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Of Ashlanders and Their Ways

  • March 29, 2016

    Who are the Ashlanders? They are the nomadic people of Morrowind, but what are their beginnings? Everything started at Summerset Isles, when the Prophet Veloth led a group of Altmer from the Summerset Isles. These Elves later became the Chimer under the guidance of the Daedric Lords Azura, Boethiah, and Mephala. This group settled in the land we now know as Morrowind.

    Over time, the culture of high Velothi vanished and the people divided into several tribes. Because Morrowind (or known then as Resdayn) was plagued by Nord invaders, some of these tribes consolidated, eventually pushing away the Nord invaders, and gave up their nomadic ways, settling in cities and worshipping the Tribunal. These tribes eventually grew into the Great Houses of Morrowind as we know them today.

    The rest, those who kept their nomadic ways, those that decided to stay true to Good Daedra and teachings of Veloth, those are the Ashlanders, keeping old traditions alive.



    So what traditions? They don´t have a religion as we know, they rather practice shamanistic ancestor worship of not only their forefathers, but of Good Daedra as well - Azura, Boethiah and Mephala. There are several Ancestor cults, each Ashlander tribe having their own Ancestor cult.

    The religion is usually passed on by an Oracle-Seer, Wise Woman with the gift of prophecy, who is protected by group of holy warrior-heroes, the chief being the Warrior-Protector of the cult. The dream visions and prophecies of the Wise Women are a respected tradition, and are usually passed on their successors.

    Ashlanders also honor their dead, constructing burial caverns where they bury their dead. These caverns are guarded by ancestor spirits, most likely spirits of those who were buried there. Is itnecromancy? Ashlanders don’t think so. Most likely, the dead willingly decide they will guard those caverns, because it is an honor to protect their earlier ancestors from desecration. It is this which ties into Ashlander’s belief that necromancy is heresy, mainly profaning the bones or spirits of their ancestors.

    The Ashlanders do not dwell on things which they have lost, but rather look foward with hope on what the future will bring from these losses. Words of the Wind clearly depicts that with this:

    I will not pray for that which I've lost

    When my heart springs forth

    From your soil, like a seed,

    And blossoms anew beneath tomorrow's sun.

    Another interesting thing about Ashlanders is their Nerevarine Cult. Since both the Temple and the Empire had outlawed the Cult it had a relatively small following, made up primarily of just a few wise women and their protectors.

    This cult believed that the Ancient Dunmer hero Nerevar would be reborn, uniting the Dunmer, pushing the Empire out of Morrowind and restoring the pure, traditional life and faith of old Velothi. The Cult also believed that the Tribunal are false gods and this Nerevarine wouldunmake them. And we know how that ended up, don’t we?

    On another note concerning Nerevar, the Wise Women would tell tales of one Alandro Sul, a shield-companion of Nerevar. Apparently, this Alandro Sul came to live with the Ashlanders after the death of Nerevar, eventually leaving behind a set of Wraithmail. This artifact has since been lost, but it is said that whoever wears the Wraithmail, or perhaps even uses just one Ringlet, will be endowed with the spirit of Alandro Sul and thus be possessed by him.

    In more recent events, after the Red Year the people of Morrowind dismissed Tribunal as false gods and Dissident Priests took control over the Temple, restructuring it into New Temple. The doctrine again became focused on worshiping Good Daedra (Reclamations) and implemented a more tolerant policy towards Ashlanders and their beliefs. Indeed, the new doctrine actually honored them, because Ashlanders were seen as following the “true vision” for a millenia while Great Houses were blinded by Tribunal. Many Dunmer seek counsel of Wise Women now, just as they worship Good Daedra again.


    Tribal Hiearchy

    As Ashlanders are nomads and their society is of a tribal nature, the hiearchy plays a very important role in their lives. There are few titles and roles that define every member of tribe, so let’s take a look at them.

