Who were the Chimer?

The Reasons for the Velothi Exodus

We’re going right back to the start of what the Dunmer were, before they arrived at their homeland of Morrowind. They were a group of dissidents, or heretics maybe, on Summerset Isle. The mer who followed Veloth wanted to worship Daedra, rather than just the Aedra that was being prescribed by the Aldmer. This is possibly part of a wider change in religious behaviours that was taking part on the Summerset Isles in the Merethic Era. To quote the third edition of the Pocket Guide to the Empire:

The religion of the people also changed because of this change in society: no longer did the Aldmer worship their own ancestors, but the ancestors of their “betters.” Auriel, Trinimac, Syrabane, and Phynaster are among the many ancestor spirits who became Gods. A group of elders rebelled against this trend, calling themselves the Psijics, the keepers of the Old Ways of Aldmeris.

This rebellion against the social stratification was also against the villanisation of the Daedra, because the book The Old Ways talks about the Aedra and the Daedra on an equal footing. While the unlicensed text Vehk’s Teaching does explicitly say “Veloth was not a member of these exiles [meaning the Psijics]”, his rebellion does share some common roots with them, and his teachings are linked to the Psijic Endeavour, which we’ll get to in a bit. There are multiple texts that also point out that Veloth’s original teachings involved ancestor worship, in the way that The Old Ways talks about.

Chimeri vs Altmeri Ancestor Worship

That teaching was however definitely linked to the Deadra Boethiah. Boethiah was possibly the instigator of the whole thing, sending Veloth visions in dreams if The Faithless One who wrote The Fall of Trinimac is to be believed. It’s possibly a dialogue between the Veloth and Boethiah; Veloth is praised in some texts for his discernment, with The Judgement of Saint Veloth declaring that  “He defined the difference between good and evil Daedra, and even negotiated the original arrangements with the good Daedric Princes.” If this is the case, then there was some persuasion going on, rather than outright worship. That distinction may make a difference, which we’ll get back to later, but right now I want to look into how or why Boethiah can be considered an ancestor of the Chimer. Aren’t the Daedra entirely “not our ancestors” after all? That’s what the word actually -means- after all, according to most people.

And here’s where it gets a bit difficult to reconcile. The same book that tells us “Daedra” means “not our ancestors says “This distinction was crucial to the Dunmer, whose fundamental split in ideology is represented in their mythical genealogy.” So there is some genealogical stuff going on for the Dunmer in their veneration of the Daedra, although quite how you can have a mythical genealogy that requires veneration of something that’s not your ancestor feels a little unclear to me. Varieties of Faith goes possibly the other way (or clarifies it), saying that “Boethiah is the original god-ancestor of the Dark Elves”. It’s entirely possible that the Imperial scribe who penned the text got that wrong, though. But if you go by the Redguard Forum Madness, “Daedra” means “Our Stronger, Better Ancestors”. I think what’s gone on here is that both the original Aldmer of Summerset and the Chimer attached social meaning to the terms, which changed over time. The distinction between Aedra and Daedra for the Aldmer and the Chimer are not whether they are their ancestors (both groups seem to think they are related to different god-antecedents), but which group is to be considered an ancestry worth venerating. Maybe “Daedra” and “Aedra” ultimately meant something else entirely, expressing different lines of ancestry, rather than ancestry vs not-ancestry. Otherwise we’d get the Velothi calling Boethiah, Mephala and the rest Aedra.

Plus, what is an ancestor anyway? Thinking about how the word is used by St Paul on one occasion, he says he is a father to the church in Corinth “through the gospel”. If we think about Boethiah in the same way, we can describe him or her as an ancestor of the Chimer people, because she made the Chimer follow a new path. We can also ascribe the same to Azura I guess, because she “taught the Chimer the mysteries needed to be different than the Altmer”, if we take Varieties of Faith at its word. This, along with some Dumeri (possibly Chimeri) practices about who can converse with which ancestor spirit that get outlined in Ancestors and the Dunmer, means that being able to choose one’s ancestors is part of the Chimer/Dunmer identity too. In particular, that book shows how ancestry changes relative to being married, and so the idea of ancestry and who counts as an ancestor is something that is clearly constructed after the event, on both sides of the Velothi schism.

This is spelled out pretty clearly in Vehk’s Teaching, which has claimed this:

“Sons and daughters of” should be read as associates of/associated with, especially insofar as this association was a conscious choice.Today the common parlance is that only the eight that followed Lorkhan and created the Mundus are truly “Aedra,” but this is folly. Some were not even the strongest of the Aetherius-aligned etada at the time, but were made as such by their creation of the dawn.Remember, even the word “Daedra” started as a youthful rebellion.

