The summoners are practitioners of a sacred art, sworn to protect the people of Yevon. Only a chosen few become summoners, who call forth entities of greater power: the aeons. The aeons hear our prayers and come down to us. They are the blessing of Yevon.Monk in Besaid Temple.
In the world of Spira in Final Fantasy X, the title of summoner (召喚士, Shōkanshi?), is given to skilled magic users who have trained in the process of summoning powerful beings known as aeons. Summoners do this to defeat Sin, a powerful monster that periodically returns to devastate the world. Summoners also perform the sending, a dance ritual that sends the spirits of the dead to the Farplane lest they become fiends. Summoners are trained by the temples of the Yevon faith, and the majority of populace views them as a beacon of hope for Spira.
Summoners can be of any age, as even the young Seymour was made to become one by his mother. One becomes a summoner by training at a temple of Yevon in the arts of summoning, being referred to as apprentice summoners before completing their first trial. Summoners gain their aeons by praying to the fayth in the Chambers of the Fayth within each temple; if the summoner can develop a mental bond with the fayth, they become able to call forth the fayth's aeon form in battle. Acquiring an aeon is a fatiguing process, as the summoner must have a strong mental bond with the fayth to be able to call forth its aeon.
When the apprentice summoner is promoted to full-fledged summoner, they are to embark on a pilgrimage across Spira to pray in every temple of Yevon, gaining the allegiance of each temple's fayth, in preparation for their final destination of praying for the fayth of the Final Aeon, and use it to defeat Sin. During their journey, the summoner builds a close relationship with their aeons, and the stronger their mutual bond, the more powerful an aeon the summoner can call forth. Each summoner is implied to call their aeons by a name of their choosing.[note 1] The summoner who defeats Sin is granted the title of high summoner, who become revered by the followers of Yevon.
Another skill the temples impart is the ritual of the sending that dispatches the souls of the dead to the afterlife; summoners are called to perform such rituals after a person dies unexpectedly, or after great catastrophes.
Only human summoners are depicted in Final Fantasy X, though Seymour is half-Guado, and Yuna is half-Al Bhed. Though not shown, it is presumed Ronso, Guado, et al. can also become summoners and partake in the pilgrimage, as Guado and Ronso tribes have both recently joined Yevon. The Guado's nearest temple is the Macalania Temple, but there is no close active temple to the Ronso's Mt. Gagazet, only the abandoned Remiem Temple near to the vast Calm Lands at the foot of the mountain.
Summoners garner respect among society, others referring to them with honorifics lady or lord. When meeting Seymour and Isaaru, Yuna kneels in front of them in a manner similar to the prayer. When she meets Belgemine, Yuna bows. She does not kneel to Dona, who initially treats her with disdain. Summoners dress in Yevonite clothing to show their association with the temples, and wield an ornate staff which they can use in battle and to call forth their aeons. Summoners are accompanied by bodyguards dubbed guardians; there is no limit how many guardians a summoner may employ, but they tend to be people close to them, such as family members or childhood friends. Summoners and their guardians can become something akin to celebrities in Spira, and Yevon uses them to keep up its favorable public image.
Two summoners are known to sometimes face each other in aeon duels to test their mettle and skill. In such skirmishes, the summoners cannot both pray to the same fayth to call forth the same aeon, though each incarnation of an aeon seems particular to that specific summoner.[note 1]
List of summoners
The summoners are presented in the order as they are introduced in Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy X-2.
The process of summoning relies on the control of pyreflies—the life energy of Spira—manifesting them into a corporeal form of the fayth's imagining. This is how aeons, Dream Zanarkand and Sin are all formed. After completing their initial trial, each summoner undertakes a pilgrimage to the Spiran temples to gather aeons and develop their strength in body and mind. At the end of the pilgrimage the summoner receives the Final Aeon from Lady Yunalesca at Zanarkand Dome and is ready to fight Sin. The summoner who defeats Sin sacrifices his or her life to perform the Final Summoning and is posthumously granted the title of high summoner. High summoners are worshiped by the followers of the religion of Yevon.
The practice of summoning goes back to at least 1,000 years to the days of Zanarkand, and thus precedes the faith of Yevon. As told in Final Fantasy X-2.5 ~Eien no Daishō~, summoners used to live on Besaid Island a thousand years ago during the time of the Machina War between Bevelle and Zanarkand. Summoners were described as those with an enhanced sensitivity to pyreflies, trained to fight against Zanarkand, perhaps used to conjure magical weapons or creatures to aid in battle, while living a life of suppression regardless of their own desires. Summoners took the name of a deity worshiped before Yevon became the main religion in Spira, and once they died or became an unsent, they gave up that name, reverting to their original name with another succeeding the god's name.
