Bloodborne and I have a bit of a unique relationship, wherein I have become rather intrigued by the whole plot and the game refuses to give me straight answers without the song and dance of me lore-diving and trying to piece it together with critical thinking—which is akin to doing a jigsaw puzzle blindfolded while fending off an army of tentacles.
The gist of the plot of Bloodborne is that humans attempting to evolve to the level of the Great Ones have caused a level of ‘oh crap, we’re all going to die’ that you rarely see in a Victorian-era setting. So much that the good ending has you being under the care of a porcelain doll who is the closest thing to human comfort you’ll get as you splatter the street with blood and go mad. The latter is what I particularly want to touch on in this lore theory of mine.
Now, one aspect of Lovecraftian Horror is that humans are inconsequential and there are things so much bigger than us in the universe that the human race can be blinked out of existence with a single thought and there is nothing we can do about it. This is primarily because they exist on such a high plane of existence that even trying to grasp their forms will drive you out of your mind. Yet the allure of evolution drives people to keep trying to do so despite knowing that via different mediums.
In Bloodborne, there’s a stat called Insight that measures just how great your ability to comprehend the world and the eldritch elements that infest it is. It factors this in gameplay by changing how your character perceives the world. The enemies have extra eyes and powers, invisible creatures become visible, you can hear music playing where there is none, and even the cries of an infant Great One become audible. Its description reads as follows:
The Insight stat represents the depth of inhuman knowledge. Needed to ring a special bell, but induces frenzy.
Defining Knowledge as either ‘facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education‘ or the second definition that is ‘awareness of familiarity gained by experience of a fact or situation‘ works well given that there are largely two ways for a player to increase their Insight stat.
The first is to encounter places, enemies, or events that are special in some way. You are personally bearing witness to something that pushes the boundaries of how you see the world, so you can’t ignore it anymore. It’s like having different filters removed one at a time, and once you start recognizing a pattern it becomes harder to forget it exists or ignore it.
The second is to consume an item that houses some form of eldritch knowledge or existence, such as Madman’s Knowledge, Great One’s Wisdom, and a One Third of Umbilical Cord. In these cases, you’re ingesting different things that contain either parts of Great Ones or Phantasms. It’s this method that interest me the most, so we’ll focus on that.
My theory is on how Phantasms give you access to eldritch wisdom in. Spoilers ahead for Bloodborne and Dresden Files (Book Series) by the way.
What are Phantasms?
Phantasms are a species of invertebrate creatures that either have arcane properties or allow for humans to interact with the Great Ones. They were first discovered in the tombs beneath Yharnam by prospectors, working under the Healing Church’s orders. However, the existence of the Augur of Ebrietas and the Empty Phantasm Shell in Byrgenwerth leads me to believe they may have also been involved as well.
There are several species of phantasms, but only a select amount of information is given to the player in the game about them. We know that some species are symbiotic nature, in that the inhabit something and in turn give that object their blessing. One such item is the Blacksky Eye, whose description reads as follows:
Soft eye blessed by a phantasm. They were discovered through Byrgenwerth’s contact with the arcane, but in the end revealed nothing.
Deep within the eye lies a vast stretch of dark sky that rumbles with an endless meteor storm. The slightest rub of the tiny orb, and the rock will tumble and soar.
As the description explains, the eye that has a couple of phantasms living inside of it and have turned the eye itself into a portal. It’s connected to a plane where an endless meteor storm rages around, so the moment you give it a little rub a nice and compact meteor from space hurls through the eye towards your foe. It’s great.
Likewise, we know that some, if not all, phantasms are drawn to the cosmic flora—lumenwood and lumenflowers. The evidence we have is that the Choir, a faction of the Healing Church dedicated to studying the Great One that they found, has established the Lumenflower Gardens and we can find the Lumenwood Gardens inside of the Astral Clocktower. Likewise, there’s the description of the Milkweed Rune:
Those who take this oath become a lumenwood that peers toward the sky, feeding phantasms in its luscious bed. Phantasms guide us, and lead to further discoveries.
In the game, discounting the Pearl Slug, we typically only see two different variety of phantasms: those who act as bridges between two points or those that contain eldritch knowledge.
Bridges to Other Planes
Phantasms that act as bridges are those that connect the world around them to another plane of existence. The Healing Church and Choir have attempted to evolve themselves using these Phantasms at some point in the past but failed. The description of A Call Beyond goes into further details about one of these attempts:
Long ago, the Healing church used phantasms to reach a lofty plane of darkness, but failed to make contact with the outer reaches of the cosmos. The rite failed to achieve its intended purpose, but instead created a small exploding star, now a powerful part of the Choir’s arsenal. At times, failure is the mother of invention.
