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!Maechen
Pyreflies (幻光虫, Genkōchū?, lit. Phantom Light Bug) are an ambiguous, naturally occurring phenomenon that heavily influences the events of Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy X-2. Pyreflies are prevalent throughout the world of Spira and are closely linked with the lifeforce of beings, in that they are the form that disembodied spiritual energy takes.
Despite the allusion their name gives to the real-world insect, pyreflies are not living creatures. Though they have been harnessed to many uses—both good and ill—in their inert form they lack self-awareness and any identifiable agenda. As such, they are but an aspect of nature.
According to Final Fantasy X Scenario Ultimania, pyreflies are usually invisible, but can be seen when condensed in high concentrations. When a fiend is defeated, or when a summoner performs a sending, they glow and thus are often mistaken as "arising when there is a loss of life." Pyreflies and water are said to harmonize easily. When a summoner performs a sending, the pyreflies on a water's surface can solidify into a foothold. The blitzball sphere pool utilizes pyreflies to congeal the water into a sphere. Blitzball players can stay active underwater for extended periods of time because they are supported by the pyreflies contained in the water.
Pyreflies exist in one of three distinct states. When inert, they manifest as insubstantial points of iridescent light, similar to the fireflies from which their name is partially inspired, which float aimlessly within a particular area of attraction. Inert pyreflies generate a delicate sound. Concentrations of pyreflies can form physical creatures, yet remain insubstantial, creating phenomena reminiscent of ghosts. In the final state, pyreflies can take on the properties of solid matter. For example, aeons, Dream Zanarkand, and the body of Sin consist of vast quantities of pyreflies.
Pyreflies can also crystallize into spheres, in much the same way as Mako energy in Final Fantasy VII crystallizes into Materia. This crystallization occurs as a result of the pyreflies reacting to people's feelings and memories and binding them with images and audio. Spheres can therefore be used to create recordings. The raw material for spheres is water that contains a high concentration of pyreflies, gathered from specific locations, such as the Macalania springs.
In Final Fantasy X-2.5 ~Eien no Daishō~ it is implied that some people are more sensitive to pyreflies than others, and those especially keen to them can become summoners, able to manifest pyreflies into various corporeal forms.
Pyreflies and death
When a person dies their body cannot simply be laid to rest: their spirit, or lifeforce represented by pyreflies, must be released from the body and given "guidance" to return to the Farplane, a place inside the planet where its lifeforce is gathered. A summoner is required to engineer this "guidance" in a ritual known as the sending. If the sending is not performed, the body's spirit is trapped in the physical plane, growing first envious, then hateful of the living. The hatred eventually grows strong enough to manifest one's pyreflies into a fiend, a fully substantial and dangerous monster.
Not all of the recently deceased must be sent, but mainly those who have suffered a violent or untimely death. Yuna suggests that those who have accepted their death may naturally come to the Farplane, similar to legends of ghosts, as ghosts may linger and become malicious towards the living, but those who have accepted their deaths pass on to the other side.
In some cases the dead do not transform into a fiend. If the deceased possessed a powerful will regarding an unfinished purpose in the world of the living, an individual's postmortem spirit can manifest their pyreflies into a physical form in the image of the deceased's former body. Such beings 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 individual's nature.
Fiends and unsent, as well as aeons, are sustained by the thoughts that caused their creation. For fiends, it is hatred and envy of the living. For aeons, it is the dream of the fayth, people who willingly gave up their lives to have their souls trapped in statues and exist in perpetual state of dreaming. For unsent, it is the unsent person's own strong will to remain in Spira.
The unsent are usually unwilling to enter the Farplane using the gateways that exist in Spira. This is believed to be because they may be physically unable to leave, and are wary of taking the risk. They are 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. There have been two notable exceptions:
- 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 Yuna). His first re-emergence 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 Shuyin enters the Farplane of his own volition and has little to no trouble maintaining his form that even grows stronger by becoming corporeal. Tidus, while helping Yuna leave the Farplane after her encounter with Shuyin, is able to do the same thing, but only briefly.
