- See also: Shade
A soul is the essential metaphysical life energy of a living creature12 created by primordial deities to filter the multiverse's fundamental life energy.3 Innately unaligned,2 each soul is created in Creation's Forge and (with few exceptions) traverses the River of Souls from its creation to a mortal vessel, then returns to the river after their vessel's death to reach the Outer Sphere.1
Souls were first created by deities early in the multiverse's prehistory, after the creation of the first outsiders. Each soul is an autonomous amount of positive energy with a finite existence, and the actions it takes ultimately determines how its energy is ultimately divided between each deity and plane as judged by Pharasma. This process was devised out of a sense of fairness, because it allows the energy itself to determine how it is distributed with a minimum of influence from deities.3
Life cycle of souls
Creation and birth
Religious myths vary on the subject of how souls are formed, though in truth, few deities have any power over their creation. Unaligned souls grow from sparks of unaligned potentiality in the Positive Energy Plane, planted like seeds by unknown means from unknown locations and tended to by the plane's jyoti and manasaputras as the souls ripen like fruit atop massive, amorphous tree-like structures.456 Mature souls are collected and released by jyoti into portals, focal points, and planar vertices through the First World7 to the Material Plane, to be received by children of creatures as they begin their lives.85910
Death and judgment
At the end of the creature's mortal life, its soul leaves its body and manifests in the Ethereal Plane, beginning its journey with other souls via the River of Souls—a path that travels through the Elemental Planes toward the Astral Plane, with few (and often tragic) exceptions.8211 Mutual interest in the traffic of souls prevents deities from disturbing their transit across the River of Souls, though other agents occasionally intervene.1213 The goddess Pharasma judges these souls at her spire in the Boneyard for their distribution to patron deities or Outer Sphere planes, where she serves as the final arbiter over contested souls.814
The souls of atheists and agnostics pass through to a plane related to their principles, but dissident souls that refuse Pharasma's judgment and failed souls that never exhibited faith or passion in life never progress. Pharasma dispatches them to a dormant existence in the Graveyard of Souls or roam it in distress, wander the Astral Plane, or are chosen by Pharasma to return to the Material Plane as a reincarnated being. The souls that never leave the Graveyard eventually break down into dormant quintessence called soul debris, which comprises the spire atop which the Boneyard stands.1415
Souls that travel to a patron's realm are known as shades who await their final judgment at their patron's hands. In some cases, these souls earn eternal peace or meld with quintessence to become outsiders in their patron deity's plane.811 In others, they are rejected and sent to serve an infernal punishment. Their forms might change depending on their patron or become more idealized versions of their mortal selves.8
Completing the cycle
As souls in the Outer Planes lose their individuality, they eventually become quintessence of the plane to which they arrived. After their existence in that plane ends, their spiritual material is recycled through the Antipode in the Maelstrom into pure potentiality before reforming as new quintessence in Creation's Forge, becoming the protomatter of new souls and continuing the cycle.1611
While most souls follow this natural path, many are pulled from the River in some manner and unable to complete their cycle.
