by Marion Denelle, Spokeswoman of the House of Dibella
The phrase ‘Dibellan Arts’ had always been met with somewhat dramatic reactions. There are usually two extremes – either they are eagerly accepted by shameless hedonists who want their improper way of life viewed as pious, or on the other side, the overly temperate zealots who consider the Arts’ existence as an affront to the Divine Dibella, or even doubt Dibella’s divinity altogether. Unfortunately, there are too few people who just see the existence of Dibellan Arts as something that simply is, something that is necessary, and something that is not to be exploited. The Arts are not unlike any other work performed on behalf of the Divines – be it a militant service to Stendarr’s Vigil, or preparing bodies of the deceased for Arkay’s burial – holy and virtuous.
But ultimately, the most important thing to know about the Dibellan Arts is what’s apparent in the name, and that is their multiplicity. The one thing most people usually associate with the Dibellan Arts is the somewhat hedonistic enjoyment of life’s pleasures, namely the sexual ones. This is what they are the most criticized and the most praised for by the general public. It is, however, only a small part of what the Arts offer, with the rest usually being ignored, which is sad. I will attempt to clear all these misconceptions, and broaden the reader’s understanding of Dibella and her cult in the process.
Starting with the root of the problem – this Dibellan Art is the art of sexual pleasure. Its origins are with the Nedic tribes of Cyrodiil and beyond, whose devotion of Dibella was deeply ingrained in their overall religious practice. However, contrary to popular belief, the so-called belly magic, or ‘Diblashuut’, had almost never taken the form of sacred prostitution. Ordained priestesses of Dibella did not provide sexual services to believers seeking enlightenment, for payment or otherwise. The role of the priest or priestess was instruction. It was tradition that young couples would seek out a cult of Dibella, usually soon after their marriage rite with Mara, as this would be proper, but marriage was not a requirement. There, they would be taught how to properly take care of each other’s needs, by the priests and priestesses of Dibella. These sacred techniques, accessible to the public in this way, were developed by countless generations of priests’ direct inspiration by Dibella.
This practice continues to this day, although the prevalence of more temperate minded Divines, namely Akatosh, Stendarr and Mara, had cast a certain taboo on seeking out this help. As a result, many of the sacred techniques of the flesh, which the priesthood of Dibella kept, were lost. Seekers of instruction often resort to visiting the cult individually as opposed to with partner, for the fear and shame of having to engage in sex together, in front of the priests, and simply seek only theoretical instruction instead, which is not as effective. And this brought further doubt to the practice, as to an outside observer, it looks like the instruction seekers are simply customers of a brothel that masquerades as a temple. But as explained, this is simply wrong, and it is sad that this happens.
One notable exception was a certain tribe of Nedes that made their home beyond the Velothi Mountains, in the early First Era. This tribe, whose existence had been documented by both Cyrodiilic and Dunmer literature, worshiped Dibella as the wife of Magnar, a Nedic sun god. Her symbol was a rising sun, painted red. Since human existence in such an elf-dominated land was quite hazardous, their cult of Dibella started offering sexual services in exchange for money, food and weapons for their tribe. This way of life sustained them for at least a few centuries, until the newly turned Dunmer race drove them out of Morrowind. In Chimer language, this cult of Dibella was referred to as the ‘Red Wives of Dagon’, due to misattribution of their symbol of the red rising sun with the symbol of Mehrunes Dagon. The ancient Chimer had no concept of Dibella or Magnus in their faith, and therefore, in their ignorance, connected the symbolism to a deity they did know, Mehrunes Dagon. Besides this one instance of sacred prostitution in the cult of Dibella, we know of no other in recorded history.
It is relatively common to encounter people claiming to practice Dibellan Arts by engaging in sexual relations with many other people (often strangers) and sometimes for pay. While this is not against Dibella’s teachings, it is important to note that these are not ordained priests of Dibella, but lay practitioners. Another aspect of this is, that while Dibella encourages to find sexual pleasure, it should never be to the detriment of other people’s pleasure. This manifests in two rules – never break apart existing relationships with infidelity (unless the partner allows this), and always seek consent for the actions you do upon your partner (if you like inflicting pain, your partner should like receiving it).
This is a Dibellan Art most shrouded in mystery. The inner circles of Dibellan cults guard the secrets of the rites surrounding their Sybils. The wider, lower rank priesthood of Dibella, myself included, does not know the details either. For the purposes of the document, however, Sybil Ena of Anvil agreed to share some concepts behind the rites of the Dibellan Sybils:
A Sybil is always revealed as a child. When the old Sybil of a temple is approaching death, she or a priestess close to her will receive a vision showing her the next Sybil. Unfortunately, this does not go well with many people who criticize the Dibellan faith. They see a little girl inducted to a cult led by women whose work includes sexual advice, and naturally assume that something foul is taking place. But the opposite is the truth.
