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The Burial Customs and Death Practices of Tamriel: "The Elder Scrolls" Lore

Dani has recently become interested in the awesome world of "The Elder Scrolls" and loves coming up with new, interesting builds.

The burial practices of the races of Tamriel are as varied as the races that inhabit it. All races experience death-- although some meet their end much sooner than others-- and almost all cultures have a deity that governs death and the afterlife. Most races of Tamriel have been greatly influenced by the Ayleids.

A blooming Deathbell in the marshes of Skyrim, Fourth Era.

A blooming Deathbell in the marshes of Skyrim, Fourth Era.

Burial Customs of The Altmer or High Elves

The proud and ancient Altmer view their dead with almost as much veneration as they do their gods. After all, "Aedra" is Aldmeri for "ancestor."

Worship of Xarxes

There are two origin stories regarding the Altmeri deity of Xarxes, but both denote him as a scribe at the right hand of Auri-El. He is to record the lives of the Altmer and their ancestral heritage.

Death Practices of the Argonians

Argonian burials in their native Black Marsh are simple and without further preparation of the body. Due to the swampy climate, decay happens rapidly. Traditional Argonian belief dissuades any practices that slow the process of decay.

Bretons

The Bretons are a hardy, adaptable race of Man with a large range of beliefs and practices. They assimilate into other cultures easily and their death rituals reflect this.

The major burial practices of the Bretons are split geographically. Those who live in their native High Rock practice two distinct methods of funerary customs: cremation and traditional ground burial.

Cremation

In the north, cremation was practiced almost exclusively and has a deep cultural tradition that can be traced back to the First Era (Corpse). The practice is thought to originate from the Bjoulsae River Tribe, known more commonly as the Horsemen, who had many practices similar to the more modern Forsworn. It also proved as a useful deterrent to the practice of necromancy, which is common even within their own race.

The Sanguine Barrows in Rivenspire, are an example of what a common Breton burial looks like in many places.

The Sanguine Barrows in Rivenspire, are an example of what a common Breton burial looks like in many places.

Ground Burial

With the introduction of Imperial influence, Bretons began to bury their dead in the ground. They have also adapted many of the Imperial Divines and death rites into their practices. In rare cases, Bretons are known to mummify their dead.

The Reach-Men

The Reach-Men are a distinct ethnic group within the Breton race that reside primarily in Skyrim's Markarth. This territory was previously the property of High Rock and many of the Reach-Men do not welcome the Nordic presence. Traditional Reachmen, particularly the Forsworn practice what is simply known as the "Old Ways." In the case of Faolan, popularized in the Tamrielic language as "Red Eagle," a Breton became a Dragur with the help of an ancient and powerful Hagraven.

Thus was brokered to the witch: his heart, his will, his humanity. From that day forth, his was a spirit of vengeance, pitiless and beyond remorse. The rebels grew in strength and numbers, and none could stand against them. Faolan's eyes burned coldly in those days, black opals reflecting a mind not entirely his own.

- Tredayn Dren, The Legend of Red Eagle

Nords

Nords traditionally bury their dead in open-air tombs known as Halls of the Dead. Almost every Hold in Skyrim has a Hall of the Dead in its major city. It is here that they are left to Arkay and tended to by His priests. Friends and to pay their respects and leave offerings of flowers, gold, and other tokens of respect.

"Woe to the unwary explorer who delves deep into the burial crypts of the ancient Nords, and disturbs the Draugr that dwell within."

— Loading Screen from Elder Scrolls: Skyrim

Dragur

Frequently, the bodies of deceased Nordic warriors reanimate into creatures known as Dragur. While the exact origins of this reanimation are unknown, some believe that it may have something to do with their interaction of the Dragon Priests of long ago. There is at least one instance of a Breton becoming a Dragur, as seen in the Legend of Red Eagle. They any living thing they see and can quite a danger in large numbers. When this happens, many members regard it as their sworn to re-enter their tombs and kill their ancestors. However, the Nords don't view this as bothersome or disrespectful, but rather view it as putting their back to and reuniting them with Sovengarde.

