Veloth in brief
Veloth was a Chimer, possibly the first. He was a highborn mer who was a prophet of Beothiah, who grew discontent with the pampered life on Summserset, and convinced several elves to leave with him. Whether he sought Boethiah out or was contacted by her himself is unclear, but he led an exodus to Morrowind, where the Chimer set up a new ascetic way of life, based on suffering and Daedra worship. He was renowned as a prophet, a healer, a discerner of Daedra, and was effectively the founder of Chimeri, and thence Dunmeri, culture. In a nutshell, I see him as a sort of Chimeri Moses, a comparison I’ll get to in a bit more detail soon.
As well as being the founder of Chimeri culture, the Dunmer ashlanders are seen as the ones who maintain his legacy in its truest form, at least by most House Dunmer throughout their history that we can see. Quite how true that is, we will get into. Tribunal era Dunmer culture dubs him the patron saint of outcasts and spiritual seekers, or in other words those who follow Veloth’s own journey, in a sense.
The book Veloth the Pilgrim describes its subject like this:
Rising to prominence in the Late-Middle Merethic Era on Summerset Isle, Veloth supposedly sought a more ascetic and pure way of life for his followers and gathered them into a grand pilgrimage from the southwest regions of Tamriel to the northeast. According to the contemporary texts, he “spared not a boat, ration, or strong-armed soul among his people in this exodus and toiled to reach the land of Resdayn.”
I think that’s a good enough summary to start with. At least, so we can start picking elements of it to bits. I think we can start by the relationship between Veloth and Boethiah.
Veloth and Boethiah
Veloth the Pilgrim and several other texts paint the beginning of Veloth’s exodus as something that Veloth initiated. However, there is a possible alternative. The Fall of Trinimac puts it like this:
During the Merethic Era, a cult of Aldmeri dissidents abandoned the commonly accepted worship of Summerset Isle and began following a young prophet, Veloth. Boethiah had been speaking to Veloth in dreams and visions, guiding him to lead a new sect of Aldmeri with the belief that mortals could ascend to become gods.
This text has Veloth in a much more passive role, being led by Boethiah to found the Chimer, on the basis of what would become the Psijic Endeavour. The general tone of the text is one of condescension towards the Chimer, and I think is pro-Orsimer in its outlook, thanks to a reference to Mauloch. So It’s likely that they are looking to male the Chimer look bad, and making Veloth look like a pawn of Boethiah would certainly achieve that. But it’s certainly another possibility. The book Changed Ones puts most of the results of the Velothi exodus as a thing Boethiah planned, although admittedly with help from others:
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.
This is interesting, as it says nothing about Veloth. Part of this is down to the time it was written, I think – the text is taken from Skeleton Man’s Interview with the Denizens of Tamriel, where the only mention of Veloth is as a place. I don’t know for sure, but I think Veloth as a character may have evolved after this text was written, later in The Elder Scrolls III Morrowind’s development. But even this text acknowledges that Boethiah didn’t do it completely alone; Mephala is given some credit for the Psijic Endeavour, which we’ll get to later. But there is at least the possibility that Boethiah was responsible for a good amount of what Veloth had planned.
Chimeri and Dunmeri culture lionises his role in establishing Daedric worship on Summerset, with The Judgment of Saint Veloth stating this:
Saint Veloth personifies daring, and those who follow the lessons of his life and teachings learn boldness and cultivate an adventurous outlook. He defined the difference between good and evil Daedra, and even negotiated the original arrangements with the good Daedric Princes. This ability to distinguish the good from the bad was a hallmark of the living saint, as was his penchant for healing and healing items.
This puts the relationship between Veloth and Boethiah a bit more on equal terms, with Veloth being the one to negotiate the terms of the arrangement. It’s possible that Veloth selected Boethiah for a greater goal of forging the Chimer into something else, something different from the place they were planning to leave.
