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Mythology Manual - Gaia: A Well-Grounded Goddess

While usually understated, the Greek goddess Gaia has impacted the overall mythic landscape of Final Fantasy, having been a familiar presence with the franchise from the very first game in some form. At the most basic level, various Earth element aligned items and abilities invoking Gaia stress her control over nature (although many, including Gaia Gear, Drum, and Hammer, are only branded with ‘Gaia’ in English localisations). It is as a location and character that she fully blossoms. This article shall explore how Gaia took root and grew in the Final Fantasy franchise.


Earth to Gaia: Origins

In classical mythology Gaia, or Ge, is a primordial earth goddess (her name literally meaning ‘earth/land’). Being self-delivered as one of the first entities in existence, Gaia plays a critical role in ancient Greek foundation myths: from her the world and most of its inhabitants trace their origin (Hesiod, Theogony:117-118; Homeric Hymn 30). When it comes to the gods and their genealogies, including Gaia’s story, the 8th-7th century BC poet Hesiod’s account became the more recognisable standard, but it was not the only tradition circulating (Homer deviated from Hesiod on various points). Hesiod has Uranus and Gaia as the first generation of gods. Their children, the Titans, became the second after their leader Cronus castrated their father. The Olympian gods worshipped as rulers by ancient Greeks were, largely, Gaia’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who overthrew the Titans and established Zeus on the throne. Gaia is actively involved throughout these transitions, but aside from setting her children against the Olympians in a succession of wars, she subsequently takes a step back and mostly blends into the background.

Typically, Gaia is depicted in ancient art as an anthropomorphic woman, usually rising from the earth to defend her children, or to deliver the baby Erichthonius/Erechtheus to Athena to nurse. In text she is frequently considered as a representation of the solid ground which forms the habitable part of the earth itself (Hesiod, Theogony:126-128, 176-178; Nonnus, Dionysiaca:2.553-556, 636-650). Gaia’s intimate familiarity with the environment afforded her the gift of prophecy. Not only did she frequently warn other gods of their ruin, but she was, according to some traditions, the original overseer of the Oracle of Delphi before Apollo (Pindar, Pythian Odes:4.74; Aeschylus, Eumenides:1-19).

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Left, Gaia rising from the earth worrying about her son, a Gigas/Giant, on an Attic red-figure calyx-krater attributed
to the Pronomos Painter, 425-375 BC, held in the
National Archaeological Museum of Naples, Italy.
Right, Gaia with Erichthonius/Erectheus on an Attic red-figure hydria attributed
to the Oinanthe Painter, 470-460 BC, held in
the British Museum, London.


Mother Earth: Spawn Point

There are ample reasons to honour Gaia with the title ‘Mother Earth’, the one responsible for nature itself. She is, essentially, the mother of all mothers.

Without sexual union, Gaia brought into existence her future consorts Uranus (the sky) and Pontus (the sea) as well as the Ourea (mountains) to form the habitable world (Hesiod, Theogony:126-132). Coupled with Uranus, Gaia bore various children, notably the twelve core Titans (featuring, crucially, Cronus and his sister-consort Rhea), the Cyclopes, and Hecatoncheires or ‘hundred-handed-ones’ (Hesiod, Theogony:133-155; Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound:207; Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library:1.1-3; Diodorus Siculus, Library:5.66). Through her relationship with Pontus, Gaia bore an assortment of sea deities (Hesiod, Theogony:233-239; Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library:1.2.6).

From the blood of the castrated Uranus dripped onto the earth, Gaia further spawned the Gigantes/Giants, Erinyes/Furies, Meliae/ash-tree nymphs, amongst others (Hesiod, Theogony:184-187; Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library:1.4). Many other beings were imagined emerging from the earth itself.

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Children of the Earth.
This diagram offers a summary of the plethora of beings attributed to Gaia over millennia of embellishments.
The references listed cite alternative traditions which are not found in the more well-known Hesiodic account.
Included are Gaia’s direct children only, not her grandchildren or further relations.


In Greek traditions Gaia is presented as mourning, defending, or avenging the killing or mistreatment of her offspring, frequently shifting her allegiances against whomever threatens her children next. Whilst she inspired the Titans’ revolt against Uranus (to avenge his imprisonment of the Hecatoncheires), she is also described helping Rhea hide Zeus from his child-eating father Cronus (Hesiod, Theogony:463-491,492-500; Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library:1.1.5-7). Gaia helped Zeus secure his victory advising the release of the Hecatoncheires (Hesiod, Theogony:617-623, 881-885) only to turn against Zeus in anger at the Olympians’ treatment of the Titans, and so set the monstrous Gigantes against him (Bacchylides, Dithyrambs:15.63-64; Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library:1.6.1-2). While Gaia initially aids Zeus in retaining his kingly power by advising his swallowing of his pregnant lover Metis to prevent the birth of a prophesied usurper (Hesiod, Theogony:886-900), in revenge for slaying the Gigantes, Gaia also births the greatest threat to Zeus’ supremacy he ever faced: Typhoeus/Typhon (Hesiod, Theogony:821-868; Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound:353-375; Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library:1.6.3; Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses:28).

Whilst Gaia showed concern for the fate of her children, she was not above spawning monsters specifically as weapons of war against particular foes. To aid the Gigantes she spawns a gorgon purely for battle (Euripides, Ion:989-996). Likewise, in some accounts, when Orion boasts about being stronger than any animal, Gaia sends a giant scorpion after him (Pseudo-Eratsothenes, Constellations:32; Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica:2.26.2). In so doing, Gaia might embody how nature is simultaneously beautiful and dangerous: neither good nor bad.


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Gaia, bottom right, rising from the earth in panic at the Olympians’ killing of the Gigantes.
The goddess showcases strong mothering instincts for her monstrous children.
Frieze from the Pergamon Altar, 2nd century BC, held at Pergamon Museum, Berlin.
Image by Sailko.


Terra Firma: Gaia the Place

Whilst mostly remembered as a recurring planet setting in a variety of Final Fantasy storylines, Gaia first appears as the name of a town in the original Final Fantasy. Gaia is a secluded, idyllic settlement offering lush grass and a forest surrounded by mountains.

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Referred to as Summit Town in some materials (including Ultimania Archive Volume 1),
this unassuming village is
Final Fantasy’s first rendition of Gaia.
The town itself is interwoven within a forest, emphasising its natural beauty.


The town’s most memorable landmark is a spring inhabited by a fairy. This fairy has been captured by an opportunistic pirate and sold on the black market. When the player buys the enslaved fairy and returns her to the spring of Gaia, her liberator is rewarded with Oxyale (water from the bottom of the spring, enabling underwater breathing).

If we were to exchange fairies for nymphs (minor nature goddesses), the spring of Gaia could better harmonise with Greek mythology. Fairies sometimes fill the same mythological niche as nymphs. Gaia’s connection is fair: nymphs were connected with all of nature’s beauty spots, and in rustic cults nymphs sometimes accompanied Gaia (Pausanias, Description of Greece:1.31.4). Additionally, not only does Hesiod credit Gaia with forming the mountain haunts of nymphs, but conceived from the blood of the castrated Uranus he has Gaia deliver the Meliae, ash-tree nymphs (Hesiod, Theogony:187).

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Right, Hylas and the Nymphs by J.W. Waterhouse (1896), held in Manchester Art Gallery.
In myth, the Argonaut Hylas is pulled into a pool by infatuated naiads (freshwater nymphs) where he remains (Apollonius of Rhodes, Argonautica:1221-1325).
Final Fantasy I’s fairy, left, draws sacred water from her pool enabling the player to breathe underwater, albeit without dooming them.
Nymphs embodied many facets of nature (including springs, trees, caves, and meadows).
If Gaia represents the earth as a whole, the nymphs characterise her individual localised aspects.


