Hello and welcome to Written in Uncertainty, an Elder Scrolls podcast set firmly in the Grey Maybe of the series universe. My name is Aramithius and today I’m discussing a bunch of entities that were really, truly, totally, honest guv, on-board with the creation of Mundus, and then got cold feet at the last moment, running away and causing much damage to the project. Or were they completing it after all? Today we’re asking, what are the Magna Ge?
Before we begin, the usual disclaimer: I’d like to remind everyone that this is my own understanding of the Magna Ge, and not necessarily the whole truth of the matter, although I’ll do my best to bring in other viewpoints as well. You may have other ideas. If so, I’d love to hear them. Please leave a comment below, or join the conversation on the Written in Uncertainty Discord server. I’ll also be linking all the sources I quote in this blog post, so please go there and go through them yourself, rather than taking what I say as the correct answer.
I’m also making a slight change to the background music; Jeremy Soule has been kind enough to let his Northerner Diaries album be used royalty-free by streamers, modders and things related to gaming. Thank you ever so much for your kindness, Mr Soule, and I hope that last category covers this podcast! I hope you enjoy the music, and be sure to check out his other work. You’ve heard it in The Elder Scrolls games and probably other games, check out his Year of the Northerner stuff that’s coming this year.
And now, the Magna Ge!
The general consensus is that the Magna Ge are those et’ada (original spirits) that originally agreed to help Lorkhan in creating Mundus, with Magnus was the architect, but got cold feet when the project was underway, ripping the sun and stars in their escape. We see this most clearly stated in the Mysteries of the Mundus Stones and Before the Ages of Man , but this otherwise really accepted idea within the community isn’t too well attested. I don’t think this is because it’s not likely to be true, but because the event isn’t too relevant to the people on Mundus on a day-to-day basis. Magnus is the god of sorcery to the Altmer and the Bretons according to Varieties of Faith, but there’s not many other places on Tamriel you’ll see them mentioned at all.
It also looks like the Magna Ge are the most numerous of the et’ada, if the assertion that “most left when Magic did” from Before the Ages of Man is true. That means that there’s a good number of the et’ada that are unaccounted for anywhere in Tamrielic worship. And, potentially, a great many that are uninterested in the goings on of Tamriel. We also have it suggested by Lady Cinnabar that they are “capable of visitation”. So it’s likely a conscious choice to leave Mundus behind permanently. And so, basically, the Magna Ge are those et’ada who essentially want nothing more to do with Mundus, which is quite contrary to the actions of both Aedra and Daedra.
I think this reflects something that we see in the Anuad; although the Ge are very unlikely to be the literal blood of Anu, they reflect his perspective more than most. The Anuad also points out that the last emotion we have from Anu is grief. I’ve spoken previously about how Anu want to go back, not stay in place, and MK has mentioned this directly in the IRC chat that revealed the Amaranth:
The path of the stars of the sky should be kept unchanged but will not, for he dreams in the sun and now has dreamed of orphans, anon Magne-Ge, the colors he still wishes to dream.
So the Magna Ge are emblematic of those that have gone back, not kept things the same. Which is incredibly ironic, given the effect that their actions have had on Mundus as a whole.
The Magna Ge and Magic
The most obvious effect the Magna Ge have had is the introduction of light and magic to the world, which had a radical effect on Mundus. While it’s generally agreed that it’s this act that has brought magic to Mundus, we have two different accounts of how this happened; Lady Cinnabar claims that:
[Magic] filters through the veil of Oblivion from laminar (and luminar) perforations left by the architect Magnus and the Magna-Ge as they fled Mundus, bringing light and magic to mortals.
By this account, magic falls almost like light, as a constant stream from Atherius to Mundus. This is the version of events that you’ll see most commonly discussed in The Elder Scrolls fandom. However, we have a subtly different perspective on this, most plainly stated in Varieties of Faith:
What is left of [Magnus] on the world is felt and controlled by mortals as magic.
Before the Ages of Man also uses the term “Magic” to refer to Magnus as a being. This means that bits of Magnus (and probably bits of the Magna Ge too) are floating around in Mundus powering everything magical.