In this instance they ‘reached a lofty plane of darkness’ instead of the Cosmos. There are a number if different dream worlds that you go through in the game, different planes of existences like the Hunter’s Dream and the Hunter’s Nightmare that are sort of stacked on top of each other. The planes that the phantasms can reach seem to be among even higher layers that the Player can never reach, but the Cosmos is most likely the highest plane of all.
Incidentally, the existence of multiple planes of existence also explains why you can still summon Ebrietas’ tentacles, even after you’ve slain her in the waking world. Certain creatures can move from one plane to another, such as the serpent that can be summoned by Madara’s Whistle. Most likely the phantasm that is used connects the player to a dream version of Ebrietas who will use her tentacles to attack.
The second kind of phantasms commonly seen are what I’m going to refer to as Knowledge Phantasms. These are the ones commonly found in items like Madman’s Knowledge and Great One’s Wisdom. Rather than acting directly as a portal or conduits to the cosmos, they contain knowledge that has been attained by the former host. However, the only ones who can truly grasp the eldritch truth directly are the Great Ones, or the Kin of their kind. If a human tries to while uninitiated, that knowledge will drive them mad—as described in the Madman’s Knowledge item:
Making contact with eldritch wisdom is a blessing, for even if it drives one mad, it allows one to serve a grander purpose, for posterity.
Posterity, in the context of the previous quote, means for the future generations or descendants. The knowledge these people received drove them to madness and death, but that knowledge persists even after death in the form of Knowledge Phantasms that nest inside of the dead host’s skull. And the Healing Church, or at least the upper echelons, must be aware of it as well since you’re given Madman’s Knowledge from Adella for telling her about a safe place and she mentions that ‘an upstanding member of the Church’ would find use for it.
There’s a piece of literary fiction out there that does something similar to this called Dresden Files. The protagonist Harry Dresden learns that he is essentially pregnant with a Spirit of Intellect that’s incubating in his skull, due to an act of love from the shadow of a fallen angel. The spirit is basically a psychic entity that spends several years growing inside of his head, giving him constant migraines as it matures. Eventually it reaches the point where it has to be delivered or else it would burst out of his skull and kill him.
In my opinion, this breed of Phantasms are basically spiritual beings of sorts. Almost like thoughtforms, or partially existing within a dream realm. Rather than having an initial physical form, they are born out of the knowledge of things that are too alien for the human mind to fully comprehend and survive after the host dies within their skulls.
When you crush the skull, the phantasm is forced out of its current shell and settles into the closest mind that can process it. So not only does it exist as a vessel for the knowledge, but it also acts as a tool for you grasp even more knowledge by interacting with the brain and allowing your senses to comprehend it as well—they become Insight.
This may also suggest that the factions of the Healing Church may even be intentionally exposing people to the eldritch truth as they did the old blood. By letting their mind be overwhelmed and then harvesting the phantasms to glimpse at different bits of knowledge safely, they can gain more Insight in a relatively safer manner. However, I can only state it as an opinion rather than a fact.
So, in conclusion, insight is the ability to perceive the world around you with cosmic knowledge. You gain it by encountering things that slowly whittle down your sanity or through contact with a phantasm. Phantasms are drawn to lumenwood flora and through possessing objects they can grant them knowledge or connect them to other planes of existence. Phantasms may also be born of cosmic knowledge itself as thoughtform beings that eventually seek out hosts.
A pretty barebones theory on how phantasms relate to cosmic knowledge, I know, but it’s what I have in the end.
Thank you for reading.
I’m a bit of an oddball and need to know how things work from a lore perspective when it comes to media I like, despite not being exceedingly scientific in nature. Like, in the case of Dark Souls, we have Pyromancies—a form of magic that uses an item called a Pyromancy Flame in order to conjure fire-based. But, while the game goes into details on the Witch of Izalith being the “Godmother of Pyromancy,” it never really explains where the pyromancy flames you can use come from.
I personally believe that the pyromancy flame is the internal fire that burns within Demons, a species within the series linked to Flame of Chaos, and that pyromancers have learned how to harness, channel, and split the flame so that they can wield it for themselves. I’ll be explaining why I think that and support that theory with evidence based off details found within the game via talking to NPCs, item descriptions, and some reference to others who delved in the lore elsewhere.
Heads-up as a warning, there will be spoilers for the entire franchise. So, you probably shouldn’t read this unless you’ve already played the games, watched lore videos, or your curiosity deems it worth the risk. If you’re cool with that, then read on.
