- The Imperial Cult in Morrowind (and in general) as per
- and bits of https://www.tamriel-rebuilt.org/old_forum/viewtopic.php?t=24493
Imperial Cult 101
- The Imperial Cult is not the state religion of the Empire. The Empire does not have one, it has nine state gods instead (the Great Faiths).
- This goes back to Alessia's syncretic religion, which fused Elven and Nordic Gods. This pseudo-pantheon survived the Marukhathi’s monotheism, and was (re)established as formal Great Faiths under Reman I., then eventually reaffirmed and expanded to eight-and-one by Pelagius I., the second Septim emperor.
- The nine Great Faiths do not proselytize much and are generally inwards-looking. They are not opposed to proselytization, but do not need to bother in Cyrodiil and as such never established the practice.
- Pelagius I. established the Imperial Cult as the state-sponsored missionary arm of the Great Faiths. As such, the Cult is a sort of provincial amalgamate organisation which is sometimes at odds with doctrinal details of its mother faiths. A single Primate acts as a leader and controls a province’s Cult, copying the setup of the Great Faiths (which are also each headed by a Primate).
- Alongside the Cult, Pelagius I. also established the Ennead Council as a conclave of authoritative high priests and cult leaders. Nominally headed by the Emperor, it is formed by the Primates of each Great Faith alongside representatives of sub-cults and Imperial emissaries. The Imperial Cult Primates are notably not part of this organisation.
- However, the Ennead Council oversees and controls an bureaucratic execution branch, the Imperial Seminary. The Seminary primarily acts as institute for theological study, treasury and mediator between the members of the Ennead Council, but also operates as a middleman for the Imperial Cult Primates.
- In Morrowind, the (Old) Ebonheart Grand Chapel of Talos was established first by its occupation soldiers and Nibennese settlers and became the headquarter of the Imperial Cult shortly after Pelagius' time. Imperial shrines in Hlaalu towns are dedicated to specific divines and operate largely independently, but are formally (and in gameplay terms) part of the Imperial Cult. Some might predate the cult, or indeed the Third Empire.
- The Imperial Cult exists in similar forms in Black Marsh, Elsweyr, and Valenwood.
- In summary: the Imperial Cult is a state organisation promoting Imperial values along with a syncretic pantheon, based on the nine Great Faiths of Cyrodiil, on the provinces on the behest of the Emperor.
The Oracle Problem
A problem exists because while the Imperial Cult claims that the player is ever a lay member, the "Oracle" rank exists, which has a specific meaning. Namely, receiving divine visions and portents.
As such, the problem is how to reconcile these two meanings with the fact that we need to keep things reasonably optional (as the IC endgame will be changed with TR_Factions and pretty much does not exist in the vanilla game).
A third problem is that there are existing plans for a player Oracle in Cyrodiil. Having the player become a recognized Oracle in Morrowind would turn that into a giant ball of problems.
So, in summary:
- Oracles of the Divines would be distrusted by the Tribunal Temple and locals, but are greatly respected among those worshipping the Nine Divines.
- Due to repeated interactions with divine avatars and other notable events (non-divine visions the Nerevarine receives, possible other weirdness), the player will be recognized as a sort of "lay oracle" in Morrowind upon reaching the requisite point in faction progression; the vanilla rank of oracle would be tied to that recognition in TR's Imperial Cult questline.
- This will open the Imperial Cult endgame (audience with the Primate) or be a show stopper in some other kind of way.
Addendum - the Cyrodiil Oracle questline:
The idea is that a new oracle is only made known once they appear in the visions of another oracle. So, when the player starts showing up in the visions of an oracle in the High Temple of Kynareth, they are sent out to an arduous vision quest up somewhere in the Barrowlands around Sancre Tor. After some tribulations and potentially a visit of an avatar of Kynareth, the player would become an oracle and use their own visions as a guide to further the faction questline (essentially becoming your own quest giver).
The key point there would be that a) becoming an oracle would be a huge deal for other members of the faction, and b) the visions would not necessarily be Dagoth-style, but should have their own unique style that sets them apart from what you otherwise get.
Other Lay Questlines
The idea is to expand the original game's three laymen service quest chains into eight (nine?) which have a soft, almost unspoken association with specific divines.
The layman player can take service with specific agents in the Imperial Cult (the equivalent of the almoner (Zenithar), lay healer (Kynareth), and shrine sergeant (Stendarr) of the vanilla game) for short, rather low-level quests which are focused around specific duties associated with specific Divines.
The exact roles and nature of these duties can be developed some other time. One suggestion was a “tomb maintainer” for Arkay or a “notary/officiant” for Akatosh (overseeing consecrations).