Yevon Script: Sacred Writing in FFX
What Does It Mean?
This is part III of my guide to the writing and inscriptions of Spira, the fictional world of Final Fantasy X. Part I covered everyday Spiran writing. Part II covered the writing of the Al Bhed tribe, a persecuted minority branded "heathens" by the Church of Yevon.
Now I'm going to look at the sacred Yevon script seen in temples, in summoning glyphs, and on the world map which serves as a transition screen for stops along Yuna's pilgrimage.
With grateful thanks: I used dansg08's fabulous FFX commentary/playthrough for in-game screengrabs.
Alphabet of the Church of Yevon
These signs are a fictional alphabet invented for Final Fantasy X. However, many of their shapes were inspired by a real-world sacred alphabet, Siddham Script, an archaic form of written Sanskrit still used by some Buddhist sects in Japan.
Each sign of Yevon Script can be used in a straightforward fashion, to spell words letter by letter. Individual letters may also symbolize a religious/philosophical concept.
The final four signs above are directional. In the Ultimania chart above, the kanji labels them in this order: East, West, South, North. Whoops! The graphics designers probably thought no one would be crazy enough to check.
These Are Glyphs
Letters Are Not Glyphs
In older versions of this guide, I referred to the signs of the Yevon alphabet as "glyphs."
I was wrong. The game very specifically refers to those big, circular, abstract geometric patterns as "glyphs." Some glyphs are the glowing patterns of light that I call summoning mandalas. Others are symbols found in the temples' Cloisters of Trials: teleport pads, barriers, and magical symbols that raise doors when touched (right).
Yevon Script on the World Map of SpiraClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Pilgrimage Road and Beyond
Zoomed excerpts of this map appear from time to time to show you Yuna's progress as you move from one place to the next. Above, I've transliterated all the Yevon glyphs into English equivalents. (Can't make out smaller labels? Here's a larger version where they should be legible.)
Some names on the map are never heard within the story itself: the largely-unpopulated northern continent is Wilderia, for example, while the one dominated by the Thunder Plains is Djose Continent. There's also lots of little, unnamed temples, suggesting other settlements around Spira.
Yojimbo's Statue in the Sunken Cave - Can You Read It?
Here's the Fayth statue of Yojimbo laid to rest. Use the Yevon Alphabet crib sheet to translate.
The strips of fabric forming a sort of symbolic cage say "SEAL."
His sword and shield say "Mea Culpa" in Spiran and Yevon script. I'm guessing it's his sword's name, or perhaps his motto. Maybe he feels guilty for gouging us?
Final Fantasy X-2 Paine Poster
A Hidden Message of Horror and Betrayal
This striking image was originally a PR poster for Final Fantasy X-2. It was incorporated into the menu screens for the remaster. Again, the Yevon signs are being used as letters, not symbols, and their meaning is chilling indeed:
This is surely the question that Paine holds in her heart throughout the story. The poster's choice of setting is probably no accident: her old friends confront each other there over the same question, and it's the spot where Yuna's nightmares end in a hail of bullets.
Besaid Temple's Cloister of Trials - The Pilgrimage Road Foretold
The walls of Besaid's Cloister of Trials are alight with ghostly words written in Yevon Script, detailing the route a summoner must take to reach Zanarkand and conquer Sin.
Elsewhere in the Cloister, there's an Easter Egg: Baaj's name appears at least once. (I've never seen Remiem's.) Also, there may be a typo: it almost looks like the "D" of Zanarkand has accidentally been replaced with the "A" sign which looks very similar.
The name of BESAID appears as Tidus unlocks the end of the maze. Banners on the wall alternate A and Z signs.
At the far end, above the lift leading down to Valefor's Chamber, there's a T symbol, beautifully worked in red. What's going on here?
Religious Meanings of Certain Yevon Signs
The Ultimania Guide published by Square-Enix identifies the following Yevon alphabet symbols with "fundamental elements/forces of the world of Spira":
- A stands for エボン, Yebon, i.e. Yevon.
- T stands for 無, Mu, the Buddhist concept of "no-thing." Mu is a sort of potential state: not yes, not no, not anything that can be labeled. It reminds us that the summoner's job is to negate herself. In the metaphorical sense, she's being selfless. In the literal sense, she not only has to negate her own sense of self in order to allow the Fayth's soul to join with hers, but in the end, she must sacrifice herself to defeat Sin.
- N stands for 炎, honoo, "flame, blaze." (It's the kanji for "fire" doubled).
- F stands for 雷, kaminari, "thunder, lightning bolt."
- L stands for 氷, koori, "ice."
- I stands for 光, hikari, "light."
- W stands for 水, mizu, "water."
- B stands for 闇, yami, "darkness."
- Z stands for シン, Sin.
A/Z often appear as a pair, embodying the opposition between Yevon and Sin, Bevelle and Zanarkand, and perhaps the idea of Alpha and Omega, the beginning and end of the pilgrimage.
Examples of Yevon Signs Used Symbolically
Here we see Seymour Omnis, calling his shots for your convenience. The symbols turned closest to him indicate which elemental magic he's going to cast next. He's really not very bright, is he?
Letter-signs with special meanings often crop up in various temples:
GALLERY: More Subliminal Messages in the Cloisters of TrialsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Summoning Mandalas (Glyphs)
I've mentioned summoning glyphs, those mandala-shaped patterns of light that are associated with particular aeons.
