8 is a pretty cool number! Shows up in a lot of lore. Usually in reference to the Eight Divines or the Spokes of The Wheel. Which are the same thing. Or are they? They aren't. Well they are but it's a square rectangle thing, except the backwards of the way you might expect. What I propose is that 8 is a fundamental geometric principal of mundus, that there are 8 divines because there are 8 spokes and not the other way around. (I guess Talos makes 9 but we'll get to him later).
Akatosh, Arkay, Dibella, Julianos, Kynareth, Mara, Stendarr, and Zenithar. You know them, I don't need to cite that. I could go through and explain each of them in turn, but most of them are boring and Akatosh is way too confusing, so I'm just going to talk about the origin divines as a group.
The clearest description of the creation of the divines comes from Shezarr and the Divines:
In 1E242, under the leadership of Alessia, her demigod lover, Morihaus-Breath-of-Kyne, and the infamous Pelinal Whitestrake, the Cyrodilic humans revolt. When Skyrim lends its armies to the Slave-Queen of the South, the revolution succeeds. The Ayleid Hegemonies are quickly overthrown. Shortly thereafter, White Gold Tower is captured by Alessia's forces, and she promptly declares herself the first Empress of Cyrodiil. Part of the package meant that she had to become the High Priestess of Akatosh, as well.
Akatosh was an Aldmeri god, and Alessia's subjects were as-yet unwilling to renounce their worship of the Elven pantheon. She found herself in a very sensitive political situation. She needed to keep the Nords as her allies, but they were (at that time) fiercely opposed to any adoration of Elven deities. On the other hand, she could not force her subjects to revert back to the Nordic pantheon, for fear of another revolution. Therefore, concessions were made and Empress Alessia instituted a new religion: the Eight Divines, an elegant, well-researched synthesis of both pantheons, Nordic and Aldmeri.
It is interesting to me that this is actually the only text I could find that stated that Alessia personally created the divines, though it is referenced by Artorius Ponticus, Bishop of Akatosh, and a number of other texts refer to the Eight Divines as emerging out of Alessia's Empire, so there is no reason to doubt it.
Varieties of Faith in the Empire (note: it might be tempting to say the 8 pantheons are significant, but the inclusion of 8 seems arbitrary to me) does show that there is significant overlap between different regional pantheons (which can broadly be considered equivalent to pre slave rebellion pantheons, with a few exceptions) but none perfectly match. The closest would be the Nord pantheon, which we actually have a good historical understanding of. As High Priest Ingurt says in Divines and the Nords, " We agree with the general notion that there are eight gods, more or less…" However the Divines move the Nord's Orkey from a relatively maligned position to the revered position of Arkay, and Alduin's link to Akatosh is… complicated. Further, you would also have to say that Tsun = Zenithar, which isn't certain (Shor son of Shor links Tsun to Trinimac). I was unable to find any specific pantheon for the Aldmer or Barsaebic Ayleids. The main point I am trying to make is the eight divines are a unique creation of the first empire of man, and of Alessia in particular.
The Spokes are the eight spokes of the Wheel. This is a sort of metaphysical-esoteric concept, and the best and clearest description comes from everyone's favorite liar, the warrior-poet Vivec!
From Vekh's Teaching:
What are the spokes of the Wheel?
For ages the etada grew and shaped and destroyed each other and destroyed each other’s creations. Some were like Lorkhan and discovered the void outside of the Aurbis, though if some saw the Tower I do not know, but I know that, if they did, none held it in such high esteem. In any case, some of those that did see the void created its like inside the Aurbis, but each of these smaller voids sought each other out. Void shall follow void; the etada called it Oblivion. What was left of the Aurbis was solid change, otherwise known as magic. The etada called this Aetherius.
Now Lorkhan had by at this point seen everything there was to see, and could accept none of it. Here were the etada with their magic and their voids and everything in between and he yearned for the return to flux but at the same time he could not bear to lose his identity. He did not know what he wanted, but he knew how to build it. Through trickery (“We have made the Aurbis unstable with the voids”) and wisdom (“We are of two minds and so should make a perfect gem of compromise”) and force (“Do what I say, rude spirit”), he bound some of the strongest etada to create the World.
The spokes of the Wheel are the eight gifts of the Aedra, sons and daughters of Aetherius. The voids between each spoke number sixteen, and their masters are the sons and daughters of Oblivion. The center of the Wheel was another circle, the hub, which held everything together. The etada called this Mundus.
(italics added by me)
Further explanation comes from Sermon 21, the Scripture of the Wheel, of The Thirty-Six Lessons of Vivec:
First: 'The Spokes are the eight components of chaos, as yet solidified by the law of time: static change, if you will, something the lizard gods refer to as the Striking. That is the reptile wheel, coiled potential, ever-preamble to the never-action.'
