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Draft 1: Forging The Spiritweb

Forgive me for length, it is long, and hopefully complete.



The following should be understood as a theoretical treatise pertaining to the subject matter described. Much of it is either speculative, or makes use of analogies to describe details gleaned and compiled from the books, and/or WoB. If a reference has been omitted, please inform me, as it will usually be possible to provide one upon request. (posting it yourself would also be extremely appreciated: I don't claim to be omniscient.)


Let's begin by describing...

The Nature of Investiture:



Fire Arcadia

What is the definition of Investiture?

Brandon Sanderson

RAFO. Investiture is off the table as far as questions go.







What is the Realmatic composition of Investiture?

Brandon Sanderson

Investure is intended to be the building blocks of the cosmere so I would say for the most part it transcends the different realms. Probably more of the Spiritual if anything but more accurately it transcends them.



Going directly to the defenition of investiture, we get a bit of insight:





1. the action of formally investing a person with honors or rank.

2. a ceremony at which honors or rank are formally conferred on a particular person.

Example: "the investiture of bishops"



therefore, we see that in addition to intent, and effort, investiture represents a notable level of trust.




Investiture is the power of the gods. It has several properties- it can be converted into many forms (e.g. solid etc) used to make worlds, regenerates after use, has an intent which alters emotions, resists other investiture, has an identity tied to a person.




I believe that very few people really understand what investiture is, or what it is intended to represent in Brandon's books. In a way, describing investiture is very similar to describing faith. Going even further, the two, are likely not as different from one another as people might think (though I don't plan on spelling out why).

Investiture, very simply, represents how much has been invested into a person or thing. Brandon Sanderson, for example, puts his heart and his soul, hour upon hour, year upon year, and a great deal of effort, as well, into writing excellent books, novels and novelettes for our enjoyment. He Invests a great deal into his writing. Similarly, many people invest a great deal into their family, their church, work, or other parts of their lives.

Any time a person chooses to do something, they are committing a small investment of their time, their energy, and their self into that decision.

The ability to make these kind of investment is a very human trait, and Brandon has even gone so far as to say that those who have somehow lost their “innate investiture” are in a state very similar to having lost their soul. (this comment was made with regards to Drabs, on Nathis)



Now, if this kind of intent; this kind of driving, motivating Force were to be compressed into a solid or liquid form, this is what we call investiture, in the Cosmere.

Depending on what Shardworld a person visits, the physical manifestations of investiture vary (Stormlight, The Mists, Color, Metal, etc), but on all worlds, it should be understood that the Shards themselves are composed of Investiture (which explains why every Shard has an intent: because it is made of intent), and that the Spiritweb of a person, object or thing, is also composed primarily of investiture.


Next, what is the spirit web?


According to Cannon,



The Spiritweb is a rather mysterious concept in the cosmere, very little is known about it for sure. However, it does seem likely that the Spiritweb is a person's Spiritual aspect. Evidence suggests that the Spiritweb is laid out in a specific pattern in a person. This pattern forms a network of lines and points.[2] These points are sort of Spiritual pressure points

The Spiritweb is related to "Spiritual DNA;" a person's Spiritual heritage from living on a specific Shardworld.[3] It is also passed down like regular DNA, from parents to children.[4] The Spiritweb is also implied to determine which manifestations of Investiture a person can utilize.[5][4]


lacking a better defenition than this, I have provided my own. (there is another descriptive quote under the topic of Hemelurgy, below)


The Spirt-Web, is the sum total of all physical, emotional, cognitive, spiritual, and other ties a person object or thing have to other people objects or things.

The comparison to a physical web might be useful for many purposes.



For a person, This Web defines who they are.

To start our analogy, there will be several strands beginning at the center (the person in question) and extending outward, linking to past events, future hopes, current desires, descriptive attributes, and other details that accurately depict the SOUL of the person to whome this spirit web happens to belong.


In addition to these, there will be many additional strands. Some of these additional strands will link to people, or ideas to which this person is familiar. There will be strands that connect one attirbute this person has attained, with others. Memories will form,

Etcetera, etcetera.


