The Dragon Cult began as a sect within the traditions of animal worship brought by Atmorans to Tamriel. Certain scholars believe these were "totem animals" for the modern Divines; in which case, worship of the dragon corresponded to worship of Akatosh. Dragons were revered more than any other, and they were comfortable in assuming positions as god-kings over men. Their servants, the dragon priests, kept the peace between dragons and men, and their power was so great that uttering any word for "dragon" was forbidden to all mankind except them. They made laws for the society of men, and were on par with kings. Grand temples were built to honor the dragons and appease them in life and death, many of which survive as draugr-infested ruins today.
Some time during or soon after the migrations to Tamriel, the dragon cult began to assert more influence and become much more malevolent. From their capital Bromjunaar in modern-day Hjaalmarch, they ruled Skyrim with an iron fist, effectively enslaving the populace. While what led to this change was lost to historians, it was likely caused by Alduin, the First-Born of Akatosh and leader of the dragons, who had chosen to forsake his role as World Eater in favor of conquering Mundus for himself. Men eventually rebelled in the late Merethic Era, leading to the ancient Dragon War.
Men, with the help of several dragons, eventually secured victory with the defeat of Alduin. The dragon priests were overthrown and dragons were slaughtered in large numbers before fleeing to remote areas. Though they had lost their god-kings and were cast out of mainstream Nordic society, the dragon cult managed to adapt and survive for centuries. Whenever they could lay hands on the remains of a dragon, they would build a tomb for it known as a "dragon mound", a practice they maintained for centuries after the war. They believed that one day the dragons would rise again and reward the faithful.
When the priests of the Eight Divines arrived in Skyrim in the First Era, they found it very difficult to convert the Nords, in part because the Nords had abandoned the worship of the dragon along with the dragon cult. Thus, they only knew of the Great Dragon, Akatosh, as the elven god Auriel, whom they despised as a demon. The missionaries were able to allay some concerns by claiming that Alduin and those who followed him had acted against the wishes of Akatosh, and it was his intervention that led some dragons to assist men against their brethren. The dragon cult was eventually driven extinct, surviving only in the form of draugr who continue to prowl ancient ruins. The last known holdouts were discovered and besieged in the monastery of Forelhost in the mountains of the Rift by the forces of High King Harald, eventually committing mass suicide in 1E 140.
The Dragon Cult was known to have many great and elaborate temples devoted to the Dragons, with them stretching across Skyrim, Solstheim and even sections of Wrothgar. These temples were constructed in honor of the Dragon Priests, and often had effigies to animal gods such as the bear, dragon, fox, moth, owl, snake, whale, and wolf. These temples are guarded by draugr, where their Dragon Priest masters are entombed. The temples of Skyrim, often contained Dragon claw switch doors, which could only be unlocked with a corresponding claw, made of different materials such as ebony and gold.
Dragon priests were originally members of the Dragon Cult, and have retained much of their power through the eternal worship of their draugr servants. They ruled over countless armies of men in their gods' names. They are now found residing in coffins throughout areas of prominent dragon worship. If their sleep is disturbed, the dragon priest will burst out of its coffin with considerable force and prepare to destroy whomsoever intruded upon their resting place. The highest ranking priests of the Dragon Cult were granted magical masks that defy the laws of time and possess powerful enchantments. The individual masks are made of varying materials, and each bears the same name as the dragon priest that possessed it.
Known Dragon Priests
- Ahzidal, the first great Nord enchanter
- Akiirdal, a dragon priest buried in the Howling Sepulchers of Craglorn
- Arthosiis, a dragon priest who was banished from Skyrim and led his followers to Wrothgar
- Dukaan, a dragon priest who was entombed in White Ridge Barrow on Solstheim
- Haldriin, a dragon priest who was entombed in Skyshroud Barrow on Bleakrock Isle
- Hevnoraak, a dragon priest who planned his resurrection obsessively before dying, and was entombed in Valthume. His plans were prevented by a Nord named Valdar; even in death, his spirit ensured that Hevnoraak remained sealed within the tomb.
- Korthor, a dragon priest who was entombed in Vuldngrav in Skyrim, possessed the Fork of Horripilation in 2E 582
- Krosis, a dragon priest who was entombed atop Shearpoint mountain
- Miraak, the first Dragonborn
- Morokei, a dragon priest who was entombed in Labyrinthian, Morokei obtained the Staff of Magnus some time in the Fourth Era, which brought him into contact with a group of mages from the College of Winterhold. The future Arch-Mage, Savos Aren, was the only member of the group to survive the venture into Labyrinthian. Aren sacrificed two of his companions to contain Morokei, and sealed the ruins. In 4E 201, following the activation of the Eye of Magnus, the Last Dragonborn was sent to Labyrinthian by the College to retrieve the Staff, and Morokei was destroyed
- Nahkriin, a dragon priest who was tasked with presiding over Alduin's portal to Sovngarde at Skuldafn
- Otar, a dragon priest who was entombed in Ragnvald, his tomb was sealed with two keys guarded by draugr
- Rahgot, a dragon priest who was entombed in Forelhost
- Vahlok the Jailor, a dragon priest entombed within Vahlok's Tomb in Solstheim. He was once the ruler of Solstheim, tasked with watching over the traitor, Miraak, after discovering Miraak's plot against their masters and defeating him in an epic battle.
- Vokun, a dragon priest entombed in High Gate Ruins
- Volsung, a dragon priest entombed in Volskygge
- Vosis, a dragon priest entombed in Forelhost, in 2E 582, Vosis was in possession of a shard of Wuuthrad
- Zaan, a dragon priest who followed the dragon Thurvokun, killed by her followers, she was resurrected by Peryite and gifted with Spellbreaker
- Zahkriisos, a dragon priest entombed in Bloodskal Barrow on Solstheim, he was a member of the Bloodskal Clan
- The History of Zaan the Scalecaller by Jorvuld Davaux, Dragon Priest Historian — The short biography of a minor Dragon Priest
- The Dragon War by Torhal Bjorik — A religious text describing the primordial war between men and dragons
- Amongst the Draugr by Bernadette Bantien, College of Winterhold — Discoveries about the draugr and their link to the dragon cults
- Crafting Motif 59, Scalecaller by Jorvuld Davaux, Dragon Priest Historian — A guide to crafting armor and weapons in the Scalecaller style
- Temples of the Dragon Cult by Cirantille — A history of the Dragon Cult