    • Ashkhan - Is the greatest champion of the tribe who serves as chieftain and war leader of the tribe, as well as being Warrior-Protector of tribe’s Oracle-Seer and Ancestor cult. They are usually easily recognizable by their crowns made of chitin, dyed feather and other organic materials. Some Ashkhans may have advisors - besides Wise Women - such as wizards, though very rarely.
    • Oracle-Seer - Sometimes known as Farseer or Wise Woman is the shaman of the tribe who serves as an advisor to Ashkhan, giving her counsel on arcane matters and prophecies. If there is a time when there isn’t Ashkhan, or any other worthy successor, a Wise Woman can take on the mantle of Ashkhan for herself and lead the tribe. They also serve as historians and storytellers of the tribe, passing on the knowledge of the past and legacies of the tribe.
    • Gulakhans - Are the warriors and champions of Ashkhan and the tribe, protecting the honor of the tribe in peace and war. They also give counsel to the Ashkhan in tribal affairs and it is them who mostly deal with guests and intruders. When there is no Ashkhan and no Gulakhans to become chief, lower members of the tribe may rise to the rank of Gulkhan while Wise Woman Leads the tribe.
    • Champion, Guide, Clanholder, Initiate, Brother, Hearthfriend and Clanfriend - These titles are directly below the Gulakhan and don’t serve any special purpose. I think these ranks are mainly Morrowind in-game ranks, but I think that the most important here are Hearthfriend and Clanfriend. On few occassions outsiders can become Clanfriends or even Hearthfriends of the tribe. The difference in my mind is that Clanfriend is accepted to whole tribe, while Hearthfriend in addition to that is accepted to one family/yurt.


    The Ashlander society is comprised of nomadic camps which have portable huts of hides stretched on chitin frames which can be quickly dismantled and packed atop a guar when moving to new hunting grounds and grazing grounds for their guar and shalk. The Ashkhan of the tribe has a much larger yurt, though the khan's hut is simply a larger, more elaborate version of a family hut. Some particular qualities exclusive to these Ashlander camps include reed windchimes, organic lanterns of varoius colors, as well as decorative bug bowls.

    The majority of Ashlanders serve the tribe as scouts, herders or hunters, with each tribe also having a healer who can be either Oracle-Seer or any other member. As the Ashlanders are nomadic, the herds must be looked after and food must be hunted, but the herders and hunters are also charged with guarding the treasures of the land that nourish the Ashlanders and make them strong. The herders are responsible watching over the tribe's herds of guar and shalk, as well as butchering them for their meat to feed the tribe. The herders will also tan the guar hides, render the shalk resins, and season the shalk shells. The craftsmen of the tribe will take these things and make the things the tribe needs, as well as what they will sell to traders and other tribes; they will use the shalk resin to bind their chitin into weapons and armor. The herders and hunters also serve as warriors beside the Ashkhans and Gulakhans when war arises between tribes.


    Culture and Customs

    As previously stated, Ashlanders are nomads and are heavily influenced by their tribal nature. Their whole economy and society is based on the nomadic herder-hunter foundation. They herd guar and shalk and hunt wild guar along with any other wildlife.

    Unconcerned with becoming wealthy, theyfind pleasure in simpler things. Almost all of their belongings are made from the enviroment around them. Weapons, armors and even clothes are all organic and of simple design.

    They find pleasure in hunting, in taking their time while sneaking up on their prey and surprising it with a swift silent arrow. These virtues come from the Daedra they worship, namely Boethia, teaching them to be quiet, patient, and cunning.

    While they can meet all their needs out there in wild, by hunting, herding, and gathering, they often trade with travellers or Great Houses, typically guar hides, shalk resins, and sometimes even ebony.

    In their relations with other tribes, traditionally Ashlanders claim the right to raid other Ashlander tribes, and non-Ashlander settlements, for booty and slaves. This raiding is generally done to prove strength, as well as to gain goods and respect. Even though they claim this right, the Ashlanders will not usually attack such folk as travelling traders, caravans, and goods shipments unless they feel that the persons involved had wronged them in some way.

