On the Political Powers of Skyrim

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On the Political Powers of Skyrim

Postby Dirnae » Thu Aug 25, 2011 9:40 pm

Originally wrote by the legendary Pilgrim:

On the Power Politics of Skyrim

While Skyrim is divided into nine separate Holds, not all Holds are equal in significance. The most powerful Holds of Skyrim are:
- Haafinheim (Haafingar)
- Winter Hold (Alduim)
- White Hold (White Run)
- Eastmarch (Kynholm)

* (Two "Old Holds" and two "New Holds").

The second tier consists of:
- The Rift (Riften)
- Atshir (Duntar)
- Falcrentheim (Falkreath)

The third tier consists of:
- The Reach (Markarth Side)
- The Pale

The Major Holds of the firs tier are all vying for greater influence on the political plane of Skyrim in their own different way. While none harbor ambitions as grand as provincial supremacy, they all aim to subvert their rivals and expand their power.

The Holds of the second tier lack the manpower and resources to challenge the Major Holds, but are still quite powerful within their own spheres of influence. However, their alliance is almost essential for any Major Hold to get an edge over their rivals.

The Holds of the third tier are not necessarily weak, but lack unity or the presence of a respected leader. They don't receive much attention in the political realm, but still have some minor politics going on.

Finally, there is a fifth Major Power, also. This is the Imperial Legion, or The Empire, which holds Forts and the occasional settlement across Skyrim.

On the Imperial relation to Skyrim

The Imperials have a range of interests concerning Skyrim. For one, the Nords are the ancestors of the Imperials and in terms of bloodlines they are more 'purely' related then say the Bretons or Redguards. Also, Skyrim is likely the most loyal ally of the Imperials compared to any other province. And as can be seen in "The Wolf Queen", Cyrodiilic and Nordic Nobility intermarry, with Potema herself being an Imperial rather then of Nordic birth. Besides that, Skyrim would be one the most important military assets to the Empire in terms of troops and supplies. Finally, as is the case with all other provinces, there are resources to be exploited and taxes to be raised. Overal though, the Nords would arguably be one of the more respected and preferred races.

Now basically, the most imporant things the Empire can gain from Skyrim are:
- resources
- troops
- taxes

And while not all Holds are equally pleased with the Imperial presence, none are powerful enough to challenge it explicitly. The Imperials know that a unified Skyrim could feasibly challenge their supremacy, but based on the current political situation this would be an unlikely occurance. The 'New Holds', however, have been more favorable towards the inclusion of Imperial blood in the Noble circles. In Haafingheim, White Hold, Northshore and Falcrentheim you will find Imperials among the Nordic mobility.

Generally speaking, the Imperials have adopted a laissez faire attitude towards the regional politics of Skyrim, while maintaining a more forceful presence in economic matters.
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Re: On the Political Powers of Skyrim

Postby Dirnae » Thu Aug 25, 2011 9:40 pm

On the influences of factions
Besides the joinable Hold factions, there are the guilds and the smaller other factions playing a role in Skyrim.

The Mages Guild
The Skyrim branch of the Mages Guild considers itself traditional in it's slant towards magic (whatever 'traditional' means for magicka weilders anyways). The majority of members are in fact female, perhaps to escape the moniker of 'witch' by waving official titles. They maintain relatively high entrance standards, with apprenticeships of at least a decade being a not uncommon sight. The Skyrim Mages Guild is strongly hierarchical, rigid, proper, doctrinal and conservative. It comes across as a closedminded elitist clique towards outsiders, yet knows certain secrets and maintains undeniable proficiencies that make them esteemed towards their peers across the provinces. It could also be said that the Skyrim branch seems to take 'advantage' of their monopoly position with the tariffs for their services being among the highest in The Empire. Guild Guides, for example, charge nearly thrice the amount charged in Morrowind.

The Fighters Guild
While the Mages Guild of Skyrim is rather conservative, the Skyrim branch of the Fighters Guild is ambitious and expansionistic. The Guild leadership seeks to buy out or 'take out of the equasion' all of the smaller native mercenary factions in Skyrim, in part to establish a monopoly for financial reasons, but more because of the driving goals of current leadership.

