High Rock:Religion:Orcish Pantheon
Orc Pantheon The first and foremost figure that is revered is Malacath or Trinimac also known as the Ancestor Spirit.(Depending on views if it comes from either a Malacath or a Trinimac cultist, I leave this open as a general interpretation that is rooted in Orsimer culture that both sides (mostly) agree on).
Trinimac is not the only one present however, there are spirits who can grant their boon to the Orsimer they meet, or a curse depending.
The warrior spirit – The warrior spirit is revered to as one, but consists out of many spirits, they consist out of many companions and opponents Malacath/Trinimac find worthy of reverence, most notably are the following:
Mehrunes Dagon, also known as Mehron in Orsimer tongue, the unstoppable rage, the Berserk, seen as a strong, but flawed and misguided rage by Malacath/Trinimac, a strong and formidable foe.
Zenithar, also known as Zhanat in Orsimer tongue, Spirit of the anvil, the forge, the armor and the weaponry, a good companion to have, as strong armor and steel is always needed. A fight blessed by Zhanat ensures victory.
Hircine, also known as Irsin or Irsine in Orsimer tongue, is the Spirit of the Hunt, depicted as a female centaur hunter with white fur, Irsin(e) is known to bring plentiful food and bounty to those that are blessed by her, but also obsesses the blessed with the Hunt, if this wildness goes on for too long the Orsimer are turned into Irsin(e)’s servants. Irsin(e) is known to both gift favour as a Warrior spirit and spirit of the Hunt and is also sometimes associated with The Lost Spirit.
Molag-Bal, also known as Molog in Orsimer tongue, is the Spirit of Greed, Molog resembles a chief that has kept power for too long and covets more, the craving to want more is what makes This spirit a dangerous opponent. Depicted as a large elf, that has Orsimer on chains.
Sheogorath, also known as Galag in Orsimer tongue, or Galag’al in Old Orcish, Spirit of the Unruly, Galag is sometimes represented as the impatience and eagerness for battle, Galag is the most unpredictable opponent. How the name Galag came to be is unknown, the most accepted theory is that Malacath once battled the Spirit calling him Jyg-Galag. Portrayed as a woman like figure, cloaked by vibrant robes and a silver mask.
Torug, also known as King under Kings, or the Khan spirit, Torug is the creator of first Orsinium, through battle and hardship did this Orsimer claims his side by Malacath/Trinimac as a worthy companion. Among the Warrior Spirit, Torug is the one they seek most.
Namira, also known as Namara, the Spirit of Wicked Nature, she represents nature in the Wrothgarian Mountains,
Auri-El, also known as Urvash, or Urvash’al in old Orcish, Spirit of Time, normally mentioned as The Betrayer. Most if not all Orsimer know the story of The Betrayer, Urvash’al, brother to Trinimac and leader of most known pantheons to date, but this was not always the case. Trinimac was the champion of his people, sometimes revered more than Urvash’al. Urvash’al grew jealous, jealous that his brother was more liked than he, this consumed Urvash’al. When the time came, when Trinimac was consumed by the evil Bidesha, tortured and beaten, Urvash’al ignored Trinimac, neglected Trinimac, and watched his own brother transform in the spawn that is called Mauloch. He betrayed Trinimac and thus the Orsimer, granting him the title of Betrayer.
Mephala, also known as Mefar or Mafar, Spirit of Rebirth, Boethiah, also known as Bidesha, Spirit of Torment,
Peryite, also known as Hulmog, The Fallen Serpent, Hermaous Mora, also known as Harmos, or Harmaros in old Orcish, Spirit of Secrets Vaermina, also known as Urma, Spirit of Delusions, , portrayed as a shapeshifter consisting of dark black form.(Aku from Samurai jack :D )
Clavicus Vile, also known as Klavil, or Khlav’ig in old Orcish, Spirit of Desire, has the appearance of a rich Breton lord with Klavil’s mask Nocturnal, also known as Noktur or Noktul, Spirit of Shadow, Azura, also known as Azug, or Ashara, Spirit of the Moon, depicted as a meditating man in blue silks, holding up the moon(s), appears before those whom are in senses with their higher self. Sanguine, also known as Sanhk, or Sanhku’in in old Orcish, Spirit of Bloodshed/Dark Intent Meridia, also known as (Meritah?), Spirit of Light Magnus, also known as Magkne, Spirit of Elements, seen as the origin of (raw) elemental power Julianos, also known as, Ghulan, Spirit of Knowledge, Mara, Spirit of Care Arkay, also known as Urkhai(LOTR reference ;) ), Spirit of Passing, also called The Gatekeeper, when an Orsimer dies, this spirit will test the strength of Orcs , Stendarr, also known as Mogohk, meaning “Shield of the Serpent”, Spirit of Loyalty, generally depicted as a man only holding a shield, Lorkhan/Shor/Ysmir, also known as Mogosh, meaning “Serpent King”, The spirit of Lies, generally seen as half-serpent, half-man. The battles between Malacath and Mogosh are legendary. Kynareth, also known as Kyn, or Kyn’eh in old Orcish, Life Spirit, Talos does not appear in the Orcish pantheon. Dibella does not appear in the Orcish pantheon.
