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Guide to the Daedra

Author: 
Xan

"Mortals are short-lived, ignorant, and feeble by contrast with the Daedra. But you mortals are also potent engines of change and innovation, of desperate and reckless improvisation and industry. Thus do we so prize the fruits of your mundane and arcane engineering. Thus do we bargain and plunder and steal to gain these treasures. We have lived too long, and grow dull and complacent. You live too short, and so are wonderfully sharp and inventive. Does that make sense?"
- Imago Storm

This guide is dedicated to Morian Zenas, the greatest Oblivion Explorer that was lost somewhere in the Daedric Realms some years ago.



Description

One unique characteristic of the Elder Scrolls world is the existence of powerful beings (et'Ada) known as Daedra. From the book of Morian Zenas, "On Oblivion", Daedra is an old Aldmeri/Elvish word for strange and powerful creatures of uncertain motivation that came from the dimension of Oblivion. This is roughly correct, although the exact translation of the word Daedra is "not our ancestors." While we are talking about Daedra, we cannot overlook the Aedra. Aedra in this case means "ancestors." Most of the time Daedra are looked as the opposite of Aedra. Aedra are often called as gods, while Daedra are called as demons.

Contrary to popular belief, the words "Daedra" and "Aedra" are plural. It was initially meant to denote the whole kind, not a single creature. The singular form of "Daedra" would be "Daedroth", but very few known texts ever use it. In the written tradition, the word "Daedra" has somehow evolved to mean "a single specimen". I will not break this tradition here for clarity's sake, but one amendment has to be made. The word "Daedras" is essentially wrong, and I will never use it. Instead, here I will use "Daedra" for both singular and plural. You will have to do some guessing by the context. Thank you for not corrupting the Aldmeris (Elven) language!



Creation Myth

If you read "The Monomyth", "The Anuad Paraphrased" or "Sithis", most of these myths are conflicting each other. Thanks to our resident loremaster, Proweler, for helping me drawing a straight line of those myths. So here is roughly what happened during the Dawn Era.

In the beginning there was only void, a vast nothingness. This is Sithis, a state of nothingness and constant mutation. The Aldmer called the void "Anu." In fact, Anu and Padomay (Is - Is Not) are part of the void. The interplay of Anu and Padomay created the Aurbis. It is the Gray Center between Is and Is Not of Anu and Padomay. It contains the realms of Aetherius and Oblivion, as well as others in less structured forms. The Aldmer see the Aurbis as Anuiel, the Soul of Anu the Void.

At first the Aurbis was turbulent, and things did not last. This is because Anuiel was using Sithis to ponder himself in every possibility. In any case, from Anuiel and Sithis sprang the et'Ada, or the Original Spirits. The et'Ada did not align to anything yet, they moved towards the light or the dark, and then returned in the opposite direction without their own notice, dissolving when they hit the perfect gray again. The first et'Ada were new and they often made mistakes, for there was hardly time to practice being things before. So most things ended quickly or were not good or gave up on themselves. This was a violent time.

Akatosh, (known as Auriel by the Aldmer) one of the et'Ada, discovered how to avoid this process or was given the knowledge by Anuiel. The knowledge was Time. Soon the et'Ada filled the Aurbis until the Aurbis was full and separated in two groups. Those who align to Anu reside in Aetherius and those who align to Padomay reside in Oblivion.

Lorkhan aligned to Padomay, but preferred the state of Sithis rather than the separation. Lorkhan brought a concept of a world, of becoming mothers and fathers, of being responsible, and making great sacrifices, but with no guarantee of success to all of the et'Ada. The et'Ada were split into two factions. One faction was excited and immediately started the project. Magnus (et'Ada of Magic) participated as the architect on the creation of the world. Kynareth (et'Ada of Air) provided the space for the world in the void. Akatosh, Y'ffre, Zenithar, Julianos and many others were part of this faction that is now known as the Aedra. The other faction of et'Ada who did not want to participate on the project is now known as the Daedra.

Then, the Mortal Realm, or Mundus was created, being a mix of both Anu and Padomay aligned et'Ada, and it is close to Sithis. (After all, things are born, procreate and die over and over again without ever really getting anything that lasts forever). The process of creation was painful and left most of the Aedra weak, no longer young, strong, and powerful, as they had been from the beginning of days. As their aspects began to die off, many of the Aedra vanished completely.