The Yevon faith arose to give people hope after the Machina War and Sin's emergence. Sin was going on a rampage all across Spira, destroying every machina city, and thus a religion arose that abhorred the use of machina, and spread the message of atonement as a means of freedom from the world's cursed state. Lady Yunalesca, summoner Yevon's daughter, destroyed Sin with the Final Summoning, and although it returned after a time, the religion of Yevon was formed to revere the Final Summoning, hailing it as the only means of vanquishing Sin. Yevon claims that if the Spirans refused to atone for their sins, Sin would always return.
Summoning became a practice promoted by Yevon and the old summoning practices of adopting a name of a deity and creating one's own fayth for summoning faded. Fayth from before the Machina War were gathered and placed in Yevon's temples to train summoners, and new fayth were created specifically for this purpose. Summoners became revered among the faith as the beacon of hope, the only ones able to free Spira from Sin. To become a summoner, one must train meticulously under the care of the temples and only a few succeed in graduating into a full-fledged summoner.
Before Yuna's pilgrimage only five summoners in the past 1,000 years have defeated Sin: Lady Yunalesca, Lord Gandof, Lord Ohalland, Lady Yocun, and Yuna's father, Lord Braska. Other summoners Yuna meets during her journey include Maester Seymour, Isaaru, Lady Dona, Lady Belgemine, Father Zuke, and Lady Ginnem. Yuna sets out to her own pilgrimage, but along the way discovers Yevon's corrupt ways. Upon meeting the unsent Lady Yunalesca, Yuna discovers that the Final Summoning requires one of her guardians be made a fayth for the summoning, and if the bond between the guardian and the summoner is strong enough, together they can destroy Sin. However, Sin is but an armor for Yu Yevon, a parasitic being that exists only to summon and the remains of the legendary summoner Yevon the Yevon faith is named after, who will possess the Final Aeon and transform it into the new Sin, thus perpetuating the millennium-long spiral of death.
Upon learning of this, Yuna rejects the Final Summoning as false hope. Yunalesca explains that false hope is the best Spira has, as Sin is eternal, and that summoners are glad to give their lives to stop Spirans for succumbing into despair. Yuna disagrees, saying her father didn't die for false hope, but because he had believed he could free Spira. Yunalesca tries to kill Yuna and her guardians for rejecting the teachings of Yevon and to free her now that she has—in Yunalesca's eyes—lost the only hope she had. Yuna and her guardians prevail and kill Yunalesca, thus ending the tradition of Final Summoning for good. Upon hearing of this the Grand Maester of Yevon, Yo Mika, sees the temples and their teachings have become obsolete and departs to the Farplane willingly. Yuna and her guardians tackle Sin head-on by attacking it on the Al Bhed's airship and then traversing its innards until they come upon Braska's Final Aeon. Defeating the Final Aeon, Yu Yevon emerges ready to possess the next aeon, but Yuna's party destroys it. The summoning halted, Sin explodes.
When Sin is destroyed, the fayth are freed from their burden and choose to disappear from Spira. As the beliefs in Yevon's teachings wane, summoners—who can no longer call forth aeons—become increasingly obsolete as much of the population looks toward a new, and different, future. Former summoners remain as revered figures among the wider populace[note 2], though some begin to disdain them as a relic of the past[note 3].
Summoners in Final Fantasy X bear many conceptual similarities to the traditional Japanese miko. Traditionally, miko are female shrine maidens who offered numerous services in the past, including divination, prayers, and herbal medicine, which was, in that time period, considered magical. In desperate times when the shrines and temples were short of funds they would occasionally provide funding through prostitution. Mikos were called upon to perform ceremonial dances, some of which were meant to drive away evil spirits and protect the shrine. The idea of dancing to ward off evil spirits in particular could roughly be used to describe the sending.
The design of the summoners' staves is based on the Khakkhara, a staff used by practitioners of Buddhism.
Evocation is the act of calling upon or summoning a spirit, demon, god or other supernatural agent, in the Western mystery tradition. Comparable practices exist in many religions and magical traditions and may employ the use of mind-altering substances with and without uttered word formulas.
- In Final Fantasy X, the player can name the aeons in the menu. When fighting Isaaru's aeons, they have unique names, presumed to have been named by Isaaru himself. Aeons called forth by different summonets vary in their strength.
- In Final Fantasy X-2, the Ronso may construct a statue of Yuna with a horn on her forehead in her honor depending on the choices the player made. While not only referring to Final Fantasy X where the Ronso show willingness of constructing such a statue, it also alludes to the summoners of past Final Fantasy games who were often depicted with horns.
- Beclem from Youth League disparages Yuna's status as a celebrity, deeming that Spira no longer needs old Yevonite customs, summoners included