[The following is an in character interview accompanying the in-game events of the New Life Festival. I play the role of Eis Vuur Warden, while Loremaster Lawrence Schick plays both Priestess Phaziyya and Mochtuinne Eye-Tooth.]
Setting One: Temple of the Divines (Ska’vyn)
Interviewer: Eis Vuur Warden is an Argonian vampire and wayward contract scholar who is an old acquaintance of Abnur Tharn and a former member of the Imperial Geographical Society. He has been down on his luck for awhile and, being a bit put off with the festive mood of the season, has developed an interest in uncovering the more divine and occult roots of the Festival.
Priestess Phaziyya of the Ska’vyn Basilica
Priestess Phaziyya of the Ska’vyn Basilica eyes the temple’s entrance for the third time, relieved to finally see her interviewer making an appearance. Eis Vuur Warden had deliberately sought her out due to her expertise in the history of the Divines and their legends – a side effect of her being raised in the temple – which made it all the more grating that, judging from the cadence of his steps as he approached, he appeared to be slightly intoxicated.
Eis Vuur Warden: Greetings, m’am. I erect the spine of somewhat-pleasant salutations. (Burp) I’ve heard tales that the New Life Festival was originally celebrated as a holiday to give thanks for all of the good the gods did during the year and to pray for even more positive tidings for the coming one. (Hiccup) Is this true? How do the Divines and their temples celebrate the season? And do you have any insights into how the other faiths of Tamriel view the Festival?
Priestess Phaziyya responded, “The celebration of the winter solstice widely known as the New Life Festival is common to every culture of Tamriel, except perhaps for that of the Argonians of Black Marsh. But it could just be that I’m ignorant of their customs in this regard, and perhaps you would know more about that than I. All respect Magnus, who, though he did not donate his essence to the creation of the world, nonetheless gave us in his departure the life-giving sun, whose return we celebrate in the New Life festivities. So though New Life isn’t a holiday that honors the Aedra, we in the priesthood of the Eight give it our blessing nonetheless.”
Eis Vuur Warden: The New Year always makes me think of the holiday of Saturalia, which is often incorporated into the New Life Festival. I have always wondered about the legend of the “red-stained and snow-haired” knight that flies through the sky on a sleigh flown by reindeer (hiccup)…or was it winged bulls? Had to be bulls, I reckon. This fellow – Nikholas, I think his name was – has been described as one of the Saints of the Aedra and he brings gifts to all of good heart during this time of the year. Can you tell me more about this interesting figure?
Priestess Phaziyya nodded approvingly, “I’m unfamiliar with this delightful legend, but of course Saturalia is a Breton holiday, and not celebrated here in central Hammerfell. Though we Forebears worship most of the same Divines as the Bretons and Imperials, every culture has its own saints with only occasional overlap, such as Saint Pelin in nearby Bangkorai. Specific New Life customs vary from culture to culture in the same way. I’ve heard that in Elinhir the youth of the gentry give each other licentious presents that are intended to dare the recipients into lascivious behavior, though the giver’s name is never revealed—it’s up to each recipient to guess who their ‘Secret Sanguine’ was. We’d never do that here, of course—the local Crowns are too prudish!”
Eis Vuur Warden: I have heard…oops, I’m sorry. Didn’t mean to knock over that urn there, it seems like I’m losing my balance, ha ha. But as I was saying (belch), I have heard that during the New Life Festival the temples will resurrect the dead free of charge for citizens so they may celebrate the season with their loved ones? Is this true, or just a rumor? Why would priests and priestesses perform such miracles in the first place?
Priestess Phaziyya arched an eyebrow with matronly disapproval, “Your jest, while perhaps quite amusing in Gideon or Helstrom, is in terrible taste here in Hammerfell, where we revere our honored dead and abominate all necromancy. If you persist, I shall have to ask you to leave the Basilica.”
Eis Vuur Warden: I think I’m going to be sick (hiccup)…but I have one more question, milady. The New (belch) Life Festival is often described as being the day the “sun returns to the world”? What does (hiccup) that actually mean? Is there a mythical reference to Magnus the Great Abandoner hidden in that statement?
Priestess Phaziyya paused with brief annoyance, begrudgingly continuing the conversation, “Perhaps for the denizens of tropical Argonia, where the change of the seasons barely registers, the solstice whence the days begin once again to get longer has no special meaning or significance, but to those of us who live close enough to Atmora to have a distinct winter season, this question is easily answered. All mortals save undead abominations welcome the sunshine, including—and perhaps even especially—you lizard-folk. …Hello? Did you doze off? Pesky boot!”
After recovering from his forcible removal from the temple, Eis heads to the local tavern, apparently not having already had enough to sufficiently drown his rising chagrin. By happenstance, he catches the attention of an elderly Breton woman, who follows him in the shadows after overhearing his questions at the Basilica. Wishing to speak to him about some of the festival’s more darker subjects, the lady approaches the argonian, arching an eyebrow expectantly.
Eis Vuur Warden: I erect the spine of woozy greetings, elder. I see the festive mood bothers you too. (Burp) I wonder, do you know of any of the more darker sides and history of the New Life Festival? You seem quite knowledgeable in the subject.
Mochtuinne Eye-Tooth nodded, “If wisdom be your object I can answer questions three. First shall I speak of Old Life and its dark festivity. Before new year is welcomed must we cast old year aside. Then come the live to witches bearing husks of those who died. To summon sun’s return all know we must dance with the dead. So animate the corpses and into a jig be led!”
Eis Vuur Warden: (Burp) I often wonder if the denizens of the Second Void, Oblivion, participate in the New Life Festival to some extent. How do the Princes, their subjects, and their worshippers interact with the Mundus during this time? Are there certain rituals and occult practices reserved for this time of the year? Does Molag Bal celebrate with slaughter, while Peryite ushers in a new plague?
Mochtuinne Eye-Tooth smirked with approval, “In vale of Karth as autumn wanes the wolf pursues the sun. For Storihbeg would eat the orb and New Life would be none. So summon we great Hrokkibeg to interpose his might. That Manbeast might be driven off and shorten thus the night. Hircine abides in aspects five as all the witchmen know. And shaman knows which guise shall come and which must perforce go.”
Eis Vuur Warden: I’m…starting to feel a little tired now (hiccup). Too much to drink, I bet. But I have one more question, elder. Do you know how werewolves, vampires, and undead celebrate the New Life Festival? Do they have their own unique practices that vary from clan and type?
Mochtuinne Eye-Tooth nodded, “To those who hate the sunlight New Life is a time to dread. For turn of year means longer days and hardship keeping fed. Blood-folk, undead, and skinchanger dance rites to no avail. To hinder Magnus’ slow return, entreaties doomed to fail. But try they must, they hate the sun, its burning rays they fear. And so they dance in darkness deep at turning of the year.”