In-universe, I think part of the way to explain the possible conflict with regard to Veloth and Boethiah might be due to a shift in the culture of the Velothi elves and their descendents. Changed Ones was originally dialogue from Dres Molaghi, and the Dres are more inclined towards Daedra worship than the other Great Houses, even in the Tribunal era. It’s possible that Veloth’s role was inflated by the Tribunal Temple, with the role of saints being a relatively new way to revere the ancestors, and downplay the importance of the Daedra. So it’s possible that Veloth may have been a tool used to diminish Boethiah, and he wasn’t actually that important.
However, there are some anomalies that point to Veloth having at least some autonomy from Boethiah’s influence. Both The Judgment of Saint Veloth and the names for several spells in The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind suggest that the Dunmer associate Veloth with healing, and there is nothing in Boethiah’s teachings that suggest healing is a practice Boethiah values. So I think it quite likely that Veloth was more than a simple Boethiah cultist, taking what elements of Boethiah’s teachings he had a use for, alongside aspects of other teachings, in order to reforge the Chimer into something else.
I see the involvement of the other Good Daedra here is a good reason to think that Veloth was more active in his relationship with Boethiah – I’m not sure why Boethiah would bring Azura and Mephala into the culture, if she had carte blanche to shape Chimeri culture according to her whims. So I’m inclined to assign Veloth a more active role in the partnership.
Even without necessarily being the sole guiding light for the Velothi exodus, Boethiah may well have provided much of its conceptual framework. The Tri-Angled Truth and the Psijic Endavour have been claimed as Boethiah’s, rather than Veloth’s, if you follow the claims of Changed Ones that we discussed earlier. But we’ll get to those later on.
I’ve heard it said that one of the reasons that Boethiah and the other Good Daedra were chosen for the Velothi exodus was because they gave them the virtues that allowed them to survive as a dissident people in an oppressed place. The argument goes that Boethiah gave them the strength and will to persevere, Mephala gave them the skill to assassinate those who would rival them, and Azura showed them how to be different from the Altmer. Or something like that; a bunch of Azura’s contributions are attributed to Boethiah, if you believe Varieties of Faith, so the line between the two is blurry.
I’m not totally sure I support that reasoning, because it implies some degree of covertness to the Velothi leaving the isles. We don’t actually know how they left in any great detail; at the very least, the final stages of their leaving were public, when Boethiah ate Trinimac. There are also some accounts that seem to suggest that this was a very public flight; Veloth the Pilgrim claims that:
According to the contemporary texts, he “spared not a boat, ration, or strong-armed soul among his people in this exodus and toiled to reach the land of Resdayn.”
Given that, I think it likely that the Velothi probably left very publicly. I suppose they could have planned everything covertly and prepared the way, that sort of thing, but not necessarily too much; the Chimeri exodus was part of a broader splintering of Altmeri society, so there was probably a lot of general unrest going on. I’ve mentioned it before in this podcast when discussing the Direnni, but will restate it here for reference. We have this from the Third Edition Pocket Guide to the Empire’s description of Summerset history:
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. With their mystical powers, they were able to settle in Arteaum, away from what they considered the corruption of their society. They continued to return to the land to act as advisors, but never again would they call Summerset home.
It was about this time that many Aldmer left Summerset to settle the mainland of Tamriel. There was probably no single reason for this second exodus of the Aldmer, but some evidence, such as the famed Ramoran Tapestries – the very ones that show some of the creatures mentioned above – show how untouched and beautiful the mainland was considered to be by the Aldmer. Expeditions, such as those taken by Topal the Pilot and others, had painted an image in their minds of a great land where even workers, at the lowest end of the Summerset hierarchy could live as kings. The Prophet Veloth was among those who led a group of discontented Aldmer away from Summerset to a new promised land.
This shows that there’s several cultural changes going on in Aldmeri (or Altmeri) society at the time of the Velothi exodus, and Veloth was part of that cultura ferment, although it would possibly be a mistake to construe them as being the same movement. Vehk’s Teaching states that Veloth isn’t part of the Psijic exiles, in spite of having the same name for the Endeavour and the Order. However, it is curious that only Veloth’s leaving was stopped by Trinimac.
