Again we begin the hunt of each of Vivec's children with the Provisional House, from which Vivec can find hir Children. Most likely this indicates that Vivec's Children are not easily found.
As we've discussed in previous Sermons, like Sermon 19, Vivec's Provisional House allows hir to see the "mind" of Mundus. And because everything is one in the Dream of Mundus, this allows Vivec to perceive every aspect of the Dream itself.
Wooden swords weren't always toys for children. Roman gladiators were given a wooden gladius if they survived long enough to be gifted their freedom. Vedic sacrificial rituals included a wooden sword to represent Indra's thunderbolt. And Crowley suggested that swords belonged to the element of Air, which is Vivec's element. But what purpose did the Treasure Wood Sword serve in the Elder Scrolls…? Time for the next comment!
A "lessoning tune" is another way to phrase an instructional song. Think of it as a bit like learning your ABCs with a song. The Treasure Wood Sword more than likely taught the Lower Houses a secret it had inherited from Vivec, one that it understood due to its inheritance of the aspect of Air.
The precise nature of that lesson is almost certainly explained in Sermon 23. But we'll cover that in it's own time.
Both the words "Splinter" and "Scintilla" mean a very minute portion of a larger object. This speaks to the Treasure Wood Sword's nature as a "child" of Vivec and Molag Bal.
Scintillae is also a term used in alchemical symbolism. It was used by Jung to represent the concept of "sparks from the unconscious," which draws strong connections with what Crowley called the "inner star," the splinter of divinity shared by all mankind.
Boiling things down to the most basic point, how does one know of themselves? First, there must be the development of an intellectual faculty that is capable of discerning what is "one's self" and what is "not one's self." In a way, it can be said that the ability to understand the concept of the "self" is to first comprehend the existence of the external.
The formation of this self-knowledge creates the ability to critically consider one's own position in the world, and how a person interacts with and is influenced by external forces.
The ability to achieve CHIM, however, requires that a mortal must (in a way) work against this perception of self and internalize the non-existence of the self. One must undo the act of self-knowledge in order to fully comprehend the true nature of reality. But one must still somehow retain that self-knowledge to avoid zero-sum. This contradiction is why I consider CHIM to be similar to divine intervention - it's impossible, and therefore only possible by divine influence. The connection to modern Western magic, of course, is that often repeated phrase by Crowley that we throw around here so often: every man and every woman is a star, and every star is a god. Therefore, the ability to perform true magic only depends on our ability to commune with the shard of God inside of us.
The Treasure Wood Sword assists in this goal by providing the first step of this metaphysical evolution by allowing the wielder to fully comprehend their "self." Once the self is comprehended, it can be removed, providing unlimited access to our own star.
Vivec appears in the ancestral tomb of House Mora - the house to which Nerevar belonged prior to his marriage to Almalexia. The Northern Demons are the Nords who were driven out in Sermon 9, during the War of Succession in Skyrim.
More than likely, this prince of garlands is Moraleyn, who was adorned with "the Black Rose of Morrowind." Moraleyn was a prominent member of House Ra'athim, who ruled over Ebonheart and, by extension, all of Morrowind. If ALMSIVI are the Gods of Morrowind, House Ra'athim are the royal family.
Hi bones! Pull up a chair, I'll put on some tea. You look so thin! Have you lost weight?
Just because you have the Sword doesn't make you awesome. This could also be a reference towards Mantling, intending to specify that the changes cannot be in appearance only. You can't, after all, wear the clothes of Tiber Septim (for example) and then expect to become him.
This is also a fairly obvious reference to the passing of the Mantle of Elijah in 2 Kings. This biblical story teaches much the same concept as this passage in the Lessons: wearing the clothes of a wise man does not mean you will inherit the knowledge of the previous owner.
And, as with all Lessons, this serves as a lesson to Nerevar, and possibly also the Nerevarine. Even if you wear the armor of a former hero, you are not that hero. The Fourth Walking Way, Mantling, is far more involved than simple adaptation of cosmetic changes.
I suspect the "perfect happiness" is another dig at the Altmer (the weepers).
Does erasure from the thought-realm of God mean zero-sum? At least it means total eradication from reality.
Honestly, we can't figure out who Vivec is referring to here. Katariah and Barenziah are candidates, but neither were notable "enchantresses" that we can tell.
It's possible that this might be King Moraelyn himself, but it's unlikely. Since we really get a direct identification of this spirit, it's more likely that it's just a guardian of House Mora's ancestral tomb.