    When feuds between tribes arise, they may be settled by the champions of the tribes, however wars sometimes do occur. They have strong militaristic and authoritarian traditions grounded in their ancestor worship. When war erupts almost all members of the tribe, not just the champions and warriors, participate in the fighting. Typically Ashalnder weaponry is made of chitin, namely basic bows, spears, swords, daggers and the like. The Ashlanders are also excellent fighters while in their own territory, even outmatching the Empire’s legions. Wars are typically avoided for the most part, mainly due to the fact that the Ashlanders are very few and the lives of their people are too dear to waste. They are, however, extremely brave once in battle.

    Among their own, their etiquete is very proper and polite, which means they quite easily take offense from outsiders. Outsiders are expected to be courteous, provide gifts to Ashlanders - who sometimes even name a gift they desire. Gifts are considered a token of courtesy among strangers and affection among friends.

    When an outsider first enters the camp, a gift is a sign that the stranger is cautious, considerate, and aware of the other’s wants and needs. Many traders and travellers familiar with Ashlanders´ society know that gift can be difference between death and life, asAshlanders will draw weapons if they feel offended. Gifts of money are usually taken as tokens of deference and respect.

    It is considered rude to enter the yurt of an Ashkan or Wise Woman without permission and is seen as incosiderate to enter a yurt unclean. Ashlanders may challange a stranger who enters a yurt without an invitation, though forgiveness maybe be granted if the stranger leaves when asked.

    Challenges are very solemn and serious, never made lightly, but they can be made just for sport. In that case it’s acceptable to decline, though when challenged for honor, it’s shameful to decline. Horn challenges come from offense given in speech or action, or may be challenges of statur or ritual.

    It is possible for an outsider to be adopted into the tribe as a Clanfriend, but there is a test first - Harrowing. The outsider must be judged by the spirits and ancestors as worthy.

    Ashlanders may also be cast out or choose to leave the tribe. Those who willingly leave the tribe settle among the Great Houses, abandoning their nomadic life, are known as the Velothi. The Velothi are despised by Ashlanders, considered weak and soft, while Great Houses look down upon them as an insignificiant underclass.

    Some of them might form rogue camps, or becoming mabrigash - renegade witch-warrior women who practice dark magics. The mabrigash steal vital essence of the men in order to give themselves power and live. (Do not mistake mabrigash with Mabrigash Tribe from ESO, they are completely two different things.)


    Dealings With Outsiders

    Ashlanders tend to dislike all foreigners as well as their fellow Dunmer which have given up the Ashlander ways. The Ashlanders wish for the foreigners to leave Morrowind, or at the very least to leave them in peace. Even though they harbor a harsh dislike for the Empire, no Ashlander is fool enough to make war against them, though if such a war might be won, many Ashlanders would most likely cheerfully give their lives to the cause.

    In their dislike for foreigners, Ashlanders harbor particular biases against certain races.

    • Altmer are soft and foolish, having abandoned their ancestors and put their faith in buildings and sorcery.
    • Argonians and Khajiit are as useless as ignorant, superstitious and untrustworthy, both races being ones that their ancestors kept as slaves.
    • Nords are the most disliked, for stealing the lands of Ashlanders in times past
    • Imperials are disliked for focing the Ashlanders to be their subjects, though they do little in retaliation against the Imperials, deciding to follow the ways taught to them by Boethiah, to be quiet, patient, and cunning.

    Of course the Ashlanders also dislike their fellow settled Dunmer, as well as any Ashlander that gives up their ways to settle down. The Ashlanders believe themselves to be the only ones that have remained true to the sacred rites and customs of their forefathers. The House Dunmer have presumably become soft and abandoned traditional ancestor worship and the pure teachings of Veloth for the 'false' gods of the Tribunal, andembraced the comforts of civilization that corrupted their High Elven ancestors; Ashlanders which have settled are also viewed in this way.

    The Ashlanders accuse almost all Dunmer Great Houses of stealing their lands and scorn the Great House Dunmer for giving into the Empire. They also hold personal biases against them as well. They view the Telvanni as being ruled by old, evil wizards who are (Bad) Daedra worshipers and necromancers. They view House Hlaalu as a pack of lying thieves. They say that Hlaalu sends their traders to try to trick them out of their treasure, and if the Hlaalu cannot trick them, they send soldiers to drive them from their lands. They have less resentment for the Redoran, as they believe some Redoran to be honorable, though they also believe some of the less honorable wish to steal their lands.