More ancient Nord dead are buried in vast tombs dotted throughout Skyrim's frozen tundra. Some of these tombs, such as Labyrinthian, were whose ruins are now as of the dead.

Other Nords are buried in the ground, such as the vast and ancient graveyard that made Falkreath famous.

On Solstheim, the ancient Skaal Nords used to entomb their dead in traditional crypts encased in Stalhrim.

The Hall of the Dead in Whiterun Hold, a typical example of a Nordic tomb.

The Hall of the Dead in Whiterun Hold, a typical example of a Nordic tomb.

Bosmer

The Bosmer have a much more lax view of burial rituals than their Mer cousins. The Wood Elves do not make an effort to preserve the bodies of their dead; instead, they return them to the Green as quickly as possible.

The Bosmer are known for their cannibalistic mandate under the guidance of the Green Pact.

The Death Practices of the Redguards

The Redguards have a strong kinship with their ancestors and a reverence for their ancient Yokudan gods, with the more conservative Crowns or Na-Totambu believing their deities to be separate entities from the Divines (Karkuxor).

Mummification

When their homeland fell into the ocean, the ancient Yokudans were determined to continue their distinct culture and religion. The most notable of these death practices may be the use of mummification on their most honored dead, including kings and queens. While mummification is not entirely unique to the Redguards, it is seen to be more prevalent than in other cultures. The Redguards are also known to mummify pets and the wealthy or influential may have elaborate tombs and decorated sarcophagi.

Tu'waccha and Arkay

The Redguards have a strong kinship with their ancestors and a reverence for their ancient Yokudan gods, with the more conservative Crowns or Na-Totambu believing their deities to be separate entities from the Divines (Karkuxor). They also purportedly have the strongest of Arkay of all of Tamriel, though whether this includes or is perhaps in reference to Tu'waccha is unknown (Corpse). What is known, though, is that the death rituals and last rites are important through Hammerfell and greater Redguard culture.

Tu'whacca (Tricky God):

Yokudan god of souls. Tu'whacca, before the creation of the world, was the god of Nobody Really Cares. When Tall Papa undertook the creation of the Walkabout, Tu'whacca found a purpose; he became the caretaker of the Far Shores, and continues to help Redguards find their way into the afterlife

- Brother Mikhael Karkuxor of the Imperial College

The Crowns and the Forebears

The rituals of the Redguards, or Ra Gada, is divided in part by their major political parties: the Forebears and the Crowns. While politics are never simple, the major differences between the two regard whether to continue the ancient ways of Yokuda or embrace the new culture emerging in their new homeland.

The Forebears are the more of the and have a certain level of with other cultures, adopting traditional underground burials of their neighbors The Crowns, on the other hand, are staunch advocates of the old ways and entomb their dead.

The Asha'bah and the Ra-Netu

Redguards are forbidden to harm their honored dead, known as Ra-Netu, even when those dead rise from the grave. It is seen as a curse to strike the dead regardless of circumstances, causing a dilemma in a world filled with necromancers and unpredictable magic. The Asha'bah are the solution to this problem. They are a nomadic tribe (presumably Crowns) that are seen as a pariah-- untouchable but necessary.

Corpse Preparation Volume 1, a book in Morrowind that details basic necromantic practices.

Corpse Preparation Volume 1, a book in Morrowind that details basic necromantic practices.

A Note on Necromancy

Necromancy is a widely debated practice throughout all of Tamriel. While only technically illegal in Morrowind, it is looked down upon universally in all cultures. Perhaps the most hated of the races, the Sloads, were famous for their skill in Necromancy.

More on Necromancy

Sources

All sources are from in-game books and are cited in standard APA format.

  • Congonius, O., Br. (n.d.). Reverence of the Dead. Tu'whacca and Burial Rites in Contemporary Redguard Culture
  • Corpse Preparation, Volume One. (n.d.).The Acquisition of the Corpse
  • Karkuxor, M. (n.d.). Varieties of Faith: Crown Redguards.
  • Dren, T. (n.d.). The Legend of Red Eagle.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2018 Dani Merrier

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