The Thieves Guild
The 'Imperial' Thieves Guild of Skyrim is modest, scattered and aimless. It lacks any central leadership, but rather has pockets of thieves with loose affiliations to eachother. Their competitors are far better organised and have no qualms towards using violence and 'protecting' their territory. The Skyrim branch of the guild needs to band together foremost if they want to stake claim in the black markets of Skyrim, but it's possible they'll have to forsake the very tenets that distinguished them from the baser criminals in the process. At first, only one person in the entire guild will be able to exonorate your crimes for a price. Only later on will the guild grow to the extent that there are multiple feewavers.

The Dark Brotherhood
The sect of Sithis has been doing quite well in the current political climate of Skyrim, with both the Empire and the Holds having no shortage of undesirables in need of removing. The Skyrim branch maintains an excellent organisation, with it's top leadership hidden in plane sight, while their enforcers hide in the dark crevices found in the greater cities of Skyrim. The Dark Brotherhood has major dens in Haafingar, White Run and Riften respectively, as well as the odd hideout here and there across the rest of the province. Their leader is one of the Haafingarite Nobility.
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Re: On the Political Powers of Skyrim

Postby Dirnae » Thu Aug 25, 2011 9:43 pm

Posted by Muspila:
Considering your ranking of the holds. Northshore in my view would be the least of the holds belonging to the second tier. Dawnstar, other than Riften and Falkreath, is not shown among the big cities on the map of the first pocket guide.
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Re: On the Political Powers of Skyrim

Postby Dirnae » Thu Aug 25, 2011 9:44 pm

Posted by French Ninja:
Yes, I like the faction summaries too!
One thing though. Going by the 3rd PGE it seems that White Run has weakened quite a lot. Being a first tier power might not be appropriate:
Hrothgar and Whiterun have not been as fortunate as their coastal northern cousins. A dynastic feud, attacks by Hörme bandits and frost trolls, and a series of annihilating winters of alternating floods, droughts, and fires has crippled the area that was once considered the Imperial City of Skyrim. The population blamed and then curiously exalted the leader of the local witches' coven, Jsashe, a self-proclaimed priestess of Lorkhan. The Witch-Queen of Whiterun, as she is called, now wields effective control of the county, though her magic has not brought it prosperity as of yet.

Maybe each hold could be a mini-faction joined as a retainer? 4-5 quests each?
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Re: On the Political Powers of Skyrim

Postby Dirnae » Thu Aug 25, 2011 9:44 pm

Is this forum starting to feel like home again yet guys? :D
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Re: On the Political Powers of Skyrim

Postby french ninja » Tue Aug 30, 2011 4:09 am

Lately I have been mulling over the political chain of command and I would like some input.
Image
My idea:
High King/Queen - Ruler over all of Skyrim, rarely exists
King/Queen - ruler over a hold
example: King Thian of Haafingar
Jarl/Jarla - "count", ruler of a country/jarldom
example: Jarla Jona of Dragonstar, she rules #7
Thane - "mayor", ruler of a town
example: Grondvyrd of Amber Guard

Every jarldom/county has a count/jarl, except for the one that has the Hold's capital (in that case, the King directly rules it)
Thanes are typically only in smaller towns, as large towns typically are the ruling seats of jarls.

In the Old Holds, rulership is gained through bloodlines and citizenship is granted by going out in the wild and hunting ice wraiths.
In the New Holds, it is gained by winning a moot election.
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Re: On the Political Powers of Skyrim

Postby Dirnae » Tue Aug 30, 2011 9:40 am

Sounds great, thanks.
I suppose it has less relevance with the subject, but would climbing High Hrothgar to become a man be practiced in all Holds too? I'd imagine some new holds would have dropped that practice as well.
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Re: On the Political Powers of Skyrim

Postby Lestat DeLioncourt » Tue Aug 30, 2011 12:17 pm

Cespar wrote:Sounds great, thanks.
I suppose it has less relevance with the subject, but would climbing High Hrothgar to become a man be practiced in all Holds too? I'd imagine some new holds would have dropped that practice as well.



