perform separate functions, much in the same way as stem cells differentiate to form different tissues. This would explain why a soul gem absorbs the whole of the soul, instead of just the life force (as it is, according to Kyrielle’s theory, the only usable piece for enchanting and necromancy).

    The main reason I believe that the consciousness specifically is magicka came to me while contemplating runes, both those cast on the ground through a spell and those which pulsate on enchanted items. I wondered how these runes seem to know when to activate and expend the magicka they contained. Then it occurred to me that this is perhaps due to a rudimentary memory within the spell, that some of the magicka used in the creation of the spell had been dedicated to retaining and remembering a command, a condition for activation. This, I believe, would explain how the consciousness of the soul could be composed of magicka. The subject of soul gems and necromancy leads me to a final, perhaps slightly unrelated, topic; Draugr and their Dragon Priests.


    On Draugr


    This will most likely be the shortest portion of this discussion. Amongst the Draugr tells the tale of a woman of the College who apparently found a way to convince a barrow-full of draugr that she was no threat to them or their over lord. She writes that, while not defending their home, the draugr occupy themselves by religiously cleaning the chambers of their priest and worshipping said priest. The mage notes that an amount of magicka flows from the draugr to their priest in this act, apparently staving off the death of the priest. Whether or not these draugr act out of blind obedience to a command, or if they are consciously deciding to do this is difficult to tell, as the draugr likely performed similar tasks in life as a part of the Dragon Cult. Perhaps the draugr are acting as undead soul gems which the priest may feed off of to sustain his own undeath. It is also unknown how these draugr/soul gems do not run out of charge over time, or perhaps they do and we are only seeing the shreds of their former glory, which would explain why the barrows all seem full and untouched; it is only now that the draugr within have weakened enough to be defeated.

    Addendum: The primary goal of this article is to present a theory, my thesis: that all the energy of Nirn is  magicka. The secondary goal is to present possible implications of the truth of this statement. In this article, I mention two authors: Kynareth and Kyrielle. My intentions are by no means to undermine their work; furthermore, I believe that Kyrielle's dual part soul theory is not necessarily incompatible with my own. Her arguments are well supported and the soul may in fact be comprised of two separate parts; I am simply arguing that both parts are formed of magicka.


  • Member
    December 29, 2015

    I'm sorry I missed this when you posted it Runamoke and I am keen to see this subject discussed in depth here. I like how you are tying physics and TES lore together, that alone indicates you're on to something here.

    Great post, thank you for taking the time to share it in Apocrypha  

  • Member
    May 29, 2016
    A very interesting article. I'll post my comments later but for now, you have a solid 'like' from me ;)
  • Member
    May 30, 2016

    As promised, here are my comments on the article.

    You bring an interesting proposal of entire soul being magicka, energy. However, I disagree that this can be the reason why soul gems capture all the soul, not only the part that is used in enchanting. I think that the consciousness is separated from life force through the course of the enchanting process, not when the soul is captured. The soul gem itself is a natural stone (mined from Blackreach) with the capability to hold soul - Soul Trap spell/effect plays a large role in trapping it. If the soul is entirely composed of magicka, why the magicka absorption effects like the Staff of Magnus are never heard of draining souls. 

    Regarding runes, note that they use Daedric script. Daedra are associated with limitations and I think that the rune spells are simply spells like Fireball that are bound to a surface via Daedric script incantations.

    Amongst the Draugr mentions "life force" transfer which is incidentally fitting to Kyrielle's theory. Hevnoraak was probably the most advanced in his regard and he has used his own blood to return to full power later on. However, emptying the blood vials still had him retain his "consciousness". Dragon priests possess it, as evidenced by Morokei. 

  • Member
    June 1, 2016

    Hey, Vazgen. Thanks a ton for the like and comment!

    I believe there may be a vagueness in my article; it seems to me that you have taken my main thesis- that the soul is composed of magicka- to mean that the magicka usable in spellcasting and the magicka of the soul are synonymous. The reason the absorb magicka effect doesn't perform the same function as a soul trap is because it is designed to specifically drain the usable magicka reserves, not the magicka of the soul. Under my theory, the only way for an absorb effect to trap a soul would be if the target of the effect had somehow stored their soul in their magicka reserves, which is not unlike converting health into magicka using Equilibrium.

    Thanks for pointing out that the runes are Daedric script for binding. I believe you may be right about the rune spells simply being an AOE spell bound in place, and the activation of the rune is just disturbing the seal. Do you have any thoughts on how the runes of an enchanted item interact with their surroundings? It can't be in the same way as a rune spell, otherwise the enchantment would be drained immediately in first contact.

    As for the apparent disagreement between Kyrielle's theory and my own, I would not insist that the soul is not two parts, but that each part is composed of magicka. While the mage mentioned in Amongst the Draugr the "life force" specifically, I don't believe this discounts my hypothesis that the Draugr are acting as soul gems for their lord/priest.

  • June 2, 2016
    I really regret not seeing this soonet or just dropping by, but I'm prepared to atone. :) On Magicka: I wonder if those meteorites might have been the source of Ayleid Welkynd and Varla Stones. If they are coming from Aetherius, thus being basicaly a pure magic, it makes sense that in Oblivion when you used Welkynd Stone it fully replenished your Magicka pool. Using Varla Stone fully recharged your enchated weapons. Only something made of pure magic could do that right? On the Soul and Draugr later. Quite busy right now.
  • Member
    June 2, 2016

    Runamoke, I am very glad to see that this is getting some love so once again thanks for sharing and re-interpreting this subject 

    Also, well done to DB for the spotlight and Vazgen for kickstarting the debate. 