And if you like the theory, then feel free to share it wherever you feel it best with a link back.
The Extinction of Fire Sorcery & Birth of Pyromancy
You’ve all seen the opening cutscene. In the beginning, there were dragons that lived forever and suddenly the First Flame popped into existence in whatever place that the Four Lords originally dwelled in. The Witch of Izalith found the Life Soul within it, through which she learned to cast a form of sorcery known as Fire Sorcery, as explained in the Izalith Catalyst’s description:
Catalyst of the Witch of Izalith of long ago, when her daughters were still flame witches, before they were engulfed by the Chaos Flame. Before the birth of pyromancy, their wands were mediums for sorcery, but knowledge of this flame sorcery has long since vanished.
Fire Sorcery itself was cast using catalysts, much like the sorceries that you can use in the middle of the games themselves. Despite Seath the Scaleless being considered the “Grandfather of all Sorceries,” it’s more likely he was the one who pioneered the most common ones found in the setting, while we see the Witch and her daughters raining storms of fire upon the Everlasting Dragons nests in the opening before then. And this form of magic was probably used only by them until the First Flame started to fade and she got the idea to use her magic to replicate the effect of it using her own Lord Soul.
The key thing to note here is that Fire Sorcery itself is largely considered an extinct form of magic by the time Dark Souls comes around, and has been succeeded by pyromancy. However, the last actual practitioner of the Fire Arts, as they are also known as, was the Demon Firesage. His item drop (Demon’s Catalyst) gives the description below:
Demon catalyst formed from Izalith molten rock. Can be used as fire weapon. The Demon Firesage was the first demon, and the last master of the original fire arts before the Witch of Izalith was engulfed by Chaos, creating pyromancy.
Now, this catalyst’s lore makes it clear that we’ve been getting some bad information in regards to being told that the Witch’s attempts at creating a second First Flame resulted in the Bed of Chaos being formed, engulfing her and her daughters, and giving birth to demons. This description alone contradicts that. There was a demon around who was capable of learning sorcery from the Witch of Izalith before she was engulfed.
At this point, I want to give credit to Hawkshaw, a youtuber who has done a video on Demons in Dark Souls. It gave me the insight to understand that there was a period where the Flame of Chaos was stable and still around, capable of giving birth to demons while the Witch was rational in mind. Her engulfment likely came from a more emotional aspect than anything, a devotion to the demonic and rejection of her ties to Gwyn.
Regarding Fire Sorcery, the fact that it went extinct is not because no one left alive can use it again. It’s more than likely that she decided not to pass that knowledge on because the Witch deemed it no longer worth teaching. After all, why bother with learning extensive sorceries when pyromancy itself was easier to use while a war is going on?
We know that Gwyn didn’t like that the demons sprung up from the Witch of Izalith’s attempt at creating her own First Flame. More so when you consider she succeeded. The Flame of Chaos is like the First Flame, in that it can be rekindled much like Gwyn does for the First Flame later on. That’s the purpose of the Demon Prince, to play the role of a Champion of Ash in Dark Souls III.
So there was a war going on between the demons and Gwyn’s forces, and time was likely of the essence. Sorceries requires knowledge to learn in-universe, and you need a high amount of aptitude for the more complex spells. Big Hat Logan states it best if you have less than 15 in intelligence:
I am afraid that you are unable to learn sorcery. The basic framework, you see. It cannot be taught.
It takes a relatively higher amount of knowledge to use sorceries (10 points). And with a fledgling race of creatures on the verge of a war against a faction who helped decimate the Everlasting Dragons, the Witch knew she didn’t have time to teach them. So rather than going off something that required advanced knowledge, she opted to teach them instead how to utilize the power that the demons shared due to their link with the Flame of Chaos.
Flames have been harvested as a source of power in Dark Souls since the beginning. The First Flame’s Lord Souls gave them the strength to topple the dragons. The Profaned Flame gave Pontiff Sulyvahn a power source that he could draw from along with the fire witches. Using their connection to the Flame of Chaos, the Witch gave her children the means to fight back, since they harbored the flames inside of them.
This was the birth of pyromancy, in my opinion.
Now, you’ll notice that my theory brings up an issue—Quelana, the only daughter of the witch who managed to escape the engulfment, or so she states. Quelana is largely known as being the “Mother of Pyromancy” to the outside world. After all, she was the one who taught Salaman, who established the Great Swamp around 200 years prior to Dark Souls and spread the teachings of pyromancy. However, she stated that she fled from her sisters and her mother when the engulfment happened, so… why is the Daughter of Chaos capable of using it?