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A healing spring can also be found in Final Fantasy VII at Gaea’s Cliff,
further associating Gaia with natural springs.


When Gaia is named as a location within a Final Fantasy planet, it is curiously also associated with chasms. The town Gaia in Final Fantasy I, enclosed in a mountain range, is accessible only by airship. Final Fantasy VII’s Gaea’s Cliff (Gaea being an alternative transliteration of the goddess) is a dangerous valley located near the Northern Crater.

In Greek mythology the sky-god Uranus, after enveloping Gaia and mating with her, was so disgusted by their monstrous spawn, the Hecatoncheires, that he pushed them deep into the earth (Hesiod, Theogony:155). Figuratively, this is popularly imagined as Uranus forcing them back into the womb from which they were born.

By accessing Final Fantasy I’s town Gaia through the sky, the player emulates Uranus. Likewise, the cosmic entity Jenova (named the ‘Calamity from the Skies’ by the Ancients/Cetra) had crashed into the Final Fantasy VII Planet in the region where Gaea’s Cliff is located. This collision, creating a pit-like wound, is analogous to Uranus’ mating with Gaia in mythology and their tumultuous relationship. Through Jenova ‘mating’ with the Planet/Gaia, the resulting spawned monsters (both the Jenova mutations and the Weapons created by the Planet in self-defence) might be compared with Gaia and Uranus’ eccentric offspring (M.J. Gallagher independently arrived at a similar interpretation in a recent blog post). The ‘blood’ of the mutilated Jenova/Uranus eventually makes its way into Shinra’s experiments, whereas the Weapons were kept underground until needed by the Planet.


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Top left, Gaia on the world map, Final Fantasy I PSP version. Gaia’s inhabitants are surprised to see the player,
correctly deducing that they must have an airship. They also converse about an ancient race called the Sky Warriors who once
roamed the skies in flying fortresses. Their descendants, the contemporary but no less mysterious Lufenians, are earthbound
after their ancestors were overthrown (emasculated, we might muse). Gaia has experience with ‘Uranus’ here.

Right, Gaea’s Cliff in Final Fantasy VII, near to where Jenova crashed into the Planet in antiquity, creating a huge wound.
In myth, Gaia spawned a variety of monsters with the sky god Uranus, either through sexual union or by receiving his blood.
The dormant Weapon entities, held within the Planet, may also emulate the deep imprisonment of the Hecatoncheires (and later the Titans).

Bottom left, a deep chasm also appears in Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, as an access point to where
the spirit of the planet Earth (known as Gaia) is exposed to the naked eye.


The Blue Marble: Gaia the Planet

Not all Final Fantasies provide a name for the world in which their plots take place. Most planets of the earlier games are granted placeholder labels only in extraneous materials. Named planets only became the norm after Final Fantasy IX. Curiously, a name which has been reused is Gaia.

The most prominent planet Gaia is the setting of Final Fantasy IX. Under the android Garland’s caretakership, the population of the dying planet Terra had attempted to merge the two planets five thousand years prior to the game’s beginning, permanently altering Gaia’s surface. Terra is a Roman equivalent to the Greek goddess Gaia, thus a relevant name for the planet which attempted to appropriate the world of Gaia.

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A map of Gaia, Final Fantasy IX.
One of the first cases of a true named planet in the franchise. Like our own planet, Gaia includes a mix of biomes,
with the additional twist that the health of the planet and its lifecycle is tied to its soul-crystal at the planet’s core.


Final Fantasy VII has a less stable relationship with the term Gaia. In the original game’s text the world is known simply as ‘the Planet’. In addition to the aforementioned Gaea’s Cliff, fans periodically utilise Gaia as a label for the planet itself. Additionally, it is the term favoured by authors in works published about Final Fantasy VII and its themes (see, for example, the various authors in Anthony M. Bean’s The Psychology of Final Fantasy, 2020, and Jason P. Blahuta and Michel S. Beaulieu’s Final Fantasy and Philosophy, 2009, and M. J. Gallagher in Norse Myths that Inspired Final Fantasy VII, 2020). The rich world of Final Fantasy VII indeed deserves the more attractive identifier Gaia above the placeholder moniker ‘Planet’. As Shademp at The Lifestream.net notes, Final Fantasy VII’s Planet was first called Gaia in Square Enix’s English language pamphlet at the 2004 Electronics Entertainment Expo (E3), promoting the sequel film Advent Children. A number of other English language Square Enix produced materials have since embraced the term.


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Be it in name or in spirit, Gaia is present in Final Fantasy VII.
Left, the Platinum trophy in PlayStation 4’s port of Final Fantasy VII, named ‘Gaia’s Guardian’ in English.
Right, notebook merchandise including a spread of the map of the Planet.
In the North American product description the world is, once again, called Gaia.
Additionally, in the English translation of the spin-off game All the Bravest, the Final Fantasy VII-inspired Ultimate Weapon
is described being gifted its wings by Gaia. The name Gaia has resonated with the North American
branch’s marketing department, and the popular consciousness.


The timing of Square Enix's E3 2004 promotion followed the surge of popularity in the name ‘Gaia’ in other Final Fantasy releases in the preceding years (Final Fantasy IX, 2000, and the film Final Fantasy: Spirits Within, 2001). Inevitably Gaia was in the North American marketing team’s consciousness at that time. With both Final Fantasy IX and Spirits Within entertaining the concept of a 'living planet', it is easy to see how this association might have occurred naturally. Final Fantasy VII places unignorable emphasis on the Planet being a giant, inter-connected, living organism.


Spirit of the Planet: Lovelock’s Gaia Hypothesis

A recurring theme within the Final Fantasy franchise is the idea that the planet of a particular game is in some way alive, sometimes semi-sentient. Even when Gaia is not namedropped, many games in the franchise are concerned with keeping the planet’s ecosystem balanced through sustaining the flow of life within the planet itself and/or restoring elemental crystals (a trope we can trace to the franchise’s inception). In Final Fantasy IX, where the primary planet is named Gaia, the planet’s crystal core is the living source of life on the planet itself but is held hostage by the interfering alien world Terra. Gaia’s indigenous souls are unnaturally pumped out onto the surface, polluting the planet with Mist and creating monsters. In Final Fantasy VII, ecological concerns are especially central to the plot. The Cosmo Canyon Elders, including Bugenhagen, are notable ‘Planetologists’ who recognise that their Planet (which we may also call Gaia) is, in fact, alive. It feels pain. It reacts to defend itself. It even ‘cries’. The Lifestream (composed of the spirit energy of the deceased) could be likened to blood and neural networks. The Shinra Electric Power Company’s greed in pumping up the mako (liquefied Lifestream) to generate electricity compels the ecoterrorist organisation AVALANCHE to fight to defend the only planet they have.

While the goddess Gaia, since Hesiod, has been envisioned as encompassing the Earth itself, her cosmic application has developed in modern times. British scientist James Lovelock (1919-present) appropriated and made very effective use of the goddess in titling his Gaia hypothesis. As described by Lexico/Oxford English Dictionary this proposes that, “living matter on the earth collectively defines and regulates the material conditions necessary for the continuance of life. The planet, or rather the biosphere, is thus likened to a vast self-regulating organism.”