I think holds like The Reach and probably Falkreath (very imperialized) won't take care a lot about this ritual...which does not mean that the more traditional nord inhabitants won't do.
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Re: On the Political Powers of Skyrim

Postby Tes96 » Fri Oct 14, 2011 7:10 am

Lestat DeLioncourt wrote:
Cespar wrote:Sounds great, thanks.
I suppose it has less relevance with the subject, but would climbing High Hrothgar to become a man be practiced in all Holds too? I'd imagine some new holds would have dropped that practice as well.



I think holds like The Reach and probably Falkreath (very imperialized) won't take care a lot about this ritual...which does not mean that the more traditional nord inhabitants won't do.

Well I would think that all races of all regions would have their own rituals and ceremonies. Bethesda just never really focused on them as far as gameplay. But I'm taking pagan culture and religious diversity at cal state university and there are many rituals and ceremonies that Romans and Syrians would do (which is whom I think the Imperials are modeled after) that would seem bizarre to us but normal to them 2000 years ago. That's another gripe I have is that people (including Bethesda) tend to "americanize" the NPCs in the games by making them concerned about hand washing, saying "excuse me" after farting, and complaining when their blackberries are shut off for over a day (haha, the news is on right now and they're talking about the blackberry outage). Where was I going with this? Oh! Religious ceremonies and rituals. Hmm, maybe there should be a topic catered specifically to Nordic ceremonies and rituals if it gets big enough or we have enough ideas. Bethesda, as far as I am aware, hasn't written any official lore on what Nords do in their rituals or ceremonies.

I finished writing a paper on a ceremonial ritual regarding the Syrian goddess of fertility, Atargatis. Syrian people are gathered outside the holy sanctuary having promiscuous sex orgies, singing, dancing, playing music, lashing each other on the back, cutting their arms, and then some men come forth and castrate themselves and grab their cut-off genitals and run through the streets of the city and toss them through the window of a woman's home. After that, the woman inside comes out and presents him with her garments and feminine clothing which he wears. This is the initiation of the Galli, which serve similar to priests, except they're not liasons for Atargatis since people don't go to them to have them speak to the goddess for them. I think a ceremony like this is very fascinating because it is so shocking to us in the 20th century. But in the 4th century B.C. in Syria, this was seen as a very honorary and spectacular event; very breathtaking, thrilling...

I know Bethesda would never write ceremonial lore that is as graphic as ancient ceremonies in real life here on Earth. But what kinds of ceremonies and sacred rituals do you guys think the Nords would have? What things would they do to appease their gods/goddesses? It disappoints me that Bethesda focuses so much on the fighting and combat of the game series but they don't put a lot of focus into things like religion and politics. Yes, there were a lot of politics in Daggerfall but you didn't learn much about religious practices. I was the most disappointed with the Ashlanders in Morrowind because they remind me so much of native tribes like the Shoshoni who had their puberty rites of passage (i.e. vision quests) and their Sun Dances (where they were tied to a pole and stared at the sun until they had a vision). I think the Ashlanders would have had many rituals and ceremonies revolving around the sacred and other religious aspects. But I realize these games are 70% combat based so they have to put most of their work into the fighting animations and other such stuff, etc....
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Re: On the Political Powers of Skyrim

Postby Lestat DeLioncourt » Fri Oct 14, 2011 10:49 am

Probably the Nords worship their ancestor and gods similar as the vikings did. Unfortunally I don't know a lot about viking/ ancient nordic rituals so far.

Muspila is also very interested in the religious content of Skyrim, maybe you and Muspila could make something like a general concept on religion and rituals.
I'm focused on the exterior world of Skyrim so personally I won't spend a lot of time with religious content, which does not mean it is less important than exteriors..it means only that I would be glad if you and Muspila would take care of religion/ rituals and just introduce me where and how to add religious places on the undone exteriors.
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Re: On the Political Powers of Skyrim

Postby Dirnae » Fri Oct 14, 2011 12:27 pm

Here's some old ideas we had for nordic rituals:

Alduin: A god they REALLY want to keep asleep, seeing as he eats the world whenever he wakes up. I suggested something like a lullaby ritual a long while back.

Shor: God of the Underworld. I suggested funerals and ceremonies to honor the dead would be done under his name, and warriors who guard sacred barrows, called bone-guard or ash-guard and such. Perhaps a ritual of cleansing for captured vampires. However the guard-idea is probably out, so perhaps a heroic prophet instead, that sees it as his duty to Shor to guard the dead, could be found in one barrow.

