The Aedra (singular: Aedroth) are one of the two groups of supernatural beings which exist within the universe, or Mundus. The name is from the old Aldmeric tongue, and translates roughly into "our ancestors". The term refers to a specific subset of the beings (called et'Ada, "original spirits", in Aldmeri) that were the original inhabitants of the universe. The remainder of these original spirits are collectively referred to by the name Daedra, "not our ancestors", by the mortal inhabitants of Nirn. To the majority of Tamriel, the Aedra are revered as gods, and are given the collective name "The Divines."
The origins of the Aedra are the subject of many, often conflicting, creation myths across the entire planet. Most scholars, however, accept a variation of the Altmer creation myth as likely being the closest to true, after compensating for the inherent prejudice against Lorkhan and mortality in general. According to the prevalent view, the creation of the Aedra, and thus Nirn, progresses as follows:
Before the universe existed there was Anu, the unchanging stasis. Into this stasis came Padomay, the agent of change, and thus the universe was created. (See the article on Sithis, an alternate name for Padomay, for details.) From the chaos of creation came the et'Ada, formless spiritual beings, to populate the universe.
All creation myths across Tamriel include the Aedra Akatosh in some form, as the first of the et'Ada to form an identity, bringing with him the concept of time. The existence of time aided other et'Ada in forming their own identities, and soon there were hundreds of separate, individual beings. The other common element in all creation myths is the presence of the "trickster", usually called Lorkhan. After some indeterminate amount of time, Lorkhan approached his peers with a plan to create a new plane of existence, and to create and populate it with lesser beings of their own design, which he described as being the "soul of the universe". He was able to convince a group of his fellow spirits to help with his plan, while others suspected a trick or were simply uninterested and were kept out.
Lorkhan's plan was executed, resulting in the creation of the mortal plane/planet of Nirn. During this process, it became clear to the Aedra that their own divine energy was being drained to help infuse life into the world. Some of the Aedra managed to escape the mortal world, most notably Magnus, who was initially the chief architect of Lorkhan's plan, but quickly became disgusted with his creation and fled. Since Magnus is not bound by the rules of Nirn, neither is the magic which flows from him, allowing it to violate the natural laws and reach across the planes of existence. Other Aedra drew back from creation in time to maintain some degree of their divinity, leaving them bound to Nirn, but still powerful relative to the mortals. A few Aedra continued to sacrifice their divinity to finish the creation of the planet, leaving them weakened and unable to interact directly with the world. The last of these was Lorkhan himself, who is usually said to have died, with his body becoming the physical mass of Nirn. This also explains how Lorkhan's Heart was able to survive on Tamriel for so long, since it was literally part of Nirn itself.
One last group of Aedra continued to weaken, even after they had determined what was happening. These beings realized that, in order to maintain their existence, it would be necessary to procreate and bring forth future generations. Each generation lost more and more of the divinity of their ancestors, until finally they had weakened to the point of being mortal beings. These beings were called the Ehlnofey, the "bones of the earth", and were the first inhabitants of Nirn.
Eventually, the Ehlnofey would diverge into the various races of man and mer, who would evolve quite different interpretations of the creation myth. Men believed that they were created from nothing by the et'Ada responsible for Nirn, and thus considered their existence a gift and Lorkhan a hero. The mer believed themselves to be the literal descendants of those beings, robbed of their immortality by Lorkhan, whom they reviled as a trickster. Since the mer believed these beings to be their true ancestors, they collectively named them Aedra, and any spirit that remained uninvolved in the mortal creation was termed Daedra. Despite this core difference of opinion, both men and mer, for the most part, worship the Aedra as divine beings, and consider the Daedra to be evil, demonic creatures (though see the Daedra article for a more accurate description).
Aedra and the Solar SystemEdit
In addition to the creation of the planet Nirn, the Aedra are also believed responsible for the presence of the other solar bodies in the Nirn solar system. In the Elder Scrolls universe, a "plane" and a "planet" are one and the same; that is, there is nothing in the mortal plane of Nirn except for the planet Nirn. What mortals see as the moons and planets are nothing more than the mortal brain's attempt to interpret the presence of the divine planes surrounding Nirn. (For a more complete explanation, see the Aetherius article).
The eight planets represent the planes of the eight gods who gave the most of themselves to create the world of Nirn. Most cultures believe these gods to be the Eight Divines, though that would be a striking coincidence, given that the Eight Divines were not formally named as such until well into the First Era of recorded history. These Aedra, having given much of their divine essence to create Nirn, cannot physically walk the planet, but their planes can influence the mortal one more closely than those of Oblivion.
The twin moons are considered separate Aedra by the elves, but a more accepted explanation is that these are the remains of Lorkhan's body after his Heart was ripped from him, sundered and placed in the sky as a message to his creation. Unlike the planets, the moons are bound entirely to the mortal plane, and current information seems to indicate that they are slowly deteriorating.
Those Aedra who managed to escape the mortal plane before being completely trapped created the rest of the night sky. Magnus was still close to full strength when he fled, and in doing so, punched a hole in the night sky directly through to the Aetherius itself, which mortals see as the sun. The other Aedra were considerably weakened by the time they fled, and their escape caused much smaller rifts in the sky, making up the multitide of stars.
