Update 41 is now available for testing on the PTS! You can read the latest patch notes here: https://forums.elderscrollsonline.com/en/categories/pts

Nordic animal totems and what divines do they correspond to.

Ratzkifal
Ratzkifal
✭✭✭✭✭
✭✭✭✭✭
With Greymoor this topic has come back to my attention. There has been quite a bit of confusion on the topic and people haven't been able to agree on it in other discussions online but I stumbled upon a source from Micheal Kirkbride that I wanted to share.

As described in "Divines and the Nords" the animal totem worship was the original Nord/Atmoran religion which the Dragon Cult emerged from as the Dragon totem became more important.
The animal totems eventually transformed into the eight divines plus Shor (aka Lorkhan) and Tsun, but the question that I have is what totem corresponds to which of the divine?

The obvious ones are Alduin being the Dragon and Kyne being the Hawk because Kynareth is already associated with birds, specifically birds that look more like eagles than owls.

According to a Micheal Kirkbride:
  1. the fox is Shor (Lorkhan)
  2. the bear is Tsun (Stuhn's brother, possibly Zenithar)
  3. the dragon is Alduin (evil Akatosh)
  4. the hawk is Kyne (Kynareth)
  5. the wolf is Mara
  6. the moth is Dibella
  7. the serpent is Orkey (Arkay, combined with aspects of Malacath)
Which leaves 8. Jhunal (Julianos) and 9. Stuhn (Stendarr) with the Whale and the Owl. Stuhn makes the most sense as the whale, seeing how his brother is guarding a whale skeleton bridge while Owls in our world are often associated with knowledge, just like Jhunal.

Now Micheal Kirkbride is a controversial figure within the lore community as a lot of his works cannot be considered canon as he continued publishing works despite not working for Bethesda anymore, including the one I am referencing here. The question is, does his explanation make sense? Are these the actual corresponding totems?

Personally I can see how Mara is the wolf, since wolf packs are families and Mara is all about the family. More than the other divines anyway.
Foxes are known as tricksters and Shor is the trickster god. The new antiquity fox totem does seem to support this too.
Dibella being the moth is a bit strange at first, seeing how Moths are associated with the Elder Scrolls and thus knowledge which would fit Jhunal, but I suppose the moth's attraction to light could be a metaphor for beauty. Also the symbol of the moth does resemble Dibella's flower a little with the wings being the flower petals.
Orkey being an antagonist in the Nordic pantheon makes the serpent a good fit. Serpents are rarely seens as a good thing.
Now Tsun and Stuhn could very well be swapped. Tsun guards a whale bridge, so he could very well be the whale too. If Tsun actually is meant to resemble Zenithar, then the bear can make sense as bears need to eat and get fat for hibernation, representing wealth which is right up the alley of Zenithar. Then again, the ivory that whales provide could also be a sign of wealth.

I'd like to hear what other people think on this. Maybe our loremaster @ZOS_LeamonTuttle can shed some light on the topic too. :)
This Bosmer was tortured to death. There is nothing left to be done.
  • prof-dracko
    prof-dracko
    ✭✭✭✭✭
    You got it right. Jhunal is the owl and Stuhn is the Whale. If you look at the reliefs you find in the barrows in Skyrim, you can actually see the Nordic pantheon with their animal motifs.
  • The_Drop_Bear
    The_Drop_Bear
    ✭✭✭
    Kyne, the Kiss at the End,
    Called the Mother of Men.
    Dance in her storm's divine,
    As hawk she flies, our Kyne.

    Mara, Goddess of Love,
    Whose grace lifts us high above.
    She blesses our sacred flora,
    Does our beloved she-wolf, Mara.

    Dibella, the artist's muse,
    Goddess of Beauty, that's no ruse.
    As silver moth, there is no flaw,
    We see only the fair Dibella.

    Stuhn, whale God of Ransom,
    War captives seek his calm.
    With shield and horn his boon,
    Stands with us, does fair Stuhn.

