Praise be to Yevon!A prevalent blessing of the Yevon faith
In Final Fantasy X, the people of Spira follow the teachings of Yevon. A practitioner of the Yevon faith is referred to as a Yevonite. The faith is named after Yu Yevon [ju 'jɛ.vən] (エボン・ジュ, Ebon Ju?), a summoner who lived in Zanarkand one thousand years ago.
Nearly all the peoples of Spira follow the teachings of Yevon, including the Ronso and the Guado (converted during High Summoner Braska's Calm by Jyscal Guado and Kelk Ronso as part of Grand Maester Yo Mika's "sub-races appeasement policy."). The Al Bhed are an exception and are viewed as heretics by the autocracy for their use of machina, a practice forbidden by the church. As for the Hypello, whether they follow Yevon's teachings is never explored.
Yevon draws inspiration from real-world religions, such as Shintoism (practices and temples), Buddhism (iconography and ritualistic disciplines), as well as Islam and Catholicism (pilgrimages, hierarchical structure and doctrines). The teachings of Yevon give meaning to people's lives in the face of death, and what Director Yoshinori Kitase tried to show in Final Fantasy X was how people behave in the face of unavoidable fate.
Temples of Yevon
Temples of Yevon are found throughout Spira. At the heart of each temple lies a Chamber of the Fayth, a room that contains a fayth—a statue that houses a willingly-given human soul. Through the soul bonding to a summoner mighty creatures called aeons may be made manifest.
There are five official temples of Yevon, each with their own fayth:
- Bevelle – Home to the fayth Bahamut. Also the central temple of Yevon.
- Besaid – Home of the fayth Valefor.
- Kilika – Home of the fayth Ifrit.
- Djose – Home of the fayth Ixion.
- Lake Macalania – Home of the fayth Shiva.
There are three lost temples:
- Baaj – Home of the fayth Anima. Baaj Island was attacked by Sin and left in ruins. Since Anima's fayth was created only recently, it may not have been the temple's original fayth, if, indeed, it housed one prior to Anima.
- Remiem – Home of the fayth for the Magus Sisters. The location was lost after High Summoner Gandof's battle with Sin.
- Cavern of the Stolen Fayth – Home of the fayth Yojimbo. Centuries earlier, the Yojimbo fayth was stolen from an unknown temple and taken to the cave to impede summoner journeys.
When summoners journey to defeat Sin, they arrive at the final temple, located in "the city at the end of the world":
Administration and hierarchy
Although Yevon has roots over the whole of Spira, it doesn't officially have worldly authority, as governmental duties are left up to regional self-rule. However, the leaders of each area are backed by the temples. Yevon is funded by donations received from Yevonites. The temples aid the populace by using their finances in various ways, such as operating the shoopuf crossing service at Moonflow, operating as places of worship to Yevonites, and training summoners.
Control is carried out by four Maesters, called the "four Maesters of Yevon". At the top of the hierarchy is the position of the Grand Maester. In Final Fantasy X, Grand Maester Yo Mika has held the position for 50 years. Below the Grand Maester are three positions referred to as by the title of Maester, a station similar to that of a Cardinal in Catholicism, though one casually addresses a Maester as "Your Grace", a title reserved for bishops, instead of "Your Eminence", as is the custom regarding Cardinals. The three Maesters below the Grand Maester oversee the three ministries of civil affairs, military affairs, and temple affairs, and their duties include making laws and presiding over Yevon's High Court.
The current Minister of Civil Affairs is Kelk Ronso. He is in charge of the judiciary, treasury and general civil administration. The current Minister of Military Affairs is Wen Kinoc, who is in charge of the general military command and doubles as head of the Warrior Monks and oversees the Crusaders. The current Minister of Temple Affairs is Seymour Guado who maintains the temples' rituals and teachings and oversees the summoners. He has the authority to handle records of the sealed histories.
High priests represent each temple across the world, but they have no voice in the temples' inner circle and only have control over their respective temples. In an exception to the rule, Maester Seymour concurrently holds the post of high priest of Macalania Temple and the current Minister of Temple Affairs. The next step down are the priests of Yevon whose job is to attend to the temples throughout the land. Many priests are summoners or former summoners. Priests tend to wear multicolored vestments of white, green, and orange.
Below the priests are summoners, a position similar to a cross between a priest and a miko. Summoners are charged with the greatest responsibility of all: to journey to Zanarkand, obtain the Final Aeon and destroy Sin. Summoners also perform the sending, a ritual that guides the souls of the dead to peace on the Farplane. The title of high summoner refers to summoners who have defeated Sin.
Lastly, Yevon has a number of acolytes, similar to deacons or nuns. They work throughout Spira performing various duties.