One spirit, consisting of four Altmer gods, the four faced god, Yafarn/Yfran, The Spirit of Wisdom, Legacy and Magic. Yfran was once four gods: Y’ffre, also known as Yafr/Ifrey Phynaster, also known as Fynast Syrabane, also known as Khyraban Xarxes, also known as Sharsh
Generally, I'm in favour of the Orcs being monolatric, worshiping either Malacath or, more recently, Trinimac. That being said, ThomasRuz ended up convincing me that a more animist approach might be worth exploring (and the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive), so here are the results of that exploration, extrapolated from our chat and preceding discussions on the topic, and focusing on Malacath worshipers for the time being:
View of Aedra: The basic principal is that Orcs used to (as Aldmer) worship the whole pantheon of Aedra and ancestor spirits, though favouring Trinimac in particular. With the transformation of Trinimac into Malacath, however, the Orcs felt (and arguably were) locked out of their old worship, leaving only Malahk as a familiar figure. The Aedra and pre-transformation ancestor spirits came to represent all the things the Orcs had lost through their transformation, and as such, from the point of view of a Malacath worshiper, the things the Orcs no longer have a need for. Their existence is as such acknowledged, and they are still recognized as interacting with the other races, but they are simply seen as irrelevant to Orcs. "They are no longer our gods".
View of Daedra: To fill the gap, Orcs began interacting more heavily with Daedra, though not worshiping them. They have kept their Elven distrust of the Daedra (Malacath being the exception, of course), but unlike the Aedra Orcs see the Daedra as being potentially useful to them as well as potentially dangerous. Basically, the Daedra are seen as relevant to the Orcs, whereas the Aedra are not. Over time this major shift, from at first worshiping the Aedra and shunning the Daedra to ignoring the Aedra and interacting with Daedra, was rationalized as an extension of the transformation of Trinimac and the Orcs. Just as the Aedra came to represent all the things they had lost, the Orcs began to see the Daedra as representing the new possibilities that lay before them. Orcs began associating individual Aedra with individual Daedra as two sides of the same coin, just like Malacath/Trinimac. Whereas most races can interact with both sides of the coin, the Orcs believe they are cursed only to see the Daedric/corrupted side.
Umbrella spirits: The Orcs now recognize five chief groups of spirits (basically oversouls): that of the Old Adversary, representing the traditional enemies of all Elves; The Betrayer, representing those who betrayed the Orcs by transforming them; the Warrior Spirit, representing the gods and ancestor spirits that took the side of the Orcs; the Shaman Spirit, that offers (often unreliable) guidance to the Orcs; and the Dark Spirit, a foreboding presence the Orcs try to steer clear of.
What follows is the Orcish pantheon, remembering that the only one the Orcs really worship of the bunch is Malacath, or at most the Warrior Spirit as a whole. Indented names are attendant spirits to the spirit they are listed below. While the number of primary spirits is set, there is no limit on the number of attendant spirits: Warrior Spirit: Trinimac/Trinimach = Champion Spirit -> Malacath/Malahk = Errant Spirit - the one Orcs actually worship Kyne/Shunkhar = Spirit of Preservation -> Hircine/Irsin = Spirit of the Hunt Stendarr/Mogohk = Spirit of Fair Exchange -> Molag Bal/Molog = Spirit of Greed Zenithar/Zhanat = Spirit of Invention -> Torug = Spirit of Emulation - Zhanat is largely a product of social amnesia and exchange with neighbours who worship Trinimac in an unrecognizable form (Zenithar, Tsun, Zeht, etc.) An awkward duplicate on the pantheon, Zhanat ended up being associated with the Orc ancestor spirit Torug both by way of establishing a place for the former and legitimizing the latter. The result is that any Orcish attempts to 'regain' Zhanat are doomed to fail.