Kyne: Wind and rain god. Open air ceremonies suggested by Muspila, I think offerings in exchange for blessed journeys makes a lot of sense too. Perhaps a ritual could be worked in there. Favoured god of warriors.

We're not going to have a religious faction for the Nords AFAIK, but handle it through shamans and such instead, from what I recall that Muspila said.
Religion will be seen through Nordic life, with shamans being the leading religious figures of Nordic communities.

So rituals would be something that many of the community would participate in, I guess chopping off their nutsacks is out then!
Except for shamans specialising in certain gods perhaps...

This would all be mostly told through dialogue and left to the imagination I guess, as what people can conjure up in their minds in most cases would be better than what we could deliver.
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Re: On the Political Powers of Skyrim

Postby Tes96 » Fri Oct 14, 2011 8:22 pm

Lestat DeLioncourt wrote:Probably the Nords worship their ancestor and gods similar as the vikings did. Unfortunally I don't know a lot about viking/ ancient nordic rituals so far.

Muspila is also very interested in the religious content of Skyrim, maybe you and Muspila could make something like a general concept on religion and rituals.
I'm focused on the exterior world of Skyrim so personally I won't spend a lot of time with religious content, which does not mean it is less important than exteriors..it means only that I would be glad if you and Muspila would take care of religion/ rituals and just introduce me where and how to add religious places on the undone exteriors.

I'll ask my teacher if he knows any good books on Norse and/or Viking religion and ceremonies.




Dirnae wrote:Here's some old ideas we had for nordic rituals:

Alduin: A god they REALLY want to keep asleep, seeing as he eats the world whenever he wakes up. I suggested something like a lullaby ritual a long while back.

Shor: God of the Underworld. I suggested funerals and ceremonies to honor the dead would be done under his name, and warriors who guard sacred barrows, called bone-guard or ash-guard and such. Perhaps a ritual of cleansing for captured vampires. However the guard-idea is probably out, so perhaps a heroic prophet instead, that sees it as his duty to Shor to guard the dead, could be found in one barrow.

Kyne: Wind and rain god. Open air ceremonies suggested by Muspila, I think offerings in exchange for blessed journeys makes a lot of sense too. Perhaps a ritual could be worked in there. Favoured god of warriors.

We're not going to have a religious faction for the Nords AFAIK, but handle it through shamans and such instead, from what I recall that Muspila said.
Religion will be seen through Nordic life, with shamans being the leading religious figures of Nordic communities.

So rituals would be something that many of the community would participate in, I guess chopping off their nutsacks is out then!
Except for shamans specialising in certain gods perhaps...

This would all be mostly told through dialogue and left to the imagination I guess, as what people can conjure up in their minds in most cases would be better than what we could deliver.

I don't feel that every ritual is something that the Player should be allowed to participate in. A lot of ceremonies and rituals could even just be mentioned or talked about but not seen or practiced during gameplay.
I didn't explain the ceremony very well but self-castration was a way that made the man closer to becoming a smaller apparition of the fertility goddess, Atargatis. Same for the whipping and lashing and cutting of their limbs and sexual orgies. Woman acquired the power of fertility and child-bearing because Atargatis instilled it within them. And to receive, one must also give back. So the Syrians would have these ceremonies where people would offer their pain and mortal flesh to Atargatis as a way of saying thanks. And then Galli (self-castrated men who dressed like women) were doing that because they gained some of Her powers when they made themselves look more like a woman. It was a big permanent sacrifice they endured and Atargatis knew this. And for doing so, she gave them a bit of her powers in return.
The women whose genitals the young man would throw into her window would feel honored because she knew that Atargatis was watching and when the woman participated in the ritual, she believed that Atargatis would look more favorably upon her for humbly offering her garments to the Gallus (self-castrated man).

You have to leave the 21st century world and place yourself in the mindset of people 2,500 years ago. What would be gruesome or shocking to us today would be considered normal or customary to them back then.
We can apply this very same thing to the Nordic culture of Skyrim. And not every ritual has to be directly correlated with the Aedra. Perhaps there are spirits of the dead that roam around that haunt the streets that they do not want to offend, and so they make offerings to them or do some kind of ritual that would be puzzling and bewildering to us but would make sense to them.

