The Nords like any culture on Tamriel are a diverse and colourful people. And that means they too sometimes do things that would make no sense to any other culture without this guide!
Ice Wraith Hunt
Nords have a very martial culture, so the only way of being accepted into that culture is to prove yourself as a warrior. Most pubescent Nords do this by going into the mountains by themselves and hunting an ice wrath, scary ghost snakes made from shards of ice. Then they take home the icy teeth as proof (But Jeek-Ma has also heard of smarter Nords buying teeth)
The Snowbear Plunge
It is tradition all across Skyrim to welcome every new year with a refreshing plunge in the freezing waters, and to share a drink and a boast around a fire afterwards. Brrr! Jeek-Ma loves the water, but this Shoss-kaleel's blood is not hot enough to take a dive like that!
The Sovngarde Plunge
In the city of Haafingar, the city on the arch, the city of solitude, where the hawks nest among the dead inside the arch and children throw rocks at elves arriving at the docks below, the Nords have their own spin on the Snowbear Plunge. Elderly, sick, disgraced or Nords looking for the wisdom of the dead jump down all the way from the arch into the wide and deep river below. They do this to get closer to Kynareth, the Nord goddess of death and wind. Jeer-Ma can definitely see how jumping down from such a height gets them closer! Many do not survive this plunge, but they say it is okay, because Kynareth looks on every year and she sees how brave those Nords are, and so she takes them to Aetherius (Which the Nords call Sovngarde, where the name of this tradition stems from!)
The Nords call themselves the People of the Sky. They think they were created by the wind, who they call Kyne. And every Child of the Sky carries a bit of wind in him wherever he goes (Usually in the lungs). So what do they do when they want to call their mother? (That doesn't involve near death experiences) They call her! By standing atop mountain sides, of which they are many, and just yelling their lungs out into the wind. Then their priests look to the changing of the wind or the size of the avalanches and how many homes and people get buried and interpret them as a response from Kynareth.
Another interesting way in which the extremest Nords worship Kynareth is by walking around with their metal weapons raised up to the sky during a thunder storm to be noticed by the Mother of Storms. The ones that survive are all scarred up, but they are very proud of the lines of electricity burned into their skin from entry to exit point, and they call it Kyne's Kiss.
The day Morihaus became the Bull
The Nords of Morthal say their city was founded by Morihaus, the son of Kynareth when he was only a boy. He was a very good archer, but he did not have a totem form like his mother, who could turn into a hawk. Then he went to Cyrodiil to kill the elves there, and he grew up. So then he could turn into a bull, with wings. And the Nords of Morthal celebrate that first transformation with a big feast. First they sacrifice cows and throw them into the bog as an offering for Kynareth in preparation of the feast, on the day Morihaus left for Cyrodiil. Then they fish up the stinky rotten carrion filled with delicious fat eels and crabs on the day Morihaus became the Bull. Delicious! I thought they only served food this good in Black Marsh, even if I could not join the feasting to taste for myself because I am not a Nord and they don't like outsiders very much. Even if we both live in a swamp and eat delicious food.
The children are also not allowed to eat. They have to wear the skull of a bull for the entire feast. But at the end they get the best threat; the bull's tongue! This tongue should make them strong for the next tradition.
The Hjaalmarch Wispmother hunt
All swamps across Tamriel have the little lights we call wisps, and sometimes they have wispmothers as well. In Hjaalmarch the Nords think wispmothers are falmer liches. Ridiculous of course, but the Nords don't like outsiders much and they never asked the Shoss-kaleel if we have wispmother back home, where we have never seen snow or snow elves. But I should digress on details, when this is about the Nords, and they don't care about details! They think these snow elf liches take away their children into the swamps and turn their little souls into wisps. So once a year they gather all the children of Hjaalmarch into their capital Morthal, and then they send them to hunt a wispmother together and avenge all the lost children. The little Nords have to work together and be good at fighting and survival and they can not cheat (unless they all agree to lie). Then they take home the wispmother's dress and give it to the jarl. And that's when the children are no longer children, but adults. And the jarl then weaves the wisp wrappings into her cloak to make it all magical.
The Danstrarr Snow Rest
Skyrim is very cold, and the Nords love boasting. So they also boast of how much they aren't bothered by the cold. And a very big boast you can have is if you've done the Danstrarr Snow Rest. It is a very old tradition and not many Nords undertake this trial. But it does help them get closer to their gods, so some do it. It originally started after a battalion marching across the thick ice sheet on Sea of Ghost from their ships to the imperial fortress Danstrarr fell through the ice when it was shattered by catapult fire. The assault was thought over, and days later dozens of frozen corpses were fished up and brought into the fort to be sold back later to the mourning families. But in the warm fires of the fortress the dead started to stir. The superstitious Nords feared draugr and fled their stations. The battalion had taken over the fortress from within, by virtue of Shor, who suffered them not their dishonourable deaths.