The idea formed whilst Lovelock (alongside C.E. Giffin) worked as a consultant with NASA scientists as they theorised how to recognise life-harbouring planets. Lovelock credits his neighbour at the time, novelist and poet William Golding (most popularly remembered as the author of Lord of the Flies), for suggesting the name of the Greek mother earth goddess for his hypothesis. The theory was developed further, in collaboration with microbiologist Lynn Margulis, in articles published throughout the 1970s. The multiple books Lovelock published over the following decades popularised the hypothesis for public consumption and was influential in the ecologically-minded ‘green movements’.

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The real Bugenhagen. James Lovelock in his Dorset garden next to a modern statue of Gaia. Photo by Bruno Comby.
While Final Fantasy VII’s Planetology scholar Bugenhagen was named after the Protestant Reformationist
Johannes Bugenhagen (1485-1558), he perhaps better echoes James Lovelock. At 101 years old (and still publishing),
Lovelock has more than ecological concerns in common with Cosmo Canyon’s wise sage.

AVALANCHE’s sentiments (though not their violent methods) are also rooted in green movements’ environmental worries,
and the real-life hypothesis has inspired green-politics activists.



The Gaia hypothesis is popular in Japan, perhaps because it resonates with traditional Japanese philosophical notions of natural balance and the nature-centric Shinto religion. In Love Will Grow (1995), an album of Final Fantasy vocal arrangements, the song which gives voice to the Main Theme of Final Fantasy I is titled ‘Gaia’. Whilst possibly also referencing the aforementioned town in that game, the song’s lyrics and the album’s liner notes imply Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis was an inspiration for the song’s themes. Independently, a separate vocalist on the album, Risa Okhi, also relates “I hear that the Earth is a single lifeform.[..] Lives grow and evolve[...] We change, learn something out of the change, and change again; with Earth and the Universe.”

We should bear in mind that musicians collaborating with Nobuo Uematsu on a vocal collection were themselves inhabiting a different world to the scenario-writers of Final Fantasy. Nevertheless, it is fascinating how freely the Gaia hypothesis has circulated amongst the creators connected with the franchise. The idea seems important to the mythos of Final Fantasy across multiple departments.

Square Enix employ an imaginatively adapted form of Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis in the film Spirits Within where it is explicitly namedropped, albeit without reference to Lovelock himself. Instead, the theory is presented as the brainchild of Dr. Sid and is central to the film’s plot. In stark contrast to Lovelock’s metaphorical usage, Spirits Within takes the Gaia hypothesis very literally. Here, Gaia is the actual semi-sentient spirit/soul of Earth. Sid’s theory posits that the spiritual energy of all deceased organisms rejoin Gaia, which promptly learns and evolves. Gaia is even visible, represented by a blue glow. Considering that the film’s plot is set in an imagined future of our Earth (2060), and that it therefore lacks Final Fantasy staples such as chocobos, Gaia’s presence is notable for being one of the few recognisable ‘Final Fantasy’ elements within that film, fresh off the back of Gaia’s relevance in Final Fantasy IX.

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Dr. Sid’s journal notes before he destroys them out of concerns that New New York’s authorities could
prosecute him for his bold ideas. Indeed, the council’s spirited argument against Dr. Sid could be
comparable to Lovelock’s sceptical critics amongst the scientific community.

Whilst still presented as a scientific argument, Final Fantasy’s Gaia hypothesis puts some of the goddess back into the term,
dramatically differentiating it from Lovelock. We need not assume that Square have misinterpreted Lovelock’s hypothesis,
rather than reimagined it for a fantasy setting.


That Lovelock initially had cosmic applications in mind whilst developing the Gaia hypothesis is worth emphasising. The other prominent plotline in Spirits Within concerns a collision of worlds: Phantoms from an unspecified destroyed planet crash-land onto Earth on a Leonid meteor. This alien rock contains a faint essence of the alien world’s Gaia/soul, and the Phantoms’ presence immediately pollutes the spirit of Earth. This is curiously reminiscent of not only Final Fantasy IX’s Terra’s disruptive partial-merger with Gaia, but also the arrival of Jenova on a meteor 2,000 years before Final Fantasy VII, and this alien’s interruption of the Planet/Gaia’s local Lifestream. The Final Fantasy VII Planet even has self-regulating systems (diverting energy to heal the wound, causing the Knowlespole region to enter a permafrost) and defence systems, including Weapons (bio-mechanical monsters created to combat the alien threat). These fit not only the hypothesis but the Greek Gaia’s spawning of monsters for war. Furthermore Spirits Within’s villain, General Hein, fires a weapon called the Zeus Cannon in an attempt to destroy the alien meteor/crater, just as Shinra authorises its mako-powered Sister Ray to be fired upon the Northern Crater housing the legacy of the alien Jenova (Sephiroth). This may simulate the god Zeus smiting with his thunderbolts the Titans and Gigantes (beings resulting from the tumultuous collision of Gaia and Uranus). That Square Enix has afforded Gaia prominence in plotlines with a cosmic arena and extra-terrestrial threats combined with a mythical spirit is, therefore, felicitous.


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Left, Dr. Aki Ross (Dr. Sid’s colleague) observing a model of the spirit of Earth’s Gaia meeting the spiritual mass/Gaia of the mysterious alien Phantom world.
This resembles both the arrival of Final Fantasy VII’s Jenova (with the alien’s interruption of the Planet’s local Lifestream) and Final Fantasy IX’s
partial-merger of the planet Terra with Gaia, right, which left a permanent mark on Gaia’s surface and disrupted its lifecycle.

In Spirits Within, the colour red/orange represents the alien world’s Gaia-spirit, blue the Earth’s Gaia-spirit.
A similar colour scheme is used in Final Fantasy IX to distinguish the crystal cores of Gaia and Terra. Final Fantasy VII’s Lifestream
also has an opposing extra-terrestrial counterpart: the Negative Lifestream composed of Jenova particles.




**SPOILERS FOR SHADOWBRINGERS EDEN RAID FROM HERE ON**


Unearthing Gaia’s Humanity

Until now, Final Fantasy’s references to Gaia have been in the geographical form or spirit of Gaia, but not the humanoid representations of ancient art. It could be tempting to count Final Fantasy VI’s Terra Branford as an exception (her name being the aforementioned Roman equivalent of Gaia), however this is only true for the English localisation; in the original Japanese the character is known as Tina. Therefore, the franchise’s first true representation of Gaia as an anthropomorphic character only emerged recently, during patch content for Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers. She is utilised to consolidate the various themes already discussed about Gaia as a planet.


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Terraforming.
Left, Terra Branford in Final Fantasy VI. Right, Gaia in Final Fantasy XIV.
Both characters overcome manipulative mind-control and reinvent their identities.
Ted Woolsey (Final Fantasy VI’s English translator) chose the name Terra since the original Tina was unpopular with play testers.
His choice suits: Terra is half-Esper (magical beings resembling deities and mythical beasts), her in-game sprite form’s exotic green hair
could be made to reflect earthy themes, and she does become a ‘mother figure’ at the end of her arc.


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A more obscure exception: the card Gaia in Mobius Final Fantasy as a cosmic humanoid entity between
two planets (including an Earth-like planet), surrounded by a retinue of winged humanoid beings.


The world of the First had for a hundred years been left ravaged by the Flood of Light which had spread to engulf the majority of the planet. In Shadowbringers’ Eden raid storyline, after ending the Flood in the main campaign, the player and companions investigate a lifeless desert known as ‘The Empty’. In this wasteland drained of all aether, the only detectable object is a solitary, slumbering lifeform.

