Zemuria is the ship on the spiritual sea and it’s up to Captain Carnelia and her trusty crew of hardened seamen to keep it from sinking – Hellseye47
Here is a collection of ideas regarding the original function of the Gralsritter and the nature of the world.
I want to start by drawing attention to the fact this theory will not be following the very popular theory that the Church, or any sect, division or branch of it, is based upon the Sept-Terrion of Time, including the Stigmas. I’m not a fan of the, “A clock has 12 numbers and there are 12 stigma!” theory.
The suggestion I would like to make is that the church, just like their ‘counterparts’ Ouroboros, go beyond a single system- or this case, are made up of all of them. I believe the Gralsritter’s true purpose is to maintain the world’s balance (more on the nature of the world later) on behalf of the world/its creator itself.
Iconography and symbolism
Let’s begin by looking at the iconography and tenets of the Gralsritter:
Note the most prominent symbol of all– the balancing scales. Traditionally these symbolize justice, harmony, the law, order and of course, balance itself- so there’s already one point in my favor- Hurray! Job done, no need to read further. You will also be able to note the uppermost star, symbolizing the link to the church and Aidios herself, as well as….wait? Seven septium crystals? One for each element? Not just Black (Nohval) for time? How can this be!
The simplest and most obvious answer is the one most likely to be correct. The equidistance of each element, central to the scale is a symbol of balance in the world in and of itself.
There is also the tenets of the Gralsritter to consider of which the following (out of 6) are of interest:
- Offer your soul to Goddess and your body to Her church.
- Protect the peace and order of the three worlds.
The first statement, on the surface seems to be a statement of offering your entire being to the service of the church, and brings to mind the “Love your God with all your heart, body, soul and mind” from the Bible- basically do everything in your power for the Church. The second, “Protect the peace and order of the three” most likely refers to idea of Earth, Gehenna and Heaven. This one seems rather metaphysical compared to the others but it may be the most crucial of them all. The point is the ‘peace and order’ is synonymous with balance and the tenets support the idea of the Graslritter being some kind of moderating force.
Nature of the world
Before I can go further, I need to bring up the nature of the Zemurian world. In a previous theory, I outlined the similarities between medieval cosmology and what we have seen so far. For the sake of simplicity, the parts I would like to carry over from this theory are the idea of an existence made up of several parts, 4 human, 3 higher.
Each individual is made up of the four elements: fire to soul, earth to body/physical form (the two confirmed) as well as water to emotion and air to mind (the two unconfirmed) These are the four aspects of human existence and there is nothing revolutionary here. It matches the alchemical tarot and hermetical theming which is commonly referenced in the series. Then you have the three higher elements which govern reality itself, Space- physics and matter, Time–ontological existence–and Mirage–causality and awareness. All of the human existence in Zemuria is based upon these 7 facets and they are present in all life and are interwoven into the world itself. They even have a physical form in Kiseki–the septium veins and the crystals obtained from it.
(Side note: The placement of the seven septium crystals inside the seven pointed star could allude to Aidios being the world itself and these are seven aspects of her that the Graslritter are keeping the balance of, but I will let you decide for yourself whether that sounds plausible).
Now take a look at this diagram which will be very important for my explanation of the Gralsritter’s role:
Behold! Ein Selnate sailing on the sea of existence! The circle itself is the world. The blue represents the physical world where everyone lives, and the Spirit World (underworld as its sometimes referred to in-Series) is in red. Why is the Sea red you ask? Because when the ‘Spirit world’ appears in CSIV, everything there is red so it seemed like an appropriate color. (Notably, it isn’t red when they enter it in the Castle of Mirrors in Hajimari however) Red is also the normal color used for fire/souls so even more appropriate!
You may notice there is a bit of each in both worlds, and that is because there is an aspect of the physical in the spiritual world, and a bit of spiritual in the physical (every human has a spiritual aspect to them) and this is what allows things to exist in each other’s worlds. If it reminds you a little bit of the Yin-Yang, that’s 100% intentional and it is the same philosophy. The wavy line is the border between both worlds and naturally flows and ebbs.
The fire Sept-Terrion, Ark Rouge can be said to have governed the portion of humanity that governs their spiritual side, and the vice versa for Lost Zem. It should be noted that these two sides of the coin so to speak are linked, but at the same time diametrically opposed to each other as opposites in every way conceivable. The combination of both fire and earth made something inherently contradictory (something cannot be wholly physical and spiritual) which resulted in an inherent conflict and desire to separate, desire to cause harm and conflict, something it spread onto others, otherwise known as the Erebonian Curse.