The summoning glyphs for some aeons appear as they're being summoned. Others appear in their temples. Still others only show up in the Zanarkand and Baaj Cloisters.
Each mandala has that aeon's main element in the center of the mandala, with 2-4 secondary signs around the perimeter. So we can find the Yevon Script signs for Yojimbo and the Magus Sisters by examining their glyphs.
GALLERY: Yevon Signs for Hidden AeonsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Putting It All Together: The Zanarkand Cloister of Trials
Zanarkand's puzzles require you to create or trigger the "elemental/fundamental forces" signs for each temple and its corresponding aeon, then the appropriate summoning mandala appears.
Your party winds up fighting the Spectral Keeper, the guardian of Yunalesca's chamber, while standing on glowing forms of the summoning glyphs you've just activated. In theory, you couldn't have created those mandalas without first discovering their aeons, although we know that Yuna hasn't yet acquired one of them.
GALLERY: Zanarkand Cloister of Trials PuzzlesClick thumbnail to view full-size
Baaj Cloister of Trials: A Different Set of Six
In Baaj, you once again have to complete a puzzle matching aeons, glyphs, temples, and mandalas.
To solve each puzzle, you must go to each temple and open the treasure chest in its Cloister of Trials, then return to Baaj and touch a sphere sitting on a pedestal before the corresponding stone statue. That sphere has an elemental-sign in it, and the matching aeon's summoning glyph lights up behind the statue.
However, there's two anomalies in Baaj. Zanarkand's Yevon-sign is "Light," while Bahamut's is "Mu," just like Valefor.
Where did mu come from? In my Cloister of Trials photo gallery above, I showed that the Bevelle Spheres used in Bevelle's Cloister of Trials carried the "Light" sign inside them. Also, the Zanarkand Cloister of Trials matched the "Light" sign to Bahamut's mandala. However, in Baaj, the sphere used to trigger Bahamut's mandala has a Mu sign in it, the statue has a Mu symbol on the floor in front of it, and the mandala itself has a Mu in its center.
Bahamut can't seem to make up his mind.
GALLERY: Baaj Cloister - Yevon Script and Summoning GlyphsClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Ultimania Guide gives us black-and-white versions of all the aeon's summoning glyphs, which I've scaled and tidied up below. It's easy to see from these than in every case except Bahamut, the central Yevon-sign is that aeon's element/power.
Bahamut actually has four summoning mandalas: he shoots down through all four glyphs as he plummets from the heavens.
Here are the summoning glyphs in the Ultimania guide, which has all of them except Zaon's (assuming that is Zaon's). I've enlarged and cleaned them up as best I can:
GALLERY: Summoning Glyphs / Mandalas of AeonsClick thumbnail to view full-size
So, which is Bahamut's element: Light? Or Mu? Or both?
Bahamut is an enigma. Youngest Fayth, most powerful of the storyline aeons, the only one seen to be able to leave his Fayth statue and wander around, even enter into dream-Zanarkand which lies suspended in that watery pillar on Mt. Gagazet next to the Fayth Wall whose dreams maintain it.
Tricky little fellow. (Or big fellow, depending on your point of view.) I think his machiavellian characterization in Justira's story Clarion is very apt.
Oh, one last place that Yevon-signs show up in relation to aeons: they're on the back wall of the Chambers of the Fayth. They seem to clinch the "center of the mandala = aeon sign" theory.
Gallery: Chambers of the FaythClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Top of the Tower of Light in St. Bevelle
I'm really impressed by Yevon architecture. How are all these ramps and platforms staying up? But never mind that. The church is decked out in its holiday best for Yuna's wedding, so banners, flags and signs are proudly sporting the signs of the "fundamental forces of the universe."
Mu - Lightning - Fire - Water - Light - Darkness
Decorative Yevon Script
Just as with Al Bhed Script, we'll occasionally find Yevon Script employed as mere decoration. The signs often appear to signify something— church hierarchy, scriptures, computer displays (blasphemy!), or some kind of grouping with religious meaning (the five elements, the seven deadly sins, the ten great sages of Spira, or who-knows-what), but when I convert the signs into their English alphabet equivalents, I get nothing.
I've given nicknames to groupings of signs that appear again and again: the Yevon cross, the Sin cross, the "Six signs of Yevon" (except it's not always the same six). These are just my own headcanon. Check out captions in the gallery for notes.
Gallery: Religious-Looking or Official-Looking Yevon ScriptClick thumbnail to view full-size
Last But Not Least...
How about all those Yevon script characters that flash out during the "1000 Words" FMV in Final Fantasy X-2? Well, I confess I haven't taken the time to decipher the whole panel, because there's an awful lot, but a quick scan shows alphabet soup.
The exception is the set of characters that light up when Shuyin first punches the psychedelic keyboard. Above the cockpit, most of the "fundamental forces" signs light up: Fire, Ice, Lightning, Light, Mu, Darkness. I don't think we need to read overmuch into this.
It's a doomsday weapon with a pipe organ control panel. Everything about Vegnagun screams, "I look fabulous." Including the butterfly wings.
1000 Words FMV: Yevon Script Around Vegnagun
The Esoteric Meaning of Summoning Glyphs
You may recall my earlier version of this tour where I talk about Shingon Buddhism, and how it sheds light on the relationship between aeons, Yevon Script and summoning mandalas. I've moved that post to its own page, Part IV.
But Wait! There's More!
Questions & Answers
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