- Fey are formed from the soul energy left in the wake of new souls' passage through the First World on their way to the Material Plane.5
- Given sufficient belief in an alternative path, a soul can forego the River of Souls for a different fate, such as reincarnation. Such diversions are ultimately temporary, however, and at some point the soul attempts to reach the Boneyard.15 On Golarion, such beliefs are particularly popular among the Vudrani.17
- Pharasma is also the goddess of fate, and sometimes holds a soul in the Boneyard for its mortal form to be resurrected when she knows it has not fulfilled its potential.18
- Certain spells can trap souls, preventing their progression into the afterlife,8 as can the powerful magical execution machines of Galt known as final blades.19
- Spiritualists call and bind a soul from the Ethereal Plane, granting it an ectoplasmic physical form.20
- Certain creatures, such as daemons and soul eaters, can consume and destroy souls.8
- Devils, demons, and night hags trade for, steal, or sell souls for eternal servitude.8 In Erebus, souls are broken apart into soul fragments and used as currency.21
- Eternity's Doorstep is said to be a soul trap capable of sucking the remaining souls from undead who still cling to them.4
- Souls of mortals who experienced great emotional or psychic trauma are sometimes tethered to the Material Plane, unable to continue their journey to the Outer Sphere. These souls haunt a location in the Material Plane. If infused with negative energy, they become incorporeal undead;115 if infused with negative energy and capable of returning to a mortal body, they become corporeal undead. However, even these souls eventually reach the River of Souls.15
- In the Garden of the Positive Energy Plane, trees represent mortal souls that have ascended to godhood, including those who died or fell to corruption.22
- In Phlegethon, souls are forged into weapons, armor, and jewelry.23
- Unclaimed souls not taken by formian clans in Axis sometimes become axiomites who retain their mortal forms.24
- A lich stores their soul in a phylactery, and regenerates their physical form as long as the phylactery is intact.25
- Vetalaranas who consume enough of a soul leave its remnants incapable of continuing the path toward judgment from the Boneyard.26
Souls can incur damage by extraordinary means or through the predation of certain creatures. The nature and fate of damaged souls is debated among psychopomps who disagree on whether damage to a should be repaired or are an integral part of its fate.27
Care of damaged souls in the Boneyard are the provenance of the psychopomp usher Narakaas and stored or mended in soul repositories. Reprieve, for example, is a soul repository in the Boneyard staffed by psychopomps, such as eseneths, who believe souls can and should be repaired.27
Relationships between souls and forms of life
Souls have a complex relationship with the state of undeath. Unintelligent undead, for instance, are shells of creatures who formerly possessed souls; however, these undead do not have souls of their own, and are little more than automatons animated by negative energy. Intelligent incorporeal undead, on the other hand, are the physical remnants of souls without bodies who refuse to leave the Material Plane. Still other undead, such as intelligent corporeal vampires and liches, are material bodies that possess mortal souls twisted by negative energy.1
Most outsiders begin life as the combination of quintessence with a mortal's soul.2 Demons, for example, are mortal souls twisted by great evil and infused with evil-aligned quintessence, while agathions are created around good souls infused with good-aligned quintessence.1289
Fey are created when soul energy, such as that shed by new souls traversing the First World, melds with the plane's energy. Fey slain in the First World are simply regenerated, but if killed on the Material Plane, fey souls traverse the River of Souls as any other.✝5
Most constructs are animated with elemental spirits, but occasionally a darker magician will use a mortal soul instead.29 The most famous example of this are the guardian aluums of Katapesh.30 The many types of soulbound dolls are animated by all or part of a mortal soul.3132
Androids are creatures with artificial bodies that can serve as vessels for mortal souls. An android's synthetic physical body surrenders its soul after a human-like lifespan, then refreshes its intact body with a unique new soul.33
Animals and mindless creatures such as oozes and vermin also have vital essences, though any classification of them as either souls or something lesser is a matter of debate. Deities that acknowledge animal sacrifices seem to confirm their existence, but in soul-trading commerce such essences are distinctly classified as spirits and valued considerably less than the souls of intelligent or sentient creatures.34
Related works on Golarion
- Aldus Aldon Canter, founder of the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye, claimed to have been gifted secrets of the cycle of souls by the angel Tabris and transcribed them into still-unparsed cryptic works.35
- The Pharasmin Carters Consortium, a defunct organization of historical Geb, maintained an extensive library on the cycle of souls.36
- Marquise Cordelia Perseis authored a metaphysical essay, titled "On Essences" and edited by Lazeril of New Thassilon, that theorizes the relationship between matter and spirit, including the nature of souls, quintessence, and alignment.37
Souls are a prominent topic of The Great Beyond, A Guide to the Multiverse, the article about the River of Souls in Pyramid of the Sky Pharaoh p. 68ff, and the "Esoteric Planes" section of Occult Adventures, p. 239ff.
For additional as-yet unincorporated sources about this subject, see the Meta page.
- “The Great Beyond” in The Great Beyond, A Guide to the Multiverse, 3. Paizo Inc., 2009 .