This likely occurred in these cases because the victims died "unclean" deaths; it is said that those who die unclean deaths are the only ones who can leave the Farplane.
Another exception to dying without becoming a fiend in the absence of being sent still results in one's spirit finding its way to the Farplane. One who accepts death while still alive will travel to the Farplane after death without assistance. This is seen in the cases of Tidus's mother and Yuna's father, the latter of who was high summoner Braska, a summoner who willingly gave his life in a battle with Sin. In addition, the unsent may voluntarily send themselves at will.
The sending ritual transfers sentient lifeforce to the Farplane. The lifeforce, if any, of the flora and fauna are unaffected (it can be inferred, in fact, that such wildlife, as well as the planet itself, draw energy from the lifeforce contained within the Farplane). Fiends, whose souls have been consumed by hatred, are subsequently not affected.
A sending, therefore, is known to affect the following:
- The lifeforce/soul/spiritual energy of recently-deceased, self-aware creatures (humans and the Guado, at least, are shown to require sending).
- Unsent beings, i.e. the spirits that have remained on the physical plane after death and retained the purpose of their former lives.
During a sending pyreflies emanate not only from the dispersed "bodies" of the unsent, but also from the recently deceased. This indicates (confirmed by the Final Fantasy X Ultimania Omega) that pyreflies are always present in the bodies of the living, as well as in everything else in Spira.
Pyreflies and the continuation of memory
Spirans have long enjoyed occasional visits to the Farplane, primarily using the gateway within Guadosalam, to call up their memories of those who have died. Since the Farplane is filled with pyreflies, some are attracted to the evoked memories and give them partial substance, forming a ghostlike image of the subject being recalled.
The physical plane
The attraction pyreflies show to the energy of strong memories is not restricted to the Farplane, nor are the spirits of the dead necessarily required to manifest their spiritual energy to interact with the living on physical terms. It is possible to perpetuate a spirit's memories against their will, and in certain cases the dead may possess the living.
When Yuna and her guardians travel to the ruins of Zanarkand they witness numerous memories of past summoners and their pilgrimages via the local pyreflies. They witness a scene of Yocun and an unknown female guardian offering to become Yocun's Final Aeon; Seymour and his mother on their way to obtain the Final Aeon; and witness memories of Braska, Jecht and Auron's journey. On Yunalesca's throne the pyreflies display a memory of Auron attacking Yunalesca.
One thousand years ago Shuyin was killed by agents of the Bevelle army while attempting to operate their super weapon, Vegnagun. Shuyin desired to destroy Bevelle, as he believed he would be unable to save his love, Lenne. Reunited before death, Shuyin didn't hear Lenne speak the words "I love you" to him before his life faded. Thus, his feelings of hatred toward Bevelle, and the feelings of self-loathing that emerged due to his perceived failing of Lenne, resulted in his spirit becoming full of hatred and despair.
The Final Fantasy X-2: International + Last Mission Ultimania elaborates in its "Four Puzzles" section that the "Shuyin" who Yuna and others meet is not the original Shuyin, but his "shadow" full of the despair and hatred the Shuyin of 1000 years ago felt, preserved by pyreflies. Places where pyreflies are dense "remember" moments from the past and project them, and in the case of Shuyin, these "phantom thoughts" began acting on their own.
The difference between Shuyin's shadow and a true unsent is that its pyreflies cannot interact physically. While Shuyin's shadow lacks physical substance, it can produce extensions of itself, and to influence the state of mind of those around it, as seen inside the Den of Woe. For it to physically interact with the living world the shadow needs to possess someone to act as its vessel. A suitable vessel would be someone in similarly despairing disposition who is strong both physically and spiritually. However, should the shadow's vessel lose consciousness, transferring to a new one is not possible.
