Aeldari Mythology, also called the Aeldari Myth Cycles, is an ancient cultural force of myths and legends which binds the surviving members of the Aeldari species together and forms a basis for much of their thinking about their ancient past.
There were several gods that composed the pantheon of Aeldari myth, yet all but three -- Cegorach, Isha and Khaela Mensha Khaine -- were destroyed in the Fall of the Aeldari and the birth of the Chaos God Slaanesh, absorbed like so many other Aeldari souls into the psychic mass of She Who Thirsts.
A new Aeldari god, Ynnead, who is not part of the original mythology, is said to be forming from the souls of the Asuryani dead within the Infinity Circuits of the craftworlds and to have recently partially awoken during the Battle of Port Demesnus in ca. 999.M41, giving rise to the new Aeldari kindred known as the Ynnari.
Genesis of the Aeldari
The mythology of the Aeldari teaches that they are the children of Isha, the goddess of fertility and the harvest and Kurnous, the god of the hunt. In the early days of the Aeldari race's existence, there was no barrier between the gods and mortals -- no boundary between the Materium and the Immaterium -- and the deities walked among the early Aeldari, teaching them and leading them in a golden age of peace and prosperity.
Yet one day, Lileath the Maiden, the Aeldari goddess of dreams, dreamed that the Aeldari would cause the destruction of Khaela Mensha Khaine, the god of war. As Lileath was well-known for the power of her prophetic dreams among the gods of the pantheon, Khaine took the warning very seriously and resolved to wipe out the Aeldari race rather than let them destroy him. The ensuing slaughter was of such proportions that Isha, goddess of the earth, petitioned Asuryan, the Phoenix King and leader of the Aeldari pantheon, to stop it.
Asuryan did so, and created a barrier between the Aeldari and their gods, forever separating the two, and decreed that no god was to intervene or communicate with the Aeldari ever again, thus creating the barrier that separates the physical universe from the Immaterium. So, Khaine's war on the Aeldari was stopped, for a time.
This was too much for Isha, though, and her consort Kurnous, god of the hunt. Isha and Kurnous loved their children the Aeldari and could not bear to be separated from them. They approached Vaul, the smith god, with their woes, and the kindly Vaul agreed to help them. With Vaul's aid, they forged Spirit Stones through which mortal Aeldari could communicate with the gods.
With these stones, Isha and Kurnous continued to teach and mentor their mortal children in secrecy. Peace was not to last, though, as one day Khaine stumbled upon the two as they communicated with the Aeldari, and took the information of their violation of his edict straight to Asuryan.
Though Asuryan was sympathetic with Isha and Kurnous, they had broken his own laws and he reluctantly decreed that the two gods be given to Khaine, to do with as he wished.
War in Heaven
Khaine tortured Isha and Kurnous, utilising every cruel art he knew. Many of the Aeldari gods thought Khaine was going too far and secretly supported Isha and Kurnous, but only one was willing to stand up for them in public. The smith god Vaul petitioned for their release, and eventually he and Khaine came to an agreement. In one year's time, Khaine would release Isha and Kurnous in exchange for one hundred divinely-crafted swords. Vaul was such a master smith that a single blade of his was of incalculable value -- indeed, a single mortal armed with such a Sword of Vaul could stand against a thousand warriors armed with mundane weapons.
Vaul immediately set to work, rejoicing. Unfortunately though, when the year was up, he had only completed ninety-nine swords, rendering the bargain void. He took an ordinary mortal blade and mixed it in with the others, hoping that Khaine would not notice. Upon delivery, Khaine was so pleased with the weapons that he released Isha and Kurnous forthwith, delighting in the craftsmanship that had gone into the swords. It was only when Isha and Kurnous were long gone that Khaine discovered the one mortal sword.
Khaine roared in anger, calling Vaul a cheat, a liar, and a thief. He immediately set off to track Vaul down and make him pay. The conflicts that followed, remembered as the "War in Heaven," polarised the Aeldari gods, as Khaine's faction and Vaul's engaged in bloody warfare for an eternity. Gods changed sides, great deeds of heroism and of craven evil were performed by both factions, and the war was mirrored in a struggle between the Aeldari in the mortal realm. Asuryan himself never took a side, watching the carnage impassively, slowly coming to regret his impetuosity in sentencing Isha and Kurnous.
This is not the only version of the Aeldari myth of the hundred Swords of Vaul; another consists of the Aeldari and Khaine going to war with the Necrons and failing because of the one "mortal" sword, thus encapsulating in Aeldari mythology more of the truth of their species -- that they were created as a psychic warrior race by the Old Ones to help defeat their enemies the Necrons and the C'tan.
