What are the Moons in the Elder Scrolls?

Which Moons?

If we’re going to ask what the moons are, we first need to decide which ones we’re talking about. There are the two that come to mind when talking about “the moons” on Tamriel in general, but there are more of them. Mannimarco became the Necromancer’s Moon following the events of the Warp in the West, and the Khajiit tell tales of a third moon when the Mane is born, and a dead moon that is associated with Lorkhaj. We’re going to be examining all those ideas and more in this cast.

First of all, the moons that people most talk about when they mean “the moons”, Masser and Secunda.

Masser and Secunda

Lorkhan’s Corpse & The General Perspective

These moons are the ones that everyone knows about, but there’s still some uncertainty about precisely what they are. The majority of people seem to consider them to be Lorkhan’s corpse, which is hinted at in the book Aedra and Daedra, which says this:

As part of the divine contract of creation, the Aedra can be killed. Witness Lorkhan and the moons

Although the pedant in me wants to say that “Lorkhan” and “the moons” aren’t necessarily the same being in how this sentence is constructed, this is the ur-text for fans considering the moons to be Lorkhan’s corpse. I think it’s possible that the line could also mean that the moons have been killed, but aren’t necessarily Lorkhan. However, that perspective is made a bit more explicit with the book The Lunar Lorkhan.

In short, the Moons were and are the two halves of Lorkhan’s ‘flesh-divinity’. Like the rest of the Gods, Lorkhan was a plane(t) that participated in the Great Construction… except where the Eight lent portions of their heavenly bodies to create the mortal plane(t), Lorkhan’s was cracked asunder and his divine spark fell to Nirn as a shooting star “to impregnate it with the measure of its existence and a reasonable amount of selfishness.”

So far, so obvious, yes? Well, unless you get into the weirdness of something cracked like an egg impregnating something else. That would imply that the death of Lorkhan is the birth of something else, which is to say Mundus, but that’s probably a whole other track.

Just to play devil’s advocate, I’d also say that Lorkhan isn’t necessarily identified with the moons here, because of the syntax and the framing place these as suggestions. This text does say there are multiple stories about Lorkhan’s creation of the mortal plane, it starts “We all have our favorite Lorkhan story and our favorite Lorkhan motivation for the creation of Nirn and our favorite story of what happened to His Heart”, and presents the idea as one among many. It just says the Lunar Lorkhan theory is “of special note”, and doesn’t say why. I’d also highlight that Droon’s other book, The Dragon Break Re-Examined, is easy to prove false, and that his name is an anagram of Darn Fool. I’m not inclined to take him at his word quite yet.

The Khajiiti Perspective

The Khajiit call them Jone and Jode, and are supposedly part of the older Aldmeri pantheon, if you follow the book Varieties of Faith in the matter. I realise that I quote that a lot, but it’s also one of the best summaries of things relating to the gods, so I take it at its word more often than not. That may be a bad idea, but I hope I do enough digging to balance things out a bit.

The book notes that Masser is also called “Mara’s Tear” and Secunda is “Stendarr’s Sorrow”. It might be that Masser means “Mara’s Tear” and Secunda means Stendarr’s Sorrow, but I don’t think we’re not told enough to determine that either way.

Some Khajiiti interpretations, although it doesn’t use those sobriquets, do also equate the moons with mourning. However, there are multiple traditions even within the Khajiit. Maybe that’s not surprising, for such a moon-centric culture that’s gone through some changes, so let’s unpack those briefly.

Regardless of the precise tradition, the Khajiit consider Jone and Jode to be lanterns connected to Lorkhaj, although quite what they mean is different. The book The Sky Spirits is closer to those mourning associations we talked about earlier:

Lorkhaj represents the duality of the Khajiiti soul and the hardships that all Khajiit must overcome. In her wisdom, Azurah lit her brother’s pyre with the Twin Lanterns of Jone and Jode, and thus the true spirit of Lorkhaj will sometimes appear—but only when called by Azurah or Khenarthi, or by his oldest name.

