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Where Did the Imperial Pantheon Come From? A Comparison of the Aedra, the Divines, and the Nordic Gods

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

The modern Imperial Pantheon, or the Eight (or Nine) Divines, are the primary deities for many of the human Elder Scrolls races. They are the gods that have been thought to have created Nirn and the universe as a whole. Every race has their own unique pantheon, but the expansion of the Empire has made the Imperial Pantheon more expansive.

Where Did the Nine Divines Come From?

The Imperial Pantheon first appeared in the Elder Scrolls originated after the slave uprising of St. Alessia in the First Era. This Pantheon was a synthesis of the Ayleid "Ten Ancestors" as well as the Ancient Nordic Pantheon (Junius).

Stained glass depictions of the Divines.

Stained glass depictions of the Divines.

Comparison of Imperial, Aedric, and Nordic Pantheons

ImperialAedricNordic

Akatosh

Auri-El

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Arkay

Xarxes

Orkey

Dibella

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Dibella

Julianos

Magnus

Jhunal

Kynareth

---

Kyne

Mara

Mara

Mara

Stendarr

Stendarr

Stuhn

Zenithar

Xen

---

A statue of Akatosh as depicted in Elder Scrolls: Oblivion. He is often seen as an elderly man accompanied by a dragon.

A statue of Akatosh as depicted in Elder Scrolls: Oblivion. He is often seen as an elderly man accompanied by a dragon.

Akatosh, the Dragon God of Time

Almost all the cultures of Tamriel united under a primary dragon deity, although each pantheon has its own manifestations.

Aldmeri Traditions

The Aldmeri worship a god known as Auri-El. The Altmer, Bosmer, and formerly the Ayleids and Falmer, all claim a direct descendence from this chief of the Aedra. He was thought to have made only one mistake-- assisting in the mortal plane. Because of this mistake, his descendants must learn to ascend back into godhood themselves. His worshippers do not resent him for his moment of weakness, rather they use it as a model to perfect themselves. Auri-El is associated with purity and the light of the sun.

Nordic Traditions

While the ancient Nords did have a dragon deity, it was not all-powerful and was partially defeated in their legends. This equivalent is Alduin, the primary antagonist during the events of Skyrim. Instead of Alduin being an omnipotent entity, he is simply the most powerful of the draconic god-kings. There was a large and significant Dragon Cult during the time of the Atmorans who worshipped and deified these seemingly otherworldly creatures. Alduin was the chief among them and even served as their general in the Dragon Wars, but he was not considered an aspect of a more powerful deity.

Imperial Synthesis

The deity that came to be known as Akatosh was of primary importance to St. Alessia. While it is widely contested where Alessia received her powers, with some sources contributing it to the now largely defunct deity Shezzar, Akatosh is credited with most of her accomplishments.

"Akatosh says: Serve and obey your Emperor. Study the Covenants. Worship the Nine, do your duty, and heed the commands of the saints and priests."

— Ten Commands: Nine Divines

A Breton statue of Arkay as depicted in the Elder Scrolls Online.

A Breton statue of Arkay as depicted in the Elder Scrolls Online.

Arkay, the God of Death and Rebirth

Aldmeri Traditions

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The Altmer do not have a god of death—rather they have an ageless god that knowledge and ancestry known as Xarxes. He is Auri-El's scribe and records the accomplishments and good deeds of all Altmer, no matter how large or small. He is commonly attributed to having written the Oghma Infinium, a text associated with the Daedric Prince Hermaus Mora.

Of interesting note, he is one of several Aldmeri deities who reportedly ascended from mortality to godhood.

Nordic Traditions

While the god of death was a part of their pantheon, he was not an object of worship for the ancient Atomorans. Rather, he was a "testing god" and a deity to be overcome by the strength of the Nordic people. To the ancient Nords, he was known as Orkey. They viewed their god of death as an enemy god, not introduced until the Aldmeri began to rule over Atmora. His existence has always been associated with their long-standing enemies, the elves, and was depicted as a snake due to his deceitful nature.

According to some scholars, he is the Nordic aspect of the Orsimer deity Malacath or Mauloch (Karkuxor). However, it is more likely that he is the still foreign deity of Xarxes.

Imperial Synthesis

Xarxes and Orkey were likely the same deities. The Alessian Order, who headed the new Divines, had good reason to appease their Nordic allies. Repackaging the Almderi Xarxes as a god of death was more palatable and still allowed for his worship in their new pantheon.

"Arkay says: Honor the earth, its creatures, and the spirits, living and dead. Guard and tend the bounties of the mortal world, and do not profane the spirits of the dead."

— Ten Commands: Nine Divines

A statue of Dibella as depicted in Elder Scrolls Online. She is shown partially clothed with lillies at her feet.

A statue of Dibella as depicted in Elder Scrolls Online. She is shown partially clothed with lillies at her feet.

Dibella, the Passion Dancer

Aldmeri Traditions

The Aldmer and modern Altmer have no depiction or equivalent of the goddess Dibella. The pursuit of beauty and perfection is integrated into all aspects of Altmeri society, which may explain the lack of an equivalent god or goddess.

Nordic Traditions

Dibella is the Nordic goddess ancient of beauty, the arts, women, and in some cults, erotic instruction. She is associated with purity and flowers and is widely venerated throughout the Empire. In traditional depictions, she is shown as a moth, wings spread wide.

Imperial Synthesis

The integration of Dibella within the Imperial Pantheon was a simple one. She was added to the Eight Divines under the moniker of "Our Blessed Lady" and "Queen of Heaven."

She is also known by some Reachman as "Deb."

"Dibella says: Open your heart to the noble secrets of art and love. Treasure the gifts of friendship. Seek joy and inspiration in the mysteries of love."

— Ten Commands: Nine Divines

Works Cited

Junius, F. (n.d.). Shezarr and the Divines. Bethesda Softworks. Retrieved December 15, 2021, from https://elderscrolls.fandom.com/wiki/Shezarr_and_the_Divines.

Karkuxor, M. (n.d.). Varieties of Faith: The Nords. Bethesda Softworks. Retrieved from https://elderscrolls.fandom.com/wiki/Varieties_of_Faith:_The_Nords.

© 2021 Dani Merrier

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