This is a continuation of my previous post which covered “The Changing Relationship with the Gods” and focused on the human and charr’s changing relationship with their deities. This time I want to look at the new philosophy of the sylvari, and the old of the asura and norn.
Old and New Religions
The asuran Eternal Alchemy is very much a Gaia-esque philosophy. They believe in the interconnectedness of every facet of life – from the trees, plants and animals, to the sentient races, the land itself and even destructive forces such as the Elder Dragons. Each element pushes and pulls against every other; like a great web – the vibration of one thread shakes the entire web. Each of these elements is a variable in a vast equation, the result of which is the world and everything in it. As a result the Eternal Alchemy can’t help but have been rocked by the introduction of the Dragon threat.
I mentioned in my asura week review that the ultimate aim of any asuran scholar is to work out the definitive formula of life. The Elder Dragons are a volatile and unpredictable variable and as a result the formula must be shifting dramatically day-by-day. It is often in times of urgency and distress that great truths are revealed: status quo is dull, it's easy to overlook interesting elements when they are the same everyday – change is revealing, change brings important variables to the forefront, perhaps this is the time for the asuran race to finally balance the eternal equation?
The norn-revered Spirits of the Wild are the only deities to actually directly combat the Elder Dragons face-on (as far as we are aware). When he first rose, a number of the lesser spirits (Dolyak, Owl, Wolverine and Eagle) fought with Jormag in the Far Shiverpeaks, while the more highly regarded spirits (Bear, Wolf, Raven and Snow Leopard) led the norn south to safer ground. As a result of this battle, the norn have lost contact with all of the lesser spirits who met Jormag in battle – with Owl being confirmed dead, and the others missing. With guidance from the surviving Spirits, the norn have settled in the North Shiverpeaks.
Just as they did in their native lands further north, the norn revere the Spirits of the Wild – as they embody all the most important characteristics of their natural counterparts (Bear – strength, Wolf – loyalty, Raven – cunning, Snow Leopard – independence), and the norn seek to instil these characteristics within themselves through their guidance. If the norn have lost contact with certain lesser Spirits which embody important characteristics it remains to be seen whether they can learn these important lessons without the help of the equivalent Spirit.
The final race to cover is the sylvari. At only 25 years of age, even the oldest sylvari has a relatively limited knowledge of the natural and supernatural world. Each sylvari is borne into Tyria with a working knowledge of the world bestowed upon them during their dreams in the Pale Tree; this dream must include at least vague knowledge of the Six Gods, the Titans, Destroyers and Mursaat, The Eternal Alchemy and the Spirits of the Wild. Once born, many sylvari go out into the world with a voracious hunger to learn and experience as much as possible.
The sylvari’s ontological perspective is somewhat difficult to pin down, it is obviously heavily influenced by their connection to the Pale Tree – and so is similar to the Eternal Alchemy in that respect – but they certainly don’t worship the tree as a god as the humans do with The Six. They look to the Tree for guidance through the collective Dream, just as the humans and norn do with their deities, but they do not allow these Dreams (and more specifically, the Nightmares) to dictate their life, as the charr allowed themselves to be manipulated by the malevolent forces which they believed to be gods. They have picked and chosen elements from a number of theisms to inform their perspective – and have resulted in a ontology which is close to Buddhism, rather than any in-game religion.
There is, however, another way to look at the sylvari. Rather than a race created to worship a deity, they could be the result of the actions of one (or a number of them).
I’ve barked up this tree before (and my assertion that the Nightmares could be as a result of the Pale Tree feeling the affect of the Dragonbrand on Tyria was kinda shot down when this post stated that the sylvari aren’t affected by Dragon corruption), but I still firmly believe that the emergence of the sylvari around the same time as the rise of the Elder Dragons could not be coincidence. The sylvari could be the attempt by the Eternal Alchemy to bring balance to the equation; a gift from the Gods to help to combat the threat of the Dragons.