    Ashlander Tribes

    First four tribes I’ll name are those of Vvardenfell, during Third Era, and I have no idea how many of these tribes survived Red Year. Other tribes will be of the mainland, during Second Era (ESO).

    • Ahemmusa Tribe resides in the Northern Grazelands region of Vvardenfell. In past, this tribe had more land and wealth, but during the times of the blight much of this land was taken from them. The blight killed many of their herds and their game, leaving them with few resources. The Ahemmusa are quite weak in arms and are a mild and peace-loving people, taking shelter in the daedric ruin of Ald Daedroth when needed. Also as of recently they are without a proper Ashkhan, and rather their Wise Woman, Sinnammu Mirpal, is performing those duties.
    • Erabenimsun Tribe resides in the Molag Mar region of Vvardenfell. In contrast to the Ahemmusa, the Erabenimsun are quite war-loving. They are seen as greedy and cruel by their fellow Ashlanders and are believed to have no respect for many Ashlander customs. Their Wise Woman is known as Manirai and their Ashkhan Han-Ammu.
    • Urshilaku Tribe resides in the Ashlands and the West Gash regions of Vvardenfell. The chief of the Urshilaku is considered one of the braver and more respected war leaders among the Ashlanders, and is also the Warrior-Protector of the Nerevarine Cult. The Urshilaku camp moves with their herds, but usually lies close to the Sea of Ghosts. Their Wise Woman is known as Nibani Maesa, and their Ashkhan Sul-Matuul.
    • Zainab Tribe resides in the lower Grazelands region of Vvardenfell, in what other tribes would view as good land. By other Ashlanders they are viewed as proud, arrogant, and greedy as well as being likable rogues, strong and self-assured. Recently they have began trading ebony with the Great House Hlaalu. Their Wise Woman is known as Sonummu Zabamat and their Ashkhan Kaushad.

    Now mainland tribes:

    • Kagesh Tribe lives in the Stonefalls region of mainland Morrowind. They are traditionally hated and feared by the settled Dunmer of the region. In 2E 582, the Kagesh Ashkhan led an attack on the Iliath Temple as a means of ending the tribe's persecution. The move was against the wishes of the Wise Woman Hedranna Kaliki, who attempted to create peace with the Temple by offering herbs and healing potions. The tribe's gift was used to heal injured soldiers of the Ebonheart Pact, who were then employed to defend the temple. Additionally, the spirits of dead Ordinators were also summoned to hold the walls. Faced with this, the Ashkhan and his supporters attempted to tunnel into the temple, but the poor supports were toppled by the defenders and the invaders were killed in the collapse. The remaining Kagesh were forced to flee
    • Ulath Tribe (also known as the Ulathi) is a minor Ashlander tribe that lives in the Stonefalls region of mainland Morrowind. Little is known of them, as they are hostile to outsiders. The Cave of Memories, a small cave northwest of Heimlyn Keep, serves as their ancestral burial grounds.
    • Vereansu Tribe is an Ashlander tribe that lives in the Deshaan region of mainland Morrowind. In 2E 582, the Vereansu led an attack on the Temple monastery at Muth Gnaar. The monastery held the Tear of Saint Veloth, an artifact sacred to House Dunmer and Ashlanders alike. The healers at the monastery were using the Tear to suppress the effects of the Llodos Plague, which was spreading across Deshaan. The Vereansu, in their fear of the plague, viewed the Tear's use as defilement and sought to cleanse the monastery with flame. They captured the afflicted and many of the priests who tended them, and locked them within burning buildings to perish. Without the Tear's protection however, many of the afflicted transformed into Plague Husks and attacked the tribe. Amid the chaos, fleeing priests called for aid from the roadside, and were successfully able to rescue several people from the monastery. The Vereansu Wise Woman was killed while attempting to destroy the Tear, and the tribe was eventually driven off with the death of its Ashkhan.
    • Mabrigash Tribe is an Ashlander tribe that lives in the Vale of the Ghost Snake, in the Deshaan region of mainland Morrowind. The tribe is predominantly female, and worships an entity known as the Ghost Snake. Members of the tribe are required to follow the Coiled Path as a coming of age ritual, by walking through the treacherous swamps of the Vale while avoiding the giant snakes and the angry ghosts of those who failed. Unlike other Ashlander tribes, they are led by a Farseer rather than a Wise Woman. The Mabrigash were traditionally xenophobic and isolated, refusing contact with the outside world. In 2E 582, a Hlaalu trading caravan attempted to make contact with the tribe to trade for snake skin. The Hlaalu envoy, Raston Vendil, managed to insult the entire tribe with his lack of etiquette and was taken prisoner. The Mabrigash implored the Ghost Snake for advice, but the spirit insisted that the choice was theirs: accept trade with the outside world, or remain isolated. It is unknown which path the tribe took, but the contact with the traders had irreversibly changed them. By 3E 427, the term mabrigash had come to define a renegade Wise Woman who had forsaken tradition to master the dark arts and become a witch-warrior. They were known to obtain their power by charming a man and draining him of his vital essence, and could manifest their power as a ghost snake which would paralyze and drain their victims. These witch-warriors were common on the island of Vvardenfell, but it is unknown how they relate to the tribe of the Vale.