You see, a Sybil is always a kind of priestess known as a ‘vestal’. Vestals are sworn virgins their entire life. The Exalted Protocol of Dibellan Sybil is a rite when a Sybil takes this oath. To swear off the pleasures of the flesh, Dibella herself considers the greatest sacrifice that can ever be given. In return for this sacrifice, a Sybil receives visions from the Goddess, intended to lead the particular temple or cult in the right direction. Sybils are divinely chosen for their innate strength of will required to stand by their sacred oath for the rest of their lives.
This form of augury is not unlike the practice of the Moth Priests, who sacrifice their vision and sanity to view divine truths directly. It is no mere coincidence that the Nordic aspect of Dibella was a Moth Totem, and the cult of the Ancestor Moths focuses on ancestry and prophecy. Dibella is the agent of new love and new life. All that is born comes from the love she provides. Past generations and future generations are connected by an unbroken silk thread, which is Dibella herself.
Dibella’s particular affection for women is highlighted in this Art. The Goddess witnesses all instances of domestic abuse, in which the wives are usually on the suffering end. To combat this injustice, she inducted her cults into the practice of Breathless Embrace – a set of graceful, but fast and powerful motions intended for self defense.
Yes. This is a martial art.
Women in these unfortunate situations kept seeking the help of the cults of Dibella. Sometimes, they simply hoped to be safe from their husbands, but some hoped to turn them into good men again. Other institutions would consider this a monumental task, a systemic problem which cannot be ended by only the prayers of a few despairing women, but Dibella would never abandon them. Even if their love was aimed at undeserving men.
Through the instructors in the Dibellan priesthood, suffering women learned to protect themselves. Men used simple brute strength to overcome women, so women had to learn how to be fast, precise and effective. The essence of Breathless Embrace is to knock the opponent out before they gain enough momentum to overpower you.
Whether the women who learn this Art manage to rekindle their husbands’ love for them or not, varies case by case. Breathless Embrace is the last resort in marriage counseling. Most of such violent men tend to want to end their marriage if the wife starts overpowering them regularly, and this is probably the best case for the wife as well. But some men really do change for the better, and start thinking of their wife as their equal, and love her as themselves. Dibella forgives such men. It is never too late to turn a new leaf.
Creation of Beauty
The most common expression of one’s devotion to Dibella is to create something beautiful. Painting an artwork, composing or performing music, or even cooking delicious food, anything original that we mortals would enjoy, the Goddess enjoys. Certain Dibellan cults focus entirely on artistic expression. They maintain schools of art and offer lessons there, they organize festivals where people may buy or sell their art pieces, they teach local craftsmen how to make their designs visually appealing in addition to functional, and many other applications of art and beauty in public life. There are certain advanced techniques in each art form, which the Dibellan priesthood focuses on teaching. One notable art form favoured by the priesthood – namely priestesses – is make-up. They can create it, choose the appropriate one for each person, apply it, and teach how to do it all to those seeking help, mostly women. Male priests usually focus on tattoos instead.
The most important thing about these Dibellan Arts is to have the right reason to perform them. Ultimately, it should be love. Love is the desire to make someone happy, and this is what artists should aim for. Whether they do it for the amusement of the general public, or for their own enjoyment of the work, does not matter. Self love is still love, and Dibella approves of it. What matters, however, is that art should never be just a means of accumulating wealth. Selling your creation to pay the bills is fine, as long as there is enjoyment in the process. Sometimes, accomplished artists grow too prideful of their own skill, and begin to see their innate talent as only a way to climb the social ladder, towards greater gains. To reach this point is to lose Dibella’s favour.
The culmination of this Dibellan Art was the creation of the Brush of Truepaint, one of her artifacts. A champion of Dibella wielding this instrument can bring their art to reality. Many devotees dream of receiving the Brush from the Goddess, and some of them have their prayers answered, if only for a time. How exactly it works, only Dibella knows. But every time it surfaces, something incredible is created.
There is great beauty in words. Written, spoken, sung, they can all bring pleasure or ruin if used well. Priests of any god would do well to learn how to use words to the best of their ability, but Dibella also instructs hers to teach a certain kind of rhetoric to all seekers of love that find their way to her temple.
One of the most common causes of unhappiness, especially among young people, is unrequited love. Either a person is outright rejected by the subject of their affection, or they simply cannot find the courage to go speak to them in a seductive manner. And this is when this Dibellan Art comes in.
Priests of Dibella will teach Charming Rhetoric to these yearning souls. They will learn what to say or write, in what manner and in what situation, in order to win the heart of their loved one. If this does not work anyway, it was probably never meant to be. Dibella will find love wherever it is possible to find it, but there are limits. Sometimes, your loved one already loves someone else, with the same kind of love as yours. Why should your love take precedent? No. Never break apart relationships, unless they are harmful or toxic (as described under ‘Breathless Embrace’, for instance). This is where Dibella will draw the line.
I hope this document broadened your conception of Dibella, her cults, her Arts, and that you will now see them in a better light. It is never too late to find a way into Dibella’s warm embrace, and if reading this inspired you to do so, do not hesitate, and seek her out. Your local Dibellan cult can likely induct you into an Art of your choice, and if not, they will know where to send you.
May Her Love lead you to find Beauty in your Life.Dibella, The Empress | Art courtesy of AredheelMaha, DeviantArt