Boethiah’s Involvement, and the Psijic Endeavour

I also think there was something else going on beyond religious freedom and a freedom of association, that was driving Veloth and his followers, which I want to touch on before we move onto the next part of their history. The commonality that Veloth held with the Psijic Order was the Psijic Endeavour, which Boethiah potentially imparted to him. We have this from the text The Changed Ones, which was originally part of Skeleton Man’s Interview with the Denizens of Tamriel:

They even took the Missing God’s name in vain, calling His narratives into question. So one day Boethiah, Prince of Plots, precocious youth, tricked Trinimac to go into his mouth. Boethiah talked like Trinimac for awhile then, and gathered enough people to listen to him. Boethiah showed them the lies of the et’Ada, the Aedra, and told them Trinimac was the biggest liar of all, saying all this with Trinimac’s voice! Boethiah told the mass before him the Tri-Angled Truth. He showed them, with Mephala, the rules of Psijic Endeavor*. He taught them how to build Houses, and what items they needed to bury in the Corners. He demonstrated the right way to wear their skin. He performed the way to walk to achieve an Exodus.*(emphasis added)

This text, in its original form, is spoken by a chaplain from House Dres, which Vivec credits as being the closest Great House to the original form of worship of the Chimer. I’m prepared to trust that authority for now. What this text is claiming is that Boethiah spoke directly to the Chimer, in contrast to the other texts that give Veloth more of a role. However, the highlighted text, about the Tri-Angled Truth, and the Psijic Endeavour, give us the reason for the exodus. The Psijic Endeavour is outlined a bit more clearly (although not entirely) in the text Vehk’s Teaching:

Veloth describes the Psijic Endeavor as a process of glorious apotheosis, where time itself is bent inward and outward into ‘a shape that is always new’. Those who can attain this state, called chim, experience an ineffable sense of the godhead, and escape the strictures of the world-egg.It should be noted that, while Veloth is given credit for establishing the anti-laws that govern the Endeavor, this process has its antecedents in the teachings of the Black Hands Mephala, Boethiah, Azura, Trinimac, and, of course, Lorkhan, through that lord’s association with PSJJJJ.

So the Psijic Endeavour is a way of moving beyond mortality, that much is clear, and the Chimer nation was founded in order to make that possible. Quite who was responsible for it… I’m inclined to think that Veloth didn’t have too much of a role in forming it, but that might simply be because there’s a lot of a Moses archetype in Veloth, in the way I think about it. Moses received the Ten Commandments, he didn’t have much of a role in determining what they were. Add to that the Boethiah is the Prince of Plots, and likely to have got the better of Veloth. This isn’t to say that Veloth didn’t achieve something on his own, the journey to Morrowind and surviving there must have been quite a task all on its own, but I just don’t think that Veloth necessarily had much say in informing how the Endeavour worked. Maybe what became “the Endeavour” in its final form as such was different to the teachings of Boethiah? That feels like a reasonable way of reconciling the two perspectives.

The Good & Bad Daedra, & the Necessity of Rebellion

Before we get too far into the history of the Chimer as such, I just want to touch on the theology of the Velothi, insofar as we can know it. We have various texts that say that the difference between the Good Daedra (Azura, Boethiah and Mephala) and the Bad Daedra (Malacath, Mehrunes Dagon, Molag Bal, Sheogorath) was a difference that was made by Veloth, rather than later on, but there are quite a few echoes of what would come later with the Tribunal in that grouping; it feels convenient that the Anticipations and the Good Daedra are the same thing. Particularly when the book The House of Troubles says this:

Among the ancient ancestral spirits who accompanied Saint Veloth and the Chimer into the promised land of Morrowind, the four Daedra Lords, Malacath, Mehrunes Dagon, Molag Bal, and Sheogorath, are known as the Four Corners of the House of Troubles. These Daedra Lords rebelled against the counsel and admonition of the Tribunal, causing great kinstrife and confusion among the clans and Great Houses.

This suggests that the seven Daedra that form the Good and Bad Daedra may have been differently split before the advent of the Tribunal, although on reflection this feels a little unlikely to me; when you see Ashlanders in the games, that supposedly hold to the worship traditions that predate Tribunal theology, they don’t particularly worship the Bad Daedra either, although the language of the House of Troubles feels explicitly Tribunal era, from what I can tell.

