Illustrated Guide to the world of Spira (FFX and FFX-2)/Culture/Mythology

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Like many of the preceding games in the Final Fantasy series, the storylines of the computer role-playing games Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy X-2 borrow a number of ideas and names from ancient mythology and past and present cultures such as India, Arabia, ancient Greece and Rome while still employing their own distinct invented world with mythic features. In the mythos of Final Fantasy X and its sequel, many supernatural elements influence events in the fictional world of Spira, defining the life of the planet's inhabitants. Magic, spiritual energy, and the power of memories are heavily intertwined, and their effects manifest in a number of situations, including sporting events, religious practices, technology, and even in some of the native wildlife of the planet.

Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.
Yuna performs the "Sending," releasing pyreflies to the Farplane — Pyreflies are the source of all life in Spira

Spira[edit | edit source]

The events of Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy X-2 take place in a world called "Spira." As befitting its name, Spira is characterized by cycles and repetition, such as the spiral of death that the world endures, the many spheres found in Spira, the blitzball sphere pools, the prayer to Yevon, the Sphere Grid, and Spira's cycle of life energy emerging from within the planet's core, granting life to all its living inhabitants, and then returning to the core when a life form dies.[1]

Pyreflies and spheres[edit | edit source]


Pyreflies are a mysterious, naturally occurring phenomenon that heavily influence the events of Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy X-2, as well as the world of Spira at large. Heavily prevalent throughout Spira, these "bundles of life energy"[2] are closely associated with death and other spiritual events and entities.

Though they have been harnessed to many uses, both good and ill, they appear to lack self-awareness and any identifiable agenda in their inert form. In this respect, they would seem to be nothing more than an aspect of nature, permeating everything and everyone in Spira. Pyreflies are usually invisible, but can be seen when a fiend is killed or when a summoner performs a sending (in which the spirits of the dead are sent back to the Farplane, Spira's core). On those occasions, pyreflies appear as floating lights that rise into the air, this due to their more highly concentrated status at those times. Despite their rare appearances elsewhere, they are regularly seen around the Moonflow area of Spira.

Pyreflies serve as the raw material for the manifestation of aeons,[3] fiends, and the unsent, and can be easily connected to any and all paranormal phenomena that occur in Spira. In addition to their spiritual affiliations, they are also associated with many commonplace technological innovations. Such innovations include sphere-shaped recording devices formed of the crystallized mixture of pyreflies and water (simply called spheres), and large, suspended spherical conglomerations of congealed water (called "sphere pools") that serve as the playing field for blitzball games. This is due to how easily pyreflies and water harmonize with one another.[2]

Pyreflies and death[edit | edit source]

In Final Fantasy X, when a person dies, their body cannot simply be laid to rest. First, their spirit or life-force (which manifests itself in the form of pyreflies) must be released from the body and given "guidance" to the Farplane, the final resting place of departed souls. As experts versed in the art of manipulating pyreflies, only summoners can provide this guidance, coaxing the spirits of the dead from their bodies in a ritual known as a "sending." If the sending is not performed, then the body's spirit remains trapped in the physical plane. Depending on the person's personality and the cirumstances of his or her death, that spirit may grow envious and then hateful of the living. Eventually, this hatred grows so strong as to cause the unsent spirit's pyreflies to re-coalesce, this time in the form of a fiend, a fully substantial and dangerous monster.[4] It is not known whether all of the recently-deceased must be sent, or only those who have suffered a violent or untimely death.

In some cases, the transformation into a fiend does not occur with the unsent dead. If the deceased possessed a powerful will and strong feelings regarding an unfinished purpose in the world of the living, an individual's spirit can remain strong enough post mortem to manifest their pyreflies into a physical form in the image of the deceased's former body. Such beings as this, who may act and function for the most part as they did in life, are referred to as "unsent" and may be benign or malicious, depending upon the nature of the individual. The unsent are usually unwilling to enter the Farplane using the gateway in Guadosalam. This is believed to be because they may be physically unable to leave once they have done so and are wary of taking the risk. They are also vulnerable to the effects of the sending, which can banish the disembodied spirit to the Farplane and disperse their pyreflies, usually no matter how strong the will that binds them. However, there have been two notable exceptions to the previous matters:

  • In the case of Maester Jyscal Guado, his spirit manifested in his living form twice after death and emerged from the Farplane, despite having been sent prior to both occasions (the first time by his son, Maester Seymour, and the second time by High Summoner Yuna). His first reemergence is seen in Final Fantasy X when his form walks out of the Farplane gate in Guadosalam. His second return is discovered in Final Fantasy X-2 in the Via Infinito beneath the city of Bevelle.
  • In Final Fantasy X-2, the unsent known as "Shuyin" enters the Farplane of his own volition and has little to no trouble maintaining his form there.