Officials of Yevon wear a band down the front of their robes with six glyphs. The six signs also appear on Yevon tapestries, the sleeves of Seymour's wedding suit, and the map of Spira.
Arms of Yevon
Yevon has militant arms in addition to the summoners:
- Warrior Monks – Warrior Monks serve as protectors to the Maesters and the temples, seen primarily in the city of Bevelle, similar to the Swiss Guard of the Catholic church. The temples' official position is that even those who oppose Yevon should not be harmed, but in reality the Warrior Monks do crack down on those regarded as heretics.
- Guardians – The summoners' bodyguards who are not directly related to Yevon. A summoner chooses their guardians, and can choose non-Yevonites if they wish, though doing so is not only rare, but looked down upon, despite there being no rules explicitly forbidding it. The unofficial title of "Legendary Guardian" is used in reference to Auron, guardian to both Braska and his daughter, Yuna.
- The Crusaders – Formerly known as the Crimson Blades, the Crusaders are a loosely-knit army that protects towns and temples from Sin. Unlike the guardians, Crusaders are directly related to Yevon. No non-Yevonite is permitted to serve as a Crusader, although there are unofficial chapters comprised of people who have been excommunicated.
- The Crimson Squad – Around the time of Operation Mi'ihen, Yevon conducted a final selection process for a group called "the Crimson Squad", an elite unit to replace the Crusaders. Unlike the Crusaders, non-Yevonites were allowed to train with the Crimson Squad.
Prayer to Yevon is conducted with a gesticulation that starts with the hands out to either side before bringing them into the chest, as though holding a sphere, and bowing. This evolved from a blitzball ritual. (The maneuver is also similar to Kiros Seagill's victory pose from Final Fantasy VIII.)
Summoners are obligated to perform the sending for the deceased. This is a ritual dance that sends the pyreflies of the deceased on their way to the Farplane, preventing them from coalescing into fiends.
Yevon uses a writing system seen in the temples and places associated with Bevelle, such as Bevelle Underground. Yevon's iconography is based on the Siddhaṃ script used in Shingon Buddhism, one of the biggest mainstream schools of Japanese Buddhism and one of the oldest. The letter A represents Yevon, and Z represents Sin. The sound of that 'A' is the meditative core for Shingon Buddhists. In the game, that sound doubles as the glyph for Yevon as a whole.
One thousand years ago a great war that became known as the Machina War was fought between the cities of Zanarkand and Bevelle. Yevon, Zanarkand's ruler, saw his people were unable to defeat Bevelle's machina, and was unwilling to allow his city to be swallowed up into history. He devised a plan to preserve its memory for all eternity, even if he could not save the city itself.
At Yevon's order, most of the surviving citizens of Zanarkand gave up their lives to become fayth whom Yevon could use to conjure a summoned Zanarkand based on the memories of its citizens. The summoned replica was to be a utopia removed from conflict. Yevon manifested the city out at sea in an undisclosed location, far removed from the Spiran mainland and the warmongering Bevelle. To prevent anyone from easily locating his summoned city of memories, Yevon used magic to surround himself with disembodied spiritual energy, called pyreflies, to create an armor, which would become known as the monster Sin; this armor would protect him while he summons the dream Zanarkand. Sin would attack areas with high populations and advanced technology bringing technological progress to a halt and keeping the people on the mainland from giving much thought to what may lay far out at sea.
Maintaining his summoned city and creating Sin was a greater strain than Yu Yevon's human form could handle, and his humanity faded, leaving only his instincts to maintain Dream Zanarkand. Thus Sin's first act as an instinctual beast was to destroy the original Zanarkand.
Yevon had a daughter, Lady Yunalesca, who was the first summoner to defeat Sin with a technique known as the Final Summoning. Afterward she would remain in Zanarkand as an unsent to grant the gift of Final Aeon to summoners who complete their pilgrimage. The Final Aeon is an ultimate summon and it is different for each summoner, because a Final Aeon must be someone to whom a summoner has a powerful bond, such as a friend, sibling, or spouse. Thus, a summoner's guardian is chosen to become the fayth for that summoner's Final Aeon.
The Final Summoning can destroy Sin due to the bond that unites the aeon and the summoner, but Yu Yevon endures the destruction of its vessel, merges with the Final Aeon, and uses it as the core of a new Sin. Yu Yevon's merge with a Final Aeon kills the summoner.
With Sin's "defeat", a short period of peace settled on Spira, known as the First Calm. The survivors began reconstructing Spira, focusing on Bevelle. Yu Yevon regenerated Sin using Zaon's aeon, Yunalesca's husband whom she had made into a fayth, as a core, and Spira's plight began anew. The new Sin destroyed the remaining machina civilizations and thus machina use began to fall out of favor.