The remaining Aedra realized that they were tricked, but it was too late. Magnus decided to abandon the project and left to Aetherius. The rest of the Aedra came together in the Adamantine Tower and conducted a meeting. Yet, the meeting was unfruitful. Most of the Aedra left, went back to Aetherius following Magnus. Some were decided to stay in order to preserve what they had done. This group transformed themselves into Ehlnofey (the Earthbones). Y'ffre was among this group, he was the first to transform to Ehlnofey and then the laws of nature were established. The last eight Aedra (Akatosh, Julianos, Arkay, Mara, Dibella, Zenithar, Stendarr and Kynareth) exist as the gods.

According to the Aldmeri legend, there was a great war between Auriel (Akatosh) and Lorkhan. Auriel's greatest knight, Trinimac knocked down Lorkhan and took his Heart. Lorkhan was said undone, dead. But when Trinimac and Auriel wanted to destroy the Heart, it laughed at them and said, "This Heart is the heart of the world, for one was made to satisfy the other." So Auriel fastened the Heart to an arrow and cast it from the Adamantine Tower. The Heart landed on the eastern part of Tamriel and a great Volcano formed, a Volcano now known as Vvardenfell.

The Daedra are still strong and "incorruptible." They created the Daedric Realms in Oblivion, with all the inhabitants, the lesser Daedra. The Daedra were pleased of what they had done, but sometimes they looked with envy over the Mortal Realm. They found that the ambitions and the passions of mortals are sometimes entertaining and beyond their expectation. The actions and thoughts of mortals are different than the minions they created. Thus do the Daedra court and seduce certain amusing specimens of the Mortal Races, especially the passionate and powerful. It was also another satisfaction for the Daedra to steal or corrupt anything that the Aedra had created.

After Magnus left, the Mundus was stabilized and Aldmeri history began. This was the end of the Dawn Era and the start of the Merethic Era (ME2500).



Banishment

Following the Creation Myth above, "Aedra and Daedra" explains:

"Aedra are associated with stasis. Daedra represent change. Aedra created the mortal world and are bound to the Earth Bones. Daedra, who cannot create, have the power to change. As part of the divine contract of creation, the Aedra can be killed. Witness Lorkhan and the moons. The protean Daedra, for whom the rules do not apply, can only be banished."

As written, the Daedra cannot be killed, but can only be banished back to Oblivion. In order to banish a Daedra, its mortal body must be destroyed. Sometimes, this is not an option since some of the Daedra are terribly powerful in arcane and martial arts. Some knowledgeable persons learn the existence of protonymic. By using this protonymic, one can banish the Daedra almost "effortless". The incantation of the protonymic drains the vital force from the Daedra, forcing it to follow that force into Oblivion. There one abides until the vital force is replenished. The experience is somewhat analogous to sleep for mortals. However, sleep is a normal experience for mortals. It is not a normal experience for an immortal. Suffice it to say that it is as close to the terror and despair of death as an immortal can come. Naturally the banished Daedra will return to its Daedric Realm, however its personality is somehow changed, as well as its protonymic. Usually the protonymic is extended with neonymic; obviously this means that a Daedra cannot be banished with the same protonymic twice.



Daedra Evil?

Daedra are always seen as evil and immoral. But this point of view is not entirely correct. They are not evil. They are not good either. They are neither. Sheikizza Icemane, a scholar studying the Elder Scrolls lore brought more explanation about this good and evil Daedra.

'Good' and 'Bad' are relative terms and thus rather useless overall, in my opinion. Even among the many cultures of Tamriel, there is no agreement on which Daedra (or Aedra for that matter) are 'good' and which 'bad'...it just depends on your culture, sub-culture and background.

Before the Tribunal came along and tried to 'discourage' the natural Daedra worship of the Chimeri/Dunmeri peoples, the Dark Elven ancestors had considered most Daedra to be 'good'...different from us, alien and with motivations we did not always understand, but good...much in the same way as the ancient Israelites considered Yahweh to be a 'good' deity despite the fact that they often did not understand what he was doing and why, and despite his punishments when they didn't.