There are two possible reasons for this, to my mind. It could be that the Velothi exodus was the first journey of settlers to Tamriel, and as such Trinimac was stopping the first form of dissent against Summerset’s hierarchy arising. It is also possible that, as an explicitly Daedric cult at the point of its leaving, the Velothi represented the greatest challenge to Summerset’s prevailing ideology, while the others weren’t so much of a schism as an expansion; certainly the Ayleids had some initial contact with Summerset after they left, as Before the Ages of Man describes the Ayleids as a “tribute-land” of Alinor, at least in theory. The Chimer were quite a sharp break from everything that Summerset represented, and so were a different kind of exodus. Indeed, in his book of the Chimer, Phrastus of Elenhir points out that “the Sapiarchs of Alinor … prohibited this schism”, indicating that the Alinor authorities had some form of say in the elves leaving their islands. Maybe the Ayleids were approved? But that’s something to dig into another time, I feel.
The Timeline of the Exodus
Before we dig into Veloth’s background and lead into what he wanted to achieve through the Exodus (although we’ve touched on that a bit already) I want to wrap up talking about the Exodus itself with a quick dive into when it happened, because there are a few conflicting accounts of it. We’ll go through those in roughly chronological order.
The book The True Nature of Orcs, which puts the Velothi exodus in the Dawn Era, without much more explanation. It’s the only source to do so, with others putting it somewhere in the Merethic Era. The Fall of Trinimac just puts it as the “Merethic Era”, while Before the Ages of Man and Veloth the Pilgrim both specify the Late Middle Merethic Era.
All of these options have their problems – if it happened during the Dawn Era, then there is a big gap between the exodus and Chimeri settlement on Resdayn. However, if it happened during the Merethic Era, what was Trinimac, an Aedra, doing strutting around like a normal personified deity? The consensus is that it happened in the Late Middle Merethic, but if that’s the case, I’ve not yet seen much in the way of satisfactory answers to why Trinimac was still around as an entity able to do things, rather than simply being comatose, dead or whatever your preferred metaphor is for the current state of the Aedra.
Veloth’s primary aim with the exodus, as we’ve already presented briefly, is potentially one of escape. While that will get to be a bit more interesting of a metaphor later on, I’ll start with talking about a more immediate escape, that of fleeing Summerset society. Despite being highborn himself, Veloth seems to have considered that society to be one that was too decadent, a word that comes up in several texts that highlight Veloth’s views on Summserset society. Veloth the Pilgrim notes that:
Veloth supposedly sought a more ascetic and pure way of life for his followers and gathered them into a grand pilgrimage from the southwest regions of Tamriel to the northeast.
That last note seems to indicate that the ultimate destination was unknown, at least in the specifics of it. Several texts do point out that Boethiah was guiding Veloth through dreams and visions, but they disagree about how far Veloth had actually seen the land in those visions. Relics of Saint Veloth’s description of the Tear of Saint Veloth says it was shed “when he first laid eyes upon the land of Resdayn, the new homeland he had seen in his visions.” That implies that he recognised the land from his dreams, and so had seen it. However, End of the Journey has a different tale:
Veloth drove them onward, chasing a vision that had come to him in a dream. He claimed to see a great hawk in the sky. He vowed that the hawk would lead the Chimer to a new home.
This gives no indication that he knew what the land looked like, just the direction he needed to head to get to the new home. But enough diversion back to the path of the exodus; part of the reason that this is all so vague is because what actually mattered to Veloth was the society that he was founding as part of it. That society was supposed to be more egalitarian than the one that Veloth had left. Exodus from Summerset puts it in quite idealistic terms, that I’m not really sure it ever fully lived up to:
Veloth the Mystic called out to those whose souls were weary, whose lives were ground out with no hope of improvement in a society founded on ambition, greed, and decadence. To those who hoped for a society that preserved traditions, praised honesty, and rewarded the just, Veloth’s voice was as a golden note among a cacophony.
