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The Final Fantasy series has drawn inspiration from various real-world religions, and incorporated elements of them into the fiction that makes up the series.
In the seriesEdit
The recurring summon Leviathan is based on the biblical sea monster Livyatan (לִוְיָתָן). Interestingly, though the word simply means 'whale' in modern Hebrew, it has been interpreted to be a fearsome sea monster from various biblical passages, and is mentioned multiple times in the Tanakh and in Talmud. In Christianity, the Leviathan was portrayed as a demonic avatar of Satan, described by Thomas Aquinas as a 'demon of envy'.
Similarly, the Behemoth is a biblical land beast, again mentioned in the Book of Job. Though in modern Hebrew it lacks the visceral connotation of the English, Behemot means 'beasts' and has been interpreted accordingly as a vicious and dangerous creature.
Odin is based on a Nordic god of the same name, and is often depicted with a horse. Several other summons and monsters from the series are based on gods and goddesses - Shiva, for instance, is based on the god Shiva of the Hinduism religion, although the god is considered male.
Some items, weapons and equipment in most Final Fantasy games are references to Greek and Roman mythology like Zeus Wrath, Hades Equipment, Hermes Sandals, Minerva Bustier, Artemis Bow and Arrow and Perseus Bow.
In the original Japanese Famicom version, many of the towns contained churches (Clinics in the NES version due to NOA policy of religious references), which show that the people of the world of the first game, were possibly all Christians as the churches had a cross on the steeples, as well as the churches being run by priests that wear outfits similar to the Pope. Other religious references in the Japanese version is the addition of pentagrams in the Crystal Rooms of the Four Fiends, as well as crosses that lead up to Bahamut. Chaos himself is likewise based on Satan from the Bible.
Final Fantasy II has the strongest direct allusions to the Abrahamic religions. Towards the end of the game, the party travels into Pandaemonium, the palace of Hell depicted in Paradise Lost. In Pandaemonium, the party encounters several demons from demonology, like Beelzebub, and Astaroth. In Soul of Rebirth, the party travels to Araboth, the highest heaven which contains the throne of God. While not in the game itself, the novelization also indicates that the Emperor had sold his soul to Satan for his potent magical powers.
The Tower of Babil refers to the biblical Tower of Babel (מגדל בבל Migdal Bavel) built by a united humanity, with the intention of reaching the heavens. This is an interesting allusion, as the Tower of Babil houses a great power from the moon, and both God from the Genesis story and the Giant of Babil had the intention of 'confounding' humanity, so to speak.
Kain Highwind's name is from the Genesis story of Cain and Abel (קין והבל, Kayin v'Hevel), in which Cain, in his jealousy and envy of his brother, betrayed him by slaying him (fratricide). This is somewhat reflected in the story element wherein Kain repeatedly betrays his adoptive brother, Cecil Harvey (coincidentally to Cecil's real brother, Golbez). Kain's ultimate weapon is also Abel's Lance, an obvious biblical allusion to the story of Cain and Abel.
The concept of Yin and Yang (Darkness and Light) is also present as represented by Palom (a black mage) and Porom (a white mage). The concept of Yin Yang says that the two are dependent on one another, which is also present in the twins' ability Twin.
Interestingly, when the SNES version was released outside of Japan, several changes were made such as The Tower of Prayers which became Tower of Wishes and the removal of Rosa's Pray ability. The Holy spell is also renamed as White.
The original name for what is later referred to as Heartless Angel, Fallen One, alludes to one of the names of the fallen angel Lucifer, better known as Satan or the devil, which Kefka's god form bears some resemblance to.
Kefka's final battle with the Returners mirrors the Divine Comedy, which entails Dante's journey from Hell, to Purgatory, to Heaven, and eventually meeting God face to face where he tells him the meaning of life. In addition, the Rest and Lady portions of the final battle with Kefka were based on the Pieta statue, depicting Mary holding Jesus shortly after he died on the cross. It is also further alluded to in the Japanese version, where Lady's name was Maria.