She uses pyromancy instead of Fire Sorcery, despite the fact she drops a catalyst afterwards meaning she was capable. It’s because she also fought in this war, alongside most of her sisters, and thus took to using pyromancy. Which means that, while Quelana might be the one who helped create pyromancies, she didn’t do it alone. It was a family effort.
Quelana eventually faked her death—leaving her clothes on a corpse for Ceaseless Discharge to mourn, she took what she knew and left it all behind. It is possible she’s a disembodied soul who only a select few can see, but considering you can fight actual ghosts, she can be attacked by other enemies, and she can be poisoned, there’s some disconnect here. Even if that did happen, she ultimately left Izalith behind.
So here we have the initial divergence for pyromancy—Izalith developed spells that were capable of greater destructive power, Chaos Pyromancies. The Daughter of Chaos and Xanthous King Jeremiah are the only two who knew it in Dark Souls. That means it’s likely that only those who studied tomes or under the tutelage of these two would have access to it in the future—gaining the ability to do more damage by calling up fire meant to manipulate lava.
Quelana, meanwhile, went her own way to teach Salaman, who would become known as the Master Pyromancer. She would later learn to ascend her pyromancy flame instead of developing more destructive spells, likely gaining an understanding of how to enhance it after studying it on her own behalf. But until then, she taught Salaman most of the pyromancies she knew and her teachings—namely, that one should seek the knowledge of the flames, but also fear the flame and not become arrogant, lest they be consumed.
These would become part of the Great Swamp’s teachings when Salaman established it at some point and took on multiple pupils—likely having learned to divide the pyromancy flame from his teacher—with Carmina being the most accomplished pupil. Rather than focus on the pure destructive power of the flames, they would become one with nature and thus learn to have faith in the flames along with the knowledge to use it. That would lead to them learning how to use the pyromancy flame to realize the full potential of the caster, developing spells that internalized the power—Flash Sweat, Iron Flesh, and Power Within, are examples of this:
Pyromancy of Carmina, who harnessed the power of flame to actualize the inner-self. Intense sweating reduces flame damage.
Carmina, the most accomplished pupil of Salaman the Master Pyromancer, pioneered new directions for the art of pyromancy.
However, they avoided anything that gave way to excessive power that went against their teaching about being consumed. This is likely why Power Within was kept secret after its creation. However, their teachings didn’t remain solely in the Great Swamp by the time of Dark Souls.
One pyromancer wandered into Oolacile and was taken by the Abyss. He managed to gain enough insight into the darkness to create a pyromancy that used it as a weapon—Black Flame. It would later be rediscovered in Dark Souls III, which states the following:
Pyromancy discovered by grave wardens after High Lord Wolnir fell to the Abyss.
Creates a giant, black flame in hand.
Black flames born from the Abyss bear no shadow. They are said to be the impenetrable fires of humanity.
Eingyi at some point developed Poison Mist and Toxic Mist, which were seen as heretical. He was exiled as a result, finding his way to Izalith and running into the Fair Lady, whereupon she cured him of his poisoning. He later taught at least one person Poison Mist, as their corpse has it on the body in Blighttown, and it is later passed on via the Great Swamp Pyromancy Tome, despite the fact that he was exiled because of it.
In Dark Souls III, Fire Surge is considered a lost Pyromancy that Cornyx restored. But it existed in the original Dark Souls, within the Painted World of Ariamis and in the possession of a non-hostile enemy. It is likely that this was the creator of the pyromancy, since it has this tidbit of information:
Not all pyromancy originates in the Great Swamp. One hear rumors of unknown pyromancers inhabiting various lands, and this spell is the work of one such outlander.
Likewise, Acid Surge is also found in the Painted World in Dark Souls. But unlike Fire Surge, it persisted throughout history. Carthus of the Sands, a kingdom ruled by High Lord Wolnir that eventually fell into the Abyss, used not only this spell, but their own unique ones. As the Carthus Pyromancy Tome describes:
Carthus pyromancies developed in isolation from other forms, explaining their divergent evolution.
In addition, we know there was a sect of Desert Sorceress’ in the land of Jugo that took up residence in Earthen Peak. Their time passed, but by the end of the world at least one of their descendants—Desert Pyromancer Zoey—survived and carried with her a pyromancy exclusive to them, Flame Fan:
Pyromancy of Zoey, descendant of the desert pyromancers.
Use repeatedly to brush the fan left and right.
Zoey possessed true beauty, as did all the desert pyromancers, but hers did not poison, and so she became the unassuming queen of the feeble ones.