Upon awakening, this lifeform is revealed to be Eden (sharing both name and appearance with the Guardian Force of Final Fantasy VIII). The First’s Eden is the original Sin Eater and the root cause of the Flood of Light itself a century ago. This machine-like creature can be operated from within using Ryne’s authority as the Oracle of Light. Upon learning of Eden’s ability to alter the elemental aether in its environment, Ryne and company decide to use it to restore balance to all elements, allowing life to flourish again. Whilst thus occupied the party is aided by a mysterious, young Hume woman: Gaia.


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Blinded by the Light. The Sin Eater Eden, the original cause of the Flood of Light, at rest in the Empty.
While the Flood itself has ended, all elemental aether in the Empty remains replaced with Light, meaning that
nothing exists but a snow-like powdery crystal substance on which nothing can grow.
Contact with this location slowly drains the aether from anybody who dares to explore.


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There remain faint traces of elemental aether waiting to be rekindled. To accomplish this, the player must defeat elemental
Primals conjured by Ryne from the player’s memories. In addition to immediate environmental changes in the Empty,
a visual symbol is present as a crystal near the campsite which changes colours to reflect the party’s progress.

At times, Gaia possesses a good instinct for determining which element to restore next
during the questline, hinting at an environmental affinity.


Attracted like a moth to Eden’s Light, Gaia is initially encountered as she attacks the party when Ryne gains control over Eden for the first time. Gaia has the power to open portals to the Thirteenth Shard (the world which was consumed by Darkness and became the Void). Drawing from the Void, the mysterious woman conjures beings as weapons of war, suiting her mythological counterpart as a spawner of monsters. It is swiftly deduced that the defeated lady must be the Oracle of Darkness: an elemental opposite to Ryne, the Oracle of Light.

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Gaia in armour attacking the party in the guise of the ‘Voidwalker’. During this battle she is accompanied by Voidsent sharing their names
with other primordial entities prominent at the beginning of creation in Greek mythology. Gaia summons multiple incarnations of
Nyx (named after the embodiment of Night) and the ‘Hand of Erebos’ (named after Nyx’s consort, the embodiment of Darkness).

That both Nyx and Erebus were described by Hesiod as emerging from Chaos (nothingness) at approximately the
same time as Gaia emerged on her own makes their identity as Voidsent especially appropriate.


After falling unconscious in her attack against the party, Gaia is taken to their camp. When the lady awakes she suffers from amnesia, remembering only fragmentary details of a life she had lived in Eulmore. Her name, Gaia, she only learned from a ‘faerie’ she claims whispers in her head, and that this ‘faerie’ had taken over her, causing her assault. Recovering her wits, Gaia decides to help the party and get her memory back.


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Right, Gaia reclining attended by personifications of agricultural bounty on a mosaic from Roman Antioch,
4th century AD, held at Hatay Archaeology Museum, Antakya.
While earlier Greek art depicts Gaia as a worried, protective mother, Roman art frequently
shifts emphasis to Gaia as a goddess of bountiful plenty.

This mosaic has some arbitrary resemblance to the Shadowbringers character, left, but this is presumably coincidental
as the sullen look was commonplace in ancient art. Rather fittingly, the current incarnation of Gaia was born in
Eulmore: a city of earthly pleasures where fatalistic hedonism had turned the city into a dystopia.


In addition to Tetsuya Nomura’s gloomy character design, the Shadowbringers character has a cold, impatient, moody temperament reflecting her inner turmoil, which is softened during the questline by her relationship with Ryne. This perhaps mimics the Greek Gaia’s shifting allegiances.

During critical moments, Gaia discovers that she can conjure a hammer out of thin air. This works as a throwback to the recurring weapon in the Final Fantasy franchise, Gaia Hammer or Earth Hammer, which causes Earth damage. Perhaps the closest Greek mythological foundation for this could be the forge god Hephaestus’ presence at the conception and birth of Erichthonius/Erechtheus from the earth/Gaia. This allusion, if intended, is incompletely forged.

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Due to her memory loss, Gaia is just as astonished as the party about her instinctive summoning of a hammer.
She uses it to successfully smash free Ryne from an encasement of Light-aspected ice after
Ryne’s summoning of Shiva almost caused a second Flood of Light.


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Gaia delivering the baby Athenian ancestor hero, Erichthonius/Erechtheus, to Athena. The male figure on the left is identified as Hephaestus.
From an Attic red-figure stamnos, approximately 460 BC, held at Staatliche Antikensammlungen, Munich.
By the Classical period Erichthonius and Erechtheus were considered separate figures (grandfather and grandson),
but in earlier sources, Homer included, they were indistinguishable.

Sometimes the autochthonous Erichthonius/Erechtheus was a direct child of Gaia
(Homer, Iliad:2.548, Odyssey:7.324, 11.576; Euripides, Ion:20, 260-282).
Alternatively, Hephaestus’ rebuffed copulation with Athena saw his seed impregnate the earth
(Pseudo-Eratosthenes, Constellations:13; Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library:3.14.6;
Pausanias, Description of Greece:1.2.6; Hyginus, Fabulae:166).


Oracle of Darkness: Gaia the Ancient

When the ‘faerie’ in Gaia’s head is revealed to be her old friend Mitron, her true identity crops up. It transpires that Gaia is in fact a sundered Ascian who held the seat and title of ‘Loghrif’. Aeons before contemporary lifeforms, when there existed a complete Star, a race of perfect beings, the Ancients, governed their utopia planet living communal, mutually beneficial lives. When their perfect world was sundered in the cosmic conflict between Hydaelyn and Zodiark, the planet and the souls of most of its inhabitants were fractured into shards: inferior copies of what had been a wonderful whole.

The Ascians are those Ancients who remained, or regained, cognizance of their heritage. Most seek to reassemble the fractured world into a complete whole, with their sacrificed friends restored to life. The top tier of Ascian are the Unsundered who survived the Sundering intact without ever losing themselves or their memories (this class includes Emet-Selch, Elidibus and Lahabrea). Other Ascians, who had been sundered, were instead repeatedly reincarnated, requiring other Ascians to restore their Ancient memories. Loghrif/Gaia and Mitron fit this secondary category. Before the Star’s Sundering, as Ancients, the pair had served the Convocation in their capital Amaurot. Gaia/Loghrif (mirroring her mythological counterpart as an earth goddess and protector) was originally intended to become the vessel for Zodiark to save the Star, before Elidibus fulfilled that task as the emissary. After the Sundering, over millennia, Gaia and Mitron lived multiple mortal lives and had to be continuously reawoken to their Ascian identities and purpose.


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“It’s a small world after all.”
Gaia/Loghrif and Mitron in a flashback after finding each other and remembering their Ancient/Amaurotine selves, again, with the help of Emet-Selch.
The current Gaia is in a transitionary state between forgetting her contemporary Eulmorian mortal life and rediscovering her Ascian/Ancient heritage.

Being an Ancient, Gaia/Loghrif could compare favourably with the mythological Gaia being a primordial being,
since the only entity to pre-exist Gaia was Chaos (Hesiod, Theogony:117-118).
This is reflected in the Final Fantasy character’s Dark/Ascian affiliation.

In ancient mythic traditions, Gaia was the original presider over the Oracle of Delphi before losing her seat to Apollo
(Pindar, Pythian Odes:4.74; Aeschylus, Eumenides:1-19; Pausanias, Description of Greece:10.5.5; Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae:140).
Gaia/Loghrif, as an ‘Oracle of Darkness’, and also an Ascian whose original purpose
was passed onto another, Elidibus, sits comfortably here.