The Warring Triad's backstory of fighting amongst themselves alludes to the origin story of the Trojan War, where Aphrodite, Athena, and Hera fought over an apple that was to be rewarded only to the most beautiful of the goddesses. Under Zeus's orders the Trojan prince, Paris, decided Aphrodite was the winner and was rewarded by her with Helen of Troy, most beautiful of all mortals, as a wife. This was seen as an insult by Agamemnon, king of Mycenae and Helen's brother, and he besieged Troy to reclaim her.
When trying to convince Terra to support the Returners' cause, Banon speaks of a box that someone opened that unleashed all of the evils of the world, but contained within it a single ray of light, hope, and asks her to be their hope. This is a reference to the "Pandora's box" of Greek mythology. Pandora was given a beautiful container and told to not open it under any circumstances, but was compelled by curiosity. When she opened it, all evil contained escaped into the world, but at the bottom of the box remained a Spirit of Hope named Elpis.
Final Fantasy VII draws heavily from the Lurian Kabalā (Jewish Mysticism), a medieval Jewish variant of Gnosticism. Gnosticism originated as a Roman-era fusion of Christianity and Ancient Greek philosophy, and its adherents were said to have knowledge of the "true" nature of the world. Like the Cetra, the Gnostics were ruthlessly persecuted until their beliefs died out, though traces remain in the Kabbalah, Sufi Islam, and Jungian psychology (which also relates to Cloud's journey into the Lifestream to confront the buried shadow aspects of his mind). In addition, Hojo's "Jenova Reunion" theory, where entities enfused with Jenova's cells, will reunite with Jenova/Sephiroth at the Northern Crater, seems to stem from Gnosticism, namely the concept of each human having a fragment of God.
Both belief systems, Gnosticism and its Kabbalist branch, proclaim that all humans have inside their bodies a spark of divine light from the Absolute which returns there upon death. This Absolute is an infinite wellspring of spiritual energy, knowledge, and goodness, mirroring the function of the Lifestream. The Kabbalah states that the Absolute is the Judeo-Christian God, whereas early Gnostics instead believed him to be an incompetent or malicious false god known as the demiurge ("artisan" in Ancient Greek) who merely believed himself the uncreated deity because he was shielded from the Absolute by his "mother", an emanation from the Absolute (known as an Aeon) who fell from the skies. This demiurge, trapped in the material world, cannot create anything good, and instead corrupts the sparks of light, just like Jenova's corruption of the Lifestream and of human beings.
The name Jenova has Hebrew and Latin components. One is taken from the ineffable Hebrew name of God, יהוה (yud-hei-vav-hei), which is often romanized into Yahweh or Jehovah, although the original pronunciation is no longer known. This is combined with the Latin word nova, meaning 'new'. Thus Jenova is, in a sense, a 'new god', just like the demiurge when created by his mother. In addition, as Jenova is Sephiroth's "mother" yet is also implied to be virtually one and the same, their relationship is similar to the mainstream Christian view of Jesus Christ's relationship with Jehovah, as he is considered both the Son of God and Son of Man. Depending on how one counts the Remnants and Sephiroth's will, this also alludes to the Holy Trinity, the "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" in Christian dogma.
Sephiroth factors in through Kabbalism. His name is Hebrew in origin (ספירות Sfirót) and means 'Counting', or 'Enumeration'. Many have compared this aspect to the name of the Sephiroth Clones, each given their own number. The ten aspects of God and creation known as Sephirot (same as the Gnostic Aeons) are often arranged in a unique pattern known as the Tree of Life. These aspects are "Crown, Wisdom, Understanding, Benevolence, Strength, Beauty (known in Hebrew as "Tifaret"), Eternity, Splendor, Foundation (Vessel) and Royalty (Kinghood)," though some lists differ slightly.