This is reiterated in The Favoured Daughter of Fadomai, also written by Amun-dro, which says this:

Azurah burned what remained of his body before the gate, lighting the fire with lanterns of love and mercy*. She wept for her brother Lorkhaj, and her tears fell upon the pyre.*(emphasis added)

Note that in that quote, there is reference to love and mercy, the spheres of Mara and Stendarr, so we’ve got another, virtue-centric notion of where the associations with Stendarr and Mara come from. But we still have the perspective that the moons are to do with mourning.

The book The Tale of Three Moons, a Khajiiti text which doesn’t have an author or a date, has a more positive spin on what the moons are:

Knowing that her children of many shapes would fall to the Moon Beast’s profanity, she purred across the stars, coaxing the lanterns of Jone and Jode to make way for a sky-guardian. This third moon and shield of the Lattice shone its light down upon Azurah’s litter of purest heart and most fervent obedience. She called these cats the Litter of the Hidden Moon, and taught them the lunar byways, and secrets of the merciful blade. From that time on, they loved her as no other Khajiit could love her, and in that love, found sympathy for all cats bent by the beating of the Heart.

I was initially thinking was this the entire pre-Riddle’Thar view, but Amun-dro’s texts put the lie to that. This text does show, however, that the moons weren’t considered entirely positively by the Khajiit. However, according to this text, the moons as we understand them are heralds and a path to the Hidden Moon, which functions as a guardian of the Lunar Lattice. This is an entirely positive connotation, rather than the funereal perspective of Amun-dro.

Moons and Spirits

This text also gives us another potential perspective to the moons, that of the spiritual dimension. Jone and Jode are treated as spirits, as is Lorkhaj. This is echoed in what was possibly originally a design document or something, that has set the bedrock for a few fan understandings of the sky and moons of the Elder Scrolls, the Cosmology document. This is authored by the Temple Zero Society, and attributed to MK in the Imperial Library. That has this to say about moons in general:

***What are moons?***Small planets, insofar as one infinite mass of infinite size can be smaller than another. Planets do have orbits, or at least lunar orbits are perceived to happen by mortals. Moons are regarded by various cultures as attendant spirits of their god planet, or minor gods, or foreign gods.

This places moons as different from stars, because the Cosmology document is the place that specifically links stars and the sun to holes in the Aurbis. Here we see moons specifically identified with divine beings, in a way that reminds me a little bit of some things I heard a while back on the Bible Project podcast. I first want to connect this with the passage of Genesis where God creates the sun, moon and stars. From Genesis 1:14-17, the King James Version for additional poetry:

And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth

Note here that the sun and moon are “ruling”, the day and night, some transitions will say “governing”, but the intent is the same. Ruling requires an active will, and not simply being there. The Bible Project, when they looked at the name and nature of God a while ago (I’m sure I’ve referenced this before) talked about the sun, moon and stars being both signs (or objects) and spirits. This is similar to the Magna Ge, where the stars are the holes those spirits tore when they fled, and those stars themselves. So the moons acting as guardian spirits is something that is entirely plausible, although again, it takes a different tack from the usual on Masser and Secunda; that they are not necessarily Lorkhan.

The commonality that the text does have with the idea of The Lunar Lorkhan is that the moons are corpses. To quote the Cosmology document again:

***What are Masser and Secunda?***Masser and Secunda (‘Jone’ and ‘Jode’ in the Ehlnofex), the moons of Nirn, are the attendant spirits of the mortal plane. They are like the mortal plane in that they are temporal and subject to the bounds of mortality; in fact of this, the moons are dead and died long ago. The moons used to be pure white and featureless, but today their ‘skin’ is decaying and withering away. Their planes are likewise dying. Mortals perceive this as the moons being spheres with patches of their ‘surfaces’ completely eaten away; as the moons spin, they seem to become slivers or ragged crescents. These are not caused by shadows, because you can see stars through the black patches of the lunar spheres.

Taken from a gameplay perspective, I think this is done entirely to justify the moons having uneven surfaces; in a cosmos without asteroids, Masser and Secunda need another reason to be pock-marked. The reason they’ve settled on here is that the moons are dying.

