|“||"The 'self' is little more than an amalgamation of memory and feeling that informs the disposition of the soul - it doesn't alone define it.||”|
A soul is an energy that can bind to an individual. When an individual dies, that energy moves forward in the eternal cycle of reincarnation, known as The Wheel. Any damage to the underlying link, up to and including total separation, can manifest as a number of soul-related maladies. Much of how souls "work" is currently not well understood by kith.
Souls are comprised of soul essence (sometimes referred to as "soul energy" or "spiritual power"), a power that can exist in places other than souls. For example, wizard grimoires hold fragments of ambient soul energy. Druids and priests power their spells by "draw[ing] ambient fragments of soul energy toward them". This is a natural power that flows through Eora. Strong concentrations of essence (such as soul fragments) can manifest into Blights.
When an individual dies, their soul moves forward into the In-Between, which is a shadow world where souls wander after death. Using pillars of adra, souls then enter a place known as The Beyond, the realm of the gods, before they are reincarnated back into the world. Most times this process takes several years, but it can also be very brief, with a soul reincarnating immediately.
If a soul fails to reach an adra pillar, or is barred from entering one, they continue to roam unseen to the living in the In-Between. These are known as "lost souls." Watchers can see and interact with these souls.
Souls are assigned to new births via a soul lottery, although sometimes the gods will intervene directly.
Lost souls are “unhoused” souls (i.e. not contained in a physical vessel) that have not moved into the Beyond. A lost soul may retain awareness and memory, or it may be badly fractured. To each other, or to a Watcher, they can take the appearance of the physical form that housed it in life, or they can appear as a formless volume of pure essence. They are completely invisible and undetectable to ordinary mortals, and mortals are completely invisible and undetectable to them. Lost souls navigate the world via living adra, which acts as a beacon to them, and via Watchers, who passively illuminate the world to lost souls.
Soul maladies and damage
There are several ways souls may become damaged or missing. It may be caused during reincarnation or by external forces.
- Hollowborn - A child born without a soul.
- Soul twins - When a soul is split between one (or more) individuals.
- Fragmented souls - When a soul is shattered by external forces. For example, the Godhammer Bomb damaged Durance's soul.
- Bîaŵac - A storm unique to Eir Glanfath that can shear souls from their owners.
- Entropy - A soul can shed a small portion of its essence when traveling through The Wheel.
- Awakened - An individual with an awakened soul either has memories from a past life or an entire past-life personality emerged in the present day.
Manipulation and study
Within the past several hundred years, the study of Animancy has emerged as a means to understand the soul. The practice is controversial after several failed experiments, and many kith believe souls are the realm of the gods. Animancers were heavily involved in seeking a cure for the hollowborn crisis known as Waidwen's Legacy. They attached the souls of animals to hollowborn children with varying success. Following the War of Black Trees, animancers learned that some old and large trees in Eir Glanfath have souls.
Necromancy differs from animancy in that it aims to disrupt the natural cycle of life and death. For example, binding soul energy or a full soul to a dead body, such as a lich. Depending on the culture, these acts are viewed with differing levels of criticism. Some opposed to necromancy believe that mortal understanding should have limits and they fear the consequences for the world should those limits be unraveled.
Ciphers, also known as mind hunters, are individuals who posses the talent to manipulate the souls of others. The practice originated among the Glanfathan.
- Kickstarter Update #5: "..all mortal bodies contain perceptible energy bound to the individual, and that once they die, their energy will move forward in the eternal cycle" and "Often this slumber lasts for years of "real" time, but occasionally it is brief, with a soul immediately moving on to a new life."
- POE2 in game encyclopedia, Essence: "Souls are made up of essence. As a resource, this soul matter is prized by animancers, who experiments often require its use."
- Obsidian forums post, update #74 "Specifically, wizards use grimoires, arcane books made with rare materials that can absorb and temporarily hold fragments of ambient soul energy." and "Much like priests, druids draw ambient fragments of soul energy toward them and shape their effects through practiced concentration."
- POE2 druid description: "..druids tap into the spirital power that flows through the simple living things of Eora: plants, animals, and sometimes even living stone."
- POE2 in game encyclopedia, The Beyond: "The Beyond is a metaphysical concept for where souls go after death before they are reincarnated back into the world. This is also the realm of the gods."
- POE2 in game encyclopedia, The Lost.
- Kickstarter Update #24: "To such believers, choosing to not worship or is to risk spiritual confusion and aimlessness in the afterlife. They speculate that the faithless are entered into a "lottery of souls" from which many will wind up no better -- or much worse -- than they did in their last life."
- Collector's Edition Strategy Guide (pg. 9, Soul and Soul Mechanics)
- His Better Half
- POE2 Encyclopedia: "Someone with an Awakened soul, however, has had either memories from a past life or an entire past-life personality emerge in present day. As with ordinary memories, frequently an Awakening is caused by seeing something in the present that recalls a past experience."
- Burned Book of Law
- The Dyrwood, Part 5: The Proliferation of Animancy
- Forum post by Josh Sawyer
- The Annals of Llengrath, Volume II of V
- Update #24: Less than 30 Hours to go! Life and Death, and Audio CD Soundtrack!