The powerful emotions emitted by Shuyin's blackened spirit attracted a multitude of pyreflies that became imprinted with his despair and painful memories and refused to allow them to fade, fusing with the pyreflies within the Den of Woe granting them a self-awareness. Shuyin's shadow possessed Nooj and used his body as a vessel, forcing him to critically wound his comrades on one occasion, and nearly forcing him to do so a second time two years later. Shuyin's shadow abandons Nooj and possesses his former comrade, Baralai, as a new vessel to operate Vegnagun.
In certain cases those who have died can return to Spira, their bodies made manifest by the pyreflies. The first such case Yuna witnesses is Jyscal Guado when he exits the Farplane to hand her a sphere detailing his son, Seymour's, crimes. This is due to Jyscal's unclean death leaving his strong emotions seeking resolution. After the fayth go dormant and Tidus disappears from Spira, Yuna asks the fayth to return him at the end of Final Fantasy X-2, and Tidus is restored to Spira, although he still suspects being a dream of the fayth, i.e. made of pyreflies. In Final Fantasy X-2.5 ~Eien no Daishou~ Tidus dies on an unknown island but Yuna beckons him back to life. It appears she is no longer the only one able to call things back to Spira from the Farplane, however, as more and more of the dead are manifested by the pyreflies by the memories of the living.
Because pyreflies allude to hitodama, a part of Japanese folklore, the concept of life essence being depicted as glowing lights has also appeared in other games in the series. In Final Fantasy VII Lifestream is a glowing magical substance akin to Spira's pyreflies. The Espers' crystallization animations in Final Fantasy XII have their bodies disperse into glowing Mist. In the Fabula Nova Crystallis: Final Fantasy series souls are crystal energy that can occasionally be seen by naked eye.
Substance similar to pyreflies appears from a weakened Cosmos at the beginning of the prologue and of Shade Impulse. They also appear in the latter scene when the ten warriors of Cosmos fade one by one as a result of Cosmos's supposed demise.
Pyreflies are also present in the stage Dream's End.
All of the aforementioned appearances of pyreflies appear within Dissidia 012. In Treachery of the Gods story line, Tidus, after taking the Emperor's hit to protect Yuna, begins to fade away and light pyreflies appear despite being a Warrior of Chaos, but disappear due to Jecht's light.
Pyreflies, or at least look-a-likes, were included on Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy official European teaser site moving across the site in similar manner like they rush in Final Fantasy X-2 menus.
Pyreflies appear after the Stage transition on the Besaid Island Stage.
Non-Final Fantasy appearances
In the Kingdom Hearts universe, when someone's heart has moved on, the body disappears in a flash of light that separates into orbs of light that float away. These specks of light resemble pyreflies.
During the Olympus Coliseum segment of the end credits scenes, Auron looks on as Hercules, Megara, Phil, and Pegasus admire the newly reconstructed stadium before returning to the Underworld, dissipating into pyreflies. The foursome notice this and see the pyreflies swarm the stadium.
Etymology and symbolism
The word pyrefly is a portmanteau of the words pyre and firefly.A pyre is a structure for burning a body as part of a funeral rite or execution. Pyreflies are mainly seen in their inert stage upon a person's death, in the Farplane (the realm of the dead) and during a sending, which itself alludes to ancient Japanese funeral rites. Fireflies are a family of winged beetles that use bioluminescence to attract mates or prey. Fireflies are a symbol of human souls in Japanese folklore.
Pyreflies refer to hitodama. Hitodama (人魂?) ("human soul") are believed in Japanese folklore to be the souls of the newly dead taking form of mysterious fiery apparitions. The word is a combination of the Japanese words hito, meaning "human", and tama (short for tamashii), meaning "soul". The flames appear as glowing spheres with tails and are said to be found near graveyards and in gloomy forests, and, sometimes, seen close to a dying person as an apparition of the soul leaving the body before passing to the other side.
Pyreflies transcending all existence in Spira relates to Shintoism that posits a generative, immanent force harmoniously pervades the whole phenomenal world.