The Old Gods are sleeping beings that were worshipped in the form of dragons by a significant number of Thedosians, specifically the people of the Tevinter Imperium, thousands of years ago. Legend holds that it was the Old Gods who initially taught mages how to use magic. The Archdemons are awakened Old Gods, tainted by the darkspawn.
Early history and imprisonment
We dreamed up false gods, great demons
Who could cross the Veil into the waking world,
Turned our devotion upon them, and forgot you.—From Threnodies 1
The true nature of the Old Gods is unknown. The Old Gods are not creators and even the people of ancient Tevinter attributed the creation of the world to a Maker-like deity, although by a different name.
The Chantry teaches that when the Maker turned his back on spirits, some of them grew jealous of the living. Those powerful enough whispered to the living in dreams claiming that they were the true gods, the creators of the world and the living should bow down before them. Eventually, the living summoned them through the Veil. In the mortal realm, these spirits took the form of dragons, winged Old Gods that ruled over the land. The living started to worship them instead of the Maker, an act recognized as the "Original Sin". In fury, the Maker cursed the Old Gods, imprisoning them in underground tombs where they would slumber eternally.
Some accounts suggest that the Old Gods began whispering to humanity from the Golden City in -2800 Ancient, three hundred years after the arrival of humans in Thedas. They taught magic unto the dreamers of the Neromenian tribes, and these dreamers became the priests and kings of their people. Originally, the Neromenian tribes worshipped fallen heroes reborn as dragons, and with dreamers as their leaders, they began to instead worship the dreamers' gods, also as dragons.
Scholars assume that the Old Gods must have been real at one point, but most agree that they were actual dragons of a magnitude not known today, and impressive enough to frighten ancient peoples into worshipping them. Some do even claim that these dragons slumber as a form of hibernation, not as a result of the Maker's wrath.
Worship in Tevinter
The demons who would be gods,
Began to whisper to men from their tombs within the earth.
And the men of Tevinter heard and raised altars
To the pretender-gods once more—From Threnodies 5
Legend maintains that the minds of the Old Gods continued to roam the Fade like any other dreaming individuals' mind would, and they were able to contact Neromenian dreamers once more. Honorary Archon, Thalsian accredited his discovery of blood magic in -1595 Ancient to the Old God Dumat and established the first temples dedicated to the Old Gods to show his gratitude. Dragons became equated everywhere with divine power.
Four centuries later, in -1195 Ancient Darinius founded the Tevinter Imperium and established the magisterium from the priesthood of the Old Gods. In the days of the Tevinter Imperium, the Old Gods were a pantheon of deities widely revered by most citizens, with temples and priesthoods dedicated to their veneration, such as the acolytes of Dumat, who swore oaths of silence in homage to their lord. Each god had a High Priest, and the seven of them were called the Magisters Sidereal. Holidays were popularly celebrated in tribute to the Old Gods, namely the Feast of Urthemiel, which spanned twelve full days.
During this period, the Old Gods communicated directly with their worshippers, issuing explicit commands and instructions. There was also an equivalent of the Chant of Light, for the Old Gods, such as the Verses of Dumat.
Then a voice whispered within their hearts,
You are the Lords of the earth!
Go forth to claim the empty throne
Of Heaven and be gods.—From Threnodies 8
In -395 Ancient the Magister's Sidereal physically entered the Golden City, an act recognized as the "Second Sin". The Chantry holds that they did so at the behest of the Old Gods to open "the unreachable gate" in exchange for "power and glory beyond all reckoning". The City turned black and the magisters were cast out as the first darkspawn, inadvertently causing the First Blight.
While the Chantry insists that the darkspawn tainted Old God Dumat and turned him into the first Archdemon, some ancient lore says it was Dumat who created the darkspawn and not the other way around.
No more did the Old Gods whisper in his ear.