Let's use the Skaal for an example, as that is where my modding showcase will be set since I like the architecture. They could have a ritual where on the eve of every Loredas, they nail a string of wolf ears around their door frame outside their home so as to show intruders or spirits that the Skaal are listening to everything you do and say and can hear where you are going.

Or another small superstition could be that before they smoke out of their pipes (because I'm sure they had some form of smoking, maybe not necessarily tobacco) they would gather around a campfire outside in a circle and each would cut off a tiny lock of their hair from the back of their head and put it in with the pipe that had the tobacco. This would be more superstition than ritual but it could symbolize them cleansing their roots so that when they smoked whatever sacred plant they smoked, the spirit of the plant would not be offended.

Keep in mind that not all religious ceremonies/rituals have to make sense.
Oh, and I also think that the Nords would want to burn their dead so that it purifies their soul before it journey's to the Dreamsleeve. They don't want to taint the dreamsleeve with uncleansed souls. This is not something the player could experience or participate it per se in gameplay, but it could be something that is discussed through NPC dialogue.

Or there can be Imperial scholars who are interviewing Nords. OR, the player can be the one who interviews a Nord to try and learn more about their culture. I believe we could bring a lot to the table as far as lore since we'll have more time to add in other places besides 100000 armor shops and dungeons. There is a myriad more things in a culture than just weapons and armor and combat boots.
There is also how Nords view sex, marriage, love, relationships, adultery. Maybe certain groups or sects believe in multiple partners because they believe that Dibella, the goddess of love, looks more favorably upon them for the more sex and partners they have. Not that it's right or wrong, that could be just their view.
And also keep in mind that Nords don't reason out things they way 21st century humans do here on Earth. Nords are in a medieval fantasy world where ghosts, curses and gods are very much as real as they are.
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Re: On the Political Powers of Skyrim

Postby Dirnae » Fri Oct 14, 2011 9:46 pm

I've just skimmed it, but it sounds like a good way to think about rituals, especially in the Old Holds.
About burning the dead though, Nords are known to use barrows plentifully. If they burn their corpses it should be a regional thing.
In that case I would probably go with a less spiritualistic route anyway, and have them burn the bodies of dead warriors on the Morrowind border for example to prevent Dumner laying hands on them, for speed or to keep away disease.

Which begs a point, how far do we take spiritualistic beliefs in Nordic culture, and where? The battle-fierce warriors of Windhelm, longing for elven blood, probably wouldn't share such beliefs. If they heard a ghost they're more likely to grab a silver battleaxe, and any spiritualism in general would have to reflect the warrior 'hunter' aspect of the Nords themselves.
From what I can tell the less 'sophisticated' Nords for the most part are barbaric, and religions probably revolve around combat beliefs for them (in which case I agree with Muspila's call for a more distanced and day-to-day religious stance).
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Re: On the Political Powers of Skyrim

Postby Tes96 » Sat Oct 15, 2011 3:15 am

Dirnae wrote:I've just skimmed it, but it sounds like a good way to think about rituals, especially in the Old Holds.
About burning the dead though, Nords are known to use barrows plentifully. If they burn their corpses it should be a regional thing.
In that case I would probably go with a less spiritualistic route anyway, and have them burn the bodies of dead warriors on the Morrowind border for example to prevent Dumner laying hands on them, for speed or to keep away disease.

Which begs a point, how far do we take spiritualistic beliefs in Nordic culture, and where? The battle-fierce warriors of Windhelm, longing for elven blood, probably wouldn't share such beliefs. If they heard a ghost they're more likely to grab a silver battleaxe, and any spiritualism in general would have to reflect the warrior 'hunter' aspect of the Nords themselves.
From what I can tell the less 'sophisticated' Nords for the most part are barbaric, and religions probably revolve around combat beliefs for them (in which case I agree with Muspila's call for a more distanced and day-to-day religious stance).


(Please read my entire post when you get the chance; I know it's long)
A "barrow" as in a large mound of stones placed over the corpse?
This is where I need to become familiar with Nordic lore because I didn't know what they did to their dead. I was just using what the Romans did as an example. Actually, burning their dead might be something the Imperials in Cyrodiil would do. But that's a different project.