The Tribunal Temple tried to do away with the ancient Daedra worship, but failed utterly as such attempts at religious suppression usually do. Many Daedra worshippers merely went underground and others became quieter in their faith. I would hazard to guess we may see a great resurgence of Daedric religious institutions in Morrowind again now that the Tribunal is gone...but that is aside from the point.

Many Mer, other than the Dunmer, do not consider the Daedra to be worthy of worship, considering themselves to be the blood decendents of the Aedra. However, many non-Dunmeri peoples still revere certain Daedra like Azura. Many non-Dunmeri merely have a 'respect' for these Daedra, rather than worshipping them as such.

Which are 'good' and which 'bad' depends on your background and your goals. Obviously many would see Mephala as a 'bad' Daedra as she encourages plots, intrigues, and ritual assassinations...however, the Dunmer and the Morag Tong (and those who employ them like the Empire) see her a 'good' Daedra because she encourages ritual assassinations for obtaining 'justice'...not merely for mayhem. Likewise, many a mage of any culture has sought the great book of knowledge held by Hermaeus Mora, the Daedra of knowledge. Is he a good or bad Daedra? Depends on your personal view...

In truth, I feel that all the Daedra are neither good nor bad...but they are utterly different from us. These are the original beings that existed long before we, Nirn, or the Mundus had been created, and we cannot fathom their motivations. From what I have seen of them, and the Aedra, they are a mixed lot with actions of every sort. Some seem quite noble and others seem rather demonic. However, I feel this is merely my limited mer mind ascribing attributes to them that they would laugh at.

I feel that in the end, we are free to think of them what we wish, as they could care less. Their actions and designs have meaning, but to them alone and I fear we in Nirn will only discover what their true purposes have been when that day comes that the gates of Oblivion are opened and they come for us... 

Also, here is a statement from Mark Nelson (BlueDev) regarding this 'Good' and 'Evil'.

On Daedra as Good or Evil: As some have said, they are neither. Some are certainly more aggressive than others. Some have a greater tolerance for mortals. But, I wouldn't say that any are good or evil. Some people think of Azura as a "good" Daedra. That could end up being a very dangerous misconception in the Elder Scrolls world.


Daedric Appearance

Regarding the gender of the Daedra. Many scholars are still debating about this. Some scholars state that they do not have gender and take form as what they like for their manifestation to the mortal world. Just a note here, the Daedric Prince Boethiah is recorded as female in Daggerfall and Battlespire, consequent with "her" name with the -ah suffix as some female Dunmer (like Katariah, Barenziah, and many others). However in Morrowind we know that Boethiah is male with a heavy male voice. Mephala, on the other hand, is female according to the records in Daggerfall. However, in Morrowind, the Webspinner Daedric Prince is recorded as both male and female, although "she" has a female voice.

Furthermore, Ted Peterson (Tedders) talks about the appearance of Daedra:

A God's preferred appearance (which is how I'd characterize the archetypes most associated with each Daedra and Tribunal member - the Aedra do not have physical appearances associated with them), a God's personality (which is a strange word to use for an entity which is not a person, but it's hard to find a better term), and a God's sphere each should considered on its own.

Sometimes their appearance does convey their intent and sphere.

Example: Mehrunes Dagon. His sphere is destruction. His personality is simple straightforwardness. He does not attempt to obfuscate, but appears as one might expect - demonic and savage.

Sometimes their appearance does not.

Example: Sheogorath. His sphere is madness. His personality alternates between the jester and the homicidal maniac. He does not appear frightening, because he wants to seduce people down the Golden Road.

That is what is tricky about the Daedra, especially those whose sphere is obscured to mortals. You cannot look at the innocent looking Meridia or the fearsome looking Mephala, and surmise the nature of their power. They may be trying to mislead.

 


 

Daedric Princes

The top level of Daedric society is occupied by Daedric Princes (some call them, Daedra Princes or Daedra Lords). A Daedric Realm is ruled by a certain Daedric Prince. As previously stated, there are lots of Daedric Realms. Some of the known realms are Coldharbour, Quagmire, The Colored Rooms, and Moonshadow. The book "On Oblivion" records the Daedric Princes' names. They are Azura, Boethiah, Clavicus Vile, Hermaeus Mora, Hircine, Malacath, Mehrunes Dagon, Mephala, Jyggalag, Molag Bal, Namira, Nocturnal, Peryite, Sanguine, Sheogorath, and Vaernima.