So far, this explains (sort-of) why the Spirit Web is approximately equal to the SOUL, as far as practical discussion is concerned. But what about mystical abilities? Yes, every mystical ability described in the Cosmere uses the spiritweb. Every mystical ability a given person has will either have it's own section of the spiritweb describing its function, or will utilize some pre-existing part of the web that they individually, or that all people possess.


A Note on sDNA

The idea of “spiritual DNA” is troublesome to me. Not so much because I do not understand it, but because it is a terribly descriptive way of talking about things.

Essentially, “sDNA” is a way to refer to the complicated mess of strands and connections that compose the spirit web, and detali a persons spiritual existence. (just as “DNA” refers to the polypeptide chains that detail a persons physical existence)


Sometimes it has been referenced that Mistborn, Mistlings, Ferrochemists, and Ferrings all possess certain supernatural abilities that are part of their sDNA. This simply means that there is some portion of their spirit web is arranged in a way as to allow the use of Allomancy and/or Ferrochemy.


It should be noted that ALL living things have a spirit web (possibly all things, period), not just humans. Of course, the spiritweb of a human would be very different from the spiritweb of a cat. Even if these two beings had all the same connections, the connections themselves would be arranged differently between the person, and the cat.

This baseline difference can be easily compared to the DNA of a human being fundamentally different from the DNA of a cat, and thereby, it can be assumed that at least some part of the spirit web (a basic template for 'human', 'cat', 'rock') is inherited from the parents.


This also conveniently explains how some mystical abilities can be inherited, and some might be learned (or earned).

Edited by entropicscholar
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Now, Let us take a look at each of the known magic systems. Some, notably Forgery and Awakening, provide incredible insights as to how the spiritweb works, or interacts with other things overall. I'll try to start my list with those that are most revealing:



Forgery, by its nature, premise, application, and most importantly, its limitations is VERY revealing as to how many things in the Cosmere function.

The basic premise of Forging comes from the idea that by changing an objects history, the object will then change its reality, to reflect that history.

Remember, you do not Forge something by inscribing its exact history onto the soulstamp. The object to be Forged already has a history. All a forgery can do is manipulate small details. This is why any given Forgery must be fairly similar to the original for it to "take".


Whatever person, or object, that is to be Forged will already have a spiritweb, that describes their entire history personality and beliefs in detail. The Forger can take one of the strands from that web (visual symbolism of a spiderweb works well for this), and pull it in a certain direction, but if the strand is moved far enough that the web as a whole would start to rip, than it will refuse to do so, and the soulstamp will not 'take'. If moving the strand would merely stretch the web, but not break it, than the soulstamp will take, but only temporarily. Another way of saying this is that, while the Forger is able to rewrite the 'history' of an object or person, the new history needs to be 'believable', as in 'if {[Person]} were put into X situation, what would he/she do'.

in order to avoid excessive ripping or stretching in our theoretical spiderweb, the forger generally will have to move multiple strands/connections. Each strand of the web, of course, represents a spiritual, physical or cognitive connection that this person has in their spiritweb.


Biochromatic Breath

in progress

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Is there a rationale to how Hemalurgic powers are distributed? I tried to look for a system, but they seem rather randomly distributed. For example, the spike which steals Allomantic powers for a particular quadrant is not always in one particular spot.

Brandon Sanderson

That is correct, it's not always in one particular spot. None of them are. I used as my model on this magic system the concept of acupuncture and pressure points. Placing a Hemalurgic spike is a very delicate and specific art. Imagine there being a different overlay on a human body, like a new network of nerves, representing lines, points, and 'veins' of the soul's spiritual makeup.

What is happening with Hemalurgy, essentially, is that you're driving a spike through a specific point on a person's body and ripping off a piece of their soul. It sticks to the spike on the Spiritual Realm. Then, you place that spike on someone else in a specific place (not exactly the same place, but on the right spiritual pressure point) and 'hot wire' the spirit to give it Hemalurgy or Feruchemy. It's like you're fooling the spiritual DNA, creating a work-around. Or, in some cases, changing the spirit to look like something else, which has the immediate effect of distorting the body and transforming it into a new creature.