As a close partnership, Gaia/Loghrif and Mitron were not averse to fusing into one being: an Ascian Prime. Together, a hundred years ago, they had terrorised the First. In a climactic confrontation, the First’s Warrior of Light, Ardbert, split the Ascian Prime with a blade of pure Light in a well-intentioned attempt to eradicate Darkness. That incarnation of Gaia/Loghrif perished while Mitron was trapped in a prison of light, Eden, becoming the first Sin Eater and, in a panic to shed the light engulfing him, emitted an all-consuming wave of Light, causing the Flood.

After a hundred years apart from Mitron, it is Gaia’s current incarnation that the party encounter, reborn in human flesh in contemporary Eulmore. Mitron, trapped within Eden, had watched Gaia’s life of amnesiac freedom green with envy. When the player restored night to the First’s sky, ending the Flood, Mitron’s prison’s grip loosened enough for him to exert greater influence over Gaia’s mind. As the ‘faerie’ in her head, Mitron hinted at Gaia’s identity and cause as an Ancient/Ascian. Mitron further takes advantage of Gaia’s efforts to rejuvenate the Empty, since realigning the elements weakens the prison of light binding him to Eden.

OF76bDI.png

Gaia’s ‘faerie’ at the party’s waterside campsite. The voice in Gaia’s head, the Ascian Mitron, is described by the young woman as her ‘faerie’.
This may allude to the town named Gaia in Final Fantasy I where the town’s local pool was haunted
by a fairy which was trapped, just like Mitron within Eden.

Following Final Fantasy XIV’s internal logic, Mitron probably pretends to be a fairy in order to blend in.
The Fae are acknowledged creatures in the world of the First. They have their own country, Il Mheg,
and are known to appear to mortals in their dreams.

Mitron intends to use Eden to create a timeless utopia where he can be with Loghrif/Gaia for eternity. He fails to recognise the value in Gaia’s contemporary, mortal experience, having lost Amaurot aeons ago. Whilst Gaia rebuffs Mitron, preferring her current life to her aeons-old true Gaia/Loghrif identity, he still manages to control her, forcing them to combine once more into an Ascian Prime. With Mitron’s memories merging with Gaia’s, the young woman’s memories of Ryne and the party begin to fade. From within, Gaia attempts to fight against the Ascian/Loghrif aspect of her identity and keep hold of her new mortal incarnation. This tug-of-war with Gaia’s memories mirrors the inconsistencies present in myth: retellings by different minds in different locales and times lead to varied traditions.


Eyes on Ge: An Insidious Idol

The Greek goddess Gaia was sometimes syncretised with other goddesses (including the Titaness Rhea and the Anatolian mother goddess Cybele). Gaia’s Final Fantasy counterpart experiences the same fate. When Mitron and a bewitched Loghrif/Gaia merge into an Ascian Prime to face the player, they take on another form: Eden’s Promise. Sporting strange bulbous protrusions on its chest, this figure is strongly reminiscent of the ancient cult statue of Artemis at Ephesus.

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An Asican Prime wasn’t even their final form.
Left, Eden’s Promise. Right, a Roman copy of the statue of Artemis from the
Temple of Ephesus, held in the Vatican Museums (photo by Wknight94).

The original xoanon (wooden cult image) is long lost. Later copies of the statue in marble or alabaster,
many retaining rigid, Archaic poses, offer some insight into its general appearance
(albeit also introducing anachronistic contemporary features).

Ephesus was an ancient Greek coastal city in Ionia, Asia Minor (modern day Turkey’s west coast). The Temple of Artemis (or Artemision), on which construction began in 550 BC, was destroyed by a fame-seeking arsonist, Herostratus, in 356 BC and subsequently reconstructed on an even grander scale. The Artemision was widely celebrated for its grandeur throughout antiquity. Its inclusion in lists of the Wonders of the Ancient World secured its immortal fame in the public consciousness (Antipater of Sidon, Greek Anthology:9.58; Philo of Byzantium, On The Seven Wonders:6).

The Ephesian cult figure served as a city-protectress, but has also been regarded as a mother goddess. A closer look at Eden’s Promise’s appearance reveals striking similarities.

ElO6SyR.png

The most immediately distracting feature of the Ephesian Artemis are the myriad oval objects,
often interpreted as multiple breasts: suitable equipment for a fertile ‘mother goddess’.
Disparaging Early Christian writers started or perpetuated this view
(Minucius Felix, Octavius:21; Jerome, Commentary on Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians).

Many modern scholars are no longer convinced and propose they may represent: bulls testicles; eggs;
amber decorations (matching those discovered in deposits of an earlier Archaic temple);
pollen sacs celebrating Ephesus’ apiculture industry, and more.
The appearance of such attachments on the original statue were then rendered
in the marble copies and obscured.



3Z8pqsa.png

Gaia/Loghrif and Mitron’s combined form sports a golden disc behind the shoulders bedecked with figures of winged lions.
This cleverly mimics the Ephesian Artemis’ winged lions on her own disc whilst also recalling the
memorable leonine Sin Eater type (Forgiven Reticence) in Shadowbringers.



VP02Wuc.png

The boss’s head wears fortified walls as a headpiece, resembling the mural crown of some copies of the Ephesian Artemis.
This motif (presenting Artemis as a protective city deity) is also seen adorning the head of some depictions of the Anatolian goddess Cybele,
with whom some believe Artemis was assimilated at Ephesus.



XgRYCQj.png


Whilst lacking the rigid, Archaic-style pose of its statue counterpart’s legs, Eden’s Promise’s lower half is not entirely lacking in allusions.
The bees which decorate bronze cages (forming the creature’s thighs) match the bees seen on some of the
Ephesian statue’s copies
promoting the city’s beekeeping reputation. In the context of Gaia, we might also remember the Meliae (ash-tree nymphs
sometimes characterised as honey nymphs), but the general association with nature remains present regardless.

Titan-like humanoids in Atlas poses (a recurring pose for Final Fantasy Titans) are contained within the cage-thighs.
We might take these to represent the Titans imprisoned by Zeus within Tartarus after their defeat in the Titanomachy.


Eden’s Promise introduces a tree atop its fortress crown, presumably reinforcing a representation of Gaia as the earth itself. The skin of Eden’s Promise blends in with the bark which additionally fits as the original cult statue was made of wood.

Also enhancing the Ephesian angle, Eden’s Promise summons a series of living stone statues to their aid: Lissom Sculptures (winged women), Chiseled Sculptures (Titan-like men), and Beastly Sculptures (lions). Generally, all possess vaguely classical aesthetics, but specifically lions accompany many marble copies of the Artemision statue and winged Victories are also associated with some late renditions of the sculpture.

Why connect Gaia and Mitron with the Artemision statue and cult? The Ascian Mitron’s real Ancient name is revealed to be Artemis, ancient Greek goddess of the hunt, moon, and childbirth, amongst other attributes.

ECVEQNi.png

The Ascians Mitron and Loghrif at work a century ago on the moon, a favourite Ascian haunt. For Mitron/Artemis,
there is additional religious relevance considering the broader goddess Artemis’ (and Roman Diana’s)
occasional identification as a moon goddess.

In cosmic terms, Gaia’s partnership with Artemis is parallel to the Earth’s
inseparable relationship with the Moon.



vyK0g3c.png

Mitron/Artemis unmasked.
Mitron’s identity as Artemis implies that the Ancients can transcend the traditional
genders attributed to the deities which inspired them.

There is, however, franchise precedence for this. The recurring stripey moogle Artemicion, also male, shares the same etymological root.
Whether this furry messenger, bottom right, relates to Artemis, the Battle of Artemisium (480 BC),
or the ‘Artemision Bronze’ (a Classical bronze statue of Zeus, or Poseidon, recovered from a shipwreck),
or none of the above, remains kupo-confusing.

