Elder Scrolls Lore » Discussions

Faith in Tamriel

  • Member
    August 12, 2016

    Runil's journal is interesting in that it to some degree it sheds light on a sentence easily overlooked found in the much older source, Varieties of Faith. Runil jots down his thoughts about Arkay and how that god govrns the cycle of the natural world:

    12 Sun's Height
    Travelers pass through town, speaking of the land in the grip of high summer. These are the warmest days of the year in Skyrim, but not in Falkreath. Here, all is mist and fog and rain. It is always cool and damp, and the seasons have little meaning.

    Solaf asked me about this today. He said that in a place of the dead such as our great cemetery, Arkay's dominion should be absolute. And yet, Arkay is also the Lord of Seasons and this place seems untouched by them.

    I gave the best answer I could. I explained that Falkreath is indeed a place of great power for Arkay, but he prefers to keep it this way, solemn and gray. Hopefully that was at least partly true, but who can possibly know the mind of a god?

    That Arkay is the lord of seasons is not news to us but what I find interesting is that it addresses the views of the common folk of Tamriel and how they see their gods. If we have a look at Varieties of Faith (the original, not the ESO versions) and take a look at the passage dealing with Arkay, we can get a better sense of this process.

    Arkay (God of the Cycle of Life and Death): Member of the Nine Divines pantheon, and popular elsewhere as well. Arkay is often more important in those cultures where his father, Akatosh, is either less related to time or where his time aspects are difficult to comprehend by the layman. He is the god of burials and funeral rites, and is sometimes associated with the seasons. His priests are staunch opponents of necromancy and all forms of the undead. It is said that Arkay did not exist before the world was created by the gods under Lorkhan's supervision/urging/trickery. Therefore, he is sometimes called the Mortals' God.

    Deep metaphysical subjects like Lunar Currency and Eye of the Thief aside, the sentence I am referring to in this topic is "Arkay is often more important in those cultures where his father, Akatosh, is either less related to time or where his time aspects are difficult to comprehend by the layman." So with Runil's journal and his answer to Solaf, we can perhaps see why a farmer hoping for a good harvest may perform a ritual or direct his prayers to Arkay, more often associated with death.

    It's worth thinking about Almalexia at this juncture. VoF says:

    Almalexia (Mother Morrowind): Most traces of Akatosh disappeared from ancient Chimer legends during their so-called 'exodus', primarily due to that god's association and esteem with the Altmeri. However, most aspects of Akatosh which seem so important to the mortal races, namely immortality, historicity, and genealogy, have conveniently resurfaced in Almalexia, the most popular of Morrowind's divine Tribunal.

    When we think of Akatosh we so rarely consider Ayem as having any connection.

    To take the subject a step further and look at the Persistence of Daedric Veneration, we can glean further insight into how the folk of the provinces may see the gods and demons in their day to day lives:

    Ask the peasant in his field, the cobbler in his shop, or the solicitor in his office if he fears the Daedra Lords because of the ancient practices of the Wild Elves, and all you'll get will be a blank look. The peasant, cobbler, and solicitor only fear Daedra and Daedra-worship because they've been told to by established religion and academia, and because their neighbors believe the same thing.

    So, Phrastus, Daedra worship survives in Tamriel only at the level of forbidden cults? On the contrary, it's easy to show that veneration for Daedra is widespread and widely accepted among the folk of Tamriel, despite the desires and opinions of priests and professors. Ask the hunter why he mutters a prayer to Hircine as he draws his bow. Ask the gardener why she asks Mephala to spare her vines from slugs and worms. Ask the guardsman why he invokes the valor of Boethiah as he draws his sword. And one doesn't have to look hard to find worshipers of Sanguine during Carnaval, or Hermaeus Mora among scholars at any time.

    Whether Arkay answers the pleading farmer, or Mephala tugs on her web and spares the gardener's shoots and leaves from pests, or if indeed Hermaeus Mora gives a tentacle penetration about the woes of a scholar in a library somewhere is entirely open to interpretation and up to the reader to decide.

    In summary, then, the gods and demons who have become so clichéd to the point we think we understand all their aspects and have the entirety of their spheres of influence figured out, may still surprise us when we stop viewing them from the top down. By standing next to the farmer who is outstanding in his field and gazing up at the sky praying for rain in a period of draught to save his harvest, we may legitimately ask ourselves if he is praying to Kynareth or Arkay. I think to wrap this up, Michael Kirkbride's words on the subject of writing make an ideal full stop to this short article:

    The best advice I can give about the lore and the creation thereof is something I learned from Uncle Ken:

    Tell God's story, then tell the farmer's story, then listen to what the dog has to say.

    If you can hit all of those marks, your worlds will seem real.

  • September 27, 2016

    For whatever reason out of all the Aedra I find Arkey the least interesting but connecting him to Ayem makes him more interesting :P