Daedra (/diː.dɹə/ or /deɪ.dɹə/) are divine beings that did not take part in the creation of the Mundus, and thus retain the full breadth of their power. They have a very real impact on the mortal realm; in one way or another, Daedric influence touches everyone on Tamriel.
The word "Daedra" is of Aldmeri origin, and its exact meaning is "not our ancestors", as opposed to Aedra - "ancestors". Technically, only the plural is written "Daedra", but this word is frequently used in singular as well. The proper singular form is "Daedroth", but that has come to refer to a specific species of Daedra. Different cultures have their own myths and names for Daedra. For instance, the Khajiit rarely speak of the "Dro-m'Athra", dark spirits that are believed to be Daedra by another name.
Daedra are often referred to as demons, but this is misleading. All Daedra have a penchant for extremes and are therefore capable of tremendous acts of devastation, but their different spheres make them apply their power in different ways, and their infinite diversity makes speaking about them generally difficult. Thus, it is often impossible to accurately label them as "good" or "evil"; the one thing that can be stated with certainty is the Daedra are beyond mortal comprehension (as mortals seem to be beyond Daedric comprehension).
Daedra come in many forms. Undoubtedly there are true Daedra, such as the Daedra Princes and highly intelligent Dremora. There are many lesser beings known to be in league with these greater powers, but whether each type constitutes actual Daedra is unknown.
A Daedroth's physical form can be ruined, but it cannot be truly killed; the soul or Animus of a slain Daedroth returns to the void of Oblivion until it manages to coalesce into a physical form again. A slain Daedroth is often said to have been "banished" or "purged" instead of "killed" to reflect this. Daedra are the undisputed masters of craftsmanship, creating seemingly indestructible armors and the mightiest of weapons through dark rituals. Daedric weaponry is said to be forged from the highest quality of raw ebony. The objects get their power from a Daedric soul forged into the ebony.
Daedric Princes Edit
Daedric Princes (sometimes referred to as Daedra Lords) are the most powerful of the Daedra, and thus most commonly worshipped as gods. Each has a particular sphere, which it is said to govern. Although Daedric Princes may assume a typically masculine or a typically feminine form, they have no inherent gender. They are usually referred to as Princes regardless of what gender they appear most frequently as. In all, there are 17 powerful Princes known to mortals: Azura, Boethiah, Clavicus Vile, Hermaeus Mora, Hircine, Jyggalag, Malacath, Mehrunes Dagon, Mephala, Meridia, Molag Bal, Namira, Nocturnal, Peryite, Sanguine, Sheogorath, and Vaermina. According to Mankar Camoran, Lorkhan is also a Daedric Prince, although this has never been confirmed.
Each Daedric Prince is said to have his own plane of Oblivion, suggesting there are seventeen such planes. However, other planes such as the Soul Cairn and the Chimera of Desolation are known to exist, and the limits on their planes, powers, and influence are not readily understood.
The Daedric Princes seem to view Men and Mer as little more than minor amusements, occasionally applauding the actions of mortals when they exceed their expectations. They do not know the mortal sense of "good" and "evil", and usually have extremist tendencies, which is why Men and Mer fear them greatly. However, several princes do seem to take genuine pleasure in tremendous acts of devastation, in particular Boethiah, Molag Bal, Vaermina, Mehrunes Dagon and Peryite.
Although the beings are considered evil by most, they are widely worshipped in the realms of Tamriel. Elaborate shrines are created to honor the Daedra as gods. They often take a keen interest in their worshippers, and it is speculated that this is either because of the obvious ego-gratification of being somebody's god, or because the Daedra like to keep an eye on potential future subjects (assuming people of demonic disposition enter Oblivion after death, that is; there are as many afterlife theories as there are religions in the world). Mainstream religious authorities discourage Daedra worship, and often mount witch-hunting expeditions to drive out Daedra worshippers from the local area. During these encounters they are often surprised at the marginal sanity that comes of worshipping the Daedric Princes. For the most part, however, dealing with the Daedra, one gets the distinct impression of being mused over as though a man peering under an upturned rock may momentarily wonder at the lives of the bugs living ignorantly there.
Lesser Daedra Edit
The Daedric Princes are only the most powerful of the Daedra, and many of them have many servants known generally as lesser Daedra (not to be confused with Lesser Daedra, a specific type of Daedra similar to Daedroths). Even though many lesser Daedra are associated with a Daedric Prince in particular, in reality, any individual Daedroth can serve any Daedric Prince by taking part in an "Oath Bond" while others stay unaligned, though the specifics are characteristically unknown. Some are in service to mortals. For example, the Dunmer are known to use Daedra as servants and instruments, as have many other cultures, and the Ayleids employed entire armies of Daedra in their wars against men. Daedra are often summoned and used in the study of magic; of course, the school of conjuration deals specifically with connecting one's mind with a Daedroth and compelling its appearance in the mortal plane. For information on mortals summoning such Daedra, see the book Darkest Darkness.