This version of events also answers a conspiracy theory that I see cropping up in the TES fandom from time to time. The theory goes that magic is an integral part of how Mundus works, and the tear Magnus left when he disappeared to Atherius is what brings in magic, then Lorkhan must have known that Magnus was going to leave in order for Mundus to work “properly”. However, we have a few sources, most notably Shor, son of Shor, that indicates this isn’t the case. If you accept Shor, son of Shor, that text relates that Magnar possibly “fled the field”, or “fell at sunrise and became replaced by mirrors”. That indicates that Magnus’ leaving was not planned at all. So why the reliance on magic in the world?
If we assume that Magic and Magnus are the same thing, and there are bits of him left, we get a different picture. If Magnus was meant to remain, this version suggests that Lorkhan planned for Mundus to be more magical than it currently is.
Magna Ge and the Constellations
However, we do have something to contradict that perspective is the constellations, which are similar in nature to those of our own world; groups of stars that are given patterns and names. The book The Firmament suggests that each constellation has a season, which is when the sun rises near one of them (whatever that means). If this is true, then the stars have a clear magic of their own, and it’s more obvious that magic comes directly from Atherius. Then we’re back to wondering what the original design of Mundus was like without its chief architect up and leaving in the middle of it all.
The constellations do, however, appear to have a distinct form of magic that can be harnessed directly. Both Ayleis and Nedes have been associated with this particular type of magic, the Ayleids in harnessing it through the Mundus Stones, and the Nedes potentially in manipulating or creating the Celestials out of their condensed starlight, if Skyreach Explorer is to be believed. In addition, if the Celestials’ own account is true, that they have their home in the skies, the condensed magic of the stars contains their conscience, their essence, in a way that “normal” magicka does not, which indicates a definite difference between Magnus and his followers. The differing effects of the constellations also would appear to suggest this, as the sun interacts with different types of stars as they move through the sky.
There is also the possibility that they are Magna Ge, but I’m not totally sure as they are manifestations of the constellations, which are made up of several stars, rather than the singular creatures that created the stars. However, the Exegesis of Merid Nunda describes “Mnemo-Li” as a singular entity, where several other sources have them as plural, so the precise number of the Manga Ge is uncertain.
I should however point out that the constellations aren’t themselves entirely to do with the Magna Ge, and I’ll divert here because there probably isn’t enough for its own cast for this. Each constellation appears to be defined by a dominant plane(t), at least if the Cosmology document published by the Temple Zero Society in 1999 is still accurate. I’m a little sceptical as it hasn’t come up since, and there are other elements of Cosmology that have been contradicted in The Elder Scrolls: Online.
The constellations structured as three guardian constellations, in a possible enantiomorph of Thief, Warrior and Mage. However, I’m not sure about this as the three constellations don’t interact, if The Firmament is an accurate summary of astrological lore. They all protect their charges against the Serpent, who is associated with Lorkhan. So it doesn’t fit the typical pattern of an enantiomorph.
Magna Ge and the other Et’ada
This hits on what I think is one of the key things about the Magna Ge – they are spirits that are, in some ways, between. Several parts of their thematics suggest that they are liminial, in a way that the Aedra and Daedra aren’t. Their basic conceptualisation is to agree first, and then decide to disagree. The text The Gifts of Magnus labels him as “He Who Abstained”, saying neither yes or no to the idea of Mundus, itself an “in-between” position. I think this is put perfectly in the text The Magne Ge Pantheon, an unlicenced work by Michael Kirkbride. In it, we see a wide variety of characters, which the community has tried at various points to match to other gods and see the Magna Ge as reflections of, or at least linked to, other Et’ada. This feels like an impossible task to me, because they are essentially picking elements from each of the listed beings, and matching it up with elements that are known about other Et’ada. I don’t think this works, because several of the spirits talked about can match various Et’ada, with none reflecting them perfectly. If it is the intent that the Magna Ge pantheon map to other spirits, in order to get a true picture of any one, you have to take elements of each in order to fit it together. The spirits as presented both are and are not the same as the Aedric and Daedric spirits.
There’s part of me that thinks there’s merit to this, particularly if we consider how stars are considered in one particular world religion. In Judaism (as I understand it from a thoroughly awesome Bible Project podcast, go check them out if you’re curious), the stars essentially function as both spirits and signs of the spirits. If we separate that out, in that the spirits of the Magna Ge are the signs of other spirits, then perhaps the nature of the Magna Ge is essentially a game of Chinese Whispers with the patterns of the other spirits.
