Thedosian Theology II: Sundermount Olympus, or The Dalish Gods

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Welcome back to theology in Thedas! Today we’ll be turning our spotlight onto the Dalish gods from the Dragon Age series, to complement my prior post on the Andrastian faith (found here). The Dalish worship a lot of gods and goddesses, so I’m going to do my best to summarize each god’s characteristics.

The Dalish boast a large pantheon of gods and goddesses, whom they venerate but do not believe to be the creators of the universe. I have not yet found a source that describes where the Dalish believe the creators (what they call their pantheon in spite of this) came from. But this is reminiscent of how the Greek primordial deities came into existence: out of Chaos, which simply came into existence by itself and without explanation.

A brief note on the Greek’s primordial deities: In Greek mythology, Chaos gave birth to Gaia (the earth), Erebus (darkness), and Nyx (night), among others. Gaia gave birth to Uranus (the sky)… and there we can grab hold of the Dalish again.

This is a doozy of a post, so bear with me…

Pantheon Leaders

Elgarnan-_God_of_Vengeance.png

Elgar’nan (el-GAR-non)
His story: Known as He Who Overthrew His Father, Elgar’nan is the god of vengeance and the sun. He leads the pantheon with his wife, Mythal, and was born of the sun and the earth. After the sun became jealous of the earth’s love for Elgar’nan and scorched the earth with his fire, Elgar’nan threw him from the sky in revenge. Mythal convinced him to return their father to the sky, with a promise that the sun would then set again each night so as not to harm the earth again.

Real Life: Elgar’nan possesses traits of both Zeus and his titan father, Cronus. Like Cronus, Elgar’nan was born from a union between the sun and the earth and, like Cronus, he threw his father from the sky after hurting his mother. Like Zeus, Elgar’nan wields fire, light, and lightening, and becomes the leader of the Dalish pantheon.

Mythal-_the_Great_Protector.pngMythal (myth-ALL)
Her Story: The goddess of love, motherhood, and justice. She leads the Dalish pantheon with Elgar’nan, and is known for her motherly kindness and for being a voice of reason among the gods. Some claim her to be dark and vengeful, particularly her enemies. She was created after the sun was thrown into the sea by Elgar’nan, and she walked out of the foam onto the land. She is also credited with creating the moon.

Real Life: Mythal shares characteristics predominantly with Juno – Jupiter’s wife – from Roman Mythology. Juno is the goddess of fertility an the moon, and was seen as a voice of reason among the gods. Additionally, her relationship with Jupiter was significantly less tumultuous than that between Hera and Zeus, which is littered with their disagreements and Zeus’s infidelity. Mythal, as the goddess of love, also shares one particular characteristic with Aphrodite. Mythal’s appearance from the sea after the sun is thrown from the sky is reminiscent of Aphrodite’s creation, which resulted from the blood of Uranus (god of sky) dripping into the ocean after Cronus (Zeus’s dad) attacked Uranus (Zeus’s grandfather).

Coming Together: Elgar’nan and Mythal are responsible for the creation of the rest of the Dalish pantheon, much like Zeus and Hera begat many of the Olympian gods and demi-gods.

Children of Elgar’nan and Mythal

FalonDin-_Friend_of_the_Dead.pngFalon’din (fah-lon-DEEN)
His Story: Falon’din is the god of death and fortune. He is the son of Mythal and Elgar’nan who would lead the Elvhen (the elves) to enlightenment during their eternal “waking sleep” (called uthenera in the Elvhen language). After the elves lost their immortality and could die like any mortal, Falon’din began guiding the dead beyond the Veil that separates the physical world from the spirit world. Falon’din also challenged his father after a terrible argument between the two. After Mythal suggested the two appoint knights to fight for their honor, Falon’din’s knight was defeated and Falon’din again submitted to Elgar’nan.

Real Life: Falon’din appears to most closely resemble Poseidon, Hermes, and The Fates. Hermes is most obvious, as Hermes was an escort for the dead, leading the spirits to the underworld. The Fates are also a contender for this particular trait, as they decided the length of a person’s life and could also lead spirits to their final resting place. For the last (almost footnote) about Falon’din’s squabble with Elgar’nan, Poseidon, the god of the sea, loans his story about challenging – and being defeated by – Zeus, his brother.