    Ashlanders, are people preserving the old ways of Chimer. I hope this proves valuable to anyone who reads it in understanding Ashlanders and maybe even the whole Dunmeri nation more.

    Ashlander Wise Women, Notes from Huleeya, The Mabrigash Trial, Ashlands Hymns, Urshilaku Tribe, Zainab Tribe, The Five Far Stars, Words of the Wind, Nerevar Moon-and-Star, The Real Nerevar, Saint Nerevar, Nerevarine Cult Notes, A Short History of Morrowind, Vivec and Mephala, Before the Ages of Man, The Reclamations: The Fall of the Tribunal and the Rise of the New Temple, History of Raven Rock, Events of Morrowind and ESO

  • March 29, 2016
    So the Great Houses are basically Ashlanders that gave up the religion, and gave in to the Empire, along with settling?
  • Member
    March 29, 2016

    Great write up! I love their parts in Morrowind.

    A minor side note: Urshilaku tribe is also the most welcoming of outsiders, i.e. only disliked instead strongly disliked/hated, since they knew the Nerevarine might come to them as one.

  • March 29, 2016

    Awesome article, Karver. And such fascinating pictures))))

    Can' help it but notice some resemblance between the Ashlanders and the Orc tribes)))

  • March 29, 2016

    This article rocks, Karves. Very proud to see so much content in the past few weeks from both you and Phil. You are wild boys!  Love the extensive reference section. Makes me want to run a Ashlander build.  And that's the goal of these articles, I think, to inspire. I read Phil's and want to make a Valkyrie build with Dawnbreaker, I read yours, Ashlander. It's great stuff to be inspired to create new things. This game is 5 years old and still inspires such creativity and now scholarship. 

  • Member
    March 29, 2016

    I like the surreal style of some of the pictures. The derp guar is my favorite

  • March 30, 2016
    No, the change was long time ago, when Morrowind was Resdayn, before the Battle at Red Mountain when Chimer were changed to Dunmer (supposedly)
  • March 30, 2016
    Heh, thanks, Thorien. So you see those similarities too? What can I say. I love tribal stuff xD
  • March 30, 2016
    Thanks, Exuro. And yeah, you're right. Urshilaku was maybe the most welcoming tribe on Vvardenfell. It makes me wonder how that was accepted by other tribes or Great Houses. Also, what surprises me is that Urshilaku wasn't constantly hunted by Ordinators. Maybe Temple feared that by attacking them they would make martyrs out of them?
  • Member
    March 30, 2016

    Pretty sweet

    I've been enjoying these articles cheers guys