    Jhunal, sage God of Runes,
    Flies free beneath the glistening moons.
    A night owl who's so droll,
    Soars with us, the wise Jhunal.

    Orkey tests all mortals,
    He likes to start all quarrels.
    A snake no one can flee,
    None may fool wary Orkey.

    Alduin, the dread World-Eater,
    Does much that we might fear.
    Known as the First Dragon,
    None dare worship Alduin.
    -Song of the Gods, ESO Greymoor.


    Well, as you know, the Atmorans associated foxes with Shor--the totemic analogue for Lorkhan. No Elf would ever depict Lorkhan in such a flattering shape. But the smooth contours and sharp features feel merish to me. Consider me stumped! —Gabrielle Benele
    -Ebony Fox Totem, ESO
    You can also be aided by the aspect of the fox in battle by praying to shor during the eastmarch questline in ESO.

    As far as I know there is no depiction of Tsun so we don't know what animal he was represented as.
  • Ratzkifal
    Ratzkifal
    ✭✭✭✭✭
    ✭✭✭✭✭
    Kyne, the Kiss at the End,
    Called the Mother of Men.
    Dance in her storm's divine,
    As hawk she flies, our Kyne.

    Mara, Goddess of Love,
    Whose grace lifts us high above.
    She blesses our sacred flora,
    Does our beloved she-wolf, Mara.

    Dibella, the artist's muse,
    Goddess of Beauty, that's no ruse.
    As silver moth, there is no flaw,
    We see only the fair Dibella.

    Stuhn, whale God of Ransom,
    War captives seek his calm.
    With shield and horn his boon,
    Stands with us, does fair Stuhn.

    Jhunal, sage God of Runes,
    Flies free beneath the glistening moons.
    A night owl who's so droll,
    Soars with us, the wise Jhunal.

    Orkey tests all mortals,
    He likes to start all quarrels.
    A snake no one can flee,
    None may fool wary Orkey.

    Alduin, the dread World-Eater,
    Does much that we might fear.
    Known as the First Dragon,
    None dare worship Alduin.
    -Song of the Gods, ESO Greymoor.


    Well, as you know, the Atmorans associated foxes with Shor--the totemic analogue for Lorkhan. No Elf would ever depict Lorkhan in such a flattering shape. But the smooth contours and sharp features feel merish to me. Consider me stumped! —Gabrielle Benele
    -Ebony Fox Totem, ESO
    You can also be aided by the aspect of the fox in battle by praying to shor during the eastmarch questline in ESO.

    As far as I know there is no depiction of Tsun so we don't know what animal he was represented as.

    Oh that song is a good one! Thanks for sharing this. I am honestly surprised it didn't show up on UESP yet nor does the information on the articles about the animal totem worship use this.
    Shor and Tsun are both considered dead gods, so it's no surprise they don't appear in the song, but by process of elimination Tsun is confirmed as the bear!
    This Bosmer was tortured to death. There is nothing left to be done.
  • colossalvoids
    colossalvoids
    ✭✭✭✭✭
    ✭✭✭✭
    To add to the last comment as far as my memory serves me well Tsun is a version of Heimdallr as a bridge guardian and at least in one of the books I've read back in the days he's name was translated (or a variation of it) as a "golden tooth" which pretty much suggests that he was consuming mead of poetry and might be represented as a bear also (ram canonically?) which fits Tsun as a guardian role also, especially if you think about guarding an actual whale's carcass being resemblance of his brother (aspect?).

    Also on /teslore surely was threads on an old design document by MK about nordic totemic religion so more light might be shed in those conversations if they're up still.

    Edit: https://www.reddit.com/r/teslore/comments/3k1b96/on_the_nords_totemic_religion/

    After a quick search that's the one bit from teslore i remembered.
    Edited by colossalvoids on July 17, 2020 3:02PM
Sign In or Register to comment.