Veloth the Pilgrim led his followers across the seas and away from the lands they had known with the promise of a new land and a better future.
This sounds uniformly positive, and caring, and about justice. It lives up the same sort of vibe as Veloth being a healer, to the point where Veloth gives up his life for his people, as related in End of the Journey:
Veloth hoisted his mighty hammer and proclaimed, “Never again shall I wield this tool or any other to slay a foe. I have given my heart to my people, but now I shall give them more. I shall dedicate my life and my soul to them.”
There are a lot of parallels to the Mosaic exodus here (right down to the “promised land” bit in some texts), where the Israelites were being led to “a land flowing with milk and honey”. And like Moses and the Israelites, Veloth was also seeking to transform his people. As End of the Journey puts it:
Veloth spoke to his people. “We are home,” he declared. “This is the anvil upon which we shall forge a new people. One journey ends here, but another journey begins.”
In particular, the Mosaic Exodus was trying to make the Israelites into a people who trusted God – it was flinging them into extreme circumstances, where they had to rely on God for their provision of food, water and other means of survival. Veloth is almost an anti-Moses in this way – he is trying to get people to go back to a simpler, harder way of life, which implies the notion of self-reliance and inherent combativeness and struggle against the environment. It’s not for nothing that Mehrunes Dagon is compared to the hostile land of Morrowind in Varieties of Faith and The House of Troubles. There’s no similarity made between God or anything like the devil and the Sinai Desert for the Israelites. It’s just an attempt to have Israel and God being a people and deity together. I suppose you can argue that there’s struggle in there, Israel means “struggles with God” after all, but I think it’s less front-and-centre than it is for Veloth.
It’s possible that there’s some similarities in the journey between Moses and Veloth; both are arduous and more heavy-going than they needed to be. For the part of the Israelites, they were intended to enter the Promised Land almost immediately. It’s a journey that should have taken about 2 weeks. However, the Israelites didn’t think they could overcome those who already dwelt in Canaan, and so God sends them back into the desert until all of that generation are dead. For Veloth, Summerset and Morrowind are on opposite corners of Tamriel; if Veloth wanted to settle the continent, there are plenty of other places that they could have settled, that would have been far simpler. However, like Moses, the journey would have whittled out those who aren’t worthy along the way.
However, that is where the comparison with Moses ends, I think. While Moses and God were looking to forge the Israelites into a “kingdom of priests” and through them save the world, Veloth and the Chimer were more insular. This was a transformation that was to involve just the Chimer themselves, not so much changing the world through a select people, which is what God was attempting to do with the Israelites.
Veloth, Ancestors & the Daedra
The Velothi exodus was a religious pilgrimage and schism, though. Before the Ages of Man describes the Chimer as devoted to “fundamenetalist ancestor worship”, in contrast to the select ancestor worship practiced by Summerset. I should note that “ancestor” is a loose term here, that the Daedra were considered ancestors by the Velothi, despite being a different category of being. The Redguard Forum Madness from 1999 contains a post by MK that suggests that, contrary to what we know from Altmeri theology, Daedra means “our stronger, better ancestors”. While this translation is not entirely acknowledged in official materials, The Inexplicable Patron Loremaster’s Archive makes it explicit that the idea of ancestry is more ideological than anything else, with this little aside:
I find myself shamed (as I often am), but not surprised (as I never am) by the gross misunderstandings of the nature of the Daedra that “adopted” our ancestors
This makes it clear that the Dunmer, and by extension the Chimer, didn’t see the ancestry as literal, but instead one of the people being chosen by the Daedra for a particular purpose. Veloth would have been pivotal in achieving this, if the account from The Judgment of Saint Veloth is close to accurate. According to that account, Veloth explicitly chose the Daedra, while Lives of the Saints claims that Veloth:
taught the difference between the Good and Bad Daedra, and won the aid of the Good Daedra for his people while teaching how to carefully negotiate with the Bad Daedra.
