Únati and Axani

From an article by Neville 'Osric' Percy, published in the Other Minds issue 11.


axan, ‘law, rule, commandment’. V[alarin] akašān, said to mean ‘He says’, referring to Eru.
"Melkor repudiated all axani."

Axani are Commandments of Eru, which all Faithful must obey. They are included in the Laws of the Seven Tablets given to Númenóreans by Eönwe, Herald of Manwë. But whilst the únati constrain the feats possible to Incarnates and Ainur alike, the axani are only advisory. Some axani are there to make clear what behaviours are wrongful in and of themselves, and likely to have negative consequences for the individual in the long run. Others, the laws of the Valar themselves rather than of Eru, are practicalities of the Valar’s rule over Arda and the beings who live in it. But as it is (all but explicitly) an axan itself never to impose one’s will on the Free Will of another, the Valar themselves would never use compulsion even to prevent a person from breaching an axan.
  1. Give worship to no other but Eru.
  2. Do not take the name of Eru in vain.
  3. Seek no dominion over others.
  4. Take not from another what he has a right to hold.
  5. Use force only in need, and only in measure of that need.
  6. None may come uninvited into the Blessed Realm.
  7. The Fëar of the Dead should pass into the West.
  8. Speak not with the souls of the Dead.
  9. The gift of Death shall not be denied.


únat, 'impossibility'.

Everything must obey the laws of the nature, which constrain all of existence within the Circles of the World. According to the Faithful, the laws of the nature were set by Eru Ilúvatar and cannot be changed, altered or transgressed in any way. The High Elves call únati those things impossible within Eä, even to those who command the greatest powers of magic. No power of magic can encompass anything that is únat, as even Melkor discovered to his immense and existential fury. According to Elvish loremaster Pengoloð
"There is indeed no axan that the barrier [of unwill] should not be forced, for it is únat, a thing impossible to be or to be done, and the greater the force exerted, the greater the resistance of the unwill. But it is an axan universal that none shall directly by force or indirectly by fraud take from another what he has a right to hold and keep as his own. Melkor [would] abolish (for himself) all únati if he could. Indeed in his beginning and the days of his great might the most ruinous of his violences came from his endeavour so to order Eä that there were no limits or obstacles to his will. But this he could not do. The únati remained, a perpetual reminder of the existence of Eru and His invincibility, a reminder also of the coexistence with himself of other beings (equal in descent if not in power) impregnable by force. From this proceeds his unceasing and unappeasable rage."
Ósanwe-kenta ("Enquiry into the Communication of Thought")
  1. Nothing can be created out of nothing, nor can anything be truly destroyed. No power within Arda allows the creation or destruction of anything: matter, energy or spirit, for the Flame Imperishable is with Eru alone. This is Eä’s Law of the Conservation of Energy. Any magic that seems to create or destroy must in fact be achieved by the “sub-creative” processes of converting, transforming, shaping or reshaping something which already exists in some form.
  2. Nothing can pass the Walls of the World. No magical practice can communicate with, summon, bind or command 'otherworldly’ beings other than Maiar or other fëar, and there is an axan against compelling the wills of other beings. Arda is described as including one or more “other worlds”, sometimes collectively called “the Unseen”. The “wraith world” or "shadow world" exists within Arda and shares its dimensions of space and time. The ‘æther’ (Ilmen/Vaiya) and the ‘Void’ are merely the furthest reaches of Eä, not separate ethereal or astral planes. The only hint that these places have any denizens is the example of Ungoliant. Any ‘place’ which does not share Arda’s dimensions of space and time is in “the Timeless Halls” and may not be reached nor communicated with, even by the mightiest Valar, except by Eru’s grace.
  3. Nothing can defy Gravity. Beings of pure spirit – not Incarnates – are not necessarily constrained to remain at the surface of Arda, winged creatures or hot air balloons may fly upon the airs by natural physical ability, and magical command of the movements of the air itself are possible. But while it is possible to exert a sorcerous burst of force at a distance, it has never been known to raise a living being. There is now way an Incarnatae could fly, short of turning into a bird.
  4. No Healing that the body itself could not naturally attain. Severed body parts cannot be restored, as we know from the examples of Beren and Maedhros. It is impossible to heal wounds instantaneously or re-knit broken bones by sorcery. In Athrabeth, it is said that "Elves were not subject to diseases; they healed rapidly and completely after injuries that would have proved fatal to Men; and they could endure great physical pain for long periods. Their bodies, could not, however, survive vital injuries, or violent assaults upon their structure; nor replace missing members (such as a hand hewn off)."
  5. No Mind can know that which is not in it. All true knowledge ultimately derives from memory of experience (previously forgotten or otherwise), deduction and extrapolation from existing knowledge, or from an external source. There is no knowledge without a source. No experience is ever utterly lost from memory, though it may be lost from conscious or easy reach. The minds of Incarnates and the object-memory of things retain all their experiences. Any mind with knowledge that is certain, and which it cannot have known through normal means, must have received it from a source that does possess that certain knowledge. No part of the "future" is there, for the mind cannot see it or have seen it: that is, a mind placed in time. Such a mind can learn of the future only from another mind which has seen it. But that means only from Eru ultimately.
  6. No Mind can compel the Will of another. No power ultimately affords the means of controlling the thoughts or actions of another being without their first having surrendered their own will. But this is a technical distinction to make. Practically speaking, an individual may be induced to relinquish their Unwill by means of deception, or threats and torture of the physical body beyond the ability of the fëa to endure. Whilst the deception or torment may take time, almost any being will eventually abandon their resistance before a sufficiently cunning, cruel or powerful assailant. Of course such practices are deeply immoral, in breach of a major axan of Eru.

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