Boilerplate explanation: This is one of a series of posts based on the deities and religious beliefs of The Elder Scrolls series by Bethesda that includes information about how pagans might want to incorporate them into their own practices. I welcome your feedback – if there’s something you’d like to see that I’m not covering, do let me know!
Some say Arkay was once mortal, and that Mara, Mother Goddess and Goddess of Love made him a god so he could fully understand the cycle of life and death, as there was not enough time for him to do so as a man, and teach it to others. These same sources note that Arkay might be the son of Akatosh and Mara, or Akatosh and a mortal woman.
Some say Arkay was one of the original spirits that crystallized after time began, and that he did not exist before the Eight Divines and Lorkhan created the mortal plane, called Nirn. Upon its creation, Arkay became, and is the Ninth Divine. Those who believe this call Arkay the Mortals’ God.
I say that Arkay has much to teach us, regardless of his true origin. As God of the Cycle Birth and Death, he touches the lives of all things for everything was created and (almost) everything is held within the Cycle he oversees. We who are mortal are especially dear to him, for our lives are part of the pattern; attempts to disrupt that pattern, such as the raising of the dead, are punished swiftly. His ties to the mortal world are easily seen in the number of temples and shrines to him – he is, of course, included in all Temples to the (Nine/Eight) Divines, and has separate temples in High Rock, Orsinium, Hammerfell, and the Imperial Province. Even the Nords honor Arkay – his shrines are found within every Hall of the Dead since burial and funeral rites are also within his purview.
I am mortal, and I am therefore bound to the cycle of birth and death. Just as I’ve experienced the births and deaths of others, I too was born and will die. I’ve brushed against Arkay time and time again: with my own birth, and those of my siblings, and my son, and the children of those I know; with the death of friends and relatives and loved ones. There’s a connection with Arkay in my veneration of my ancestors – they, too, were bound to his cycle and their experience of it is tied to my own. Those who came before me enable me to live, and where their lives were touched by Arkay, so are mine now.
I do not currently have a shrine to Arkay in my own home (although I have one at my homestead in Skyrim). For starters, I don’t have the materials needed, but I’m also not that good at crafting things. However, I’m thinking about incorporating something for him in my ancestor shrine (which I really need to put back up downstairs now that the holiday decorations are removed). It will likely not be based on the “official” shrines, though, unless someone decides to create one I can buy. However, using something ephemeral, like cut flowers, would work nicely.
Of course, I could always just play more Skyrim and worship Arkay in the privacy of my own homestead…and if I’m going that route, perhaps it is time to make a pilgrimage to the shrines of Arkay that stand outside of the cities proper.
How would you incorporate Arkay into your life?