There are so many fine details and intricacies in the Skyrim universe that you could lose yourself in it for months. Immersing yourself in the quests, finding the guild or group that speaks most to you, discovering who you are and who you get to be in this world can be very time consuming and enjoyable enough on its own that you may not ever get to dig deeper into the game than the most surface of storylines. But this wide and mysterious world has much to offer that you know very little about.
Take, for instance, the Gods of Skyrim. You’ll run past people in small towns like Whiterun thanking the Gods for a good harvest, or praying to the Gods for good providence. Nearly every city, town, and village has a shrine or temple with priests and priestesses. Even on the open road, you will occasionally stumble across a seemingly random shrine erected to the Gods by travelers and countrymen. The Gods play a very present role in the lives of everyone else who lives in Skyrim; so don’t you think you should get to know a bit more about them too?
Take a moment to immerse yourself in some of the facts about Skyrim’s many religions and religious followings. Only by understanding more of the religious conflicts will you be able to understand what caused so much of the strife and drama that Skyrim dwellers still deal with today. Here are fifteen things you should know about the Gods of Skyrim!
15. There Are Eleven (Well-Known) Divines You Could Worship
That’s right: eleven different Gods. Don’t believe us? Let’s count them out. There’s Akatosh, the dragon God of time; Arkay, the God of the cyclical processes of birth and death; Alduin, the God of destruction more commonly known as the dragon and World Eater; Dibellla, the Goddess of beauty and pure love; Julianos, the God of wisdom and logic; Kynareth, the Goddess of the elements and unseen spirits; Mara, the Goddess of momtherly love and fertility; Stendarr, the God of the righteous mind and merciful forbearance; Talos, the God of men and war; Zenithar, the God of labor and commerce; and Shor, the creator of the world. What’s worse is that there are other deities that people worship as well (which we’ll talk more about later)! Each God is a patron diety to their own class of people and each has many benefits if you worship them consistently. There are plenty of Gods we’ve got to talk about, so let’s press on.
14. The Pantheons of Tamriel
So there are a lot of Gods! How do you know who worships whom, or what religions prescribe to what Gods? Just like we do in real life, Skyrim has pantheons that outline what deities and saints are worshipped by which walks of life. Tamriel is a big place with a lot of different religions, so we’ll try to outline some of them quickly. There’s the Aldmeri pantheon, typically followed by High Elves and worshipping Gods like Lorkhan, Auri-El, and Mara; the Bosmeri pantheon, followed by Wood Elves and worshipping deities like Arkay, Baan Dar, and Herma-Mora; the Imperial pantheon, followed by Skyrim’s Imperials and worshiping popular Gods like Dibella, Akatosh, and Arkay; and two different Dunmer pantheons, the Tribunal and the Daedra. That’s a lot to process, isn’t it? We’ll dig in to some of these further, but it’s good to know that there are a lot of religions in Skyrim that would take much longer to fully explain!
13. The Nine Divines and Their Origin in Slavery
The Gods you most likely know the most about are the nine divines. Tiber Septim, more commonly known as Talos, is the leader of the eight other Gods: Akatosh, Arkay, Dibella, Julianos, Kynareth, Mara, Stendarr, Talos, and Zenithar. You’re sure to have heard all of these names before and probably have visited many of their shrines and temples, but there’s more to the story that you don’t know.
The eight divines, excluding Talos, were instituted by the slave saint Alessia upon her revolt against Ayleids. She carefully selected each diety from their origins in Nordic culture and Ayleid culture in hopes that it would bridge their cultures and mend old wounds – and it did! The Empire healed fairly well as slavery was outlawed in Skyrim and communities rallied around building shrines and temples to their mutual Gods. Tiber Septim was added to the pantheon after his death/ascent into immortality, which is highly contended in modern Skyrim.
12. The Dunmer Worship No Gods
More commonly known as the Dark Elves, these guys have a really weird relationship with their religion. Known for being the tough, bitter, distrustful race in Skyrim, the Dunmer actually have two religions that they historically prescribe to: the Tribunal Temple, which isn’t so much revered but is rather respected as a group of all powerful and slightly mystical beings; and the Ashlanders, who look to the Daedric princes for inspiration. We’ll discuss the Daedric princes more later in this article, but it’s good to note that the Dunmer don’t really worship the Daedra. The Dunmer don’t worship anyone! They bow to no one, deity or otherwise! The Dunmer moreso love and admire the Daedra for their propensity to mess with humans and play tricks on lesser minded fools. It’s horribly sacriligious in Skyrim for anyone to publicly announce that they worship the Daedra, but it’s a reason also that all Dark Elves are generally considered pariah.