Gaia’s relevance is less direct. The Ephesian goddess featured in the Artemision was identified by the Ionian Greek colonisers as Artemis, but also incorporated characteristics and physical attributes of local Anatolian mother goddesses (including Cybele, although scholars continue to debate this). Unlike typical representations of Artemis (who aided childbirth but was herself celebrated for her virginity), mother goddesses represented fertility and nature/earth.


e4Zx884.png

Left, Rhea-Cybele, riding a lion on an Attic red-figure kylix fragment, Late 5th century BC, held at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Right, Statue of Cybele from Ostia, approximately AD 200-300, held at the National Archaeological Museum of Naples (photo by Marco Prins).
Ancient Greeks sometimes associated Cybele with the Greek Rhea (the Titan mother of the Olympian gods).

Cybele is usually accompanied by lions, a symbol of her power over nature, an attribute shared by Artemis in her very ancient guise
as Potnia Theron (‘Mistress of Animals’). Both Rhea and Cybele were also sometimes combined with Gaia.


According to Greek renderings of Phrygian myths (an Anatolian civilisation), Agdistis (frequently interpreted as a form of Cybele) initially had hermaphroditic qualities until the gods cut off their phallus out of fear of Agdistis-Cybele’s power (Pausanias, Description of Greece:7.17.8-11). We could compare this with Mitron and Gaia’s merger into an Ascian Prime, and the Ephesian Artemis-inspired Eden’s Promise entity, and their eventual separation. Primarily, however, we are witness to a commentary on the complex syncretism of religions. As Artemis merged with local Ephesian goddesses, Mitron/Artemis merged with Loghrif/Gaia at Eden: two entities within one.

Gaia/Loghrif and Artemis/Mitron’s combined manifestation as the Ephesian Artemis transcends even these mythological associations. Considering the wider Final Fantasy mythos, Eden’s Promise doubles as a meta-reference to Final Fantasy VIII. Artemisia is, after all, an alternative way of transliterating アルティミシア / Arutimishia (localised as Ultimecia in English), Final Fantasy VIII’s villainous sorceress who sought godhood by attempting to compress all of time into a single moment, with herself becoming the centre of a new universe. The allusion fits since what Shadowbringers’s Mitron seeks by his timeless utopia is, in essence, Time Compression.

OkbcLVu.png


Timeless icons. Final Fantasy VIII’s Ultimecia as she appears in Final Fantasy Dissidia NT.
Whilst taking fashion tips from Disney’s evil queen Malificent, Ultimecia is, in part, a human representation of
the temple of Artemision, or the sacred statue within.

Additionally, Ultimecia’s silver horn-like hairdo emulates the symbolic association of horns with the moon.
The intimidating prominence of the moon in Final Fantasy VIII, both as a backdrop and plot point,
might tie into Artemis’ role as a lunar goddess via Ultimecia/Artemisia.

Ultimecia’s merger with the leonine ultimate Guardian Force, Griever, serendipitously presages the lion Beastly Sculptures
of the Eden’s Promise battle, while also suiting the lion companions of the Ephesian goddess.



6cdpUBp.png

Examining the décor and architectural choices of Ultimecia’s Castle, and also the orphanage where the
sorceress passes her powers onto Edea, there are noticeable classical or neoclassical influences.
The columns and tympanum (triangular reliefs above the lintels) are akin to Graeco-Roman temples.



3m2Ub5u.jpg

The largest painting in Ultimecia’s castle Art Gallery depicts ancient (possibly Centran) ruins with a Graeco-Roman inspiration.
Final Fantasy VIII’s Ultimecia/Artemisia identity could relate to numerous historical figures.
Two famous ancient Carian queens shared the name: Artemisia I fought as a naval commander for Xerxes at the Battle of Salamis (480 BC)
during the Persian Wars, whereas Artemisia II (reigning 353-351 BC) commissioned a famous funerary monument for
her dead brother-husband, King Mausolus, coining the term Mausoleum in the process
(this became another of the ‘Wonders of the World').

Alternatively, the Renaissance painter Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1656) might share Ultimecia’s artistic tastes evident in her gallery.
Ultimately though, Shadowbringers, through Eden’s Promise’s design, leans towards the Artemision
temple figure and, by extension, Artemis the goddess.


Shadowbringers’ evoking of the Artemision is less surprising when one recognises the myriad Final Fantasy VIII allusions throughout the Eden questline, especially concerning nature. Eden itself, as noted, is named after the Final Fantasy VIII Guardian Force, bringing with it its Biblical association with paradisiacal gardens. In Final Fantasy VIII similar-looking ancient Centran devices were repurposed as modern schools for training SeeD cadets. Renditions of memorable tracks Blue Fields and Balamb Garden play at the party’s campsite, audibly encouraging this connection. This cultivates an image of Gaia as a gardener of nature. The moment Gaia comes to terms with herself the entire campsite bursts into the full bloom of an Eden-like paradise. The fruits of her labour paid off, as aether is restored to the Empty.


TAdYb5Z.jpg

There are myriad references to Final Fantasy VIII throughout Gaia’s storyline.
Most importantly, Ryne’s rush to save Gaia’s memories at the end of the questline (depicted above) emulates Rinoa saving Squall’s soul
at Final Fantasy VIII’s finale. Thancred’s gunblade, recalling Squall’s iconic weapon, serves a role in this climactic scene.
As Gaia is lost in nothingness, Ryne slices through the darkness and reaches out to touch her. Upon contact they are immediately
surrounded by petals, just as flowers bloom following Rinoa’s rejuvenating reunion with Squall.



fKbPUSE.jpg

Life Found a Way.
Gaia and Ryne admiring the new Eden they have created.
With the crystal fully attuned to all elements and the environment healed, the Empty transforms into plenty.
Ryne helps Gaia remove her emotional barriers and discover the life she desires to live, attuning to herself.
The ecological health of the planet, therefore, is intrinsically tied to Gaia’s mental state.


Paradise Found

In-game lore explains that the name ‘Eden’ means ‘Utopia’ in the language of the Fae. To us, Eden is the lost garden of paradise from the Biblical book of Genesis (Genesis:2-3). Its presence strengthens the recurring allusions to Ascians pining for utopias, notably their former capital Amaurot (itself the capital of the fictional country Utopia in Thomas More’s Utopia, 1516). In defeating Mitron, the party smashes the Amaurotine dream once again, but successfully creates a paradise for new, contemporary life.

fQarSi7.jpg

The Garden of Eden with the Fall of Man, by P.P Rubens and J. Brueghel, 1615,
held at the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague.
We could compare the whispering of the Biblical serpent into Eve’s ear (Genesis:3.1-6) with the internal goading
of Mitron (as the ‘faerie’) within the mind of Gaia, tricking her into freeing him. Ascians are presented as ‘fallen angels’.
Whilst Gaia shakes herself free of her Ascian heritage, the result (a mortal, normal life
as opposed to an eternity with Mitron within Eden) is akin to Eve’s fate after
eating the Forbidden Fruit and being banished.


With the Empty’s elemental aether finally recovered, the self-regulating ecological processes can begin on the First once more. Shadowbringers’ interpretation of Gaia’s appearance in quests concerning restoring a planet’s life-force is no accident; her actions have enabled life like her namesake both in myth and the hypothesis named after her. Like her goddess namesake, Gaia (re)formed the sky, (re)formed the sea, and (re)formed the mountains.