Another exception to dying without becoming a fiend in the absence of being sent is rather unique in that it still results in one's spirit finding its way to the Farplane. Apparently, one who accepts death while still alive will travel to the Farplane after death without any assistance. This is seen in the cases of both Tidus' mother[5] and Yuna's father, the High Summoner Braska, a summoner who willingly gave his life in a battle with Sin.

Pyreflies as an energy source[edit | edit source]

Aside from the various commonplace technological applications of pyreflies seen in Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy X-2, within the latter game's story these "bundles of life energy" are used as a source of raw energy to empower the giant machina, Vegnagun. Further, Shinra of the Gullwings suggests that the life energy flowing through Spira on the Farplane could possibly be harnessed for the purpose of supplying electricity to a city.[6] This use of spiritual energy to power technology has been used in several other games of the Final Fantasy series, most notably Final Fantasy VII, where the planet's Lifestream (the massive collective of that world's spiritual energy) takes the form of tendrils of flowing green energy. Through both natural and artificial processes, the Lifestream condenses into mako ("Magic Light") and is crystallized into a solid form called "Materia" (analogous to Spira's spheres).

Fayth and aeons[edit | edit source]

Fayth being used to summon Dream Zanarkand
The aeon Anima
File:Anima's Fayth.png
Anima's fayth

The fayth are humans who willingly gave up their lives to have their souls sealed in statues. Their existence as a fayth allows them to commune with those summoners with whom they have established a mental link. This link grants a summoner access to a fayth's dreams and enables him or her to physically realize those dreams as aeons, powerful creatures which may be employed to aid the summoner in battle or in a time of especial need. [7] Aeons bear some resemblances to their corresponding Fayth statues, suggesting that the appearances of the fayth statues themselves may be "blueprints" for each Aeon. Moreover, game seems to build on the ancient meanings for the Latin word "aeon," such as the meaning used by Plato, who used the word "aeon" to denote the eternal world of ideas and the Gnostic who call aeons the various emanations of their gods.

During the events of Final Fantasy X, the fayth of the aeon Bahamut (housed in Bevelle) serves as the chosen representative of the fayth as a collective. The fayth aid High Summoner Yuna and her guardians in bringing the spiral of death to an end, which results in their own passing. In Final Fantasy X-2, the fayth return in their aeon forms, this time having been overcome by the despair and malice of Shuyin, rendering them his unwilling puppets of chaos. Yuna and her allies must unite to free both the fayth and Shuyin from the darkness that has consumed them.

Summoners are able to manipulate pyreflies in the formation of aeons—and in the sending of the souls of the dead—due to an inherent affinity for harnessing and channeling spiritual energy. Only a few people on Spira have "the gift" of being able to manipulate spirit energy to form aeons, although there are many humans and fiends around Spira who can harness this magical energy to perform magic spells. The Guado especially have an affinity for this, due to their race having lived in close proximity to the Farplane for generations. However, very few black mages and white mages are able to become summoners, and even fewer can withstand the hardships of a summoner's pilgrimage and become high summoners, the honorific title given to the summoners who completed their pilgrimage and defeated Sin.

Eight aeons are identified in Final Fantasy X: Valefor, Ifrit, Shiva, Ixion, Bahamut, Anima, Yojimbo and the Magus Sisters. Each one of these aeons has a fayth associated with it, but there are many more fayth on Mt. Gagazet, being used by Yu Yevon to summon Dream Zanarkand. The game builds on ancient mythological figures through the inclusion of the aeons, such as the Arab Jinn of fire Ifrit, the Indian god Shiva and even the Jungian figure Anima. Although both Valefor and Anima are generally thought to be male, they are both revealed to be female (Anima, according to Carl Jung, is the feminine side of a male's unconscious mind). After obtaining the airship and re-visiting the chamber of the Fayth at Besaid Temple, Valefor's fayth, a little girl, appears. As for Anima, she was Seymour Guado's mother before sacrificing herself to become his Final Aeon and can be found at Baaj Temple.

Sin, Yevon and the spiral of death[edit | edit source]

The legendary guardian, Auron, standing high above the city of Dream Zanarkand.