Hemalurgy is a very brutal way of making changes like this, though, so it often has monstrous effects. (Like with the koloss.) And in most cases, it leaves a kind of 'hole' in the spirit's natural defenses, which is how Ruin was able to touch the souls of Hemalurgists directly.

Hemalurgy works by first harvesting investiture from one source (in the form of a large bloody chunk of their spiritweb) and attaching it to another living thing.

    • Very simple, yet also very effective. Similar to removing an arm, from one person, and stapling it to a second person. Magically, the arm still works.

    • A lot has previously been said about how complex Hemalurgy is, and how difficult it is to learn. In application, this may be true, but in basic concept it is not.

    • Most of the difficulty in Hemalurgy comes from an inability to perceive the spiritweb directly, understand what the spiritweb is doing, what parts of it are doing those things, and finding out what piece you have so rudely torn away from your victim, until you try attaching it elsewhere. Even if a useful piece has been attained, it will not be useful unless attached to the proper place ( for example, attaching an arm to the forehead does not work, because of the lack of a shoulder.)

      • The complexity attributed to Hemalurgy is, therefore, not an inherent trait of Hemalurgy itself, but rather a trait inherent to the spiritweb.

    • “Hemalurgic Decay” can be directly compared to “bleeding”. Once a part of the spiritweb has been “ripped” from its origional place in the donor's spiritweb, it will “bleed” investiture until it heals. Note that it cannot heal unless attached to the spiritweb of a living thing. Imperfect connections mean that some instances never stop bleeding.

Edited by entropicscholar
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Spren Bonding

Spren have their own independent spiritwebs.

When a spren bonds to a person (or something else: a fabrial, for example), they directly connect their spiritweb to the spiritweb of the person they bond to. The full effects of this are unknown, but 3 concluseions can be easily reached:

  1. Some supernatural abilities inherent to the spren become accessible to the one bound to them. (the 10 surges are an example of this.)

  2. There is a change to the function of both spiritwebs, by their association with one another. This connection should follow similar principals to Hemelurgy and Forging.

  3. Investiture is shared freely, and intermixes between the two spiritwebs. This is important because:


    Brandon Sanderson

    Any investiture, over time, will slowly change one’s personality, no matter how small that investiture.

    Thus, because most spren are assumed to be associated with Honor or Cultivation (yes, I know that this is not strictly true for all spren), those who bond with these spren will be influenced by those Shards Intent(s), albeit less so than the shard holder.



We know essentially 3 things about Allomancy:

1. Allomancy requires what has been called a “cracked” spiritweb:



How does Snapping work after Sazed changed it? If you don't want to reveal it all right now, are there any hints you can give us?

Brandon Sanderson

He couldn't get rid of this entirely. I don't want to spoil things, but Snapping was built into Allomancy primarily because of larger-scale magical issues. This is getting deep into the issue, but it has to do with a person's spiritual makeup and a 'wounded' spirit being easier to fill with something else, kind of like a cut would let something into the bloodstream. Sazed made this threshold on Scadrial much easier to obtain.

By having this kind of “wound” or opening in the spiritweb, it becomes possible (well, it becomes much easier) for Mistlings and Mistborn to draw in investiture from Preservation to fuel their allomancy.

This is also noted under Spren Bonding. There are side effects to drawing investiture derectly from Preservation (and from eating Atium, for that matter).

2. Basic Allomantic Ability is genetic. This is discussed under “A Note on sDNA”

3. Metals do not power Allomancy. This should be fairly well known at this point:




Ars Arcanum

Allomancy is the most common of the three. It is end-positive, according to my terminology, meaning that the practitioner draws in power from an external source. The body then filters it into various forms. (The actual outlet of the power is not chosen by the practitioner, but instead is hardwritten into their Spiritweb.) The key to drawing this power comes in the form of various types of metals, with specific compositions being required. Though the metal is consumed in the process, the power itself doesn’t actually come from the metal. The metal is a catalyst, you might say, that begins an Investiture and keeps it running.