This puts Veloth in a more active role yet again, having him almost petition the Good Daedra for the sake of his people, rather than gathering his people around the notion of Daedra worship as such. However, this is a Tribunal-era text, and so it’s possible there’s some revisionism going on as to Veloth’s role here. The discrimination between good and bad Daedra does highlight a role that Veloth has in mind for the Daedra, although even the Bad Daedra can be interacted with, if done with care. The difference between the Good and Bad Daedra, then, is not simply that some are to be embraced and some are to be avoided; it’s clear that they all have lessons to teach, according to Veloth.
I should point out here again that the issue of no written record of Veloth’s own teachings exist unadulterated. I’m curious to what extent the Good and Bad Daedra are a post-Veloth construct, though, because some sources point out that the distinction happens around the worship of the Tribunal. The book Darkest Darkness says this:
The Tribunal Temple of Morrowind has incorporated the veneration of Daedra as lesser spirits subservient to the immortal Almsivi, the Triune godhead of Almalexia, Sotha Sil, and Vivec. These subordinate Daedra are divided into the Good Daedra and the Bad Daedra. The Good Daedra have willingly submitted to the authority of Almsivi; the Bad Daedra are rebels who defy Almsivi — treacherous kin who are more often adversaries than allies.
The book The Anticipations says much the same. Perhaps the most interesting note appears when asking Ashlanders in The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind about Daedric Sites. They come up with this dialogue:
When the Velothi first came to Morrowind, they worshipped our most terrible ancestors, the Daedra Lords. Legends say the Daedra Lords themselves built these great shrines, because mortals could not build anything grand enough to suit them. When the Tribunal claimed to have tamed the Daedra Lords, they forbid the worship of the Bad Daedra, Malacath, Mehrunes Dagon, Molag Bal, and Sheogorath.
Both of these sources seem to indicate that it was the Tribunal, not Veloth, that defined the difference between the good and bad Daedra. There are lots of sources that say that it was Veloth that did it, but the lack of contemporary sources has me wondering whether the distinction is a post-Veloth construct. I’m sure I also remember a source that claims that all seven Daedric Princes, both Good and Bad Daedra, helped the Chimer leave Summerset, but I can’t for the life of me remember what that text was, so I can’t be sure it actually exists and isn’t a figment of my imagination. If you can remember what that was, please let me know!
Veloth and the Psijic Endeavour
“Endeavour” is quite the word for it, in fact. Veloth is credited in places with the formation of the Psijic Endeavour, described in Vehk’s Teaching like this:
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.
This text credits Veloth to an extent with the creation of the Psijic Endeavour, which the Loveletter from the Fifth Era corroborates as an attempt to escape the restrictions of the world, and move beyond it to another. I think this text presents Veloth as an Alessia-esque figure. He, like the Slave-Queen, produced an “elegant synthesis” of other teachings that resulted in a new practice. However, it’s not totally clear whether Veloth really knew about things like the Amaranth, as a thing to move beyond the current means of existence.
However, I should point out that much of this is still attributed to Boethiah in Tribunal era teachings; Changed Ones both present elements of the Endeavour, the Tri-Angled Truth, as things that Boethiah spoke to Trinimac, rather than being present in Veloth’s teachings as such. Only Vehk’s Teachings puts Veloth in the centre for this sort of thing, giving the description of the Endeavour we quoted a few moments ago.
That it has its antecedents in the teachings of various Daedra, it’s entirely possible that that’s why those Daedra were chosen by Veloth, because their teachings would lead to the Endeavour. If so, it would also lend a little bit of credence to the idea that the Bad Daedra are a necessary part of the process – if Vivec attained CHIM, the Pomegranate Banquet in Sermons 12-14 of the 36 Lessons where Vivec does a variety of things to and with Molag Bal is definitely part of the process, as it’s the only time that CHIM is mentioned. If that’s the case, then that could well be why we don’t see many people trying to achieve the Endeavour, particularly among the House Dunmer; they’ve forgotten that the restrictions of the Bad Daedra are as much a part of Veloth’s process as dealing with the Good Daedra.