'They are the lent bones of the Aedra, the Eight gift-limbs to SITHISIT, the wet earth of the new star our home. Outside them is the Aurbis, and not within. Like most things inexplicable, it is a circle. Circles are confused serpents, striking and striking and never given leave to bite. The Aedra would have you believe different, but they were givers before liars. Lies have turned them into biters. Their teeth are the proselytizers; to convert is to place oneself in the mouth of falsehood; even to propitiate is to be swallowed. '
Did I say clear? Well, it's the best you get with Vivec. Basic structure is rim = aetherius, hub = mundus, spokes stretch between. The spokes are quite clearly described as "gifts of the Aedra," and "lent bones of the Aedra" (though not "aedra" themselves). The "lent bones" calls to mind the Ehlnofey, which literally means "earth bones." The "static change" part relates to the dual Anuic-Padomayic nature of the Aedra ( as described in A Children's Anuad). There's a lot going on but it is clear that the spokes are, like real spokes, structural. The spokes, which stretch from Mundus to Aetherius, are what was given by the Aedra to make mundus as described in The Monomyth. If the Aedra gave themselves, or an image or echo of themselves, as some myths describe, then it would make sense to equate the spokes with the Aedra, and the Eight Divines would be the most logical Aedra to equate with the Eight Spokes.
Interestingly, a similar structure is described by an adherent of Mephala in Rumors of the Spiral Skein, the "spiral skein" being Mephala's plane. These spokes relate to eight sins associated with Mephala. It is worth pointing out that Vivec is the "anticipation of Mephala."
Mephala is not the only one to make her own version of the Wheel, spokes and all. According to Nu-Hatta in Nu-Mantia Intercept:
Though the Ayleids gave theirs a central Spire as the imago of Ada-mantia, the whole of the polydox resembled the Wheel, with eight lesser towers forming a ring around their primus. To dismiss this mythitecture as being a mockery of the Aurbis is to ignore an important point: this same "jest" gave White-Gold Tower a power over creatia unalike any on this plane(t). It was a triumph of sympathetic megafetish, and the Start of the
that brings me to this Council.
which is to say the imperial city itself is a recreation of the wheel, with the eight lesser towers standing in for the spokes. This may account for the Ayleid's "obsession with the number eight" as described in the Abadal-a (I'm going to later argue that this isn't the whole picture).
I'm going to save time and just directly quote Cosmology:
What are planets?
The planets are the gods and the planes of the gods, which is the same thing. That they appear as spherical heavenly bodies is a visual phenomena caused by mortal mental stress. Since each plane(t) is an infinite mass of infinite size, as yet surrounded by the Void of Oblivion, the mortal eye registers them as bubbles within a space. Planets are magical and impossible. The eight planets correspond to the Eight Divines. They are all present on the Dwarven Orrery, along with the mortal planet, Nirn.
Pretty simple. Relatively speaking. It is worth pointed out the mentioned orrery, along with every other orrery I could accurately date, postdate the Alessian rebellion. Put a pin in that. But here is where we can make the strongest link between the spokes and the eight divines. It would be a hell of a coincidence to suggest that these eight cosmological structures hanging out in oblivion are unrelated to the other eight cosmological structures hanging out in oblivion. And we all know what twice vehk did to coincidence.
Do you see it yet? The contradiction? If the Ayleids knew about the spokes, and the spokes are the divines, then in what way could we meaningfully say Alessia created the divines? Maybe she was just the first person to use a telescope, the nedes did like astronomy after all. Maybe there's actually more planets and the spokes have little to do with the divines, but I doubt the dwemer would make an orrery only including some foreign culture's planet-gods. The easiest solution is to say that Alessia didn't meaningfully make anything, and nobody else really noticed that 2/3 of their gods were planets.
And here's where I pull out the damning quote, from Aurbic Enigma 4: The Elden Tree
As foretold by the moth-eyed, Ayleid hubris was to bear bitter fruit. With their vision on high to behold the overworlds, they failed to note the seething Nedelings at their feet, until the thralls rose up and took their Tower away from them. Chim-el-Adabal they took as well, but not before the arch-mage Anumaril fangled an eightfold Staff of Towers, each segment a semblance of a tower in its Dance. And then seven of these segments were borne by White-Gold Knights to distant Fold-Places, where they were hidden.
(This was all unknown to Pelin-al-Essia, be certain, or there might have been a different Eight Divines!)
(bold added by me)
This quote, which I actually found halfway through writing this, shows that the importance of eight precedes and does not depend upon the specific Eight Divines! I don't know why knowing about the staff of towers would result in a different Eight Divines, but I also don't care.
So here is what I propose: Alessia's "creation of the eight divines" is more literal than you might think. After all, it has been said here before, that " all of the etada, are quantum figures that shed their skin as each aspect of them becomes more and more self-aware. " and I think that Alessia may have helped that process along. I would argue that Alessia took a handful of spirits from the men and mer, merged relevant aspects, and shoved them into the spokes for structure. She made the gods, she made the planets (hence all orrery's dating after her reign). That might sound too radical, but the elder scrolls is a place of sympathetic magic, of mythopoeia, of " walk like them until they must walk like you " (Nu-Hatta of the Sphinxmoth Inquiry Tree). There is not so much difference between naming a pantheon and forging its deities, if you are in a suitable time and place.
