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Spirits&Forms is the first installment in Grove Essays, tackling four religious or metaphysical questions on the topic of spirits in Grove Faith.


What are the spirits?

As players, we are used to perceiving the world of physical forms: blocks and entities. As our senses can interact with said objects, we can assume those objects exist. Yet, for some reason, although we can witness its effects in action, many remain blind to the world of spirits thriving straight under our noses.

Proof of the spirit world lies within the very existence of this text, for every action we take comes of spirit. Me writing an essay? A sheep eating some grass? That same grass regrowing? All of those contain the intent of a subject to do something and an action. The action we see in the physical world - a change occurs. However, the intent is what we see in the spirit world - even though you don’t see a thought bubble popping into being over my head, you know that I probably thought about writing this book. And so with everything - for every action there is an equal intent, and that intent is called spirit.

This may create confusion in those less profoundly acquainted with the Grove Faith - what do our thoughts and feelings have to do with some kind of magical fairies supposedly living in rocks and blocks and whatnot? Yet that is exactly what a spirit is - the solid form of something’s will, be it a player, animal or block. Much like we talk about Lightning Spirits or Stone Spirits, there are also Pig Spirits and Cat Spirits, and each player has their own, core spirit, the centre of their identity. In addition, concepts like Honour, Wisdom, Courage, Freedom - as much as they are nebulous and intangible in the physical world - they gain a concrete form and life of their own in the spirit world.

So why do all those spirits manifest so differently in the physical world? Why does a player seem so active and mobile, whilst a block is stationary and does hardly anything? It is a simple question of balance. Here, we can separate four different kinds of spirits. The spirit of each individual player corresponds to one physical form - that of said player. Therefore, our spirit has attention and investment in only one form. The existence of a player is tied closely to its single physical form on this world, which also gives us a direct motive to take care of that form through action.

An animal spirit is slightly different. You may have noticed animals usually appear and behave in packs or herds. There is a simple reason for that - an animal spirit is the will of the entire pack, not just a single animal. The reason of a single animal thus seems lesser than that of a single player, but they are much more unitary in their purpose and orientation than two players ever are. An animal spirit is embodied in a whole flock of physical beings, dividing both attention and investment.

When it comes to spirits of blocks, a single spirit may encompass hundreds or thousands of blocks. Ranging from smaller ore veins to whole biomes, the domains of different block spirits are so vast and various that their will seems to have almost no effect on the physical world, unless one continuously observes nature for a long time and notices the concrete direction behind its processes.

As to the conceptual spirits, like Honour and Wisdom, but also Wrath and Fear, and many more, those spirits lack a concrete physical form of their own. Instead, they latch on to the physical forms of others - most readily players, as that is their easiest ticket to directly influencing the physical world, but they can influence any physical forms.

Now, this may still leave you with a few questions. Firstly, if we are made of flesh and bone, or an iron golem is made of iron - do these materials not have a spirit of their own as long as their physical forms are alive? The answer is, they do. Our bones break and heal without our conscious thought directing them, and similar operations happen in most of our body. The spirit that makes up you as a player is that of the self, a concrete identity, but the spirit of your body also exists. In this way, a physical form is much like a overlapping diagram of spirits - there are usually multiple overlapping intents at play when any physical form is present, be it that of the body and your self, or that of the entire mesa biome and a single mesa spike.

Why do different spirits operate so differently in the material world?

To answer this question, we must look to our ancient past - to the time of the fall of the Fire Spirit King. The Fire Spirit King is, simply put, the spirit of the Nether, much like the Wind Spirit King is the spirit of the End, the Water Spirit King the spirit of the waters of the Overworld, and the Earth Spirit King the spirit of the land of the Overworld. However, long ago, the Fire Spirit King grew discontent with his domain, and started seeking to expand it at the expense of others.

Back then, a spirit that lost its physical form - “died” - could just move over into the next realm and they would be granted a role there. However, the Fire Spirit King closed off the borders of the Nether, preventing formless spirits from escaping and enslaving them to his will. Next, he sent out loyal spirits to kill and capture spirits from the other domains, and bring them under his heel.

Different spirits reacted to this differently. The “player” spirits were the ones that prioritised fighting back, so they retained the most active physical form. However, this made them the easiest to capture, as they were vulnerable whenever their physical form was destroyed, and could occasionally run out of energy to regenerate their physical forms for an extended period of time, leaving them open for even longer. The animal spirits still wanted the ability to escape or fight, but considered tying themselves to a single form far too risky, so they opted to use many forms instead. The block spirits considered it the most important that they not be severed from their physical form, so they invested themselves in a diverse set of blocks, hoping that all of them could never be destroyed, but losing much physical agency in the process.

Why does Grove Faith worship spirits?

Grove Faith worships spirits for three reasons: their ability to affect the world, their wisdom, and self-improvement. Spirits can influence the world in ways a player can not. A player can’t guarantee a bountiful harvest or lively stock, but they can ask for those from the spirits of crops and livestock. A player can’t make a rain to put out a fire, but they can pray to the rain spirits to do so. As spirits are essentially the will of the world around you, maintaining the goodwill of spirits is maintaining the goodwill of your environment.

There are many reasons spirits can be considered wise. Firstly, the ranks of the spirits include our ancestors who have since chosen not to reincarnate, but who still possess the knowledge of yonder days, which has been lost since.

Secondly, each spirit has an inherent understanding of their own domain, much deeper than our physical observations could provide. A stone spirit can tell us much more about the properties of stone than we could figure out in the physical world by a thousand years.

Thirdly, the spirits that are disjoined from their physical form have a deep understanding of the spirit world, and therefore the underlying intents and causes that result in actions in the physical world. Thus, they can provide sage, even prophetic advice, when answers seem out of reach by physical means.

Last but not least, one can worship the spirits to change their own character in ways they find positive and productive. One can worship Honour or Wisdom spirits so that more of those flock to them, making them more honourable and wise, or one could worship their ancestors or even the spirit of respected community members in hopes of gaining their support in becoming more like them.

Formless spirits and spiritless forms

We have previously established that spirits can exist without physical form. Such are the spirits of concepts, emotions, and spirits who have died and not yet reincarnated or chosen not to reincarnate. But is there anything in the material world that lacks a spirit to it?

Likely not. Everything in the material world must have at least one intent: to be. If an object ever lost that will, it would simply not exist. However, as we have seen, spirits are the manifestations of a thing’s will. Thus, a thing that has no spirit, would have no intent. Having no intent, it would not will to exist, therefore it wouldn’t exist.

Nonetheless, certain interesting features skirt the borders of the physical and spiritual worlds. Most notably, soul sand and soul soil appear to be spirits somehow trapped in physical form by the Fire Spirit King. Their intent (to escape) seems to clearly oppose the actions of their block form (to keep them trapped). It is possible this is achieved by the power of the Fire Spirit King being the true thing manifesting in the block, with the haunted effect only appearing as a mirror to the spirit world, but it certainly opens interesting avenues of discussion regarding to how physical forms can interact with spirit forms, not only the reverse.