No more did he hear any voice in his dreams
But his own, and the mutterings of jealous spirits,
And he knew that this silence boded ill.—From Silence 3
In the aftermath of the event, all of the Old Gods suddenly stopped communicating with their followers. The First Blight led to a crisis of faith across the Imperium, shaken at the devastation their own god relentlessly championed. Several temples were razed by betrayed believers, killing priests to the Old Gods as retribution for their unheeded prayers. Finally, during the Transfiguration that followed Archon Hessarian's conversion in -160 Ancient, worship of the Old Gods in Tevinter was forcefully replaced with the monotheistic worship of the Maker. Those remaining faithful to them were slaughtered in a terrible bloodbath.
Cults devoted to the Old Gods are rumored to still exist:
- The cult known as The Last Moon worshipped Lusacan in the early Dragon Age, seeking to cause a dreadful battle that will blanket Thedas in a "night that will never end".
All darkspawn constantly hear the call of the slumbering Old Gods and search for them. When they find one, they corrupt it and it becomes an Archdemon, proceeding to unite them into a horde and unleash a new Blight. Hence many believe that with the death of all Old Gods the Blights will end.
At some time after their Joining, Grey Wardens also start hearing this call. As known since the First Blight, this is the actual Calling and the moment when Grey Wardens know they must descend into the Deep Roads to find their death in battle.
The call of the Old Gods becomes physically audible when close to one of their prisons.
Bregan describes the call of the Old Gods as a sound of "terrible beauty" and "awful yearning", while the Architect considers darkspawn pursuit for the ancient dragons as a never-ending aspiration towards a perfection they can never have, as it is corrupted in the instant they touch it. A Grey Warden wrote that the music is "almost a voice, at once unearthly and beautiful" that instigates a sense of a "presence watching and calling", if not the Maker. Cole hears the call in the Western Approach and feels that it has "an urgency that sped his heart" and is different from the song of lyrium.
Slaying an awakened Archdemon is not an easy feat:
And there might be other options:
The Old Gods
The Tevinters worshipped seven Old Gods. The first—and the leader of the others—was called Dumat, the Dragon of Silence.
- Dumat, the Dragon of Silence and the archdemon of the First Blight
- Zazikel, the Dragon of Chaos and the archdemon of the Second Blight
- Toth, the Dragon of Fire and the archdemon of the Third Blight
- Andoral, the Dragon of Slaves and the archdemon of the Fourth Blight
- Urthemiel, the Dragon of Beauty and the archdemon of the Fifth Blight
- Razikale, the Dragon of Mystery
- Lusacan, the Dragon of Night
A Chantry scholar conjectured that there might have been an unknown eighth Old God represented by constellation "Draconis" that was stricken from historical record.
- Codex entry: The Old Gods
- Codex entry: Constellation: Bellitanus (Urthemiel)
- Codex entry: Constellation: Eluvia (Razikale)
- Codex entry: Constellation: Fervenial (Andoral)
- Codex entry: Constellation: Kios (Zazikel)
- Codex entry: Constellation: Silentir (Dumat)
- Codex entry: Constellation: Servani (Andoral)
- Codex entry: Constellation: Tenebrium (Lusacan)
- Codex entry: Constellation: Toth
- Codex entry: The First Blight: Chapter 1
- Codex entry: The First Blight: Chapter 2
- Codex entry: The First Blight: Chapter 4
- Codex entry: In Hushed Whispers
- Codex entry: Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts
- Codex entry: Doom Upon All the World
- The Grey Wardens know the locations of the prisons of each of the Old Gods; however, they are deep underground and cannot easily be accessed by the Wardens without cutting through thousands of darkspawn.
- Members of the Legion of the Dead found a former prison of an Old God below Heidrun Thaig filled with darkspawn corpses who died praying to their god. The place instigated irrational dread in the seasoned dwarves.
- David Gaider hinted that the Old Gods could have been based on the elven gods or the Forgotten Ones, and that the second group had more reasons for that.