The Betrayer: Auri-El/Uri-El = Spirit of Mastery Y'ffre/Ughrun = Spirit of Purity -> Mephala/Murgdulakh = Spirit of Rebirth Syrabane/Kharaban = Spirit of Tutelage -> Boethiah/Bidesha = Spirit of Treachery -> Veloth/Vel-Uth = Spirit of Misdirection
Old Adversary: Lorkhan/Mogosh = Spirit of Mischief -> Talos/Talos = Spirit of the Mogoi/Spirit of Curses Lorkhan's Heart -> Sanguine/Shurzdur = Spirit of Dark Intent Jyggalag/Yag-Galakh = Spirit of the Ruly -> Sheogorath/She-Galakh = Spirit of the Unruly - Jyg-Galath is a vague memory retained by few Orcs. Leaper-Demon-King/Unknown = Unknown (possibly charity, exuberance, abandon) -> Mehrunes Dagon/Muragh-Dim = Spirit of Plunder - the Leaper-Demon-King is unknown to the Orcs, but some very few of them may either correctly assume (from their two-sides-of-the-same-coin outlook) or retain a vague memory that Mehrunes Dagon was not always as he is now.
Shaman Spirit: Julianos/Gulanush = Spirit of Foreknowledge -> Vaernima/Morugob = Spirit of Dreams - Vaernima is about an individual's senses being tricked by outside forces, whereas Meridia deals (among other things) with individuals who choose to trick their own senses to cling to falsehoods, so active self-delusion. -> Elder Scrolls/Kul = Moth Spirit/Spirit of Counsel Convention/Mukhagal = Spirit of Bonds -> Clavicus Vile/Kharbarkhash Ulghol = Spirit of Pacts -> Barbas/Barkhash = Spirit of Servility Mara/Margha = Nurturing Spirit -> Azura/Azug = Moon Spirit/Spirit of Deprevation - Azura is basically seen as close-fisted; while she offers guidance, she keeps the one being guided in the dark, so that the one being guided cannot judge the merit of the guidance. In day-to-day terms, Azura might act through a parent who lays down a platitude without explaining its purpose. ("Eat your vegetables, Shaghur gra-Bulag!") As with parents laying down platitudes, sometimes it is wise to let oneself be led by Azura. ("Don't play with fire!") -> Jone/Gurna = Spirit of Neglect -> Jode/Ghodba = Spirit of Sacrifice Xarxes/Gharkursh = Spirit of Truth -> Herma-mora/Hurma = Spirit of Secrets
Dark Spirit: Phynaster/Fimbazdur = Spirit of Aspiration -> Peryite/Hul Mogoi = Spirit of Toil/the Fallen Serpent Magnus/Maghorz = Spirit of Light -> Nocturnal/Ghurnakhul = Spirit of the Night - another confused memory, Orcs (like most of Tamriel's inhabitants) having failed to recognize that Magnus and Mehrunes Dagon are one and the same. -> Meridia/Murda = Spirit of Reflection/False Light - 'broke off' of Magnus; a descendant spirit who, among other things, represents wishful thinking. -> Umaril/Umarul = Spirit of Hubris - a powerful warlord in his day who may have led campaigns against the Orcs. Dibella/Durbol = Spirit of Beauty -> Namira/Namaraz = Spirit of Revulsion Arkay is not present in the Orcish pantheon in any recognizable form. (He may however have some marginal presence as such as an attendant spirit in fringe communities).
A rough summary of the Orcish transformation narrative: Khyraban, who represents the dutiful study and adoption of the wisdom of ancestors, became warped by the wayward influences of one of his students, the ancestor spirit Vel-Uth. He began to mislead his fellow Aldmer as the malevolent Bidesha, inciting them against stalwart Trinimach. The mastery of Uri-El proved not to be above their influence, unwisely heeding the words of the strangers Vel-Uth and Bidesha over those of loyal Trinimach and renouncing him. With that, the very purity and rightness of Ughrun overturned itself into the heedless degredation and loss of Murgdulakh, and the familiar faces of their ancestors were lost to the Orcs, leaving only the harsh words and unpleasant glances of strangers. The Orcs associate the constellations with their chief spirits, and, for the heck of it, with different elements: The Warrior and his charges are The Betrayer, associated with fire, which acts through destruction. The Warrior is Uri-El, the Lady is Mulphim, the Lord is Bidesha and the Steed is Vel-Uth.