11. Echoes of the Dead Nordic Gods Still Last Today
Skyrim is full of Nords. Duh. You’d think the game writers would have just taken the easy way out of writing a new religion and would simply have used the real Norse Gods of olden times. But no short cuts for these guys! There are so many Gods and Goddesses in Skyrim, but many of them can be traced back to real Gods of authentic Norse lore. For example, Shor is the Skyrim God that created the world and rules over the heavens of Sovengaard, very similar to the true Norse God Odin. Furthermore, the Skyrim Goddess Mara, who protects love and marriage, strongly resembles Odin’s wife Frigg. If you look even further, the Skyrim warrior-widow Goddess of Kyne is remarkably similar to the Norse Goddess Freya. There are an overwhelming number of parallels between Skyrim Gods and Gods from Norse folklore, if only you’re well-versed enough in your Scandinavian history to recognize it!
10. Religion Sparked the War That Changed Skyrim
Some of the world’s largest and most destructive wars were caused by religion. The crusades around Jerusalem, the thirty years war in Europe, and the eighty years war involving the Dutch. Skyrim is no different! Many of the greatest conflicts in the Oblivion games are based in religion too. The Great War between the Aldmeri dominion and the Empire started when the worship of Talos was outlawed, with additional causes. The subsequent war fought over the course of the Skyrim game started when the White-Gold Concordat was signed in conclusion of The Great War, which sustained the outlaw of worshipping Talos and also allowed other Thalmor and similar religions to rise up in a historically Norse land. This is the reason groups like the Stormcloaks fought back against the Empire: in defense of their land and religion. Everyone so strictly adheres to and supports their religions that it’s caused centuries of suffering and conflict in Skyrim!
9. Why the Thalmor Loathe Talos
The Thalmor have a rough relationship with the Imperials and Norse of Skyrim. After a long history of killing each others’ citizens and fighting each others’ governments, it’s pretty understandable that the two groups wouldn’t be especially fond of each other. Why they even wanted to live together on the same continent after all the fighting was done is lost on us! They adamantly were against letting anyone anywhere worship and celebrate the memory of Tiber Septim, also known as Talos. Why? The Thalmor have a religious goal of transcending mortality by undoing creation. They believe that Tiber Septim being able to do this has restricted their ability to do so. When others worship Talos, they feel insulted; like they’re being mocked for not being able to achieve their religious goals. They have to defeat Talos if they’re ever going to reach heaven. Now it’s a bit more understandable why they so despise Talos, isn’t it?
8. Talos was a Known Mortal
As we’ve mentioned multiple times by now, Talos is a very different God for a lot of reasons- mainly because he was not born in some mystical, ethereal realm as the rest of the Gods. Talos lived amongst those that came to worship him in Skyrim and has ascended from mortality into the immortal powerful realm of the Gods. How did this happen? Because Tiber Septim was a tough, awesome, amazing dude. The Emperor Tiber fought in his own battles, sword in hand, leading the charge. He had blood of the dragon and was able to use the thu’um in battle. Some legends say he won the Skyrim army by taking them by surprise on his own. He inherited his name Talos, meaning “Stormcrown,” in battle for shattering the battlements of a fortification with his voice. Upon his graceful and peaceful death, it is believed that he ascended to be a God.
7. Stormcloaks: Protecting Religious Freedom Under the Guise of Intolerance
As we mentioned before, the Stormcloaks profess to have taken up the fight against the Empire in the name of religious freedom. If you were to ask Ulfric Stormcloak himself why he chooses to fight, he’d regail you with some diatribe about The Empire surrendering to the Thalmor the freedom to practice whatever religion you want, including the right to worship Talos. Talos is worshipped the most highly by Nords so when Ulfric took up this cause to fight the Empire for religious freedom, he ended up getting recruits that had ulterior motives for getting religious freedom in Skyrim. That’s why a lot of grunt Stormcloaks and Stormcloak supporters really just come off incredibly racist and hateful towards Elves and basically everyone that isn’t Norse. We aren’t saying that the Stormcloaks are bad guys! The Empire deserved to be fought because their concordat with the Thalmor was overwhelmingly defeatist, but the Stormcloaks aren’t exactly good guys either.