    So, now the back slapping is done, I would like to propose a thought experiment about souls, specifically the two ways we interpret them. Do two parts of a whole make a soul, or is it all one and the same?

    I am imagining the Soul Cairn, picturing all those wandering spirits. How did they get there? 

    A) Were they offered up to the Ideal Masters in exchange for power?


    B) Do all souls caught in black soul gems go there?

    If the answer is A) then it only makes sense that the soul in question goes straight to the Ideal Masters at the moment of mortal death. Even though time may be irrelevant to them, it would be relevant to the mortal supplicant. If the mortal supplicant uses the soul gem to enchant, the Ideal Masters would not get their soul because it would be bound to an item until that item is discharged. This would indicate that the there are two parts to the soul, one which goes to the Masters, the other which stays in the item.

    If the answer is B) then it could indicate that the souls only go to the Cairn once the enchantment they are used in is depleted. This, in turn, indicates that the magicka of souls is composed of only one thing.

    Which resonates most with you? I see no reason why both cannot be relevant to an individual's head canon.

    On the subject of draugr, in-game they have white souls. A thought experiment would then be:

    A) Do draugr have white souls because one of the two parts of the soul has already gone to the bank of Lunar Currency?


    B) The draugr have white souls because that is what they are believed to possess? (This last also includes giants and Falmer - theory is that only those beings recognised by Arkay as being sentient are possessed of black souls. Who determines what Arkay believes? Mortal point of view, mythopoeia.)

    If A) chimes a chord then two parts of a soul make a whole.

    If B) tickles your fancy then shit is about to get even more complicated. It could imply that the immortality as envisioned by the Dragon Cult was actually a real thing. That those draugr way back when were possessed of black souls because society and culture believed them to have them. AE and Energy in a living, preserved corpse. Only as the cult lost relevance over time and situation did society change to view the draugr as not immortal. The AE possibly then flew off, leaving just enough energy to power the reciprocal process of energy transfer.

    Yet if that is the case it tends to disprove the single part soul idea. For if a soul is only composed of one part, why aren't their souls black? However, as many can speak, taunt and drop snark that could indicate that their AE, there identify, remains inside the corpse bringing us full circle to the one part soul theory.

    Man, I have a headache 

  • Member
    June 2, 2016

    Hey, Phil. Thanks for suggesting my work to DB. I am truly humbled.

    It seems that several people have taken the section on the soul to mean that I argue a one-part-soul theory. I've added an addendum to correct this because I believe Kyrielle does a very good job explaining her position, at least well enough that I am about 90% certain that her view is the correct one. Now, to answer your questions.

    The first:

    I believe there may be some overlap as to which one (A or B) is correct. Based on the animation played for a successful soul trap, it doesn't appear that any part of the soul goes anywhere but towards the soul, so I believe the entire soul is absorbed. But the Ideal Masters must be getting something out of it, namely, the consciousness of the person soul trapped. But, I believe this may be released in the enchanting process, when the gem is destroyed. Obviously, energy can be bound to practically everything in Nirn, so why use a soul gem? It is the only thing capable of containing both the energy (life force) and the consciousness of the soul. Once the gem breaks, the life force either disperses or is channeled into an object, and the consciousness goes to the ideal masters.

    Further, if the consciousness were not usable for something, the Ideal Masters wouldn'd have much motivation to collect it. The logical extension of this observation is that the consciousness is composed of magicka.

    I'll have to address your other query later, as I'm a little busy at the moment, but I'll most likely get to it sometime today.

  • Member
    June 2, 2016

    And now the second:

    I think the answer to this question is all dependent on whether or not the Draugr retain their consciousness, and to whom precisely their souls are bound. The later will require more research to answer (I may even write an article on that at a later date, who knows?), but the former might be answerable with simple analysis of gameplay mechanics. When using Necromancy, it would appear that the zombie is acting outside of its own will, as, if an enemy raises a corpse, and the player fires a similar reanimation spell in time, the zombie will switch masters and protect the player. This doesn't make much sense if the zombie has free will. Of course, there is also the Illusion school to consider; a master illusionist can control the undead, including the summons of an enemy necromancer. How could one fool something that is not capable of reason of some kind? The undead must have some kind of consciousness lingering within. If mythopoeia is to be assumed true for Mundus, I believe the most convincing explanation is that the Draugrs' souls have been demoted to white status, but that their consciousness remains intact.

    Now, this leads me to an interesting problem: if a white soul is that of any non-sentient creature, does that mean that animals are not sentient on Nirn? What could that mean for their ethical treatment in the future? Further, what of the Hist? They are indeed in some way related to the Argonians, who have black souls. Do the Hist have black souls, and, if so, are they of a higher moral consequence than animals?

    LOL, sorry about the wall of questions. They don't all necessarily require an answer; that's just how I think.

  • Member
    June 2, 2016

    That conclusion about the stones makes complete sense to me, Karver. I look forward to anything else you mean to say.