Dirthamen-_Keeper_of_Secrets.pngDirthamen (DIRTH-ah-men)
His Story: Dirthamen is the twin of Falon’din, and the god of secrets and knowledge. He gave the elves their knowledge, and taught them to have loyalty and faith in their families. He is the master of the ravens named Fear and Deceit, because of his deep knowledge.

Real Life: One of the few Elvhen gods who only claims one real-life inspiration, Dirthamen shares the most traits with Apollo, the god of light. Apollo was very protective of his mother, Leto, even exacting revenge on her behalf. Although Dirthamen does not take revenge on anyone, it is this fierce devotion to family that Dirthamen exemplified. Additionally, in the Middle Ages, Apollo was seen as a scholar and as having the power of divination, hinting at Dirthamen’s immense knowledge and his conquering of Fear and Deceit because of it.

Andruil-_Goddess_of_the_Hunt.pngAndruil (AHN-droo-ill)
Her Story: The Goddess of the Hunt, Andruil is described as a great hunter, often associated with blood and force. She is either the child of Elgar’nan and Mythal, or a child of the earth, depending on the story. Andruil taught the Elvhen the Way of the Three Trees (Vir Tanadahl), which is the code that all Elvhen hunters live by. She is also considered the Goddess of Sacrifice. In one short story about her, Andruil lost control of herself and brought a plague onto the elves until Mythal intervened and Andruil returned to her usual form.

Real Life: Andruil borrows characteristics from Artemis, Diana, and Demeter. Artemis is the sister of Apollo, just as Andruil is sister to Falon’din and Dirthamen. Artemis is also of uncertain parentage, like Andruil. She is sometimes considered the child of Zeus and Leto, but other times not. She is usually considered a very vengeful and harsh goddess, and very dangerous, having killed Orion and Actaeon, and attacked others who upset her, just as Andruil may have brought a plague on the elves.

The traits Andruil borrows from Diana and Demeter are less frightening. Diana is the goddess of the woodland and the forest. Demeter is the goddess of the earth, who caused the plants of the earth to perish when her daughter, Persephone, was lost to Hades, and did not bring life back to the earth until her daughter was returned to her.

Sylaise-_the_Hearthkeeper.pngSylaise (SIGH-lays)
Her Story: Sylaise is the Hearthkeeper, and the goddess of domestic arts, and is also of uncertain parentage. She is either the daughter of Elgar’nan and Mythal, or of the earth. She is the sister of Andruil. Sylaise gave the Elvhen fire and taught them to heal with herbs and magic, as well as to weave thread and rope. She sang, made art, and is considered a protector of children. She bestowed the Vir Atish’an (The Way of Peace) on the elves to teach them how to live well among each other. The Dalish pray to her before lighting a fire and after putting it out.

Real Life: Sylaise pulls a great deal of her characteristics from the Greek goddess Hestia (Roman: Vestia) goddess of the hearth (for somewhat obvious reasons). She is considered mild, caring, and charitable, and the Greeks would not begin their banquets with a sacrifice to her, just as the Dalish pray before and after lighting their fires.

June-_God_of_the_Craft.pngJune (YOO-neh)
His Story: Master of Crafts, June is the brother of Andruil and Sylaise, although sometimes he is called Sylaise’s husband. He does not have parents as he created himself. Not a lot of information is known about June, but he taught the Elvhen how to craft bows and knives.

Real Life: June is a direct reference to Athena, the Greek goddess of crafts, and her Roman counterpart, Minerva, who was born out of Jupiter’s head without the involvement of a woman.

 

Ghilannain-_Mother_of_the_Halla.pngGhilan’nain (GHEE-lon nah-een)
Her Story: The Mother of Halla, and the goddess of navigation. Unlike her fellow Dalish gods, Ghilan’nain was a mortal elven woman, who was the “beloved of Andruil.” She was saved from death by Andruil and transformed into a halla, one of the beautiful white deer-like creatures revered by the Dalish. The Dalish invoke her when they wish to travel someplace quickly and safely.

Real Life: Ghilan’nain shares the most characteristics with Hermes, the god of travelers.