Comparison to DaedraEdit
The term daedra is used to describe a wide variety of supernatural creatures, most of which possess a minimal intelligence comparable to the animal inhabitants of Nirn. The Aedra, however, are a small group of individual spirits, each with their own identity and possessing a high degree of intelligence. As a group, the Aedra are analogous to the much smaller subset of powerful daedra known as the Daedric Princes.
Unlike the powerful Daedra, the Aedra do not have their own native planes within Oblivion. Rather, the act of creation bound them permanently to the mortal plane. Additionally, their power was so reduced that the Aedra lost the ability to manifest themselves physically or to interact directly with their creation. This limitation is one of the prime forces behind the existence of daedra worship; since the Daedric Lords did not give up their strength to create Nirn, they retain the power to interfere with the mortal world and are thus attractive to the power-hungry among the mortals.
The Aedra are similar to the Daedric Lords, however, in that each has a preferred sphere of influence. These are derived from the personalities the Aedra had prior to the act of creation; most of the remaining energy the Aedra possess is focused on their preferred sphere. Examples of the primary aspects of Aedra include:
- Mara: love
- Zenithar: trade, commerce
- Stendarr: mercy
- Trinimac: strength, warriors
During the Mythic Era, and early in the First Era, there were numerous accounts of Aedra (and Daedra) appearing physically on Nirn and interacting with its peoples. The Aedra that appeared in this manner were limited to those that did not give up their divinity fully to become the planets (the Eight Divines). Near the start of the First Era, the Aedra Akatosh made a pact with the newly crowned queen of Cyrodiil that bound the Daedra from entering Nirn; since this time, no Aedra has been seen either. However, the Aedra still possess the ability to interact spiritually or magically with Nirn such as through the shrines and altars scattered about Cyrodiil. It should be noted that, when the Oblivion barriers were breached during the Third Age and Mehrunes Dagon appeared physically in the Imperial City, he was defeated not by Akatosh but not physically, but by Akatosh's spirit projected into a mortal's body. This would indicate that at least some Aedra are permanently bound from existing physically on the mortal plane.
The pantheon of gods worshipped by the various races is derived almost exclusively from the Aedra. (A notable exception are the Dunmer, who generally reject the gods of both men and other mer, and worship either Daedra or the Tribunal.) Each race has chosen to deify a different set of Aedra, often depending on their beliefs on creation.
Since the unification of Tamriel by the Cyrodiilic Empire, the Nine Divines has been the most prominent set of divine beings worshipped by men and mer. The pantheon was created by Alessia upon creation of the empire, as a means to unify her people and differentiate them from their former elvish masters. At the time, there were Eight Divines, but at the end of the Second Age, the first Emperor Tiber Septim somehow transcended mortality to become Talos, the Ninth Divine. Most of the gods in this pantheon are shared between the Imperials and Nords, since Alessia chose to adopt most of her Nordic allies' gods after overthrowing the Ayleid slavers. Many of these gods are worshipped by the Bretons and Bosmer as well. Perhaps coincidentally, the eight original divines are those most often associated with the eight planets, and considered those most active and willing to participate in the creation of Nirn.
The Altmer's pantheon includes a number of Aedra that are no longer considered "part of" Nirn. This includes Magnus, whose withdrawal from Nirn created magic, and Jode and Jove, whose death created the twin moons. The Altmer also worship those Aedra who withdrew from creation in time to maintain their divinity, and who cursed Lorkhan as a trickster. Chief among these is Trinimac, though both Altmer and Chimer legend imply that Trinimac was somehow transformed into the Daedra Malacath (Chimer legend claims Boethiah ate Trinimac, to assume his shape and trick the Chimer, and later excreted Malacath.) One particularly interesting Aedra in the Altmer religion is Phynaster, whom the elves credit with teaching the ancient Aldmer to take shorter steps and thus live longer. The Khajiit religion is similar to that of the Altmer, though many of the names are different; however, the Daedra Azura and Sheogorath play a key role in the Khajiiti's creation story, and thus are worshipped as gods. The Khajiiti also revere the moons above all other deities, likely due to the key role the phases of the moon play in the development of a newborn Khajiit.
The pantheon of the Redguard has remained mostly unchanged since their emigration from Yokuda, and thus, is dramatically different from other races on the continent. Aside from Akatosh and Sep (the Yokudan version of Lorkhan), the only crossover between the Redguard and mainstream religions is the goddess Tava, who was partly assimilated into the divine Kynareth after Hammerfell was conquered.
|Humans||Atmoran • Breton • Imperial • Keptu • Kothringi • Nede • Nord • Orma • Redguard|
|Mer||Aldmer • Altmer • Ayleid • Bosmer • Chimer • Dunmer • Dwemer • Lefthanded Elf • Maormer • Orsimer • Snow Elf|
|Beast||Argonian • Imga • Khajiit • Lilmothiit • Sload|
|Akaviri||Ka Po' Tun • Kamal • Tang Mo • Tsaesci • Dragon|
|Et'Ada||Aedra • Daedra|
|Other||Atronach • Giant • Goblin|