Devised and Written by: Spiritual Mask Salesman (I'm from Zelda Dungeon's forum), and Linkle (From Zelda Universe's Forum)
Special thanks to: JC-Hurin (a friend of mine from ZD)
Religion is considered to be pivitol in reality, it gives us insight on how our ancestors in the past lived, how they thought, and what myths and laws were commonplace in the past. When analysing ancient religions we usually find that simple religions, such as monothestic ones, tend to last longer than complex Polythestic religions. Keeping that in mind, Linkle and I wonder why Hylia worship would have died out in Hyrule, it seems more likely that Hylia worship would stay strong in the land due to how simple it is. Why would polythestic based worship become dominant over a monothestic one?
There have been various dieties amoung the many canon Zelda games, one which always stood out to us, in particular, is Hylia — she seemed like a very important religious figure during her time, and even thousands of years afterward on Skyloft. We know she obviously was very important, in fact the Hylians derived the name of their race (after Skyward Sword) from her name. Although in later games it seems worship for Hylia has faded from Hyrule, what could have happened? She was such an important diety, why would worship for her stop? Together Linkle and myself have devised a theory which we believe will explain what happened to monothesthic worship for Hylia, and if it even could still exist in Hyrule, but foremost we will cover how the three goddesses tie in.
Note: All of our theorizing will be done from an in-universe point of view, meaning that we are looking at this theory as if Hyrule was real; therefore, developer intent does not matter. This is extremely important, as doing it any other way would open up the argument that most games that take place after Skyward Sword in the timeline were actually created before it, and thus Hylia could not have been mentioned in them. We thank you for joining us today and hope you will enjoy our theory!
We will begin around the time of Skyward Sword, the status of the three goddesses at this point is important and worth noting; they are often refered to as “old gods” which indicates that their popularity was fading.
“Her second plan...was to abandon her divine form and transfer her soul to the body of a mortal. ...She made this sacrifice, as you have likely guessed, so that the supreme power created by the old gods could one day be used. For while the supreme power of the Triforce was created by gods, all of its power can never be wielded by one." — Zelda (Skyward Sword)
“Handed down by gods of old, this power gave its holder the means to make any desire a reality. Such was the might of the ultimate power that the old ones placed it in the care of the goddess.” — Fi (Skyward Sword, intro text)
We do know that there is undocumented history predating even the creation of skyloft, which is atleast thousands of years old itself.
“Allow me tell you about the history of Skyloft! Skyloft is an island that has floated here for ages... Thousands of years. Our ancestors have always lived on this island, as well as the surrounding islands in the sky." — Owlan (Skyward Sword)
We aren't even sure how far back history might go in this case, considering the great advancements in technology the ancient people achieved (harnessing timeshift stones as energy) they would have atleast been around a considerable amount of time to reach such a level, a level which their descendants in the future would never match again. Maybe mutiple centuries had passed and during the time of Hylia, worship for the goddesses, and possibly a whole epoch unknown to us, was coming to an end. the people may have even began worshipping other dieties. To prevent the people they had created from straying from them, maybe even forgetting about them, the goddesses set Hylia as a diety not only to protect the Triforce, but maybe also to maintain an indirect link to the goddesses for the people?
Now we shift foward in time after Skyward Sword; Hylia worship has faded, the goddesses are popular again; why? Skyward Sword was heavily centered around the Triforce. Searching for it, finding it, and using it was crucial in order to destroy Demise. Afterward the surface was repopulated, legends of the Triforce never faded, and in mutiple games wars are menetioned to have broke out for the Triforce.
"But soon, word of the Sacred Realm spread through Hyrule, and a great battle ensued..." — Lanayru (Twlight Princess)
The Triforce allures almost everyone. Linkle and I believe that through the Triforce the three goddesses grew in popularity again. Credited as the makers of the Triforce this would make them well renowned in a land were Triforce lore captivates all. Consequently to believe in the Triforce requires one to also believe that the three goddesses are real, in the Wind Waker we see an example of this.
"Gods of the Triforce! Hear that which I desire! Hope! I desire hope for these children! Give them a future! Wash away this ancient land of Hyrule! Let a ray of hope shine on the future of the world!!!" — King Daphnes Nohansen Hyrule (Wind Waker)
The King acknowledges the goddesses before making his wish, even Ganondorf does it in the game proir to the King making a wish. We have no doubt that the Triforce is what revived worship for the three goddesses in Hyrule. How exactly does this all play out in terms of Hylia worship?
We know for a fact that Hylia worship must have faded because there are there no shrines or temples dedicated to Hylia in games after Skyward Sword. This suggests that either her followers no longer exist, they are few, or they were converted and any temples for Hylia were re-purposed.
Our intial thoughts are that Hylia Worship could have eventually become more or less political leadership via the Royal Family, and less of a religion that is worshipped. Afterall Zelda is Hylia reborn as a mortal, and that bloodline is maintained within the Royal Family. The Royal Family basically performs most of the same duties Hylia did. They keep order in the land, and hide the Triforce along with any ancient relics or knowledge that can lead to it. Hylia Worship may have evolved into that, more or less leadership, a monarchy, rather than being a religion. In ways the Royal Family is worshipped, but not like dieties or anything. That is likely what happened to Hylia worship, but there is still a possibility it lived on as a religion.
Digging into the idea of the religion changing, there are only two dieties in games after Skyward Sword we know nothing about who could be Hylia. There is a snake diety we see in the Gerudo Colossus, and in Majora's Mask there are references to a “Goddess of Time”. The snake diety we don't even know the name of, it's likely it is just a random diety they created overtime. Still it isn't uncommon to see the appearence and depiction of a diety change in reality — maybe this is what happened with Hylia? The “Goddess of Time” diety seems like it could be Hylia, the title certainly does sound like it could fit her. The only issue is the reference is so vague, ontop of that the diety is never menetioned outside of Majora's Mask. We do know that Zelda did reference the diety, as this quote will show.
"The Goddess of Time is protecting you. If you play the Song of Time, she will aid you..." — Princess Zelda (Majora's Mask)
At the same time it seems that the people of Termina also know about the same diety, making her non-exclusive to the land of Hyrule like Hylia should be.
"Somebody! Anybody!!! Goddess of Time, help us please! We need more time!" — Tatl (Majora's Mask)
"Only a little more than two days left...Oh, Goddess of Time, please save me..." — Man in Oceanside Spider House (Majora's Mask)
Hylia could be associated with time; she not only created the two Gates of Time, but her human reincarnation, Zelda, could activate and open them by singing and playing her song, the Ballad of the Goddess, on the Goddess' Harp. One of the Gates resided within the Sealed Temple, A.K.A. the Temple of Hylia, which would one day become the Temple of Time — if there is a temple dedicated to this Goddess of Time in Hyrule it'd be likely that the Temple of Time would be it. Furthermore, in Ocarina of Time Zelda was the one to teach Link the Song of Time, the Ocarina of Time looks like it is made of Timeshift Stones,Hyrule Historia even hints toward it, and also was the Seventh Sage, whom many believe to be a “Sage of Time”. She also possesses the Triforce of Wisdom, which connects her to the Goddess of Wisdom, Nayru. Now whether Hylia is this “Goddess of Time” we can't be certain, we can assume that she is but we still can't explain how the people of Termina might now of her.
There really is no conclusive evidence to back that any of these random dieties — who we know nothing about — could be Hylia, although this same lack of evidence still keeps the debate open. Linkle and I agree that Hylia worship may still exhist in Hyrule and has either took on a different form as leadership through the Royal Family, or just lost popularity eventually fading to have very few followers left.