The Thief and his charges are the Warrior Spirit, associated with metal, which is malleable but reliable. The Thief is Malahk, the Lover is Irsin, the Shadow is Molog and the Tower is Torug
The Mage and his charges are the Shaman Spirit, associated with the sky, which links Nirn with the heavens. The Mage is Morugob, the Apprentice is Azug, the Atronach is Hurma and the Ritual is Kharbarkhash Ulghol
The Un-Stars are the Old Adversary, associated with the ocean, whose depths are as deep and deadly as they are unknowable. Talos is the Serpent, with Muragh-Dim, Shurzdur and She-Galakh in tow.
The Void is the Dark Spirit, associated with the soil, which the Orcs can never escape and whose secrets they will never fully know. Murda, Namaraz, Ghurnakhul and Hul Mogoi are recognized as nebula constellations in the night sky. So that's the view of the Malacath worshipers. I have put less thought into Trinimac worshipers, and this post is long enough as it is, but by ways of tossing them some attention: Premise: The main thing to keep in mind is that (renewed) Trinimac worship seems like a recent development and effectively state sponsored, under the leadership of Gortwog. Now one clear interest Gortwog has is uniting the Orcs, but specifically under his leadership. And, going by the status of the Spirit of Mastery as a betrayer, it can be assumed Orcs do not take well to authoritarian leadership. As such, one of Gortwog's goals behind his state religion might be to establish legitimacy for his own rule. Another clear goal of Gortwog is to gain recognition for his state, particularly from the Empire. As such, it can be assumed that Gortwog would try to tailor Trinimac worship to be palatable to Imperial citizens, which Malacath worship almost certainly isn't.
Inference: The greatest and most important change in Trinimac worship is the disassociation of the Daedra from the Aedra. Rather than Daedra representing the half of a spirit that Orcs can interact with, the Daedra become a cabal of demons that have locked away the gods and usurped power. As such, though favouring Trinimac above the rest, Trinimachites seek to recover the rest of their lost pantheon. By shifting the Daedra from ambiguous to evil, the Aedra are shifted from irrelevance into a better light. Uri-El is recognized as the head of the pantheon (though that doesn't mean the Orcs hold him above Trinimac, who is after all 'their' god). However, as established earlier, rather than simply a return to Aldmer practices Gortwog is likely interested in harmonizing with the Nine Divines. Uri-El has likely been made to more closely resemble Akatosh than Auri-El, and Talos probably gets a significant reputation boost from being a common enemy of the Elves to one of the good'uns. While I'm at it, I might as well plug a few ideas on Orc society as well, as I'm not a big fan of where Bethesda took the Orcs with Skyrim. (I liked Skyrim's Orcs for what they were, but personally feel that a strictly regulated society with clear roles should be kept as more the realm of Altmer, who are more concerned about order and clinging on to what they have than they are about propagation, whereas Orcs would chiefly value propagation and survival, and all else would ultimately serve that purpose): Orcs practice both polygyny and polyandry to varying degrees. The one married to the many enjoys a high status, and that status increases with the number of spouses, but only as one of several factors by which an individual's status is measured in Orc society. All spouses maintain a high degree of self-determination, and partnerships are not always lasting. Often partnerships are not evenly distributed within the often small Orc populations, so that the majority of one sex is married to a minority of the other sex. As such, monogamous, bigamous and unmarried individuals are common. Most Orc leaders exercise a very weak mandate, carrying no entitlement to rule and having to constantly demonstrate their worth. Organization among an Orc clan is -- like their marriages -- largely organic and based on convenience, perhaps often resembling governance forms employed by pirates. Gortwog is the very obvious and clear exception, as he gained his position through Breton laws and customs, and has shown a high degree of usefulness to the Orcs, but many of his decisions -- especially attempting to reestablish the worship of Trinimac in favour of Malacath -- have undermined his position of late.