Gaia herself recognises this. Openly acknowledging that her name is a symbol of hope, she vows to continue wearing it to help people. Gaia’s act of restoring the Empty also heals her identity, she both accepts her Ascian aspects whilst embracing the promise of her future. She dismisses the chance to learn about her current incarnation’s forgotten mortal name and life in Eulmore, preferring her newfound life with Ryne wearing her true, Ancient name: Gaia.

yN3flLF.jpg

The Original Sin (Eater) becomes the New Eden.
In the distance, Eden becomes a landmark in the beautifully restored Empty. Enveloped in leafy boughs,
it now resembles Final Fantasy IX’s Iifa Tree (which once stabilised the planet Gaia but eventually filtered Gaian souls on behalf of Terra).
Alternatively, it symbolises the mythical ‘World Tree’ motif connecting the realms that make up the world/universe,
and the related concept of the ‘Tree of Life’, which is incidentally located in the Biblical Eden (Genesis:2.9; Revelation:2.7).


Conclusion: Going Green

Mirroring her mythological counterpart, Final Fantasy’s Gaia has been considered a land/planet, an anthropomorphic figure, has been amalgamated with other beings, and has even been a hypothesis. Even when not namedropped, Gaia’s spirit recurs in the franchise as a whole.

With extraordinarily clever writing, the Final Fantasy XIV character’s story is used to connect with other Final Fantasies in order to put an anthropomorphic spin on the franchise’s recurring ecological themes. While the staff at Square Enix change with the times, Shadowbringers demonstrates full cognisance of Final Fantasy’s wider heritage, which they expertly weave into a unique reception of ancient religion and mythology.


-

What do you think about Final Fantasy's representations of Gaia? Discuss in the comments!

Earn 1 Mako Point for your comments!

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Credit goes to Six for designing the banner.
For other current articles in the FFFMM series see the Mythology Manual Hub (including bibliography) or the Mythology Manual article category.
 
Dionysos

Dionysos

Having recently read Mythos, I felt like Dan knowing shit about this week's manual! Great job, as always. Really need to get you on Live Journal or something - I would really love analysis of games outside of FF!

I've found that Gaia, as a whole, tends to just represent the planet rather than anything else. Outside of the FF examples, here the only time I can think of an actual representation of Gaia, as a character, is in God of War 3... I think.
 
Having read this great article and having also started reading Final Fantasy VII: The Kids Are Alright: A Turks Side Story, I happened to feel a link between Gaïa and the character Kyrie. (And also between Kyrie and Jenova as you can imagine).
Dan teaches us the following:
Gaia’s intimate familiarity with the environment afforded her the gift of prophecy.
Kyrie in the book runs a detective agency which the major selling point is her alleged ability to read in the Lifestream to provide answers to its clients. She doesn't hide from her associates that this is charlatanism.
It may sound more like a clairvoyant skill than a gift of prophecy, but reading into the knowledge of nature may, according to the myth, be considered a useful tool for predicting the future.

Kyrie is a common name of an important prayer of Christian liturgy, also called the Kyrie eleison (source Wikipedia).
This reference to Christianity brings us back to Aerith in her church but also to Jenova if we consider that her name is a reference to Jehova.
When she officiates in her agency, Kyrie dims the light and disguises herself with a black hooded coat that reminds us in some way of the Sephiroth's clones.

According to what Dan writes, the characters of Terra Branford (FFVI) and Gaia (FFXIV) both overcome manipulative mind-control and reinvent their identities.
If Gaia is really the name of the Planet of FFVII then she may possess the same kind of mind control skills that are usually attributed to Jenova.

A statement in this article that could potentially be slightly nuanced:
Left, Dr. Aki Ross (Dr. Sid’s colleague) observing a model of the spirit of Earth’s Gaia meeting the spiritual mass/Gaia of the mysterious alien Phantom world.
This resembles both the arrival of Final Fantasy VII’s Jenova (with the alien’s interruption of the Planet’s local Lifestream) and Final Fantasy IX’s
partial-merger of the planet Terra with Gaia, right, which left a permanent mark on Gaia’s surface and disrupted its lifecycle.
In Final Fantasy VII some of the Ancients have stopped their migration and therefore have slowed down the diffusion of the Lifestream on the planet.
(reason why these people have lost the ability to speek with the planet).
The effects of this secession may have led to an interruption of the Lifestream and this event apparently happened before Jenova's arrival.


Dan, it's a very interesting article and I'll certainly come back to it soon.
Thank you !

Oh, and I also discovered the Gaia/Uranus relationship, which quite upset my hypotheses, Uranus taking in a certain way the place that I intended for Orpheus.
Thanks anyway ;)
 
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I'm delighted that you’ve both read it. These things take months, but to know that some people have enjoyed it makes it worthwhile! Thanks!

Having recently read Mythos, I felt like Dan knowing shit about this week's manual! Great job, as always. Really need to get you on Live Journal or something - I would really love analysis of games outside of FF!

I've found that Gaia, as a whole, tends to just represent the planet rather than anything else. Outside of the FF examples, here the only time I can think of an actual representation of Gaia, as a character, is in God of War 3... I think.

Yeah, Gaia in God of War 3 was a particularly memorable representation of Gaia in relatively recent popular culture. And I think they did a fine job of combining the anthropomorphic representations with her association with the planet itself (at least visually). She was very much made of the earth, and there were some very cool battles fought on her body.

The way she is depicted in God of War is in particular quite close to the way she is imagined in Nonnus’ Dionysiaca (a very, very long epic poem about Dionysos from late antiquity). Here Gaia is imagined with geographical features on her person. Her head is covered in forests, and during her mourning over the death of Typhon she tears ravines into her cheeks and her tears are essentially flowing rivers.

That’s pretty much what we have with God of War’s version of Gaia.

God of War Gaia.jpg


There are several other examples of Gaia in modern fiction, but I think it may be less common to introduce her as an actual character and not some inaccessible and unrelatable representation of planet Earth.

In Marvel comics Gaia is an Elder God (a primordial being from the age of creation, predating gods) and she acts as a mother of gods under various guises in different pantheons. Marvel appear to have taken the comparative mythology approach by having the idea of Gaia or Mother Earth as an archetype being its own thing, and actually end being the same figure in origin.

There is plenty to be said about how mythology has been adapted in other franchises and mediums, for sure. I’m not actively engaged with any other fandoms, so I’m not quite as familiar with how other fandoms work, what has been done already, etc. But none of that should stop me from writing my own thoughts down somewhere.

Kyrie in the book runs a detective agency which the major selling point is her alleged ability to read in the Lifestream to provide answers to its clients. She doesn't hide from her associates that this is charlatanism.
It may sound more like a clairvoyant skill than a gift of prophecy, but reading into the knowledge of nature may, according to the myth, be considered a useful tool for predicting the future.

Kyrie is a common name of an important prayer of Christian liturgy, also called the Kyrie eleison (source Wikipedia).
This reference to Christianity brings us back to Aerith in her church but also to Jenova if we consider that her name is a reference to Jehova.
When she officiates in her agency, Kyrie dims the light and disguises herself with a black hooded coat that reminds us in some way of the Sephiroth's clones.

Yeah, Kyrie here has learned about the Lifestream, but is duping her clients into believing she is some sort of oracle.
The way she has this set up as a sort of mystic/sacred space is typical charlatanism. But it also reminds me a bit of the borderline mystery surrounding the historical oracle of Delphi, and other oracles in ancient Greece. There is proximity, yet still inaccessibility. The idea that the Pythia/Oracle has a link to the divine that you must trust, and you can be close enough to it and get your ‘answer’ relayed to you, but it isn’t likely to be a very helpful answer. And yet it is presented in a way which seems as if it was what you were seeking all along. Or maybe people simply wanted to believe in it after travelling for miles to get to Delphi, camping somewhere nearby, and then queuing all day...