The text also talks about being able to see through stars, which as far as I can tell is a reference to a graphical glitch in The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, where you can see the stars “through” the moons at various points. The Lunar Lorkhan mentions the “hollow crescent theory” as well, which is another reference to that glitch.

The only place where Lorkhan’s corpse is explicitly identified with the moons, as far as I can tell, anyway, is C0DA. Jubal says to Akatosh that “You’re drinking with the groom on your brother’s dead body.”, where Akatosh’s brother is Lorkhan, the space side of the space-time duality. Because of that, many people in the fandom have taken it as gospel truth that the moons are Lorkhan’s corpse. I hope I’ve shown that, at least for Masser and Secunda, that’s not necessarily the case.

Moons and Ascension

So if Moons in general are signs of ascension or spiritual beings, that puts a new spin on a few other moons that we know about. The most obvious of these is Mannimarco, but we’ll get to the others as well.

The Necromancer’s Moon

Mannimarco ascended following the Warp in the West, following his use of the Numidium. If the moons are signifiers or expressions of ascended beings like we just talked about, then the Necromancer’s Moon could be both Mannimarco himself, and a form of “confirmation” that he attained permanence. Mannimarco himself gives us a hint at what this might mean in his remarks in Where Were You When the Dragon Broke:

How do you think I learned my mystery? The Maruhkati Selectives showed us all the glories of the Dawn so that we might learn, simply: as above, so below.

Mannimarco is talking about his gaining of knowledge during the Middle Dawn here, that the Selectives dancing on the Tower somehow gave him a way to learn his way to godhood. He does this through language from one of the foundational pieces of Western occultism. Many traditions have “as above, so below” as a saying or motto of sorts, but it originally comes from the Emerald Tablet, a primarily alchemical text, and its author, Hermes Trimegistus, is why there is an esoteric tradition called Hermeticism. From Isaac Newton’s translation, the first phrase of the tablet goes like this:

Tis true without lying, certain and most true.That which is below is like that which is aboveand that which is above is like that which is below to do the miracle of one only thing

Apart from the “only one thing” having quite Alessian overtones, the phrase “that which is above is like that which is below” is the key part here; the heavens reflect an ultimate truth of the world and the universe in general, which is what Mannimarco was getting at. It feels, then, that the Necromancer’s moon is both signifier and signified, in the same way as the Hebrew texts point to.

Also, if we stretch the idea of the Emerald Tablet a bit, it might also explain why we have Mannimarco in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. If “that which is above” and “that which is below” are connected through the “one thing”, then both the moon and the mer are expressions of the transcended Mannimarco, in the sense that they are both “phenomena”, or things that we see, that are expressing the “noumena”, or thing-in-itself, to use Kantian terms.

Taking that a bit further, the Necromancer’s Moon expresses something of Mannimarco’s goals. His orbit is quite specific; as per the orrery that we see in TES4: he orbits Arkay. Thinking back to the Cosmology document, moons in orbit tend to mean protection, but Mannimarco is “protecting” his followers from Arkay. The book Necromancer’s Moon puts it like this:

The Revenant, the Necromancer’s Moon, watches over us all. His Form, ascended to Godhood, has taken its rightful place in the sky, and hides the enemy Arkay from us so that we may serve Him.

Going by this, then, the Necromancer’s Moon is protecting something, just not what it orbits. It’s his followers that are being protected. So Mannimarco is both being a moon and subverting what it means to be a moon.

The Mane Moon

The Mane moon is another example of that ascension, I guess, but in this case done properly. Remember that the third moon, according to Amun-dro, is to act as a protector of the Lattice, again fulfilling a moon’s role as a guardian of something greater. Although there is a suggestion that, in this instance, the moon comes first. The scrap of text Khajiiti Champions states that:

…those born under the 3rd moon may one day become the Mane (in the event of the Mane’s death).

The moon therefore predates the Mane, rather than coming into being for the moon itself. Also, note the conditional here – may. It’s not automatic. The book Moon Worship Among the Cat-Men provides both clarity and confusion for this:

Of further interest is the succession ritual for the Mane; when one expires, a sacred ritual determines his successor. A Moon Herald is appointed to shepherd the potential aspirants on what Khajiiti text describes as an epic and dangerous quest to the surface of the Two Moons themselves, with the sole returning candidate declared the new Mane.