The Graslritter’s purpose then, is to stop these two worlds from “spilling over” into each other (keeping them balanced) to prevent an inherent contradiction and possible destruction on a much more existential scale than just fire and earth’s combination. As shown with the waves, there is a slight degree of boundary crossing that naturally occurs and is permitted and harmless, perhaps even utilised by parties such as the Hexen clan with their incantations. The problem lies where something ‘tips the boat”.
First we have disturbances from within the world. Throughout Sen, it is consistently mentioned how events in the physical world like wars influence the spiritual world/underworld in a sort of “as above, so below” type deal. The combination of Crossbell’s independence Declaration, Civil War and Great War caused the greatest spiritual disturbances in living memory. Actions from those like Weissman who study demonic techniques, try to replicate Stigmas and merge with Sept-Terrion, threaten to upset the balance, resulting in the church authorizing a kill order because he was being too ‘noisy.’ You can picture this as Weissman jumping up and down on the ‘boat’. The greater the jumping (wars and everything done in the lead up to the great twilight) the more the boat rocks.
The other way the balance is disturbed is from external stimulus. Picture the Salt pale landing on the boat and the massive displacement of force and ‘spirit world’ that would be created from its manifestation. The Church leapt on the event quickly, taking full responsibility. McBurn might be a smaller scale unbalanced, at least when he is not in his full form. After all, he has merged with a Human which may be part of the reason they don’t go after him with full force. Nevertheless, he still earns some steel-glares from dominion such as Gaius when they see each other in Lamare.
McBurn and the Salt pales, are referred to as “singularities”- which are also points of crossing over. Their very existence is a large scale stimulus that disrupts the balance and allows the spiritual and physical to crossover. Elysium is also described a singularity, albeit a technological one. It could not only replicate Artifacts, but simulate spiritual phenomena like access to the Spirit world (See Castle of Mirrors) and even Sept-Terrion. Wazy describes its appearance as confusing the church when they can’t work out how to react to it. Regardless, they do eventually act in force.
Ouroboros and Artifacts
The source of the conflict between Ouroboros and the church can be boiled down to the Church is trying to keep the balance, whereas Ouroboros can only achieve their objectives by unsettling it. There’s something to be said about how ‘unbalanced’ people are leading most of these plans. Ouroboros’ plan is…something else yet to be determined. During Star Door 14, the Grandmaster mentions the aftermath of the Gospel plan:
“There will undoubtedly be a reaction to what has happened, but we can leave that to the church.”
Ouroboros have committed actions which tilt the balance of the world, setting off the great conflict of the series and breaking the equilibrium. Like dropping a large pebble in the puddle displaces the water, so have their actions displaced the spiritual composition of the world. (Remember Ries’ line about miracles being like pebbles dropped from above). The Gralsritter’s role is to ‘remove the pebble’ and stop the displacement. I believe this is the same rationale for the acquisition of artifacts, the whole ‘Gifts from the Goddess given too early’. Objects that cause spiritual displacement and upset the balance. Many of the abilities displayed by artifacts could be described as ‘miraculous’; gravitational control, unlimited long range communication, creating artificial worlds etc.
It would be hard to have a theory about balancing the world that doesn’t include the all-pervasive Spirit veins/Dragon veins/Septium veins. What we know for certain about them is:
- that they respond to the events happening in the world (the same ‘As above, so Below’ idea)
- They can be used a power source (orbal power and their use in the Liber ark sealing mechanism)
The disturbance in the septium veins, causing spiritual phenomena to appear such as Cryptids, magic knights, Pleroma flowers and fiends and spirits, marries up perfectly with the idea of the spiritual and physical worlds mixing. It can be surmised that they act as some some of bridge or barrier between the two (they would be the wave line in my diagrams above). As they are of the world itself, so are they composed of its seven elements. The disturbance to the worlds causes the higher elements to appear, not the other way around. They are always there, part of the fabric of reality, but can be agitated and then interacted with, like a layer of dust that is normally stable but can be suddenly thrown up when reality is disturbed.
Note the apparent absence of the higher elements with the Aureole. It is comprised of something stable (a single element). Only when The Recluse Cube starts relying on the Stigma, or an unnatural combination of multiple elements occurs (Azure Demiourgos and the Great One) does reality shift and become agitated. The church give the impression of not really caring about the Aureole until Weissman wants to merge with it, whereas they do respond to the Azure Tree and the original Merging of Fire and Earth 1000 years ago.
Septium veins and What the Graslritter do for them
The name Reverse Babel, Elysium’s super weapon has a lot of implications. The original Babel was a tower built to try and reach Heaven by mankind, so logically a ‘Reverse’ Babel would be heaven or some other spiritual world trying to reach humanity (or alternatively, something that pushes humanity further way from Heaven). In his dying throes, Ishmelga hands over the firing of Reverse Babel’s superweapon to the collective will of mankind, represented by digital Pleroma flowers blooming all over the continent.