Sephiroth summons Meteor in order to create a huge wound to the Planet, thereby condensing the entire Lifestream at the North Crater, which would allow him to ascend to Godhood. It is said in the Zohar that "If one tried to pour all of infinity into a vessel, the vessel would break." It would fissure, and the universe would rupture into a flowing, yet familiar pattern (the Tree of Life). This principle would also apply to Ultimecia's desire to unite all of existence and reform it to her liking in Final Fantasy VIII. Finally, he also has the Heartless Angel attack, and angelic forms either resembling a Seraphim or an angel with a removed wing, representing a fallen angel, or Lucifer. This is reflected in his "rebellion" and attempt to capture the Promised Land, a heavenly place of myth, for himself.
Aerith Gainsborough grows flowers in a dilapidated and abandoned church in the slums of Midgar that appears very reminiscent in structure to a Catholic or Lutheran church. The flowers grow from a hole where the pulpit would have once stood. Aerith herself is part of a race that is able to talk to the Planet. A similar concept of a "chosen people" being able to speak to God is present in Judaism and Christianity, and the Pope is supposedly chosen to deliver God's will to the world. Sephiroth holds a similar, though much darker, belief about himself being "the chosen one, chosen to rule this planet." This connection is further strengthened when Aerith prays at an alter to try to get the Planet to cast Holy. After her death, Aerith travels through the Lifestream, easing the passage of departed souls, and working against Sephiroth. As such, she can be likened to a Christ figure, a saint, or a guardian angel, although angels traditionally are not born of the souls of the departed.
Tifa's bar, Seventh Heaven, is named for a concept in both Jewish and Gnostic belief, whereby the Throne of Jehovah/the demiurge is located above the seventh circle of heaven. Tifa herself is possibly named after a concept from the Judeo-Gnostic Kabbalah, the "Tifaret", the emanation of the Absolute concerned with beauty and masculinity.
The Jenova-mutated form of Hojo, Helletic Hojo, is a misromanization of "Heretic Hojo", referring to Heresy, a concept in various religions where people interprets beliefs in a religion that goes against the norm of the religion.
Final Fantasy VII also holds many references to Norse Mythology, particularly in names. Midgar comes from Midgård, the Realm of Mankind, and is depicted as the most highly advanced city in the world in terms of technology and man-made devices. Nibelheim comes from Niflheim, the realm of mist and darkness, where Hel (the precursor to Hell) is located, which is in the game set upon a cold mountaintop and is the location of the Nibelheim Incident, possibly the most catastrophic event in the compilation. Fenrir is a hell hound known for his great strength and is related to Hel who is located within Niflheim, which is interesting as in the game Fenrir is the name of the motorcycle ridden by Cloud, known for his strength to wield the Buster Sword, and was born and raised in Nibelheim.
The Lifestream is similar to Japan's native religion, Shinto, which purports that all things have souls. In Final Fantasy VII, all living things have souls, which contribute to the overall soul of the Planet after they depart and "Return to the Lifestream." The Planet then breeds new life from this soul in a process that is similar to reincarnation, although in Hinduism, the individual soul joins the overall soul only upon reaching enlightenment.
Angeal Hewley in Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- sprouts two wings on one side of his body, both white and feathered like those of angels as they are often depicted. His first name is an obvious respelling of the word "angel."
Genesis is named after the Biblical account of Creation. He also has a wing similar to Sephiroth's. He is often seen offering the Banora Apple to people he wishes to join him, which is a reference to the temptation of Adam and Eve, where the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil is often said to have been an apple. Similarly, he was the first to learn about the "sin" of the Jenova Project. However, unlike Sephiroth, he ultimately achieves salvation, as well as spiritual and physical healing, from the "Gift of the Goddess."
When fighting Angeal Penance in Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII-, he uses attacks named after the Seven Deadly Sins, which are a part of Christian ethics and the Catholic culture. His attacks are: Defense of Lust, End of Gluttony, Charge of Greed, Rage of Sloth, Unleashed Wrath, Thunder of Envy and Wings of Pride. Also, Penance is the repentance of sins as well as the proper name of the Roman Catholic, Orthodox Christian, and Anglican Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.
Minerva's presence as the personification of the Lifestream reflects the role of Sophia in Gnostic belief, an Aeon made from the pure energy of the divine realm of light known as the Absolute, who was fragmented and trapped inside the bodies of human beings.
