All About Archons in Genshin Impact
(Note: Heavy spoilers for the game’s storyline, lore, and characters. You have been warned.)
The English translation of Genshin Impact makes you think there’s a difference between the Archons and the other ‘gods’. However, the original Chinese doesn’t have that distinction. The term used for Archons and other so-called deities all fall under the title ‘Demon God’ in Chinese. That makes English’s Archon Quests a bit of a misnomer, as in the original language it suggests that more than The Seven are involved.
In line with that, since the Archons were once gods themselves, we’re going to touch upon other gods such as the ‘God of Salt’ Havria or the ‘God of Dust’ Guizhong.
Origins and the Archon War
So far, all we know about the Archons are from scattered tidbits located in various sources. They rose to ‘godhood’ in some way, in a time when gods roamed freely through Teyvat. Take for example the Anemo Archon’s origins (as stated by him in a song). He was but a wisp, a whisper of a breeze among the thousand winds that the then Anemo Archon, Decarabian, possessed.
At the time, the Archon War raged, leading to gods fighting over a position in the pantheon. Decarabian’s direct rival in the position of Anemo Archon was Andrius, God of Blizzards. In the ensuing stalemate, Decarabian enclosed his kingdom with a barrier of wind that protected his people, but also trapped them.
The yet-unnamed wisp befriended a nameless bard who longed for freedom. With the help of the bard, the Gunnhildr clan, a Ragnvindr ancestor, and Decarabian’s lover, the empowered Barbatos challenged Decarabian for the position and won. Andrius, realizing that he was not fit for the title, stepped down. Thus, Barbatos became the Anemo Archon as the God of Freedom.
The Geo Archon, on the other hand, was an adeptus-god long before he became an Archon. As Lord of Geo, Morax established a civilization in the Guili Plains along with Guizhong, God of Dust. His friends at the time included Marchiosus (God of the Stove) and Madame Ping.
He lived in peace with his people until the Archon War broke out. Unfortunately, Guizhong perished in a skirmish that laid waste the areas of Guili Plains and Dihua Marsh. In the aftermath, he moved his people south of Mt. Tianheng, leading to the formation of the city, Liyue Harbor. As the wars went on, he made contracts with the adepti to help him protect his new city as he fought his enemies.
When the war ended, he was one of the victors, though it’s not detailed how he did it, such as in the case of Barbatos. From the Lord of Geo, he became the Geo Archon, God of Contracts. Due to his long life, he has amassed more than a few titles as well.
These two stories are as far as we can get with first-hand accounts. They are the only ones remaining from the original Seven winners of the Archon War. All of the others have been replaced, and though one of them was there during the wars, she was not the one who won the position. She only became the Archon when the former one died.
All we can gather from this is that the Archons once won their seat in a great and terrible war. Why and how this happened has never been clear in-game. There are two possible reasons for the war:
A war for supremacy and power to enact plans for a prosperous humanity
A war to defend their position or, for some cases, to create a seat of their own by prevailing over others.
Whatever the reason, there’s evidence to suspect the former is likelier, as the original Seven were quite close, sharing a meal ever so often in Liyue. They all agreed to guide humans to prosperity and bonded over that. As time passed, all but two got replaced by another, though the exact method of how they got replaced isn’t clear either. When those five were replaced, so too did the burden to guide humanity change into another purpose.
Most concerning of all is the Tsaritsa, the Cryo Archon’s, plans. For an unknown reason, she’s collecting the Seven’s Gnoses for a plan that is speculated to be a rebellion against Celestia. Further information such as why and how will be revealed as more of the game’s storyline is released.
The Gnosis and the Gods’ Powers
Gnoses are like a powered-up Vision, except it also denotes the authority of an Archon. It is the Seven’s link to Celestia and the source of a majority of their powers. That’s not to say that the Archons are completely depowered when losing their Gnosis. The best example of this is Raiden Ei, who gave up hers as soon as the Raiden Shogun puppet was completed. Despite not having it on her person, everybody in Inazuma still revered her as the Archon and as a god.
Venti demonstrates his Archon powers after losing his to Signora as well. He was able to bring Stanley’s soul to rest, even though the adventurer died in a ‘windless’ place. In normal gameplay, he’s the best CC character so far, and a very good utility character in and out of combat. As for Zhongli, he may have needed a buff but he’s currently the best shielder character in the game.