It is unknown who created Yevon. The temple itself perpetuates a belief that Yevon was a powerful summoner from Zanarkand who passed on the teachings to his daughter, Yunalesca, as a means to vanquish Sin that had manifested as a curse on mankind for their sinfulness for starting the Machina War. The temple was named after him and Yevon become an object of veneration as the person who had given Spira the seed of its salvation. However, even the temples don't know how Yevon had acquired the teachings, or what happened to him after he granted them. In truth, the teachings were developed by the temple itself based on its ideals on how to best preserve Spira.
Maechen speculates that motivated by her desire to protect Spira from Sin, Yunalesca had agreed to provide a means to temporarily dispose of Sin in return for her father to be honored. However, according to the Final Fantasy X Ultimania Omega Yunalesca did not have a direct hand in creating the Yevon religion or its doctrine, and only learned of Yevon's teachings via the people who would visit her at the Zanarkand Dome seeking the Final Aeon. Nevertheless, many fayth were placed in the temples of Yevon for the summoners to follow in Yunalesca's footsteps in defeating Sin. Yevon proclaims that the Final Summoning can defeat Sin for a time and give Spira hope, but states that unless the world embraces the teachings of Yevon and atones for its sins, Sin will never go away.
Seizing public sentiment after Sin's first return, the temples took control of Spira with the main temple being situated in Bevelle. Ever since the Final Summoning has played an invaluable role in the teachings of Yevon. Even if Bevelle had not been a center for summoning practice, summoning would become one of its core dogmas as the teachings revolve around the Final Summoning and the ban on machina; it was Yevon's wish that there should never be technological convenience that would allow for Dream Zanarkand to be discovered or its summoning be halted. As told in Final Fantasy X-2.5 ~Eien no Daishō~, the Al Bhed (then known as the "Bedore") were used as scapegoats for the emergence of Sin as they had worked in the factories that had produced weapons for the Machina War. After Yevon arose as the main religion across the land many Bedore were hunted down and executed, and Yevon had a hand in changing their name from Bedore to Al Bhed. Al Bhed were thus cast out from society.
Over time Bevelle set up temples throughout Spira placing a fayth in each one. Some of the fayth originate from a time before Sin, but others were created by the temples themselves for the purpose of perpetuating the doctrine concerning the Final Summoning and the pilgrimage summoners must undertake to qualify. To govern these laws, Yevon came to be with four Maesters at the top, a high priest for each temple, and many other priests, monks, and nuns.
Fayth unceasingly sing a hymn that was reported to have been heard emanating from the fayth on Mt. Gagazet at Sin's first public appearance—a hymn which later became known as the "Hymn of the Fayth". Around the time Bevelle adopted the teachings the song was taken up by those who were in defiance of Bevelle, the Al Bhed in particular. At first, Bevelle prohibited the use of the song, but soon spread a story it was sung to soothe the souls of the dead. The hymn was incorporated into the teachings of Yevon thereafter and regarded as a holy song.
Although the temples' teachings had become widespread, 600 years passed with no one able to defeat Sin. During that time many doubted Yevon's teachings, the priest Omega among them, who was executed for openly rebelling against the temples. Unable to go to the Farplane, his spirit lingered in Spira, and Omega became a fearsome fiend.
Six hundred years after the temple was established a summoner named Gandof defeated Sin, tearing the Calm Lands asunder and isolating the Remiem Temple, thus creating the Second Calm and becoming the first high summoner. Gandof suffered the same fate as Yunalesca had and died. This gave credence to Yevon's teachings, and doubts about the temples subsided. As before, the calm was short-lived and Yu Yevon rebuilt Sin, which started its rampage anew as the third Sin appeared publicly with Gandof's Final Aeon as its core. Gandof was posthumously titled "high summoner", a title which would from then on be bestowed on those who had defeated Sin. Statues of Gandof were placed in Spira's temples and his story was told as an example of honor and sacrifice to be followed.
A thousand years after Sin first appeared it has been defeated a number of times but always returned, the upper echelons of Yevon in full awareness Spira would never have respite from Sin via the teachings of Yevon. The temple fears exposure of that fact, and thus forbids the pursuit of all truths other than the teachings, and frowns upon change or any displays of doubt. One could argue that the backbone of Yevon's teachings is an endorsement of thought suppression.
Summoner Yuna sets out on her pilgrimage, but becomes labeled a heretic when she kills Maester Seymour Guado after confronting him for the murder of his father and he turns on her. Yuna is put on trial during which she learns that high-ranked priests of Yevon lost faith and hope of defeating Sin long ago, and that the Grand Maester himself is an unsent. Maester Kelk becomes disillusioned with Yevon and departs, and the now-unsent Seymour Guado kills Wen Kinoc to absorb his pyreflies and grow stronger.