By the time of Dark Souls III, things are nearing their end. But new pyromancies had been created, such as Warmth. And, up to the very end, even more can be created by transposing the souls of those who possessed certain skills or knowledge. These are gained due to the transposition basically extracting the essence of the soul and then coalescing it down to something tangible.
So pyromancy developed from the moment of its creation to the very end of the Dark Souls world, with different variations coming into existence as it spread around—despite the fact that it had a bad reputation as being simple and the art of savages.
Flames of Demons
Witch’s Locks is a whip made from the black hair of a daughter of the Witch, imbued with the essence of fire. The same fire that consumed the Witch herself. There’s only one daughter that we know who has long black hair, and that’s Quelaag. Unlike the Daughter of Chaos, she merged with a demon and gained the power of fire that can scale with Humanity (as her weapon explains), which is likely the reason that the war broke out in the first place.
As for the Demon’s Scar, it is a weapon made from transposing the Soul of the Demon Prince, which has the following description:
This chaotic thing, the last flame kindled by the demon prince, is shaped like the claw marks of a demon.
It is both a fiery bladed weapon and pyromancy flame.
It is both a fiery blade and a pyromancy flame. Demons are linked to the Flame of Chaos in the same way that humans are linked to the First Flame, albeit naturally rather than Gwyn’s tampering. As stated in the Soul of the Demon Prince:
The demons, birthed from a common Chaos, share almost everything between them, even the pride of their prince, and his near-faded flame.
So that the last demon standing may rekindle it.
So naturally this means that all demons are connected to the Flame of Chaos, with the internal flame being a medium through which they can express its power. I think of it as being like roots that link from the Flame of Chaos, spreading out to each demon when they were born but all of them linked to it, and this connection persists whether to demon is alive or not if the flame is extracted, which can be seen in how ordinary weapons can be imbued with the power of the flames through Fire Gems and Chaos Gems in Dark Souls III.
In the case of Fire Gems, the only one that’s a guaranteed drop is from a demon that’s known to be dying. It’s flame doesn’t burn as brightly, but the second one you kill offers up its soul and thus it can be transposed to two weapons that can also unleash fire: Demon’s Greataxe and Demon’s Fist. Fire Gems can likewise infuse weapons with inherent fire, but it doesn’t scale.
In the case of Chaos Gems, it can be obtained from demons capable of wielding pyromancy spells, the Demon Clerics, demons who are closer to the Chaos Flame and can cast pyromancies. The gems themselves not only imbue a weapon with flames but are capable of scaling with Faith and Intelligence. The weapon born from the Soul of the Old Demon King also scales with the Faith and Intelligence.
Because pyromancy flames scale with Faith and Intelligence as well, it shows a strong link between pyromancies, demons, and the flame that connects them. The Demon’s Scar is made from the last flame that is kindled from the Flame of Chaos, and thus in itself it should be the ultimate pyromancy flame. So regular pyromancy flames are essentially the flames taken from demons and then spread out into a form usable for humans—as Laurentius of the Great Swamp explained the following:
A pyromancer’s flame is a part of his own body. The flame develops right along with his skill. … When I gave you that flame, I gave you a part of myself. Please take good care of it.
Most likely, Quelana taught Salaman how to connect with the flame that she produced, nurturing it until she could split it off into another one for him. Even though the pyromancy flame can produce flames on its own, as the pyromancer gains knowledge and faith in the flame, it grows in strength. The flame itself is alive in that aspect, and thus it can be changed as well.
Quelana learned how to draw upon her own latent power to enhance the flame. Likely this is due her own nature, as she is not a human but an entirely different species and managed to find a way to infuse that into the flame. It could even be a piece of the Life Soul if the Witch of Izalith split it among her daughters like Gwyn did with his own soul, before it was warped into the Flame of Chaos.
To reiterate, in my opinion, the Pyromancy Flames originally stemmed from demons and their link to the Flame of Chaos. The Witch and her daughters pioneered it originally for war against Gwyn, but they lost. And, while most of them were locked away beneath Izalith, Quelana passed the knowledge to a human, Salaman.
From there, it spread until it could be found all over the world. Gaining more uses that the Witch could have dreamed and persisted until the very end of the cycle, even outlasting her children by the very end. But, it’s a theory I thought of based on a lot of evidence and if this article has been informative, feel free to spread it around with a link.
Thank you for reading.
Okay, I’m still working on my writings, but apparently I’ve been out of the loop too long to not have noticed the new Final Fantasy Trailers:
Not only that but Fate/Extra is coming out in the US soon, and another alternate version called Fate/Extra CCC is coming out next year.
With so many distractions, my writings going to slow down even more.