The Pleroma flowers were the eyes and ears of the original Mirage Sept-Terrion that could read and direct causality, so their usage here would seem to indicate the Septium veins which power Elysium and the super weapon are responding to humanity’s collective anger and feelings.
I would like to suggest the world is made up of the sum of its parts. All of existence and humanity (all) make up the (one) and vice versa. I’m not going to go into detail with the Gnostic and Alchemic principles here (such as the world being an Emanation of Aidios and the ultimate end being everything reuniting with her) but they are definitely very connected with this idea. There is also the idea of Animism, that everything in the world has a soul, which backs up this idea considerably- in fact, it is a belief the CHURCH ACTIVELY DOES NOT CONTRADICT. Many Animistic locations/ruins in the series link to the spiritual world as well-this is clearly intentional.
The Septium veins in a sense become to the ‘soul of the world’ and I am not using the word ‘soul’ lightly. The exact events that would expect to trouble a soul, the grief and conflict caused by war, also agitate the Septium veins. They respond to whatever humanity wills them to on a large scale level (Note the Sept-Terrion also do this in a somewhat flawed manner) Humanity wants war and conflict? The Septium veins facilitate that by generating monsters and fiends. Humanity wants to have peace? The Spirit veins, via Elysium, gave them the exact tool for that (but it went hilariously wrong). In some ways, the use of the Septium veins to seal the Aureole by Celeste D. Auslese and the desire to create easier lives through the orbal Revolution by C. Epstein can also be said to be the Septium veins responding to the wills of humanity. (Is this the breakthrough Epstein realized?)
In any case, basically the problem is humanity not knowing what it wants, or being conflicted about what it wants, or just being plain selfish and self-defeating- exactly what seems to have driven the great Collapse and the weirdness with the Sept-Terrion in the first place. But the world is more than just humanity.
The Gralsritter respond to the will of the world itself, hence their desire to keep it balanced. It cannot be a coincidence that the areas where the Church is weakest in influence, the East, is also where the Septium veins are ‘drying up’. This is why they feature the scale with the seven elements in their iconography- they serve to keep the word in check. More evidence for this will be the focus of the following sections.
Thaumaturgy and Alchemy
Thaumaturgy (the ability to work miracles) and Alchemy (creating something out of nothing) have many similarities on the surface. They both use the seven elements: practitioners of Thaumaturgy reference the colors of the septium when working their magic, and The Crois Family’s Crossbell system used all seven elements (Geofront and the three sun/star/moon structures) in their creation of Azure Demiourgos. Even Nisa, perhaps mistakenly, translated the Mystic Core as the Thaumaturgical sector, but I’m not going to go into that one.
While the method and ideology are different, I believe the underlying fundamentals are the same. The Gralsritter, as the enactors of the world’s will can access these powers inherently and naturally from their own connection to the world, whereas the Alchemists build structures and devices that forcibly coerce the elements that comprise the world into bending reality or creating something, working on a much larger scale. Note that Alchemy is considered a ‘heretical’ art in-series, just as Weissman’s Stigma Research resulted in his own heretic branding. Is there a pattern in both 3rd Angiuses twisting something from the church? Was Celeste’s seal of the Liber Ark an early version of alchemy using the towers?
The Stigma- A sacrifice for the world
The twelve dominion are the ultimate enforcers of the worlds will. When the tenet ‘give your soul and body to the church’ is mentioned, it’s entirely possible it was being literal, referring to living a life of servitude beyond individual wants and needs for the benefit of the world itself. The characters we have seen with Stigma have backstories that make them perfect for this kind of ideology as well. Kevin and Wazy had very little to live for in their original lives anyway before Gralsritter life, and in Gaius’ case: you have an individual who was extremely in tune with the nature of the world (okay mostly wind but you get the idea) and was entirely willing to lay his life down to protect his homeland- a perfect candidate. Thomas and Ein are still blank slates so cannot really be used.
Does that sound farfetched? Well, the name Stigma itself backs up the theory. Not just a marking, in Christian tradition, the Stigma were the marks left in Christ following his crucifixion and are a symbol of his sacrifice for the world.
I’ve already touched on the idea of the Spirit veins being the soul of the world (including the collective humanity- always remember One is All, All is One). Each of our Dominion have witnessed or conducted an act of sacrifice at the time of receiving their Stigma. Just as Christ’s stigma were formed by the nails of the Cross, the markings serve as a reminder of this sacrifice and trauma:
- Kevin’s stigma features three Loa spears and they appear in his S-craft. Rufina Saved him by taking the spears.
- Wazy’s is the exact symbol from the tablet. Arm appears in S-Craft. Illage considered offering sacrifices to appease the artifact, but Wazy sacrificed himself to end its influence on the village by trying to throw it off a cliff as it drained him.
