The Secret To Unraveling Destiny 2's Witch Queen Could Be Alchemy
Savathun the witchcraft queen just wants to be the magnum opus.
Destiny's next expansion, The Witch Queen, is a few weeks away, and we know Savathun and her brood become Lightbearers. She sees the end of her immortality and the answer may be in the Light, and Bungie has steadily fed fans hints about where the story is heading. In a Bungie news update last year, a concept image of the upcoming expansion's new armor set showed the gear covered in alchemical symbols and descriptions of chemical compounds--prompting fans to pull out their periodic tables. Now, with the Witch Queen Collector’s Edition released, things are slowly starting to fall into place.
Alchemy in Destiny 2 is most likely a way to navigate the paracausal abilities in the universe. Our universe is bound by causality, but the Light and Dark, the strange energy sources that give players their in-game superpowers, break the rules of physics, so relying on a mystical science like alchemy to explain them makes sense. The Witch Queen Collector’s Edition gives us an in-depth look at Ikora’s secret intelligence group called the Hidden, and alchemy might just be their way of deciphering Savathun’s plans and the actions of the Darkness.
The hunt for alchemical answers started when Destiny fans on Reddit noticed that each class armor represented elements that happen to be prominent in modern alchemy. The atomic numbers on the Hunter set, like 80 and 20059, stand for mercury. The Titan set included NaCl, the chemical compound symbol for salt, and the atomic weight number for chlorine. Sulfur was designated by the atomic weight 32.066 appearing on the Warlock set. The armor also featured triangular alchemic symbols representing earth, fire, water, and air. The other geometric shapes look like the acid-base or the crystal structure of an element and a sacred Vesica Piscis symbol.
Alchemy was studied across multiple centuries, countries, and religious beliefs. It is the medieval predecessor to chemistry and focused on the transmutation of converting metals into gold or creating an elixir by using the all-powerful Philosopher’s Stone--a name also used for the Traveler in the Azoth Bend I lore. If you’re like me and know a bit about alchemy because you watched Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, some of this should be familiar. In the anime, alchemy is about decomposing and reconstructing--to transmute, you need to give up something even when trying to transmute a soul and attach it to something else. I think transmutation is part of Savathun's plan.
The Countdown to Convergence emblem from The Witch Queen shows the same symbols from the armor, along with a large labyrinth pattern that’s normally associated with the Darkness or the Cradle. This same pattern was at the center in the Mars Cradle and also used as the symbol for the Ruinous Effigy’s Intrinsic perk called Transmutation from Season of Arrivals. Coincidence? I think not!
This Greek Cretan or Gothic Chartres labyrinth pattern holds spiritual significance and isn't associated with alchemy, yet is frequently shown together with alchemical symbols in the game. Along with the Countdown to Convergence emblem, the Psychometer from The Witch Queen Collector's Edition has the exact same combination of symbols and patterns. It’s described as a device created by the Hidden that can hear the memory-like energy stored within an object, but these sounds are associated with the Darkness. Interestingly, the Hive Ghost shell in the Collector’s Edition plays Savathun's Song humming when it interacts with the Psychometer. Since the song came from the Ghost’s past, it suggests that Savathun has tampered with the Ghosts.
I think Ghosts inherently have some form of transmutation that creates an interpersonal life-giving bond with their Guardians, but I'm still curious about how and where Ghosts' consciousness and connection come from. The booklet included in the Collector’s Edition says that some unpaired Ghosts wonder if they really are predestined to find a particular person, someone who is their one and only Guardian, or if Ghosts can simply raise anyone they connect with. The booklet also eerily mentions that some Ghosts have an affinity for the Books of Sorrow and feel pity for the Hive, falling for the words said to Savathun by the Worm Gods in XI: Conquerors. The quote reads, "For millions of years the Leviathan caged us here. It is a pawn of the Sky, a philosophy of cosmic slavery. The Sky seeds civilizations predicated on a terrible lie--that right actions can prevent suffering. That pockets of artificial rules can defy the final, beautiful logic." This same phrase that has enticed Ghosts is written on the Collector’s Edition box--those Ghosts could have allied with the Hive. However, Ghosts need to detect Light in people the Traveler deems worthy in order to resurrect them as Guardians; a Ghost can't instill the Light in people on their own.
I don’t think the story currently is as simple as Savathun sacrificing her worm in order to get the Light from the Traveler because I am pretty sure she is not abandoning the Darkness. Dialogue from Astral Alignment shares Savathun's curiosity about how Ghosts' ability to dissolve and disappear works, with some speculation about Ghosts perhaps existing in a sentient quantum superposition--existing in more than one state at a time. Glint then makes a point, saying, "Unless she's planning to exist in multiple states at once, I can't imagine how that would help her." I think this is the Convergence that emblem is hinting at, especially because Savathun pointed out that her Throne World is indistinguishable from her own mind. Oddly, all trailers seem to show Savathun with her memories intact after being revived with the Light--but we know that, when Guardians are first resurrected by their Ghosts, they lose all knowledge of their lives and identities from before they died.