One thousand years before the events of Final Fantasy X, there was a great war between the cities of Zanarkand and Bevelle. Yevon, Zanarkand's ruler, could see that his city's summoners were no match for Bevelle's machina, but he was unwilling to allow his city to be swallowed up into the pages of history. He devised a plan to preserve Zanarkand's memory for all eternity, even if he could not save the city itself.[8]

At Yevon's order, most of the surviving common citizens and summoners of Zanarkand gave up their lives to become fayth, whom Yevon would then use to conjure a summoned form of Zanarkand, using their memories as the basis for this massive summon. This summoned replica of the city was to be an ideal paradise, removed from conflict and those who may infringe upon this city of memories. This summoned version of the real Zanarkand is sometimes called "Dream Zanarkand"' to differentiate it from the original Spiran city which has been lying abandoned in ruins for the last one thousand years.

In order to accomplish this, Yevon manifested the city out at sea in an undisclosed location, far removed from the Spiran mainland and the warmongering Bevelle. Further, to prevent technology from allowing Bevelle or anyone else to easily locate his summoned city, and to protect himself while he summoned it, he created a magic armor. Yevon used gravity magic to surround himself with pyreflies and used them to create an invincible armor that would terrorize Spira for one thousand years: The monster known as "Sin."[9][10] This armor would not only protect Yevon while he summoned Dream Zanarkand, but he also "programmed" it to attack areas with high populations and advanced technology, thus, bringing technological progress to a halt and keeping the people of the mainland from giving much thought to what may lay far out at sea.

File:Sin FFX.jpg
A side image of Sin.

Unfortunately for Yevon (now to be known as "Ebon Ju," or "Yu Yevon" in English, meaning "the Curse of Yevon"), maintaining his summoned city and creating Sin was a greater strain on his human mind than even he – who was considered peerless amongst summoners – could handle. His humanity faded from him and all that was left was the instinct to maintain Dream Zanarkand's order, and to protect himself.[11] Sin's first act as an instinctual beast, "programmed" to destroy advanced technology, was to decimate the original Zanarkand. Sin would terrorize Spira's citizens for a millennium.

The teachings of Yevon – said to have been left by Yevon to his daughter, Lady Yunalesca – were implemented by Bevelle to maintain order through giving the people hope that Spira may someday be free of Sin should they atone for their "sins." In actuality, Yunalesca and Yevon are believed to have planned it this way from the start.[12] Bevelle believed Sin to be an aeon summoned by Yevon as revenge for conquering Zanarkand's defenders. In a deal with Yunalesca to appease Yevon's wrath, she offered to provide them with a means to maintain order and hope in the common people (the teachings) in exchange for them ensuring that Yevon be praised and glorified. They agreed, and the Church of Yevon was born, teaching that machina were forbidden (another means of preventing advanced technology from revealing Dream Zanarkand's location), that Sin was a result of humanity's pride and use of machina in the first place, and that Sin could only be vanquished when humanity had attained purity and been cleansed of its past sins. Until then, it was said that only the ritual known as "the Final Summoning" would provide brief reprieves from Sin's terror (called "Calms").

The original city of Zanarkand in ruins, as it appears now: A city dead for a thousand years...

Calms would come when a summoner managed to complete the summoner's pilgrimage, obtaining their Final Aeon from the unsent spirit of Yunalesca in the ruins of Zanarkand. Yunalesca herself was the first high summoner, transforming her husband Zaon into a fayth, and using him as her Final Aeon to defeat Sin. The Final Summoning requires that the bond between the summoner and the individual who becomes a fayth for the Final Summoning be a powerful, personal bond, such as that between siblings, friends, or spouses. Only then would the bond between the Final Aeon and the summoner provide enough power to shatter Sin's armor. Unfortunately, the art of the Final Summoning only ensured that Sin would return, as Yu Yevon's spirit would emerge from the cracked armor of the defeated Sin, and possess the Final Aeon that had destroyed the monstrosity, using that Final Aeon as the core for a new Sin, beginning the cycle anew.[13] Further still, Yu Yevon merging with a Final Aeon would sever the psychic bond between the summoner and the aeon, resulting in a psychic backlash that would kill the Summoner who had just defeated Sin. The Calm would then follow, providing a brief period of respite from Sin's destruction while Yu Yevon created a new Sin around the Final Aeon he had possessed.

Thus it was for one thousand years: Sin would be defeated, the summoner who achieved the feat would die, and Sin would be born anew, then defeated and born anew, again and again, leaving destruction and sorrow in its wake all across Spira. This was the Spiral of Death. It wasn't until the pilgrimage of High Summoner Yuna that Sin would be destroyed once and for all, and Spira freed from the cycle of sorrow. The period that followed was known as "the Eternal Calm."