- Gaius is harder as we don’t know the exact circumstances, but it shows a falcon head and spear (appears in S-Craft). Barkhorn gave his life for Gaius and his homeland.
This idea can even be extended to Weissman and his artificial Stigma. Joshua was a suitable candidate because of Karin’s sacrifice for him, and it took another act of Sacrifice, Estelle offering herself to Joshua’s blade after refusing to retaliate to break him out of it. Weissman himself, however much he desired to make himself superhuman, never gave himself one as he would never make the sacrifice play, and no one liked him enough to sacrifice themselves for him.
Extra point in favor is Phantasma’s copy of Kevin’s Stigma literally becoming ‘Anima Mundi’, the ‘soul of the world’ upon detection. Phantasma just copies and reads reality, it doesn’t create things for itself. Why didn’t the recluse cube use the Septium veins as a power source? Actually it did. If the Stigma and Septium veins are one and the same source–the soul of the world.
The Apocryphal evidence
The main basis for some of the ideas here is the rumored deleted scenes from a Chinese copy of the 3rd. Whether or not you believe the veracity of the information is up to you, but the ideas it brought up are still valid and worthy of consideration, if if the source is extremely hard to verify.
The scene in particular is Rufina confronting Weissman about his heretical Stigma research. Weissman bribes Rufina with a stigma of her own, stating she could surpass Ein, but Rufina isn’t having it. Weissman remarks this about the stigmas before leaving the Church:
“What I pursue is the ideal of power beyond human. The reason I research on the Stigma is to pursue that ideal. The Stigma is far more complex than I imagined. That kind of power is like the will of the world, certainly very interesting. But now, I see an even greater goal and so I changed my mind.”
The idea being he sold out information to Ouroboros to gain their trust and then left Stigmas in favour of seeking the more powerful Sept-Terrion with Ouroboros.
Most of these ideas in this theory comes from Hermeticism, including Alchemy, the ‘All in One, One is all’, the tarot references and the ‘as above, so below’ concept. There are a few more that are not explicitly part of this theory but fall under the umbrella and are worth thinking about in connection to the Church and the World:
- God is the ‘All’ All things come from Aidios and she is self-creating. All will return to her at the end
- Alchemy being the means to seek perfection in a being, Ars Magna (note Mariabell calling the GM as such)
- Theurgy- art of calling upon divine beings for magic (Hajimari Whale??) and its opposite Goetia: summon evil spirits to work magic (from the ancient scriptures of 72 such fiends- where does that sound familiar in Kiseki? *cough 77 devils*)
- The idea of 7 heavens each with its own influence on Earth
- The fall of man being due to man becoming one with nature–a really interesting concept that might hold the clue to Ouroboros’ plan and or the Great Collapse.
So to sum up everything I’ve said: The Gralsritter are a group dedicated to preserving the balance of the world, representing the Spirit veins or will of the world itself. They come into conflict against Ouroboros because that groups own goals often involve disrupting that balance. All their actions, including artifact retrieval are a means to that end. and they are granted abilities by the world such as thaumaturgy and the Stigma that allow them to carry out this role.
- What are artifacts if they can disrupt the balance of the world? Why are they connected so much with evil spirits? (Astraia’s Ring and Yed-Vanas, Wazy’s tablet, Loa demon, Whatever happened to Emperor)
- The 77 devils and fiends appear in the Spirit world, is it treated as Gehenna for the purposes of the ‘3 worlds?’ Is a spirit trapped there after death simply unable to get to heaven and becomes twisted/evil as a result?
- By the same logic, is the Outside/Beyond and heaven one and the same? The Grandmaster being Aidios and giving omnipotent cutting swords and being unable to interact with a world that must forever be separate come to mind. What does this mean for McBurn?
- Dreichels soul couldn’t go to Aidios and was trapped in reincarnation, supposedly an ‘error’ what does this mean for the system, and was it Ishmelga utilising his Fire/soul power to make this happen?
- What is the connection the orbments, C. Epstein and the the truth of the world? Is it connected to Ouroboros’ technological aims? By mastering orbments, do they master to the nature of the world’s soul?
- The Divine Knights return in Babel stating that Elysium’s power let them ‘cross over’ from the ‘Outside/Beyond’ temporarily, granting credence to the idea singularities are some sort of bridge in and of themselves.
- When Zeit states groups ‘like Ourboros’ have been fighting the church for centuries, does he mean groups trying to upset the balance?
- Where does the D.G Cult and what they saw fit into this framework?
- There are still questions about the nature of planes, cryptids, however Loewe managed to speak in the Spirit world, Ouroboros’s Orpheus plan to guide the souls of all, and the ‘Possible worlds’
- Who founded the church?