It’s also a bit more obvious, I think, when their virtues and aspects are considered. One question that gets asked a lot in the community is how the worship of Daedra like Boethiah, who represents rebellion, and Mephala, whose sphere is secret murder, can form stable societies. I don’t think that they can, unless those undercurrents are suppressed by something else (more that when we get to the Tribunal, particularly Vivec and Molag Bal). The virtues of the Good Daedra may not be conducive to a stable society, but they are very much conducive to a society that wishes to overthrow another, to rebel in the way that Veloth was.

The Course of Velothi Society on Resdayn

Rise and Fall fo the Original Velothi

Veloth’s people were a bunch of different clans of mer, that left to form what became the Chimer, and settled on Resdayn. This was apparently a wholesale migration, where Veloth “spared not a boat, ration, or strong-armed soul among his people in this exodus and toiled to reach the land of Resdayn.” While they were the first large-scale settlers on Resdayn, the Chimer may not have been the first ones to arrive. The text Before the Ages of Man gives us an interesting account that I’m not quite sure I believe, but is worth considering. It says this:

During the Middle Merethic Era, Aldmeri explorers mapped the coasts of Vvardenfel, building the First Era High Elven wizard towers at Ald Redaynia, Bal Fell, Tel Aruhn, and Tel Mora in Morrowind.

This would suggest that there were some sort of merish settlements in Vvardenfell before the Chimer arrived. The Dwemer were quite possibly there, but this text suggests that there were Altmer or Aldmer settlers in the region. We don’t hear about this anywhere else, that I’m aware of.

Then we have this curious passage.

The Late Middle Merethic Era is the period of the High Velothi Culture. The Chimer, ancestors of the modern Dunmer, or Dark Elves, were dynamic, ambitious, long-lived Elven clans devoted to fundamentalist ancestor worship. The Chimer clans followed the Prophet Veloth out of the ancestral Elven homelands in the southwest to settle in the lands now known as Morrowind. Despising the secular culture and profane practices of the Dwemer, the Chimer also coveted the lands and resources of the Dwemer, and for centuries provoked them with minor raids and territorial disputes. The Dwemer (Dwarves), free-thinking, reclusive Elven clans devoted to the secrets of science, engineering, and alchemy, established underground cities and communities in the mountain range (later the Velothi Mountains) separating modern Skyrim and Morrowind.The Late Merethic Era marks the precipitous decline of Velothi culture. Some Velothi settled in villages near declining and abandoned ancient Velothi towers. During this period, Velothi high culture disappeared on Vvardenfell Island. The earliest Dwemer Freehold colonies date from this period. Degenerate Velothi devolved into tribal cultures which, in time, evolved into the modern Great Houses of Morrowind, or persisted as the barbarian Ashlander tribes. The only surviving traces of this tribal culture are scattered Velothi towers and Ashlander nomads on Vvardenfell Island.

If this account is true, we have the Velothi coming along, establishing a strong clan-based culture, complete with its own architecture and strongholds, which then crumbled for reasons that the author doesn’t really state. Other mentions of this period, such as Vivec’s Battle of Red Mountain account seem to suggest that the progression from nomadic Ashlander tribes to the Great Houses is a relatively linear fashion, with no collapse at the end of the Merethic Era. It’s possible that this happened after the creation of the Velothi culture that is mentioned in Before the Ages of Man, but I think it’s a little weird that the culture would rise, fall and then rise again as the Great Houses.

One possible reason for the decline was the war with the Dwemer, although it’s never definitively expressed that way. Several sources have the Chimer and the Dwemer continually at war with each other, and war can potentially decimate a culture and its infrastructure. If Veloth wanted his people to experience adversity and conflict, they definitely got it with the Dwemer! So much so that the High Velothi culture was all but gone by the time the Nords invaded.

Gone, but not really forgotten, however, One of my patrons, Hannah, has pointed out that a lot of the Velothi names have hung around in the names. They are all places that exist in one form or another in Vvardenfell up until the end of the Third Era, although Bal Fell was a ruined shrine to Sheogorath before the Interregnum. One that stuck out to Hannah is Ald Redaynia. That name is close to Resdayn, or Resdaynia. So, like Switzerland is named after the city of Schwyz, Resdayn may be named after Ald Redaynia.

The Wilderness Years: Conflict on all Sides

The next period of Chimeri history we have relatively little information on, that I can source anyway. The Chimer and the Dwemer discover each other when the Chimer arrive in the Velothi Mountains, as the Dwemer were already there in the Middle Merethic. Just a passing observation here, that we have no record of the Dwemer leaving Aldmeris. They were always in the Velothi Mountains, as far as we know. Where they came from is as much of a mystery as where they went, if not more so.