It's hard to see three of anything and not think of the various triunes in the Lessons: ALMSIVI, Guardian Constellations, etc. But let's not get distracted. Certainly, the most significant note here is that the Chimer (or perhaps Mer in general) used to embed precious stones in their jaws as a "magical practice," which might be similar to the practice of residents in Seyda Neen embedding jewels in their foreheads, an idea that was scrapped during Morrowind's conceptual development phase.
The phrasing of this sentence is strange. Is it insisting that the stone is Opal and the color of Opal, or that it is not Opal, but it is the color of Opal? And if any of these are true, why the distinction? None of the other two stones are described.
The significance of opal in real-world cultures is also unclear. Opals can represent misfortune, faithful love, or act as a talisman for thieves, depending on who you ask. And while all of those smell like they might be relevant, after further research, none carry a firm metaphysical connection that I feel comfortable with.
The bone-walker feels this gives him some leverage, as Vivec is anticipated by Mephala. And that Mephala is running around cutting deals with people over Vivec's children is also interesting. But Vivec calls the message delivered by the Bone Walker "useless noise."
We can probably assume that this, like Vivec's "The fire is mine" prayer, is a reference to returning to the Waters of Oblivion by means of SITHIS, one way or another. (See Ancestors and the Dunmer and The Doors of the Spirit for more information on the Dunmer concept of the afterlife). By telling the Bone Walker to return to the Drowned Lamp, ze tells the spirit to return to memory, and to stop dwelling in the world of the living.
Here Vivec denies any perceived obligations to Mephala. Ze may have been anticipated by Mephala, true. But Vivec considers hirself to be hir own Master, and as such, obligated to nothing and no one.
Note that the "darkest mothers" may not actually mean women, but rather mother-figures.
Anyway, Undusted loyalty. Wink.
Fans of Faust might find this section somewhat familiar. Faust descended into a realm that sounds very much like oblivion to find The Mothers and retrieve beauty via the use of a "key". This is pretty thick with Jungian symbolism, much of which echoes what Vivec more directly states in this section of Sermon 22.
We can assume that this, and the next line, describe the Morag Tong assassinating the Ra'athim Clan. But is it murder, or is it conversion? We know that the Dark Brotherhood originated as a splinter of the Morag Tong, so did we just witness the creation of the Dark Brotherhood? Does that make Vivec the Night Mother? Or is this just… I'm sorry there's someone at the door.
Vivec is not the Night Mother. Put that thought out of your head before someone pulls it out.
This seems to reinforce the idea that the Ra'athim are being "converted" instead of "murdered," (which is often the same thing in the Lessons) but if so, why use the Morag Tong? Probably because murder was a requirement for conversion. And also because Vivec may not perceive a difference.
Note that Vivec does not "pierce" the Treasure Wood Sword with Muatra. If murder/conversion must happen to each of his Children, it has already happened to Treasure Wood Sword, an act performed by the Morag Tong.
It is also possible that Vivec intends to use the Treasure Wood Sword later, and so ze does not "solve" it with Muatra so that ze can wield it against hir enemies. In fact, this is very likely if you consider the "Sword Not Held" in Sermon 20 to be the Treasure Wood Sword, not held since it was obtained retroactively, in the future.
And if the Treasure Wood Sword represents, as we suggested earlier, the "Crowlian" sense of intellectual self-knowledge, then Vivec intends to utilize the Sword in the first half of hir life, as explained in Sermon 23.
This is likely why Vivec descended into House Mora's ancestral tomb: ze rebuilt the loyalties of House Mora from the past moving forward. By changing the House's ancestors, ze changed the origins of the House, and those changes rippled forward into the present.
That's probably not pleasant.
This could be a reference to Vivec's prayer, which we've read earlier in the Lessons. But this variation of the "fire prayer" is not for souls to which Vivec grants mercy.
Typically, placing objects in the mouths of dead people serves two purposes:
- To aid them in the journey through the afterlife, like coins to pay for Charon's boat.
- To prevent the deceased from returning and harming the living, like stones or bricks in the mouth to prevent zombies from rising again.
There's also an interesting play by Caryl Churchill and David Lan called "A Mouthful of Birds," Which deals heavily with themes of possession, madness, and female violence. A quote from the play seems relevant:
I can find no rest. My head is filled with horrible images. I can't say I actually see them, it's more that I feel them. It seems that my mouth is full of birds which I crunch between my teeth. Their feathers, their blood and broken bones are choking me. I carry on my work as a secretary.