The additions of "stagnant mako," which make up Chaos, and "negative lifestream," controlled by Sephiroth, imply a sort of Hell or karma to the story's reincarnation system. It most closely resembles Hell in Maiden Who Travels the Planet, where souls who don't move on are explicitly said to be suffering torment, in this case of their own grief and regrets. Additionally, wailing can be heard coming from the stagnant mako. Sephiroth's lifestream, in particular, reflects the belief of an evil being, such as Satan, who corrupts humans to evil and reaps their souls when they die.
The title of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children refers to the Christian belief in the advent, or second coming, or Jesus Christ to resurrect the dead and take the pious to the Kingdom of Heaven. The plot of the movie focuses on the inevitable rebirth of Sephiroth and the collection of all those who are infused with Jenova cells into the Lifestream so that he may take control of the Planet and drain its power.
Vincent Valentine's primary weapon in both Advent Children and Dirge of Cerberus -Final Fantasy VII-, the three-barreled Cerberus Handgun, is a references to the three-headed guard dog of Hades in Greek Mythology. His other weapons in Dirge of Cerberus, Hydra and Griffin, also refer to creatures of Greek mythology.
Weiss' subtitle, the Immaculate, as well as his being born untainted by the negative lifestream, alludes to a concept in the Catholic church of someone born free of Original Sin, which is believed to be the Virgin Mary, who gave birth to Jesus Christ.
Chaos, the harbinger of death and destruction on a global scale who works with Omega, bears a resemblance to ends time figures associated on the Day of Judgement in Christian Eschatology.
Omega Weapon's attack Megiddo Flame may refer to the final battle at the end of time in Abrahamic religions, Armageddon. The word itself is based on the mountain of Megiddo in modern-day Israel, where the battle is alleged to take place.
Rinoa's Limit Break Angel Wing has her sprout white feathered wings like those of angels as depicted in most works.
The character Freya Crescent is named after the Nordic Goddess Freyja (lit. 'Lady'), whom among other things, was associated with war, magic, death, and love.
The downfall of Yevon alludes to the religious skeptic's argument that organized religion is corrupt, and has its followers worshiping lies. The Yevon religion resembles a theocracy; one that exercises authoritarian political power, rather than solely administrating its doctrinal affairs. Like Final Fantasy VII (which the developers have said is connected to Final Fantasy X) there are strong Gnostic undertones to the portrayal of spirituality in Spira.
Gnostics believed all humans have a fragment of divine light, corresponding to the pyreflies, inside them. Only by rejecting the material world and recognizing all life stems from the Pleroma/the Absolute can the fragments return to the source (i.e. the Farplane), bringing their memories of life with them. This overlaps somewhat with Seymour's nihilistic worldview, in that he attempts to free people's souls from the pain of life, though it differs in that he attempts to kill them rather than enlighten them.
The Roman Catholic Church persecuted the Gnostics as heretics, and the Gnostics' esoteric knowledge of how to return to the source of life was mostly eradicated, dooming the fragments of divine light, in the Gnostics' eyes, to keep cycling (a key theme in Final Fantasy X) into the material world. Similarly, the true nature of Sin and the destruction it wreaks was subsumed by the Yevonite church, who created a doctrine to fit their own ideals, perpetuating their organization and, by extension, the suffering of the Spirans.
The Church of Yevon is comprised of leaders known as Maesters, which include Seymour Guado, Wen Kinoc, and Kelk Ronso. These positions are comparable to the Catholic roles of cardinals, and Grand Maester Yo Mika's wardrobe resembles the pope's.
The Crusaders are named for the legions of the Catholic Church who fought against the Muslims during the Crusades.
Gnostics believed in aeons, manifestations of the Absolute formed from its divine light, like how the aeons are made of pyreflies in Final Fantasy X. One of the aeons, Anima, is a concept of the eternal feminine in the psychology of Carl Jung, who was inspired by Gnosticism. The name "aeon" has its root in the Greek deity of the unending cyclical nature of time, "Aion".