6. The Daedra Are Not Gods
This whole time, you may have been reading the article thinking, “wait a second… there have to be more Gods than that. What about all those Gods I did quests for? You haven’t talked about any of those yet!” Yeah, those weren’t Gods you were running around Skyrim for. They were quite omnipotent and terrifying and plenty of people worship them, including the Dunmer we mentioned earlier, but they sure are not Gods. There are sixteen Daedric princes: Azura, Boethiah, Clavicus Vile, Hermaeus Mora, Hircine, Malacath, Mehrunes Dagon, Mephala, Meridia, Molag Bal, Namira, Nocturnal, Peryite, Sanguine, Sheogorath, and Vaermina. That’s a lot of Daedric Princes. Most of the Daedric Princes offer questlines, though some do not and stay present in Skyrim in other ways, like Nocturnal. The Daedra are all very powerful, terrifying, and strong, as you ought to have noticed from your quests in which you interact with them.
5. The Daedra Do Not Bargain
While we’re on the subject of Daedric Princes and their quests, we should give you a fair warning: the Daedric Princes are not messing around. They know what they want, and that is usually to mess with you. Whether they’re torturing you or making you kill someone close to you or just playing with your consciousness, they are not benevolent, good-willed spirits with your best interests at heart. They are going to make you jump through hoops just for the fun of watching you do it because, truly, you don’t have a whole lot of choices. Sometimes you can put off completing a Daedric quest, but other times they’ll curse you until you do as they wish or trap you in another dimension until you complete the tasks they demand of you. When dealing with the Daedra, know that they are entirely in the power position – submit and move along.
4. Fear Not The Daedric Quests: They Hide Treasures.
Again, Daedric quests are not to be taken lightly. Some can be very fun and enjoyable by journey’s end, but many can be tiring and imposing. After a bit of research, you may think that Daedric quests don’t seem like the trouble. While it’s good to know that you’re taking concerns and cautions seriously, hold your horses! Daedric quests are absolutely worth the trouble and effort because by journey’s end, you’re likely to earn some object enbued with amazing enchantments. Some of the most enviable objects you can earn only by engaging in Daedric quests include Clavicus Vile’s Rueful Axe, Hermaeus Mora’s book Oghma Infinium, the mace of Molag Bal, and the Sanguine Rose staff. Perhaps one of the greatest treasures you could receive from any Daedric quest is from Vaermina’s waking nightmare. If you follow Vaermina’s commands and kill Erandur, you’ll attain the ability to summon Vaermina as a follower.
3. The Daedra Are Stronger Than Gods
One last note on Daedric Princes – they are much more powerful than you realize. The Daedric Princes are actually much more powerful than the benevolent Gods of Skyrim. Fun fact, the Gods of Skyrim are weak intentionally. Returning to some ancient Skyrim history lessons, the God Shor drained many of the divinities’ powers to create Nirn, the dimension between the mortal and immortal worlds. Many Gods realized that their powers would be completely diminished if they sacrificed their divinity to create the world, so they abandoned Shor’s great project of inventing mortal existence. However, the eight divines eventually chosen by Alessia banded together and sacrificed some of their omnipotence to create the world. Because of the act, they were left stranded in their own dimensions which Skyrim mortals envision as planets (the same you see when you level up). Someday, it’s possible that the God’s will regain their powers but for now they are significantly weaker than Daedra.
2. The Gods Cannot Save You- But They Can Empower You
Because, as we mentioned previously, the Gods are stranded in their mystical planets far away from the mortals they so love and unable to regularly attend to them, Skyrim mortals don’t get to benefit from their powers and benevolence as much as they’d wish. However, the Gods aren’t entirely powerless. It’s not like they’ve been banished or isolated from the mortals they fought to give life to; it’s merely harder for them to reach us. Just like in reality, believing in the Gods of Skyrim requires a certain amount of faith and innocence. Stepping through the wilderness of Skyrim to see a towering monolith of a statue of the Gods in the distance is enough to inspire anyone to continue onward. Perhaps the Gods can’t save you in a fight with bandits or from the bear trying to maul your face off, but their distant presence is enough to embolden you.
1. Blessings Do More Than Heal Your Wounds
Of course we can’t forget to talk about blessings! If you’ve never actually visited a shrine or temple to the Gods, you’re missing out on a life hack of the game. You’re also probably a very exhausted and unwell traveler of Skyrim, because there are few other ways to cure yourself of curses and certain poisons. Every time you get a blessing from a shrine of one of the Gods, you get all of your curses removed (barring any incredibly resilient Daedric curses), illnesses cured, and poisons removed. You also receive a blessing specific to the God you pray to. Akatosh allows your magicka to regenerate 10% faster; Arkay increases your health by twenty five points; Zenithar makes merchant prices 10% better. Depending on what you need, the Gods can help you achieve whatever you desire. While the Gods can’t solve all of your problems for you, they’ll sure do everything in their power to help.