What do they do? Well they undress of course, in the heart of winter, cut a hole in the ice of a frozen lake and then they jump in. The family and friends all stand around the hole and there is also a respected elder there who then pours snow wraith essence into the hole so it fills up with ice again. And then they all watch their friend drown and pass out, because Nords can't breath underwater like Jeek-Ma, and the next day at exactly the same time they cut a hole in the ice and get the body out and they wrap it in blankets, drain the lungs and place it near a fire. And if the gods think he deserves to live the Nord will wake up again when he warms up. I think this is because the cold prevents the soul from leaving the body until the body is warm again. And then the soul realizes there is no water in the lungs and there is a nice warm fire so it stays. But the Nords do not think Jeek-Ma is right. They think the frozen Nord went to Sovngarde and crossed the whalebone bridge and had all kinds of insightful talks and fights in Shor's Hall and that's why they get the Mark of Sovngarde when they wake up. (But most don't wake up and they stay in Sovngarde)
The Test of Isolation
This tradition is also known as the test of berserkers, which refers to military leaders of the Nords, whom wear bear skins (ber serks). In olden days the would-be berserkers had to leave civilised life and wander the wilderness alone for a year, to get closer to their gods, get valuable new perspectives and to get approved for their position. The initiates had to wear an enchanted bear pelt that marked them and turned into a living and angry bear if they ever took it off. Nowadays the test is undertaken by many more Nords, but there are no precautions to keep them in check. It is something they have to do on their own volition.
The Test of Cold
If you thought one day in the freezing cold is very long, you will be as shocked as I was by this next tradition. The further one goes north, the less need the Nords have for shelter against the cold. They have honed their bodies with magic and practice. And some of them undergo the Test of Cold to prove mastery, by undressing completely and leaving their home for a full year, equipped with nothing but their survival skills and their naked person. During this year they are allowed to make tools with what they find in nature, but they are not allowed to wear any clothing or get help from anyone else. The Nords undergoing the Test of Cold have a magic rune carved into their face, which helps them stay warm if they focus on their breath. It also marks them as an initiate and freezes anything that touches their skin to long, so they can't cheat by wearing pelts or stolen clothing.
Snow Elf Hunts
The superstitious Nords blame their ancient foes for everyday inconveniences. These boogeymen are supposedly responsible for causing avalanches, bad crop harvests, cold winters, hiding crevasses, abducting children and lone travelers, stealing left socks, losing customers to elven merchants, etc. etc. And when something unexplained like this happens too often the Nords go out on a snow elf hunt, which starts with chasing out all the elves because they think all elves work together. Aand then no one sees the hunters for a while and they come back much later with a bag full of bloody pointy ears. Jeek-Ma shudders to think how many elves died for this… misguided tradition.
There is no place in Tamriel with more werecreatures than in Skyrim (Other than perhaps Valenwood ever since the Oblivion Crisis, but what exactly all those monsters are is still up for debate and they might forever defy classification), and it logically follows that the Nords have a plethora of ways to deal with werecreatures. The most common breed is the werebear. The Nords smear canis root, a dead looking leafless, drab, thorny plant, on the trees surrounding their homesteads to ward the werebears off. Many Nords also traditionally wear a silver dagger or a vial of wolfsbane on their person at all times.
A cure for lycanthropy
But what if someone does get lycanthropy? Or if it is discovered a family member is a creature of the night, and you might be a latent werebear? The Nords claim to have a cure for lycanthropy, one that does not involve infecting a latent lycanthrope nor killing the patient itself. It is much worse. The patient is first skinned alive and then their skin and the patient are to be blown dry by the wind. Then when the moon rises and the patient transforms, they are skinned again. The pelt is then burned into ashes, and the hot ashes are used to cover the patient to prevent the skin from regrowing near instantaneously. Then, the dried up human hide is pulled (more like torn) over the werewolf or bear or boar (in the west) and when the patient turns back into a human, he is cured and has his skin back. If this alleged cure really works of course, the glorious empire would have long picked up on it, that goes without saying. So this is likely just another brutal practice of the Nords founded on superstitions, just like the existence of the snow elves.
The Nords practice ancestor worship, which entails building big underground halls for their dead instead of just burying them. Then they just leave the corpses on shelves for everyone to see, and sometimes those corpses get up from their stone bed and wander around, because they weren't allowed into Sovngarde, or because their honour was challenged and they weren't allowed into the Hall until they rose to the challenger. And because those Nords aren't as smart as Saxhleel they don't just put a big stick through the corpses so they stay put. They just tie their toes together or nail their boots to the wall or they freeze them in very hard ice. But many draugr still escape and they find the exit of the hall because someone forgot to close the door or to reset the big puzzle that opens it. So young Nords go out to hunt these walking dead, which they call draugr, and they kill them again and respectfully place them back in their beds. Or they burn them ceremoniously and put them in an urn. And that makes the young Nord an adult.
These are just some of the traditions from the province that kisses the sky. They are very strange indeed! But we are all a little strange, and there are many more books to write! So just you wait at the bookstore for the next volume, and maybe Jeek-Ma words will be waiting there for you!
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More about The Elder ScrollsPost: "Strange traditions of: The Nords" specifically for the game The Elder Scrolls. Other useful information about this game:
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