Sin is a transgression of a religious or moral law, especially when deliberate. In other words, Yu Yevon created Sin as a bodyguard and for power, thus he exhibited lust, pride, and greed (and possibly more): three of the seven deadly sins. Sin may also be a representation of the Christian concept of "original sin," and the Maesters state Sin can never be vanquished, as humanity will never be that pure.
Yunalesca tempts the summoners into committing another sin (murder) under the guise that it will be for the greater good. The summoner's pilgrimage is, obviously, a religious pilgrimage. The summoner prays to shrines containing departed spirits to receive their protection as a sort of spirit guide. The summoners themselves are viewed as martyrs, a concept where one dies for their religion in the face of some enemy, physical or spiritual, and is exalted for it.
Valefor is a demon in the "ars gotea" (demonology text listing the names of all the demons and their orders). "He tempts people to steal and is in charge of a good relationship among thieves. Valefar is considered a good familiar by his associates till they are caught in the trap." He commands ten legions of demons, though his appearance in the game is different then his form in the aforementioned texts (lion with the head of a man or donkey). His description is reminiscent of the game in general, since the aeons are created by the fayth who, in turn, were created by Yu Yevon, which makes him a friendly foe.
Maester Seymour can be taken as a false prophet, maybe even as the antichrist, since he beguiles the entirety of Spira with promise of a better life and prosperity, and he is very powerful, performing miracles and whatnot. He also wants to become Sin and destroy the world.
The concept of l'Cie is an allusion to principles within Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Bön, and other Indic religions. According to the principle of samsāra, life on earth is a curse, and ideally a sentient being must eventually ascend, over many lifetimes, to nirvāna, a more ideal, though not earthly, state of being. Nirvāna is comparable to crystal stasis in this respect.
The means of escaping samsāra are known as Atman, like a Focus. There are many paths to ascension, although it is never clearly stated which a person must take. One of them is alluded to in Oerba, with Vanille's robot Bhakti. Bhakti comes from the word 'bhakta' (love) and refers to the idea that one way to achieve salvation is through personal devotion to a deity (fal'Cie).
The idea of Ragnarok originates from Norse mythology. Ragnarok will be a series of events that occur at the end of the world, culminating in a series of natural disasters and a war occurs between the gods that ends with most of them being killed and a handful of survivors, both divine and immortal, survive to repopulate the world as it is reborn. The idea of Ragnarok is thematically revisited in Final Fantasy XIII-2 and Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, with the merging of Pulse and Valhalla marking a slow decline of the world into complete destruction, and Lightning being tasked to guide the survivors to the new world that is about to be born.
The word Eidolon itself is a Greek term used throughout the Bible for false gods or idols, which are explained to be either nothing at all, or demons.
Orphan is named after the Ophanim, a choir of angels described in Ezekiel's vision as fiery wheels covered in eyes, a description approximated by Orphan's design.
In Norse mythology, Valhalla was a majestic hall in Asgard, where the gods and half of those who died in combat dwelled. It was ruled over by Odin, who appears as Lightning's Eidolon. There is an NPC who quips, "Need an ark? I Noah guy!," a reference to the Biblical story in which a man names Noah builds an ark at God's command and places two of each type of animal within it to guard against their extinction due to a cataclysmic flood about to be unleashed by God.
A major antagonistic organization in Tactics is the Church of Glabados, which is an allusion to the old Roman Catholic Church and the infamous Medieval Inquisition. In the same manner, the Church's Messiah, St. Ajora, is a reference to Jesus Christ, although his actions were closer to that of a false prophet or the antichrist. His closer comparison to a false prophet was also further indicated by his job class, "False Saint" or "Phony Saint." Germonique's betrayal of St. Ajora to the proper authorities, exempting the more noble reasons behind the betrayal, were similar to Judas' betrayal of Jesus Christ to Pontious Pilate. The Lucavi, who possess evil humans upon death, are an obvious reference to demonic possession. The Lucavi are explicitly referred to as demons, and their leader, Ultima, a fallen angel.