Even if you accept this, a question still remains. Why are there 8 spokes anyway? And is the significance of 8 purely related to the spokes? And here is where I get to have fun.
All creation is subgradient. First was Void, which became split by AE. Anu and Padomay came next and with their first brush came the Aurbis.
We start with a split, of one dividing into 2, Anu and Padomay.
21 = 2
But their "first brush," their interaction and union makes Aurbis.
The Aedroth Aka, who goes by so many names as to perhaps already suggest what I'm about to commit to memospore, is completely insane. His mind broke when his "perch from Eternity allowed the day" and we of all the Aurbis live on through its fragments, ensnared in the temporal writings and erasures of the acausal whim that he begat by saying "I AM". In the aetheric thunder of self-applause that followed (nay, rippled until convention, that is, amnesia), is it any wonder that the Time God would hate the same-twin on the other end of the aurbrilical cord, the Space God? That any Creation would become so utterly dangerous because of that singular fear of a singular word's addition: "I AM NOT"?
Here, there is another split, this time of the Aurbis; the 2 here are Akatosh and Lorkhan. (Compare this version to "What is the rim of the Wheel" in Vehk's Teaching)
22 = 4
From the Loveletter again:
We begin to see the first inkling of emergence, which by its nature requires the merging of two-fold powers. Inevitably, this leads to another gradient, but this time by forceful process: the Trap of the Lunar God. The Aedra are Named at this time, having lent their hands to what was to be the arena of the eternally impossible: Mundus, or Exactness.
Akatosh and Lorkhan have their own interaction and union to make Mundus. And because all creation is subgradient, another split, another 2: the war of the ehlnofey, the wandering and the old, man and mer (see A Children's Anuad among other texts).
23 = 8
8 is the number of mundus. Perhaps without the war at convention it would not be so, but all creation is subgradient, the split is prefigured. This is why there are 8 spokes, this is why the Ayleids were obsessed. Because 8 is of mundus and the echos preceding it.
I made the decision to multiply the splits instead of adding them, feeling each subgradient was of a new dimension rather than the simply more of the same. However if you add the splits 2 + 2 + 2 = 6. The formula for the walking-ways? Less convincing perhaps, but I always wondered why should there be six?
24 = 16
I wonder if they are aware of their destiny? What, did you really think Peryite being a dragon was a coincidence? We've been over this. In case you doubt me, from c0da:
Jubal and his torch walk by inside, through an “observatory”— really, a hall whose centerpiece is an orrery made of brass and jewel-wrought wire, its planets numbering 16.
But there are now Nine Divines aren't there? The addition of Talos inverts the sacred formula.
32 = 9
Ah, now I see why the elves are so mad. In doing this, the focus shifts. We are no longer looking at the two-fold powers, we are looking at 3, at what the Scripture of the Word, Sermon 27 of 36 calls
Trinity in unity is the world and word of action: the third walking path.
Or Enantiomorph. Warrior, thief, mage, it's been there from the beginning. I don't have the inclination or ability to explain it, but if Talos is positing himself as the second (The Arcturian Heresy) then convention (The Monomyth) must be the first, which is more appropriate anyway for the purpose of Tamriel. There are others, but if we have to pick 2 it's gotta be these. Are we sure we're not forgetting someone (Anu-in-the-sun (A Children's Anuad) 3 = 1)?
Further, 9 is a number of almost-completion, a step below 10, which is 1 and 0, which is 1+0 = 1, which fits well for the one who came closer than any other to the unwilting flower.
And because I must;
Which the scripture of numbers gives as "The Secret Flame" and corresponds of course to Sermon 27, explained the "trinity in unity". How clever.
I don't know how convincing any of that was but it was fun. For me. It might be very boring for anyone else. I like to mostly work from primary sources but I don't know how to read so I probably said something dumb or totally missed something else. The one secondary source I worked from was Echoes of Godhead, which you should read because I spent too long looking for it and also it is amazing.
Also, because I have nowhere else to put this, I'm gonna talk about constellations. If the creation of mundus necessitated spokes whose numbering needed to conform to mythic patterns, then perhaps the constellations are just as necessary. Perhaps Magnus and his children did not flee, but left to build the necessary mythic patterns in the sky. spokes before planets, constellations already existing before stars.
- Are the Aedra really “good” or they are just weak?
- The Wheel and Broken Axle, and why Akatosh looks away
- Sovngarde, Aetherius and why I dislike its depiction in Skyrim
More about The Elder ScrollsPost: "On the 8, and some other numbers" specifically for the game The Elder Scrolls. Other useful information about this game:
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