The Church of Yevon[edit | edit source]

Notes and references[edit | edit source]

  1. Maechen: "Ahem! The Farplane is the place where pyreflies born from a sending gather. They appear in the shape of people who've died and gone to the Farplane. Quite the phenomenon: how I wish I understood it more fully! The Al Bhed have a theory, you know. They say the pyreflies are just reacting to visitors' thoughts and dreams. But only the dead appear on the Farplane. No image of the living has ever been seen." (Final Fantasy X)
  2. a b Studio BentStuff, ed. (2001). Final Fantasy X Scenario Ultimania (in Japanese). DigiCube/Square-Enix. p. 59. ISBN 4-88787-010-8.
  3. Maechen: "Ahem! They may be called 'pyreflies' but they aren't really 'flies,' you see. They're those lights you see whenever a fiend dies. The little fellows are responsible for a few fantastic phenomena. Visions of the past, spheres, fiends--these are all the pyreflies' doing. In fact... pyreflies have something to do with aeons, too. The dreams of the fayth reach through the spirit of the summoner... And that which is unreal becomes real for all to see!" (Final Fantasy X)
  4. Lulu: "The dead need guidance. Filled with grief over their own death, they refuse to face their fate. They yearn to live on, and resent those still alive. You see, they envy the living. And in time, that envy turns to anger, even hate. Should these souls remain in Spira, they become fiends that prey on the living. Sad, isn't it? The sending takes them to the Farplane, where they may rest in peace." (Final Fantasy X)
  5. Tidus: "Mom? It's her! ... Wait. No one ever performed the sending for her." / Yuna: "She must've accepted death while she was still alive." (Final Fantasy X)
  6. Yuna: "What are you looking at?" / Shinra: "Farplane data. The more I study it, the more fascinating it gets. There's limitless energy swirling around in there.... The life force that flows through our planet... I think. With a little work, we could probably extract the energy in a usable form...." / Yuna: "Think how much Spira would change if we ever got it to work! Maybe one day we could build a city full of light, one that never sleeps!" (Final Fantasy X-2)
  7. Lulu: "The fayth are people who gave their lives to battle Sin. Yevon took their souls, willingly given from their still-living bodies.... Now they live forever trapped in statues. But when a summoner beckons, the souls of the fayth emerge once again. That's what we call an aeon." (Final Fantasy X)
  8. Fayth: "Long ago, there was a war.... A war between Zanarkand and Bevelle. Bevelle's machina assured their victory from the start. Spira had never seen such power. The summoners of Zanarkand didn't stand a chance. Zanarkand was doomed to oblivion. That's why we tried to save it – if only in a memory.... The remaining summoners and the townspeople that survived the war... They all became fayth – fayth for the summoning." (Final Fantasy X)
  9. Studio BentStuff, ed. (2001). Final Fantasy X Ultimania Omega (in Japanese). DigiCube/Square-Enix. p. 82. ISBN 4-88787-021-3.
  10. Mika: "Spira has lost its only hope. Destruction is inevitable. Yu Yevon's spiral of death will consume us all. I have no desire to watch Spira die...." / Rikku: "Wait, gramps! Who's Yu Yevon?" / Mika: "He who crafts the souls of the dead into unholy armor. An armor called Sin." (Final Fantasy X)
  11. Fayth: "If you defeat Yu Yevon, it will end. Tell me, what do you know about Yu Yevon?..." / Yuna: "Sin is his armor. It protects him." / Fayth: "Yu Yevon was once a summoner, long ago. He was peerless. Yet now he lives for one purpose: only to summon. He is neither good, nor evil. He is awake, yet he dreams. But... maybe not forever." (Final Fantasy X)
  12. Maechen: "Rumors flew in Bevelle about Sin's sudden appearance. They said that the people of Zanarkand became the fayth, that they had called Sin. And that the man responsible... was none other than the summoner Yevon, ruler of Zanarkand! Yes, the lord father of Lady Yunalesca. On the eve of Zanarkand's destruction, Lady Yunalesca... had fled to safety with her husband, Zaon. Later, the two used the Final Summoning to defeat Sin. Yet the people of Bevelle still feared Yu Yevon. It was to quell his wrath that they revered him, and first spread his teachings. And so were born the temples of Yevon. I suppose it's possible Yunalesca had planned it that way from the start! A fair trade, she defeats Sin in exchange for her lord father's honor. Of course, there's no proof. No, the facts are lost in the mists of time. And who'd admit Yevon was an enemy of Bevelle? You can bet the temples had a hand in covering that one up!" (Final Fantasy X)
  13. Fayth: "Even if you defeat Sin with the Final Summoning, Yu Yevon will live. Yu Yevon will join with the Final Aeon. He will transform it into a new Sin.... Then, protected by this new Sin he has created, Yu Yevon continues the summoning." (Final Fantasy X)

External links[edit | edit source]