Archons may also take an earthly vessel. Morax in particular has many stories where he took the form of a young child, a beautiful woman, or an elderly man. Barbatos took the form of his deceased bard friend, taking the latter’s identity like Hans Archibald’s situation. Ei has the puppet, though it’s not too far from her original form and may be something in honor of her sister.
Other pieces of evidence of an Archon’s power include the Golden Apple Archipelago. One of the conch shells from Albedo says that the islands formed from the mountains and rocks the Anemo Archon blew away. This was when he flattened the land that became Mondstadt, clearing away the blizzards and frost from Andrius and Decarabian’s fight.
For Zhongli’s part, his stone spears that sealed Osial became the jagged peaks of the Guyun Stone Forest. Considering how deep the sea must be, those stone spears are massive. On top of that, it has the power to seal the god underneath. Also, he has been protecting Liyue from the remnants of regret and rage of the gods he defeated, as well as ensuring the prosperity of the city throughout the years.
Ei has the Musoujin Gorge as a testament to her power. It was created when she cut the god Orobashi in two, slaying it. While the gorge proper contains itself in Yashiori Island, it seems that the power of slash extends beyond it. Mt. Yougou has a suspicious divide that lines itself with the Musoujin Gorge, suggesting that the slash reached up to Narukami Island. She was also the one who slew the Great Thunderbird and enveloped the borders of Inazuma with a (mostly) impenetrable storm.
Contrary to popular belief, Ei confesses that Archons don’t have control over who gets a Vision. They still have influence though, as their ideals and will are used by Celestia to judge who is worthy of one. After all, when Raiden Ei enacted the Vision Hunt Decree, no new Electro Visions came about for the duration.
Other gods have masteries over their domain. The God of Salt owned some artifacts that produced salt, and her untimely death led to the transformation of her people into salt. Marchiosus delighted in making and providing food, leading the people to do the same. In his revived state, he’s accompanying a chef on her travels. Andrius’ spirit dwells in and protects Wolvendom and Mondstadt from threats.
Allogenes and Chess Motifs
Gnoses take the form of various chess pieces. Venti’s piece was a queen (the piece with the most freedom of movement) and Zhongli’s piece was a rook (steady and straightforward). We don’t see Ei’s piece, as she gave it to Yae for safekeeping, and it was traded away to keep the Traveler safe. Some theorists say it could be a knight (due to the crossover event in Honkai Impact). Others say it’s a bishop (a theory that came about when comparing the chess piece to their Statue of Seven).
Further pushing the chess motifs, Venti suggests that Vision bearers (allogenes), have the potential to ascend to Celestia. This makes them the pawn, who, upon fulfilling certain conditions, can be promoted into another piece (sans the king). It’s vague though, as the three people mentioned in the game to have ascended don’t make it clear if they do have a Vision.
Interestingly, in Gnosticism (from which the game takes heavy inspiration), an allogene is a half-divine person who eventually becomes fully divine. The word used in the original Chinese is 原神 or ‘yuanshen’. In Japanese, the kanji reads ‘genshin’, as in, the title ‘Genshin Impact’. Another characteristic of the allogene is the ‘ability to connect/communicate with other worlds/realms’ which makes it specific to the Traveler.
The Traveler could be the actual pawn, journeying through Teyvat. At the end of the adventure (reaching the other end of the board), they get ‘promoted’, regaining their powers and divinity. That doesn’t mean the end of the game, as there is still the mystery of Khaenri’ah and the Abyss to solve. Besides, the objective in chess is to capture the king, and a promoted pawn can help, but doesn’t end the game.
Take note that ascending does not grant a Gnosis, as having one is the Archon’s right. Succession may have something to do with the passing of ownership in some way. Otherwise, the successor must prove themselves worthy of it somehow. Ei giving hers to Yae does not count, as she had cut ties with Celestia by then, yet still kept her position as Archon. Plus, it was only given for safekeeping, and Ei did not name Yae as the new owner or anything like that. The latter most likely inherited the position after her sister died in the disaster of 500 years ago.
At any rate, that’s everything that has been revealed about the Archons. So much of their history and involvement in the game’s lore is still shrouded in mystery. Watch this space as we might update this article when new information comes out.