I really don't like Bethesda's take on ghosts because ghosts should be able to pass through all walls and materials, including weapons. But I understand it's a video game and if you had enemies attacking you that you could never even harm no matter how many times you swung, you'd have a lot of complaints.

How far do we take spiritual beliefs and where? I don't know Skyrim's geography but I'd like to take their beliefs further than anybody else has, so that ie seems like these Nords really have a culture and a religion and real lives that are affected by their religion.

For example, the Zuñi (native pueblos people of western North America) viewed corn as sacred. Sacred by simple definition is what you need to keep you alive. And corn kept these natives alive since it was the only major food source in New Mexico. They didn't have buffalo like the Shoshoni. The Zuñi had dances for corn to honor it, just like how the Shoshoni had buffalo dances. They danced and had rituals to honor the buffalo so that the buffalo would continue to rejuvenate and reproduce.

Perhaps the Nords view the wooly mammoths as sacred since just one of them can supply food for months and months to an entire village. Let's assume Nords do view mammoths as sacred. They could have a ritual after they kill one where they take the tusks and hollow them out with tools and all Nords who participated in the killing of the mammoth would cut their forearm and let a bit of their blood trickle into the tusk where they would then seal it with mammoth fat or hide and place it on an alter in front of a roaring fire. Their women dance naked as the warrior men beat drums and sing sacred songs not only to appease the mammoth, but to also appease any relevant Aedra (I don't think Nords worship daedra) in the ceremony. Then there is lots of mead & ale and lots of sex while other Nordic warriors are standing by and continuing to play music and sing.

This is symbolizing the Nords giving a bit of their blood back in offering to the spirit of the mammoth so that the mammoth spirit will not feel offended and continue to reproduce so that they may be hunted again. The music and singing is to attract the attention of the spirits and of the gods (aedra), to show them "Hey, we(nords) are down here in Mundus, Aedric gods. We thank you earnestly for blessing us with such a magnificent beast. We offer in return our own blood to show our appreciation. As this particular mammoth spirit leaves Mundus to journey to the Dreamsleeve to be recycled, please bestow upon us another mammoth in its place so that we may continue to hunt and give back to you(i.e. since we killed this one, let another mammoth be born and safely raised to adulthood. Hmm, I wonder if the Nords would consider it a sacrilege to kill baby mammoths because it would be ruining the chance for it to be an adult and thus provide tons of food). The sexual orgies during the ritual is to encourage reproduction of the mammoths. Yes, sex is very fun. But here in this ceremony of honoring the great mammoth, the warrior nords and hunters are having plentiful sex to help with the reproduction of the mammoths. Kinda like, if the gods and spirits see us having sex, they will become more apt to do the same thing. And the drinking of mead, well, I guess that's just part of Nordic culture and makes sex more enjoyable.

I'd also think it would be awesome to see some nordic hunters and warriors dressing up in mammoth wool with a helmet that had huge tusks pointing off of it. Kinda like how chiefs of native indian tribes would wear feather hats (not really hats but I don't know what else to call it) that they plucked from an eagle. A huge tusked helmet wouldn't be used in battle since it'd be a little cumbersome, but for ceremonial purposes.

But I want to have ceremonies and rituals that fit the culture. So some ritual or dance that indians would do might not fit with viking or Nordic culture. Like you said, they seem to be more battle-oriented, like barbarians and vikings.
I do imagine some of their temples have roaring fires, lots of naked women and mead, animal and beast heads mounted to walls.... all to honor the gods and spirits. Vikings were relentless. I betcha anything that TESV Skyrim will be very trimmed down and not show Nords how they really are, or really would be. I'll be honest in that Nords are not my favorite race. In fact, they are one of the lesser interesting races to me. My favorite are the elves, like Altmer and Dunmer. But since I'm wanting very much to be a part of this project, I want to make it as authentic as we can without getting into trouble with the law. haha I picture a Nordic warrior being interested in very simple things like drinking, sex and hunting; spending his free time sharpening his axes or tanning the leather he recently cut from an elk he killed.

....my brain suddenly died. Well I'm at work any ways so I'll cut it short here.
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