 

FenHarel-_The_Dread_Wolf.pngFen’harel (fen hah-RELL)
His Story: Fen’harel has many names. His name literally translates into “Trickster Wolf,” but he is usually referred to as “The Dread Wolf,” as he is responsible for sealing the Elvhen gods and the Forgotten Ones (discussed below) away to a place where they could no longer intercede on the elves’ behalves. He is often credited with giving aid every time he is asked, but it comes with a price. Most Dalish fear him, or use his name as a curse against those they don’t like (“The Dread Wolf take you!”).

(Note: more about Fen’harel is discussed in the Tresspasser DLC, but until I can afford a PS4 I’m going to only use the information I’ve gleaned from the three main games). (*edit: working through DAI on the PS4 finally!*)

Real Life: Fen’harel shares characteristics with the Greek god Nyx, who is the one god that all the other gods – including Zeus – feared. However, he also shares a great deal of characteristics with the satan.

That’s pronounced seh-TAHN, which is a Hebrew word referring to “the accuser” or the adversary. The satan is often depicted as a tempter, one who is shrewd but also seems to fall under the control of other gods. The satan is not particularly evil, unlike our modern interpretation of Satan, but he tempts, he tricks, and he tries to turn the people away from God in some way or another (Zechariah 3:1, 1 Chronicles 21:1, Job 1:12; 2:6-7). Quite a fitting description of Fen’harel…

The Forgotten Ones

The Forgotten Ones were immortal creatures at constant war with the creators. They were locked away in to the Void by Fen’harel, which is the place of nothing. Not much is known about the Forgotten Ones, as even the Dalish have lost much information on these creatures. It seems like they are associated with disease, terror, spite, and malevolence.

Image result for no picture available

With the little information I had to go on, it seems like the Forgotten Ones could equate to the three cyclopes, but the cyclopes weren’t at war with the gods. Rather, they were lawless creatures who didn’t answer to the gods. A stronger possibility is that the Forgotten Ones are a reference to the Titans of ancient Greek mythology, who were at war with the Olympians until the Titans were banished to Tartarus (an abyss of punishment).

Other Observations

An interesting in-game observation I made is that the Chantry, reminiscent of the Catholic Church, is quite intent on squashing out all other faiths, including the Dalish faiths. This is reminiscent of the early Church attempting to stamp out the “pagan” faiths. The Chantry even declared an Exalted March on the Dales (the homeland of the elves) after the elves refused to convert to the Andrastian religion, reminding me not only of the Crusades but of the Spanish Inquisition, as well.

An interesting out-of-game observation I made is that, from rumors I’ve heard about the Tresspasser DLC, the developers are [highlight to reveal spoilers]planting seeds about how the Dalish religion is misguided, that is, the creators weren’t actually gods, but rather very powerful mages who grabbed authority and forced the other elves to submit to them.[end spoilers]

Image result for elven city

At any rate, I haven’t noticed [more spoilers]this type of deicide [end spoilers] when it comes to the Maker or Andraste. I’m a little disappointed that real-life people – who obviously took so much care to base these gods on “real life” gods and religions – are so blatantly trying to [and again]knock down one of the game’s religion so harshly (particularly the “pagan” religion of the series)[end]. If they want to make a comment about religions, fine, but comment on all the religions, not just the pagan ones (i.e., Dalish and Tevinter).

Conclusion

It’s a terribly-kept secret that I am a fan of the Dragon Age series, and an even more terribly-kept secret that I love the Dalish and their lore. I have a number of theories about the Dalish, but, like the Chant of Light, I’ll resist posting unless someone shows interest (or until I finally play the DLC and completely take leave of my senses…).

Thanks for sticking with me through all this theology! I hope you enjoyed delving into the details of Thedas with me!

What do you think? Did the creators do a good job portraying “pagan” and “non-pagan” religions and the often-tense relationship between them?

Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you soon!

–Athena Tseta


What’s next? You can like and subscribe if you like what you’ve seen!

You can also:
– Support us on Patreon, become a revered Aegis of AmbiGaming, and access extra content!
– Say hello on Facebook, Twitter, and even Google+!
– Check out our Let’s Plays if you’re really adventurous!


3 thoughts on “Thedosian Theology II: Sundermount Olympus, or The Dalish Gods

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