- “The River of Souls” in Pyramid of the Sky Pharaoh, 69. Paizo Inc., 2014 .
- “First World Adventures” in The First World, Realm of the Fey, 3. Paizo Inc., 2016 .
- “The Inner Sphere” in The Great Beyond, A Guide to the Multiverse, 10. Paizo Inc., 2009 .
- “The River of Souls” in Pyramid of the Sky Pharaoh, 71. Paizo Inc., 2014 .
- “Chapter 6: Running an Occult Game” in Occult Adventures, 239. Paizo Inc., 2015 .
- Occult Adventures and The Great Beyond suggest that souls are transmitted directly from the Positive Energy Plane to the Material Plane through stars, and do not mention the First World as part of a soul's journey to a mortal vessel.
- “The Great Beyond” in The Great Beyond, A Guide to the Multiverse, 6. Paizo Inc., 2009 .
- “The River of Souls” in Pyramid of the Sky Pharaoh, 73. Paizo Inc., 2014 .
- Other sources, such as Gods and Magic and Inner Sea Gods, suggest at least a belief on Pharasma's part that souls inhabit unborn children, while The Great Beyond notes that souls enter children when they are born and Pyramid of the Sky Pharaoh leaves the subject open to debate.
- “1: Prayers for the Living” in Book of the Dead, 27. Paizo Inc., 2022 .
- “The Outer Sphere” in The Great Beyond, A Guide to the Multiverse, 22. Paizo Inc., 2009 .
- “Chapter 6: Running an Occult Game” in Occult Adventures, 244. Paizo Inc., 2015 .
- “The Outer Sphere” in The Great Beyond, A Guide to the Multiverse, 33. Paizo Inc., 2009 .
- “The River of Souls” in Pyramid of the Sky Pharaoh, 72. Paizo Inc., 2014 .
- “Monsters A-Z” in Bestiary 3, 209. Paizo Inc., 2021 .
- The Inner Sea World Guide, 23. Paizo Inc., 2011 .
- “The River of Souls” in Pyramid of the Sky Pharaoh, 70. Paizo Inc., 2014 .
- The Inner Sea World Guide, 300. Paizo Inc., 2011 .
- “Chapter 6: Running an Occult Game” in Occult Adventures, 241. Paizo Inc., 2015 .
- “The Outer Sphere” in The Great Beyond, A Guide to the Multiverse, 40. Paizo Inc., 2009 .
- “The Inner Sphere” in The Great Beyond, A Guide to the Multiverse, 11. Paizo Inc., 2009 .
- “The Outer Sphere” in The Great Beyond, A Guide to the Multiverse, 41. Paizo Inc., 2009 .
- “Bestiary” in The Great Beyond, A Guide to the Multiverse, 57. Paizo Inc., 2009 .
- “Monsters A to Z” in Bestiary, 188–189. Paizo Inc., 2009 .
- “Ghost King's Rage” in Ghost King's Rage, 5. Paizo Inc., 2022 .
- “Ghost King's Rage” in Ghost King's Rage, 14. Paizo Inc., 2022 .
- “The Great Beyond” in The Great Beyond, A Guide to the Multiverse, 7. Paizo Inc., 2009 .
- The Inner Sea World Guide, 256. Paizo Inc., 2011 .
- The Inner Sea World Guide, 306. Paizo Inc., 2011 .
- “Monsters A-Z” in Bestiary, 304. Paizo Inc., 2019 .
- “Chapter 2: The Forgotten Dungeon” in Abomination Vaults 39 Paizo Inc. , 2022
- “Chapter 3: Rare Races” in Inner Sea Races, 164. Paizo Inc., 2015 .
- “Daemonium” in Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Book of the Damned Volume 3, 31. Paizo Inc., 2011 .
- “Philosophies and Spirituality” in Gods & Magic, 94. Paizo Inc., 2020 .
- “Ghost King's Rage” in Ghost King's Rage, 12. Paizo Inc., 2022 .
- “1: Essentials of Magic” in Secrets of Magic, 17–19. Paizo Inc., 2020 .