How the Magna Ge Exist
The Magne Ge Pantheon also puts across a really interesting view on how these spirits exist; the text talks about them in groupings related to light (C, Y, M and K Signs, as well as Blend Signs), and various events that are claimed to have happened are talked about in abstract terms but similar enough that there’s probably a coherent history going on in there. There is however a few anchor points that look a little interesting. We also have the Redguard creation myth that says that the spirits who are “between skins”, or between kalpas (episode link), are able to carry on existing in relatively linear fashion; the time between kalpas is sequential, and this is definitely the case if we follow Shor Son of Shor.
I also think that The Magne Ge Pantheon shows that the Magna Ge experience dragon breaks in reverse. There’s talk about “many and shattered floating untimes”, but the biggest clues I think is in the line of “Who can blame them, really, after the Breaking changed everything except for the suns?” The “them” here is the Magna Ge, who are reacting to some sort of cataclysm; but the key here is “suns”. There isn’t multiple suns on Mundus, and you wouldn’t see the hole Magnus tore as a sun from the other side. There are, however, multiple moons. We also have the words of R’leyt-harhr in Where Were You When the Dragon Broke which says that “the moons were the only constant” during the dragon break. So I have an inkling that the suns of the Magna Ge are the moons of Tamriel.
The Magna Ge and Lyg
And now we’re about to get into serious speculation territory, but first of all some more grounded stuff. If you can call the ravings of a merish Daedra worshipper grounded. Yes, we’re bringing Mankar Camoran into this.
Mankar has some… really quite interesting views and associations with the Magna Ge. The last volume of his Commentaries on the Mysterium Xarxes says this:
I give my soul to the Magna Ge, sayeth the joyous in Paradise, for they created Mehrunes the Razor in secret, in the very bowels of Lyg, the domain of the Upstart who vanishes. Though they came from diverse waters, each Get shared sole purpose: to artifice a prince of good, spinning his likeness in random swath, and imbuing him with Oblivion’s most precious and scarce asset: hope.
This has the Magna Ge having a hand in shaping part of Mehrunes Dagon, and being in Lyg. Now, Lyg probably deserves its own cast, but I want to mention it here for now to highlight that the Magna Ge can be there. So Lyg, the Adjacent Place to Tamriel, is somewhere the Ge can visit, or is potentially a domain of the Ge; we have “Xero-Lyg” mentioned in as a Ge in the Exegesis of the Merid-Nunda, although it’s not clear whether that particuar Ge is Lyg, or named after Lyg.
If you’re getting wind of some uncertainty here, that’s no accident. This is possibly something to do with Lyg being in that “in-between” space. It’s been described by Michael Kirkbride as a “parallel version” of Tamriel, which sometimes overlaps it, if some of the talk on /r/teslore and Lyg’s real-world origins are something to go by. This entirely fits with the Ge’s liminality, and, I think, brings another element of them out.
They. created. Mehrunes.
Just let that sink in for a second. They created at least part part of the Daedric Prince of destruction in Lyg. There’s a notion throughout the commentaries of becoming, of transformation. I think this is hinting at the Magna Ge creating Mehrunes through transformation. Remember that Magnus possibly left bits of himself behind, in his flight? It’s likely his followers did too, an so they’re tied to that sort of self-destructive transformation in some way, I think.
And… I think that’s where we need to leave the uncertain, fluctuating and ultimately very distant and strange Magna Ge. Their realms are seen by the denizens of Tamriel every night, and still we don’t have a full understanding of them. Kinda fitting for entities that are half here and half not.
Before I go, I’d like to make a announcement, for those of you that stick around until the bitter end of these casts. I have set up a Patreon for this podcast, and a Ko-fi tip jar. If you’d like to support me in either of those ways, the link will appear in the blog post that’s accompanying this cast, and any podcast. Patrons will get full access to my notes for these podcasts and Written in Uncertainty YouTube channel, and exclusive roles and channels on the Written in Uncertainty Discord server.
With that in mind, that I want to be sticking around with these podcasts for a good while, please send me any ideas for questions for future episodes that you want me to examine. If the distinct questions dry up (and I’m not going to devolve into clickbait questions, sorry), I was considering doing a chronological history of Tamriel podcast, styled after a few of my favourite history podcasts. Is this something you’d be interested in? Let me know.
Next time, having mentioned the Adjacent Place in passing, I’m going to be going into it in more detail. Next time we’re asking, what is Lyg?
Until then, this podcast remains a letter written in uncertainty.