The book’s author dismisses this astral travel out of hand, but it’s interesting that the candidates travel to the moons. The third moon’s existence being the prerequisite for being a candidate is clear, but why it is travel to Jone and Jode, rather than the third moon, to Lorkhaj himself, is a little strange. Maybe the institution of the Riddle’Thar forbade them from going further, as the Manes became less associated with Lorkhaj? I’m not sure, but that fits as a “from-the-hip” response, I suppose.

In any case, it feels like the Mane’s moon is both a gateway and an expression of the mane, although I’m far from certain on that.

I suppose we should also address Moon Sugar, while we’re on the subject of Khajiit and the moons, as well. Moon sugar is supposedly distilled divinity, although whose I’m not quite sure. The book Notes on Khajiiti Worship explicitly associates moon sugar with Jone and Jode, with the line:

Jone and Jode, guide my steps.Reveal the moon-path I will walk.Bring sweet sugar to your ward.

However, I think there’s also at least a possible association with Lorkhaj as well. The Favoured Daughter of Fadomai mentions that Azurah’s tears fell upon the funeral pyre, and scattered Lorkhaj’s ashes across the Lattice. There’s no direct connection here, but to me it at least feels possible that this is what moon sugar is: Lorkhaj’s ashes, falling from the sky.

Lunar Travel

The Khajiit & Llesweyr

As well as their vision-quests to the moon, there are also suggestions that the Khajiit travel to the moon, in various states. The Words of Clan Mother Ahnissi say this:

And Fadomai said, “The Khajiit must be the best climbers, for if Masser and Secunda fail, they must climb Khenarthi’s breath to set the moons back in their courses.”

That suggests a physical transportation, and has led to the fan suggestion that the Khajiit are a Tower, with the Mane as their Stone. I’m not 100% certain on this idea, but it does tie in rather nicely with an idea that I know that /u/scourgicus and other Khajiiti scholars far better than me have of Khajiit being Nirn’s “secret defenders”, that if needed they can use the moons to restore order and balance to the cosmos.

I think that there is more reflection going on here, rather than necessarily balance; an expression of the Riddle’Thar as a life well-lived. In the book Chronicles of Juha-ri, an acolyte wants to learn the “Dance of the Shadows”, which was supposed to be able to move the moons. It ends with this quote:

As the fuming moonlight burned his lungs, the eldest saw the Dance of Shadows was no demand nor supplication. It was an existence, nearly close to perfection. The lattice mirrored and perfected the form, and in doing so was changed, for a time.

This is sympathetic magic, using the “as above, so below” principle to its conclusion, like a voodoo doll that I’ve talked about before. The Khajiit don’t necessarily travel to the moons, but it could be that their dance influences the moons’ courses. However, there have been some interpretations of this being more literal than not.

The most notable of these is the Second Edition of the Pocket Guide to the Empire, a fan-made text that claimed that Llesweyr, the Khajiiti paradise, was a province of the moons, and that a Mane, possibly the Mane, saw the provinces of Elsweyr fighting, and so the Khajiit climbed up each other to reach the moons, and set up home on a moon made of pure sugar. This originated in the Return: False thread in the old Bethesda forums, and was included in the fan-made Second Edition Pocket Guide to the Empire.

Tatterdamellion

If you also take a particular forum post that MK made a while back, the Imperials also have a lunar colony, established by Reman Cyrodiil, against the will of the Elder Council. This was also included in the Second Edition Pocket Guide to the Empire, but I can’t find the original at present. There isn’t much information to this, even in the text itself, although it does state that Reman I didn’t live to see the first moon landing, which was completed under Reman II. We also, annoyingly, don’t give many details of the colony itself, focusing on the circumstances of Reman’s establishing the enterprise.

That’s about all I have to say on the moons, apart from to point out that there’s a fantastic thread by /u/emmerson44 that suggests that Lyg is on the moons. Go check it out, or where I’ve previously talked about them in my cast on Lyg.

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