Following what you have said about Kyrie's Christian religious origins (I also think her surname of Canaan is significant here), I find it curious that a prominent questline concerning Kyrie in the Remake concludes at the church.


According to what Dan writes, the characters of Terra Branford (FFVI) and Gaia (FFXIV) both overcome manipulative mind-control and reinvent their identities.
If Gaia is really the name of the Planet of FFVII then she may possess the same kind of mind control skills that are usually attributed to Jenova.

To elaborate, the Terra reference was to her slave-crown and manipulation by the Gestahlian Empire at the beginning of Final Fantasy VI. A significant chunk of her storyline following this revolves around her coming to terms with her former use as a weapon of war and how she would like to define herself going forward.
Gaia in Final Fantasy XIV has a similar experience and has comparable things to think about.

I suspect that Final Fantasy VII's Planet, or its 'will', if you like, can potentially influence its lifeforms. It springs up entirely new ones to deal with threats, so it could well influence animals and people in some way. The entity Minerva is hinted at as being the consciousness of the Planet (or Gaia, if we like), and her interactions with Genesis in Crisis Core are very interesting. There's a lot left unexplained about this entity, so hopefully the Remake or the recently announced Ever Crisis will expand on this concept further.

Gaia/the Planet and Jenova may not be entirely unalike, and I think that idea is worth pursuing. They may represent different worlds, but they exist in a shared cosmic universe and it may be entirely possible that there are other planets out there with Lifestreams just like the Final Fantasy VII Planet. The entity Jenova might even be another planet’s version of Omega, carrying her alien Lifestream within her, or she may follow entirely different rules. That remains unknown, but worth considering.

A point about Jenova, if you want to interpret her as another ‘Gaia’ in the same way as Spirits Within’s alien Phantoms had their own ‘Gaia’:
I removed a sidepoint in this article as it was getting too clogged up as it was, but you might find it interesting. I mention in the article that the statue of Artemis at Ephesus was originally a xoanon (in that it was a sacred wooden object). In the Bible (Acts 19.35) the statue of Ephesus’ Artemision was described as falling from heaven, according to the local Ephesians. As far as I am aware there aren’t any other references to this story about this particular statue, but similar well-documented beliefs were held by ancient Greeks about other xoanon statues (notably the Trojan Palladium, which was believed by the Athenians to have been moved to Athens, other areas by other Greeks, and eventually Rome by the Romans). Take all of that with a grain of salt anyway, because of the Trojan heritage (therefore myth). Unless there exists an undiscovered Greek (or local Ephesian) tradition about the xoanon of Ephesus, the Acts reference might be a biblical misunderstanding and Acts might be conflating these other xoanon myths about the statues descending from the heavens and has applied them to the Artemis statue too.

But if we take the ‘mother goddess’ angle (and Artemis’ amalgamation with other goddesses at Ephesus), The Bible’s report of the statue’s descent to Earth you might like to compare with Jenova’s arrival on the FFVII Planet. That is, if we ignore the destruction and death (or this could be included, if you carry over the Biblical criticisms on other gods, idols and traditions).

With that angle, it sort of reverses the conventional Jenova/Jehova interpretation of the character somewhat.

A statement in this article that could potentially be slightly nuanced:
In Final Fantasy VII some of the Ancients have stopped their migration and therefore have slowed down the diffusion of the Lifestream on the planet.
(reason why these people have lost the ability to speek with the planet).
The effects of this secession may have led to an interruption of the Lifestream and this event apparently happened before Jenova's arrival.

This is a good point. As more and more Cetra turned away from their roots and became deaf to the Planet, this must have meant that the cessation of their former habits of travelling the planet, living in harmony with the planet, and checking in on the planet’s health, would have impacted the state of the planet. The planet would be vulnerable already before Shinra started to suck up mako.

There might be earlier franchise precedents for the theme of alien energies and world mergers too. Final Fantasy V has Galuf and others from his world travel through space using meteors and land on Bartz’ world. The end result of the events set in motion is a merger of the two worlds, which joins all of its landmasses into a large Pangaea. Additionally, the environmental health of the planets rest with the harmony of elemental crystals here, a bit like some of the other examples I cited in the article.

FFV's world merger is a bit different in that it was said to be a return to the original form of the planet before a split in antiquity, rather than a true alien world. This in turn seems somewhat familiar when we consider FFXIV's Sundering of the Star. Intentional or not (and some of it evidently is), Final Fantasy really does love to return to old themes and develop them.

Oh, and I also discovered the Gaia/Uranus relationship, which quite upset my hypotheses, Uranus taking in a certain way the place that I intended for Orpheus.
Thanks anyway ;)

This idea is only one of many possible interpretations, and it isn’t explicitly stated in the game. So other potential readings still stand!
 
Thank you for these developments!

Following what you have said about Kyrie's Christian religious origins (I also think her surname of Canaan is significant here), I find it curious that a prominent questline concerning Kyrie in the Remake concludes at the church.
I was struck to see Kyrie in this church like a mirror of Aerith's presence. I didn't know what to think of it during my first game though.


Yes the link with Artemis is fascinating too even if I don't have the keys to fully understand the references to Shadowbringers (which you present admirably well). The intricacy of all these elements and the interpretations that can result from their study are beyond my analytical skills.

But if we take the ‘mother goddess’ angle (and Artemis’ amalgamation with other goddesses at Ephesus), The Bible’s report of the statue’s descent to Earth you might like to compare with Jenova’s arrival on the FFVII Planet. That is, if we ignore the destruction and death (or this could be included, if you carry over the Biblical criticisms on other gods, idols and traditions).

With that angle, it sort of reverses the conventional Jenova/Jehova interpretation of the character somewhat.
The angle you find to link Jenova, Artemis and Gaia is very interesting. It's a lead that I would have to dig up to try to support my theory.
 
I was struck to see Kyrie in this church like a mirror of Aerith's presence. I didn't know what to think of it during my first game though.

I'm not sure where you are in the novel yet so I'll not say too much. I do believe there are some references to this in it to keep an eye out for though.


Yes the link with Artemis is fascinating too even if I don't have the keys to fully understand the references to Shadowbringers (which you present admirably well). The intricacy of all these elements and the interpretations that can result from their study are beyond my analytical skills.

Shadowbringers is honestly top-tier for this sort of thing in general. Natsuko Ishikawa did a fantastic job with the main scenario (she was also involved with the Bahamut-Phoenix storyline in FFXIV, amongst many others, and it really shows). She also was one of the writers behind the two Encyclopedia Eorzea lore books, so she is deeply interested in mythology and lore. The rest of the team have also showcased their extraordinary competence. Not only is the story of Shadowbringers good but it uses mythology and philosophy (namely Plato and Thomas More) to help tell its story. It’ll keep people like us busy for years to come. I have multiple documents filled with notes about it.

There’s much more to it than can be expressed in any single article. There isn’t enough space to contain it!

The angle you find to link Jenova, Artemis and Gaia is very interesting. It's a lead that I would have to dig up to try to support my theory.
If you’d like some pointers you know where to find me!

The idea I hinted at in my above response is a loose one, I'll admit. One of the other reasons I didn’t include it in the article itself was because it could conflict with the previously stated Uranus-Jenova comparison. It was really a separate argument and could have confused the matter if it had been included. But I do find it to be an interesting angle. There are no doubt 'ancient alien' theorists who, given the chance, would attribute the xoanon statues descending from the sky to alien origins, so why not contemplate FFVII's alien in similar terms and reverse that?
 
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