One of the highlights of the Our Mythical Hope conference was the poster presentations by Philology students from the Belarus State University. Under the direction of Dr Hanna Pauloskaya, they produced posters about the manifestation of classical mythology in contemporary popular culture. I asked them to modify their presentations for Antipodean Odyssey. Below is the text, of a presentation on some of the figures from classical mythology who appear in the role-playing game Persona. The pdf of the poster is attached also.
— Elizabeth Hale
Greco-Roman mythology is one of the most famous mythologies all over the world. It has a huge influence on the development of culture and art. In our research we explore the Persona game series.
Persona is a role-playing game, developed since 1996 by the Japanese game company Atlus. In this game players use Personas, who are the embodiment of the soul, the mind and the identity of a person, taking the form of demons, gods or ancient heroes, to fight the shadows.
Persona games often use classical figures: in our research we explore Hades, Prometheus, Orpheus, Thanatos and Nyx, which are key personas in the second and third episodes of the game.
Persona is a RPG game, which means that a player should be a part of the game, a game that often offers a player to use his/her judgment in different situations. Because of this you can feel that you’re a part of the game and other characters have their own opinions about different situations. Every part of the game has its own story, where the characters fight against demons, shadows and evil Personas. If a player wants to create a strong Persona, (s)he should make social links or talk to demons to get some cards to summon Personas. Social links can be done with protagonist`s teammates or other people, who help the main character at the end of the game. There is a Velvet Room, where a player can summon any Persona, and Igor is the master of the room, who helps the protagonist. The main aim of all characters is to save the world from destruction, symbolized in Persona 3 by Nyx, the goddess of the night.
Some of the Personas who fight the shadows
In a Persona game Hades’ appearance is devilish, donning a dark, gothic fashioned robe and his head is completely covered, a tribute to his origin. His right hand carries a tri-skull ornament, which is a symbol of Cerberus and his lordship over the dead. His skills in battle are related to water and darkness elements. Hades is the king of the dark realms who is fearsome to behold, but is actually benevolent.
When Hades is summoned, he says: “I’m Hades. King of the underworld who judges the evil and the righteous alike. I am thou. Thou art I. Let us walk this path together!”
Prometheus is a Persona with large rocks attached to his body. These rocks represent the rock, which trapped Prometheus in his originating lore. The red lines on the rocks represent the energy of fire stolen by Prometheus. In the game he is invincible to light and dark, but vulnerable to lightning because Zeus bound him to a rock for disobeying. Ironically, he also possess one of the strongest thunder attacks in the game.
When Prometheus is summoned, he says: “Even if I’m to be chained to a rock, my duty is to love you and give you wisdom. The fire I have given you is your indomitable spirit!”
According to mythology, Orpheus was ripped apart by Maenads for not honoring Dionysus, leaving his head untouched, this is the reason why his body in Persona is entirely mechanical and why his voice is processed through a device embedded in his “stomach”. He uses his famous lyre as his weapon. Orpheus and the main character have the same faces because they have similar fates.
When Orpheus appears he says: “Thou art I. And I am thou. From the sea of my soul I cometh. I am Orpheus, master of strings”.
The depiction of Thanatos in a Persona game seems to be derived more from the earliest mythological accounts, being characterized as a grim warrior surrounded by a mantle of metal coffins. Thanatos is shown from the beginning of the game where he emerges from Orpheus. He looks like a shadow with white cloth on his arms and legs and he wields a long sword. His helmet resembles a skull. He wears generally dark clothes with a belt. On his belt plate can be seen a cranium with crossed bones. He is chained with coffins that can also be his wings by his back. In a battle he uses his sword and also light, dark and fire attacks.
Such personas are needed, to fight the shadows, who are symbolized by the figure, Nyx.
Nyx is explained as the personification of death in Persona. In ancient times Nyx bestowed Death and Night to the world, where she is destined to bring the Fall. Her son, Death, was responsible for summoning Nyx, and became the harbinger of the Fall. After the protagonist manages to fend off the Avatar of Nyx, the Avatar shrugs the damage away and proceeds to connect to Nyx’s true physical body, the moon. As she descends to earth, leaving only protagonist immune to her effect. Then protagonist ascended to the Moon and battled Nyx.
Nyx is in fact a living being outside reality the size of a celestial body known as “The Star Eater”, that drifted space in a dormant state. This being collided with the Earth, and ended up entering Earth`s orbit becoming its moon, but leaving its psyche on the surface. The “wave-like psyche” stood a contradiction to the already existing life on earth. In order to resist the contradiction, the life forms in Earth developed a collective subconscious in which the life forms locked away the psyche of Nyx by suppressing its psyche with their own thoughts. Nyx’s physical body entered a healing process after the colliding with the Earth form within Earth`s moon. The Fall is the process in which Nyx’s psyche reenters its physical body, giving back its original form, meaning a paradox for life on earth, and thus the end of the world.
It’s later revealed that Nyx herself is neither hostile nor malevolent, she was awakened from the sorrow, depression and apathy of humankind, believing that humans were tired of living. The guidebook to the game says that Gods and Demons emerge from humans as another means to defend their psyche from Nyx.
Every persona has its own moral and judgments. All personas are born from human hearts and souls, and every person can learn from personas their thoughts and words. Our personas symbolize justice (Hades doesn’t divide good and bad actions, he judges by justice), love and wisdom (it can be useful for the youth), talent and skills (in your hobby you can achieve mastery easier, and it’s useful to do something to which lies the heart). The images of characters condemn apathy, a theme that is clearly directed towards young people.
Authors of the project: Aliaksandra Stabredava, Khrystsina Hunko, Yauheni Pipko, Belarus State University, Faculty of Philology, 4th year students. Scholarship holders of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Republic of Poland, trainees at the Faculty of “Artes Liberales”, University of Warsaw. All images reproduced with permission of Atlus. With thanks to Dr Hanna Pauloskaya (Faculty of Artes Liberales, University of Warsaw).