In her situation, the death of a worm could be seen as the death of the entire person. Here is where I put on my spinfoil hat--if the worm somehow gets the Light, perhaps the mind remains unaffected. Going back to the Taken King, Wormspore on the Dreadnaught comes from dead Thralls that couldn't satisfy their worms. These spores are "A concentrated transmutation catalyst that reacts to both the Light and the Darkness." The Hive Guardians are still our enemies, as we saw in the trailers, and Savathun doesn't seem to have lost sight of her goals. If that's not the case, then she has something planned to make sure her memories don't dissipate.
A passage from the Collector’s Edition booklet talks about the Darkness and its relationship to identity, memory, and consciousness, and the Light is invisible and silent. It reads, “Why is it that so many places touched by Darkness carry a sense of memory?” As I mentioned before, I’m sure Savathun is not completely letting go of the Darkness, but making enough space for the Light to fit in.
Hive Wizards and Techeuns use paracausal abilities akin to magic, but Destiny lore has established that it's just part of science. A quote from XVI: The Sword Logic says, "Savathun’s mothers have listened carefully to our teachings. We will not give you the Deep, King Auryx--that power is for us, your gods. But we will teach you to call upon that force with signs and rituals. Small minds might call it magic. You are no longer bound by causal closure." In the Throne World trailer, Savathun debilitates a Guardian in a Hive hex circle, which appears blue instead of its usual green color. This led me to think that she might be using Hive magic with the Light, especially because she conjured two of her clones surrounded by those same blue Hive symbols and an aura that appears to be the Light. The Cosmographicum Ghost shell from The Witch Queen pre-order has the same effect.
Hive Magic is linked to the Sword Logic, which comes from the Darkness, but maybe Savathun wishes to transform the Sword Logic itself or free the worms from it instead of destroying them. When Nokris spoke to a mirage of Savathun in the False Idols lore, they both discussed their mistrust of Sword Logic and seemingly found a common goal. I don’t think the power of the Sword Logic is something she’d willingly break ties with when it allowed her to conjure massacres around the universe, for millennia.
The Hive are also quite fond of crystals, and creating them would possibly use transmutation techniques from Hive Wizards--it’s even been used to store the Light. The Savathun's Song strike on Titan showed Hive Wizards using Void Light through crystals, which I think is relevant to the current storyline. Sloane told our Guardian, "I'm getting a lot of hints about...death experiments," when discussing the Hive activity--we eventually found out that Savathun’s Wizards were transforming Guardians and using their power through Void Light crystals with moths fluttering them. This became more intriguing after knowing that creative director James Tsai said in a recent interview that Hive enemies in The Witch Queen will get infused with Light through moths. Savathun has been a prominent name since vanilla Destiny 2 and she has spent enough time around us Guardians to figure out how the Light can be manipulated and used with Hive abilities.
One of the most thought-provoking symbols is the seven Hive worms revolving around a circle and a similar seven-pointed arrow symbol--fans have alluded to the alchemy signs for chaos, Azoth, and even gold. We're told that Savathun wants to get rid of her worm--which is why the Entity, Worm Gods, and Xivu Arath are after her in the Season of the Lost--but we can't forget about Imbaru.
The Hive's pact with their worms requires them to constantly feed the parasites in exchange for their powers, which is why the Hive are constantly killing and conquering. In the Truth to Power lore book, however, Savathun described a different way of feeding her worm through deception: any time someone failed to understand Savathun or her plans, it would create this "tribute," which Savathun named "Imbaru." But the Truth to Power lore is considered untrustworthy, so it was never clear if what we learned about Imbaru was true. But shots of the Hidden's evidence board in The Witch Queen trailers include an image labeled with 126.96.36.199.18.21, and the numbers align with the English alphabet order to spell Imbaru.
If Savathun is immortal through the Light and doesn’t need the Sword Logic anymore, since she shouldn't need to feed her worm, it seems a bit weird that she’s still using cunning in The Witch Queen. I think she’s relying on Imbaru to feed the Sword Logic and that the seven-worm symbol might represent Savathun using Imbaru and the Light to create a superior version of herself. Savathun doesn't have the same intolerance towards the Light or the Traveler as her siblings, who valiantly champion the Darkness.
Alchemy seems to be the key for how our infant Guardian minds can unlock the knowledge of the wise Witch Queen and solve the mysteries of the Hive Light, the labyrinth pattern, and how Savathun kept her memory and created the Lucent Brood. Destiny 2 has always been philosophical, but I think we're heading towards the overt conjunction of science and spiritual belief. Along with the alchemy and chemistry, the labyrinth pattern, religious use of alchemy in our history, and even the Vesica Piscis symbol on the armor focus on spirituality. I think whatever we discover in her Throne World will be a bit existential. The Light and Dark derive from chaos, a time before the universe, and the Destiny world is only trying to find meaning in it.
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