After escaping her predicament in Bevelle, Yuna resolves to continue her pilgrimage regardless, as it is the fayth who grant the summoner their powers, not the temples. Kelk grants her passage onto Mt. Gagazet, but is soon killed by Seymour who is still gathering more power. When Seymour confronts Yuna's party, however, they defeat him again and he soon absorbed by Sin.
Upon reaching Zanarkand and learning that Sin's rebirth is certain, Yuna declares Final Summoning a false rite that only perpetuates Spira's suffering. Yunalesca attempts to kill Yuna and her guardians to "release them" now that they have learned the truth behind Yevon and rejected it, but Yuna and her guardians prevail and kill Yunalesca, ending the practice of Final Summoning.
They are called back to Bevelle to meet Grand Maester Yo Mika. By this time, possibly as a result of its Maesters being gone, Yevon is in a state of decay and chaos. Mika urges Yuna to summon her Final Aeon, but she explains they have obliterated Yunalesca, and thus broken the very practice Yevon stands for. Mika is overcome by despair of the thought of Yevon being made obsolete and Spirans succumbing to despair as a result, and departs for the Farplane.
Yuna and her guardians enter Sin on their airship and kill Yu Yevon at its core, ending his summoning of Sin and Dream Zanarkand. The fayth he had used for his summoning, as well as the fayth in the temples, are released, and their souls depart for the Farplane. With no more fayth left in Spira, the summoners are unable to call forth aeons, and with the Maesters of Yevon now dead, and the temples' hypocrisy revealed to all of Spira, Yevon is disbanded.
Two years later, in Final Fantasy X-2, the moral teachings of Yevon have been revitalized in the form of the New Yevon party under Praetor Baralai. Although technically a splinter group of Yevon, New Yevon is not a religion, but a way of life, their motto and position on technological advancement being, "one thing at a time".
Much of Final Fantasy X is based on the corruption of organized religion and the misuse of such faith to support an evil cause. Yevon presents itself as Spira's saving faith, but comes apart as a corrupted and manipulative religion centered on minimally appeasing the masses to maintain the status quo while committing heresies in the background. Yevon's downfall alludes to the religious skeptic's argument that organized religion is corrupt, and has its followers worshiping lies. Yevon resembles a theocracy; one that exercises authoritarian political power, rather than solely administrating its doctrinal affairs. There are strong Gnostic undertones to the portrayal of spirituality in Spira.
The Yevon Temple draws inspiration from many real-world religions, such as Shintoism (practices and temples), Buddhism (iconography and ritualistic disciplines), as well as Islam and Catholicism (pilgrimages, hierarchical structure and doctrines).
Yevon's methods may be inspired by the Catholic Church's past: offering salvation through absolution via the religion's teachings, propagating the fear of damnation if not a true faithful, and silencing dissenters through a personal military force. At the same time the church labels opponents as heretics meant to be scorned, creating a cult following while violating their own moral codes at convenience in lieu of sustaining and expanding their political power. Yevon comprises 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.
Another notable influence appears to be Jodo Buddhism, a branch centered on the doctrines and practice of Amitābha Buddha, whose founding story describes the monk Dharmākara ascending to Buddhahood and discovering the power to establish a buddhakṣetra, a realm beyond reality founded by a Buddha's own merits. Naming his world the Pure Land and becoming Amitābha Buddha, he vowed to make his world a paradise to which all peoples of his faith can enter and transcend into Buddhahood with ease to help the rest of the world.
Adapted into Japan, Jodo became popular with the common castes due to its simplicity in comparison to Shingon and Nichiren, and its influence reached into the Imperial Court. By the times of the establishment of the Tokugawa Shougunate, Jodo had reached its loftiest height of power for over the span of 264 years. Many of Yevon's aspects, from its founder's backstory, its control over the world, and reign of influence, also tie in with the East Asian design direction.
The Japanese Buddhist has religious concepts of jiriki (lit. "self power") and tariki (lit. "outside power"), said to be the powers that one may choose to follow to become enlightened and ultimately achieve Nirvana once set in a school's teachings. The school of Jodo Shinshu, long empathizing tariki, sees its historical and cultural influence greatly in the aspects of Yevon; from having a military power, ensuring that the people follow its zeal to have the populace under its teachings, and ultimately, obedient unwavering command, and to bearing influence on political scale, sometimes to the point of corruption.
- Final Fantasy 10: Kitase reveals the secrets of its success (dead) (Accessed: March 05, 2014) at Games™ (dead)
- The Teachings of Yevon (Accessed: June 22, 2019) at Final Fantasy X Game Script – by Auronlu
- Spiran Timeline and Miscellaneous Info (FFX Ultimania translations by pmog) (dead) (Accessed: June 11, 2011) at GameFAQs Boards