Conflict between the Dwemer and the Chimer has been painted by all the sources I can find as an endemic thing, due to religious differences, although over time I’d imagine that it simply became conflict for the sake of conflict, as lots of long-standing wars tend to become. The Dwemer apparently “preferred reason to faith” even then, if you believe the Third Edition Pocket Guide to the Empire. The increasingly scattered clans of the Chimer worshipped the Daedra, as they always had, and warred against the Dwemer and each other for what is feels like centuries in the text.

However, they weren’t entirely helpless, as they were able to stave off an invasion of the Nedes that conquered Stonefalls in Southern Morrowind at some point in the Merethic Era. This only has one source, the book The Brothers of Strife, but we also see all the battlefields in The Elder Scrolls Online. The Merethic Era is an assumption on my part, by the way; there’s no date given to that invasion, but that invasion looks like it’s more likely that they would have come from Cyrodiil, although ESO makes the route of invasion from Skyrim look a little more plausible, although both invasions would have to contend with mountains; the Jerralls of Skyrim, which become the Valus Mountains on the Cyrodiil border.

The Chimer were driven to somewhat desperate measures to be rid of the Nedes, however, and their disunity really didn’t help when the Nords invaded, presumably during the rule of Vrage the Gifted, which would put it after the year 1E 222, if we believe the Daggerfall Chronicles. Other sources don’t give a date, but the Pocket Guide says his conquests lasted fifty years, and subsumed both Morrowind and High Rock. This was possibly done with the aid of the Chimer as well, because there are accounts of some clans allying with the Nords against their historic enemies. One question that’s come up as I’ve compiled these notes is why the Chimer, a culture that thrives on conflict, would not establish an empire of their own. I think we have an answer here: they were too busy fighting each other.  What constant conflict does ensure, however, is that the survivors are likely to be very good fighters, and survivors. Which we’ll get to at some point.

The Beginning of Resdayn

This finally forced the Chimer and the Dwemer to work together to get rid of the Nords, which they did around the time of the War of Succession in 1E 416. The 200-or-so year period of occupation does seem to have wrought changes on Chimeri society, however. The coalition between the Chimer and the Dunmer which drive the Nords out is reliant on Indoril Nerevar, a figure who brought both Ashlander and House Dunmer together to drive out the foreign menace. This wouldn’t be possible if the Houses didn’t exist, so I think it’s safe to say that the emergence of the Houses happened during the Nordic occupation. That makes me think that there was some degree of stability under Nord rule, to allow the House institutions to start to coalesce from among the clans.

Part of me thinks that it’s possible that worship, or at least consideration of, Sithis may have started among the Chimer at this time, because Vivec describes Sithis as “the start of all true houses”, which is essentially shorthand for saying “Sithis helps divide one from the other”. Although it didn’t achieve much widespread worship among the Chimer, from what we can tell. Purely my speculation there, based on a tangential phrase.

The last element that I want to touch on this time is the formation of Resdayn as a political entity. This involved the integration of the Dwemer into the Chimeri political framework. I think it happened that way because there’s talk of the Dwemer being called “House Dwemer” in some texts, although that use may be anachronistic. We also see the Dwemer of the Rourken clan departing for Hammerfell in disgust at the treaty. The thing seems to rely very heavily on the friendship between Nerevar and Dumac, from what the sources we have tell us.That could however be because they come from the Tribunal and the Temple, and the Tribunal were convinced that the differences between the Chimer and the Dwemer could not be resolved. That, or they coveted the Heart of Lorkhan, although they didn’t know about it until relatively late in the Chimer-Dwemer relationship. Certainly not at the onset, so quit e abit of that feels like post hoc rationalisations for their actions more than anything else.

The union between the Chimer and the Dwemer lasted just under 300 years, from what we can tell. The races obviously had some co-operation prior to kicking the nords out, and then things went south with the Battle of Red Mountain in 1E 700. That’s a good chunk of history that we know relatively little about, although there is some evidence that we also had the Kragen clan of Dwemer leave Resdayn and set up home in Skyrim. That says to me that the Chimer influence on the supposedly shared polity means that the Dwemer weren’t happy with their arrangement overall anyway. Which is another reason why we have the flare up to the War of the First Council, not only because of irreconcilable differences in the faiths of these two cultures, but also because they were marginalised in the existing political structure.

Next time, we’ll be looking at the event that turned the Chimer into the Dunmer, and then looking at how the Dunmer changed over time, which will include how they relate to the Divine. While the Chimer left because they wanted to worship an other that was their ancestors that are somewhat distant, the Tribunal marks a shift to them worshipping ancestors and gods that are with them and from them in a very different way.

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