Anaris, the Light of the Dawn
As the conflict between the Aeldari gods escalated, Vaul reforged the final sword that had been meant for Khaine, and it proved to be the greatest of all. Vaul called it Anaris, "the Light of the Dawn." Armed with this weapon, Vaul strode forth to do battle with Khaine. It was a long, hard-fought struggle, but even with Anaris, Vaul was no match for the war god. Khaine cast down Vaul, maiming the smith, and bound Vaul to his own anvil.
However, the falcon Faolchú, consort of the Great Hawk Asuryan, who had fought for Vaul, took the sword Anaris and delivered it straight to Eldanesh, the greatest of the mortal Aeldari heroes. With Anaris in hand, Eldanesh of the Red Moon took up the fight and faced Khaine in single combat. Eldanesh fought well, but in the end he, too, was defeated by Khaine, his body crushed by the god of war.
As Khaine slew Eldanesh his hands began to drip with red blood. Forever after, he was to become known as "Khaela Mensha Khaine," which means "Khaine the Bloody-Handed" in the Aeldari Lexicon. Asuryan had seen enough of the slaughter and proclaimed the War in Heaven over. Khaine had attained his vengeance and left the field satisfied.
Fall of the Aeldari Gods
Millions of Terran years later in the 29th Millennium of the Imperial Calendar, after the Aeldari race had travelled to the stars and forged a great empire through the creation of their Webway in the Immaterium, they grew decadent and indulgent. Their thoughts and emotions coalesced in the Warp into a new and deadly God of Chaos -- Slaanesh, the Prince of Pleasure. The birth of Slaanesh and the Fall of the Aeldari heralded the end of the Aeldari pantheon.
Slaanesh slew the Aeldari gods viciously -- Lileath, Asuryan, even the old, blind Morai-Heg, the goddess of fate, all were murdered by Slaanesh. Khaine, the mightiest warrior of the gods, did battle with Slaanesh and was cast down and eventually shattered into a million pieces which became the Avatars of Khaine that now belong within the Infinity Circuit of every Asuryani craftworld. Thus did Lileath's ancient prophecy come true, for the Aeldari were the cause of Khaine's destruction -- even as he battled to save them.
Though this is certainly the most well-known of their myths, Aeldari mythology contains many stories, and each Aeldari is expected to know at least all of the major ones. The effect of these myths upon the Aeldari language is profound as it is said to be amazingly complex and almost incomprehensible to Human ears, mainly due to the constant and intricate references to these myths. For example, the Aeldari word Faolchú, which commonly refers to the Aeldari gravitic tank known as the Falcon among Mankind, also refers to the legendary bird and its actions during the Aeldari myths, lending the word connotations beyond the immediate meaning.
Near the end of the Aeldari's version of the War in Heaven, it is believed by one craftworld that when Slaanesh claimed Isha as his own, Nurgle the Plague Lord heard her cries for help and came to her aid. Nurgle took Isha from the jaws of Slaneesh and now she is caged within his cauldron chamber in the Realm of the Plague Lord in the Warp, making her taste all of the poisons and poxes that he designs. If the results please him, he empties the contents into a bottomless drain, making it rain upon the mortal worlds. If it does not please him, he swallows the concoction, vomits it back into his cauldron and starts afresh. It is said that while Nurgle is busy with his plagues, Isha whispers to mortals, seeking to tell them the cures for the poxes she has tasted.
Note that the "War in Heaven" is also a term occasionally used to describe the [[War in Heaven (Necron)|war between the Necrontyr and the Old Ones sixty million Terran years ago]] in the days when the galaxy was young. This war is not the same as that conflict of the same name described in the Aeldari myths -- it merely shares the same name, though some Imperial and even Aeldari scholars contend that the one is based upon the other. It is also important to remember that the War in Heaven may be a myth, not actual history -- the Aeldari believe it happened, but believe it as a religious myth or metaphor rather than as an actual sequence of events.
However, it should be noted that "gods" do exist in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, often as the psychic manifestation in the Immaterium of the collective unconsciousness of a large group of sentient beings built up over time. Slaanesh was created in this way, just as the new Aeldari god Ynnead is forming even now within the protected Immaterium of the craftworlds' Infinity Circuits. The C'tan (also called "Star Gods"; in fact, C'tan is said to translate from the ancient Necrontyr tongue as "Star God") are incredibly powerful, god-like entities which feed on the energy provided by stars and mortal life energies, though their energies exist solely within the material universe, which is why they are so vulnerable to psychic abilities.
Gods of the Aeldari
The Aeldari pantheon is considered to have been destroyed by the creation of Slaanesh during the Fall of the Aeldari. While the Aeldari still revere all the gods and preserve their stories within the mythic cycles, they do not call on them for aid or hope for their intervention any longer.