Please take note while reading "On Oblivion", a certain Daedric Prince named Meridia is not recorded in the book. On the other hand, the book mentioned name "Jyggalag" that cannot be found in other records. Scribe mistakes? Some speculate that Jyggalag is Meridia, but Mark Nelson (BlueDev) stated that: "Jyggalag is not Meridia. Meridia is Meridia. Who, exactly, Jyggalag is remains to be seen. It's something I've been thinking about a lot recently, and I'd certainly like to explore it in the future."

The mystery of Jyggalag is revealed in the Shivering Isles. Jyggalag, the Daedric Prince of Order, is in fact the previous incarnation of Sheogorath. Jyggalag was cursed by other Daedric Princes who were concerned about his power, the power of order. Read the detail of this Sheogorath - Jyggalag in the Sheogorath subsection.

Some interesting tidbit about semantics, Ted Peterson (Tedders) in his interview, states that the right words to call the mighty rulers of Oblivion is "Daedric Princes".

Ah, the world of semantics. Short answer: Daedra is plural, Daedroth is singular. Long answer: Almost no one uses these terms correctly in Tamriel. Why? Because, just like in our own world, words change meanings out of popular usage. There is a creature simply called a Daedroth, after all: those big, bipedal, reptilian beasts that are the terror of the four corners of Tamriel. Somehow, in ages past, they were given this confusing name, probably by someone who, when asked what that creature was, gave a generic answer which was taken to be a specific one.

This isn't as stange as it seems. If you look up the origin of just about any word, it evolves from the general to the particular. It has come to time in Tamriel where no one, except for a few snooty academics, would say "Daedroth".

As for Daedra Princes/Daedroth Princes, neither is actually correct. Most people would say "Daedra Princes" because, as above, that is the traditional phrase. However, it should be adjective/noun, and therefore "Daedric Princes."

In short, proper grammar and long held traditions seldom meet, in Tamriel or on Earth.

Interesting... people tend to make mistake, but here in this document, I should use the right terms. And from various sources I record the detail of the sixteen Daedric Princes.

The topic is that always interesting is the summoning of the Daedric Prince. Often, the people of Tamriel seek help from the Daedric Princes for their troubles. The Princes usually agree to help in exchange for a service. Morian Zenas wrote "Summoning Daedra is not a difficult proposition, but it is usual an expensive one. Most Mages Guilds have a summoning room, but this is most often reserved for the highest echelon of guildmembers. Witches covens are much less class sensitive, and the Necromancers, the Dark Brotherhood, and many secretive kings and queens of Tamriel have private summoning rooms."

Further, Haderus of Gottlesfont in his book "Modern Heretics: a Study of Daedra Worship in the Empire" states:

"However, opinions about Daedra worship differ widely in other provinces. Even in Cyrodiil, traditional opinions have changed greatly over the years, and some communities survive which worship Daedra. Some more traditional Daedra-worshippers are motivated by piety and personal conviction; many modern Daedra-worshippers are motivated by a lust for arcane power. In particular, questing heroes of all stripes seek after the fabled Daedric artifacts for their potent combat and magical benefits."

Each Daedric Prince has a specific day for him/her to be summoned. For example, the Daedric Prince Namira accepts any summoning on 9th of Second Seed. While Sheogorath always accepts any summoning when the area is under a thunderstorm, although he has his own summoning date. A tricky Prince; often he oversteps other Daedric Prince, when the particular Prince is summoned during a thunderstorm. The Daedric Prince Hircine always answers any summoning from Glenmoril Wyrd Coven in the Iliac Bay area, even when the summoning is not performed on Hircine's summoning date.

Somehow this traditional summoning date is neglected in the recent days. The summoning can be of any date; a person can successfully summon the Daedric Prince if he or she gave certain offerings, and in certain circumstances. Just an example, Azura will accept summoning if the summoner offers glow dust (obtained from a will-o-the-wisp) and the summoning time is at dawn or dusk.

Before I revealed all the known Daedric Princes, I want to give you an interesting quote by a follower of Hermaeus Mora.

"The ultimate purpose of the Daedra Lords is to instruct and improve the generally deplorable character of mortals."

I will let you to interpret the meaning of the quote. And now, a time for detailing all the known Daedric Princes.