An essay by Laura Nutten explains this passage for us:
This very potential for change, however, also signifies the potential for limitless chaos and/or danger, and paradoxically challenges the concept of revolution by madness at the same time it seems to affirm it. Indeed, not all of the characters find themselves in more desirable positions than those in which they began, Doreen in particular
Consider her initial reaction to possession... Clearly Doreen is not feeling emancipated or free from constraint, but rather miserable and diseased. And though it could be argued that such discomfort is simply the price one must pay for transformation and revolution, Doreen's position at the end of the play suggests she has made no progress whatsoever... Not only has Doreen re-assumed her old job, but she feels suffocated, stifled. Significantly birds, common symbols of flight and liberty, are what smother her, intimating that signs of freedom (including madness) may not always be what they seem.
I think I like this interpretation. The fate of Moraleyn, who refused to acknowledge Vivec's sovereignty and insulted hir by inferring that ze was inferior to hir anticipation, is to have his eyes turned to a prayer for the wicked, to suffer in Dagon's corner, and to be driven to madness by a symbol of freedom.
Like many other Sermons, Sermon 22 explains historical events through the lens of Vivec's Godhood. The conversion of House Ra'athim into House Hlaalu is not prominent in a Morrowind Player's mind, considering the event is not very relevant to the game's story. But a more interesting question left unanswered is why Vivec felt it was necessary to explain hir role in an event that is mostly the domain of mortals, and not relevant to enlightenment or the education of Nerevar (or the Nerevarine).
The reason might be related to Sermon 23, which expands on the legend of Vivec's Treasure Wood Sword with the Sermon of the Sword, a meditation on a Walking Way and the usefulness and application of warfare.
Synopsis | Narration
Then Vivec left the first Whirling School and went back to the space that was not a space. From the Provisional House he looked into the middle world to find the second monster, which was called the Treasure Wood Sword. Within years of the Pomegranate Banquet, it had become a lessoning tune to the lower Velothi houses. They preached of its power:
'The Treasure Wood Sword, splinter scintilla of the high and glorious! He who wields it becomes self-known!' The warrior-poet appeared as a visitation in the ancestor alcove of House Mora, whose rose-worn prince of garlands was a hero against the northern demons. Vivec congregated with the bones. He said:
'A scavenger cannot acquire a silk sash and expect to discover the greater systems of its predecessor: perfect happiness is embraced only by the weeping. Give me back (and do so freely) what is barren of my marriage and I will not erase you from the thought realm of God. Your line has a notable enchantress that my sister Ayem is fond of and from her murky wisdom alone do I condescend to ask.'
A bone-walker emerged from a wall. It had three precious stones set in its lower jaw, a magical practice of old. One was opal, the color of opal. The bone-walker bowed to the prince of the middle air and said:
'The Treasure Wood Sword will not leave our house. Bargains were made with the Black Hands Mephala, the greater shade.'
Vivec kissed the first precious stone and said:
'Animal picture, rude-walker, go back to the lamp that stays lit in water and store no more messages of useless noise. Down.'
He kissed the second precious stone and said:
'Proud residue, soon dispersed, serve no guarantees made in my fore-image and demand nothing of its under-skin. I am master evermore. Down.'
He kissed the opal and said:
'Down I take thee.'
And then Vivec withdrew into the hidden places and found the darkest mothers of the Morag Tong, taking them all to wife and filling them with undusted loyalty that tasted of summer salt. They became as black queens, screaming live with a hundred murderous sons, a thousand murderous arms, and a hundred thousand murderous hands, one vast moving event of thrusting-kill-laughter in alleys, palaces, workshops, cities and secret halls. Their movements among the holdings of the Ra'athim were as rippled endings, heaving between times, with all fates leading to swallowed knives, murder as moaning, God's holy rape-erasure of wet death.
The King of Assassins presented to Vivec the Treasure Wood Sword.
'Milord,' the King of Assassins said. 'The prince of House Mora is now fond of you, as well. I placed him in the Corner of Dagon. His eyes I set into a fire prayer for the wicked. His mouth I stuffed with birds.'
The ending of the words is ALMSIVI.
In Sermon 22, Vivec solves the problem of hir second child, the Treasure Wood Sword, who has irritatingly become an important figure in Velothi house culture. This is unacceptable, because Vivec's children represent hir flaws, and Velothi culture must be kept flawless.
In Morrowind, Sermon 22 grants a bonus to the Medium Armor skill. It is worth 200 Septims and weighs 3 units. A copy can be found in Balmora, at Hlaalo Manor, in the Temple at Gnisis, and in Ald'ruhn, at Morvayn Manor.
Sermon 29 names this Sermon "Unknown." Its number is 453, which references the word "his."