- Asuryan - Sometimes known as the Phoenix King, Asuryan was the king of the pantheon of Aeldari gods. While the mythic cycles seem to indicate that he held sway over all the others, he was nevertheless consumed by Slaanesh. He is often depicted in relation to fire and light, his chief symbols.
- Gea or Gia - A divine consort of both Khaine and Asuryan.
- Hoec - Hoec's role within the Aeldari pantheon is unknown. Little is known of Hoec in the fragments of Aeldari mythology available to the savants of the Imperium of Man, save that he is a mysterious wanderer who is said to be one with the Webway and has walked the paths between worlds since the stars themselves were young. Some amongst the greatest of the Aeldari Rangers who walk the Path of the Outcast, the Pathfinders, revere Hoec as their divine exemplar and patron. This is especially true for Pathfinders from Craftworld Alaitoc.
- Cegorach (or The Laughing God) - The god of the Harlequins is the other surviving god of the Aeldari Pantheon after Isha. The Laughing God was the trickster and artist of the Aeldari pantheon. When all the other Aeldari gods were destroyed, Cegorach fled before Slaanesh until Khaine rose to do battle with it. The Laughing God took this chance to escape into the realm of the Webway, as only he is said to know all the secrets of its passages. The master of the Harlequins, Cegorach is the only Aeldari god that still remains in his original form.
- Isha - Isha is the goddess of the harvest, fertility and healing and the mother of the Aeldari race. Isha is always represented as a fertility goddess by the Aeldari in many respects. She was imprisoned by Khaine for a period of time, until Vaul paid her ransom with the hundred Swords of Vaul. She is often depicted crying, and her symbol is a teared eye, symbolic of her sorrow in being separated from her mortal children by the barrier between the Materium and the Immaterium. Her tears are said to have been formed into the Aeldari Lexicon's runes by the smith god Vaul so that she could communicate with her children. It is also whispered the Isha was taken from the jaws of Slaanesh by Nurgle and she currently remains his prisoner in the Land of the Plaguelord in the Realm of Chaos.
- Kaela Mensha Khaine - The god of war, whose Avatars can still be summoned into the material universe to protect the Aeldari from its place in each craftworld's Infinity Circuit, as long as a powerful Aeldari Phoenix Lord sacrifices their life to serve as a vessel for the possessing god.
- Kurnous - Kurnous is the god of the hunt, the father of the Aeldari race, and the consort of Isha. He is often shown in conjunction with hounds, hawks, and other trappings of the hunt.
- Lileath (also known as Lilcarth) - Lileath is the Maiden, the goddess of dreams and fortune and the daughter of Isha.
- Morai-Heg - Morai-Heg is the Crone, the goddess of fate and the soul.
- Vaul - Vaul is the Artificer, the god of smiths and craft. Vaul is one of the central gods of the pantheon, and an enemy to Khaine. In order to purchase the freedom of Kurnous and Isha, Khaine demanded one hundred potent divine blades from the smith god. Vaul was unable to finish the last blade in time, and so hid a mortal blade amid the others. This fooled Khaine long enough to get Isha and Kurnous to freedom, but when he realised the trick he cried out for vengeance. Vaul finished the final blade, Anaris the Dawnlight, and took it to do battle with Khaine. Though it was the greatest of all swords, Khaine was the better warrior and crippled Vaul. The smith is often shown chained to his anvil, the punishment that Khaine set upon him.
- Ynnead - Ynnead is the still-forming god of the dead. Ynnead is a potential god formed of the souls of the dead Aeldari contained in the Infinity Circuits of the Asuryani craftworlds. Ynnead represents the last, faint hope of the Aeldari that they will overthrow Slaanesh and free themselves of his curse. The Aeldari believe the Aeldari souls contained within the Infinity Circuits of all the Craftworlds are collectively forming a new god which will have the power to destroy Slaanesh, freeing their racial soul from destruction and consumption by the Prince of Chaos. As yet the souls contained in the Circuit can muster only a tiny amount of power compared to Slaanesh -- the Aeldari believe that only once every last Aeldari has died and their souls combined into what they call Ynnead, will it have the power to finally confront and destroy Slaanesh--and the Aeldari race can be reborn.
- Codex: Aeldari (9th Edition), pp. 6-7
- Codex: Chaos Daemons (4th Edition)
- Codex: Craftworld Eldar (3rd Edition)
- Codex: Eldar (2nd Edition)
- Codex: Eldar (3rd Edition)
- Codex: Eldar (4th Edition)
- Codex: Eye of Terror (3rd Edition)
- Codex Titanicus, pg. 35
- Dawn of the C'tan - Translations of Pertinent Eldar Mythic Cycles
- Path of the Warrior (Novel) by Gav Thorpe, pg. 27
- Warhammer 40,000: Compilation (1st Edition)