In truth, this isn’t much different from the form-based Investitures one finds on Sel, where specific shape is the key—here, however, the interactions are more limited.

SO, when an allomancer draws power from Preservation, that power then “filters” through the metal to generate some specific effect based on the type of metal being used.

Edited by entropicscholar
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Realmatically, and Mechanically, we know next to nothing about Ferrochemy. Some of the things we can glean, however, come from the various questions which have been asked regarding Compounding.


First, let it be said that when a Ferrochemist stores strength, weight, memory, or any other attribute, they are said to 'invest' their metalminds.


Let's talk a bit about Compounding, as it explains Ferrochemy itself, to some degree.



People ask about getting the power from metals and things, but that’s not actually how it works. The power’s not coming from metal. I talked a little about this before, but you are drawing power from some source, and the metal is actually just a gateway. It’s actually the molecular structure of the metal… what’s going on there, the pattern, the resonance of that metal works in the same way as an Aon does in Elantris. It filters the power. So it is just a sign of “this is what power this energy is going to be shaped into and give you.” When you understand that, compounding [in Alloy of Law] makes much more sense.

Compounding is where you are able to kind of draw in more power than you should with feruchemy. What’s going on there is you’re actually charging a piece of metal, and then you are burning that metal as a feruchemical charge. What is happening is that the feruchemical charge overwrites the allomantic charge, and so you actually fuel feruchemy with allomancy, is what you are doing. Then if you just get out another piece of metal and store it in, since you’re not drawing the power from yourself, you’re cheating the system, you’re short-circuiting the system a little bit. So you can actually use the power that usually fuels allomancy, to fuel feruchemy, which you can then store in a metalmind, and basically build up these huge reservoirs of it. So what’s going on there is… imagine there’s like, an imprint, a wavelength, so to speak. A beat for an allomantic thing, that when you burn a metal, it says “ok, this is what power we give.” When it’s got that charge, it changes that beat and says, “now we get this power.” And you access a set of feruchemical power. That’s why compounding is so powerful.

This suggests that using Ferrochemy to tap a metalmind works in a way very similar to Allomancy. As the Ferrochemist, or Ferring draws power from the metalmind, they actually draw investiture which they had previously stored in the metalmind back out. As this investiture exits the metalmind, it is “Filtered” by that metal the same way investiture is filtered when an allomancer burns their metal, Dor is filtered by AonDor symbols or Stormlight is filtered by bonded spren, on Roshar.

The real interesting thing about Ferrochemy is the ability to Store traits in a metalmind in the first place. On one level, this should work the same way as investing Breath in an object for storage (aka, without awakening the object), but on another level, we know that Storing Traits in a metalmind also changes the makeup of that metal sufficiently that a Compounder can draw Ferrochemic effects, rather than allomantic, while they burn the metal. Clearly, this doesn't change the metal completely (Pewter is still Pewter), but it does change the metal some way.

Namely, the Ferrochemist is writing cognative and spiritual traits to the metals' spiritweb. (this has some interesting implications when combine with Hemelurgy and Soulcasting, but we'll save that for another time.)



even less is known about voidbinding than … pretty much anything, really.


Anon Dor, and other Elantris Magics

These all work, more or less, by drawing, tracing, carving or otherwise creating some shape that represents specific strands, connections or descriptions is a way similar to how the spirit web would.

It is possible that these drawings actually reference the spiritweb of the land. This would, of course, very nicely explain why Selish magics are regional. It is however, as yet, unconfirmed. (probably not a question that would be RAFOed, however)

If so, Anon Dor, would theoretically work at full strength in places other than Arelon. The user would merely need to use different symbols. (using it on other worlds, of course runs into Other, serious issues.)

Edited by entropicscholar
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Well this is quite a lot.

This tangential discussion might interest you, in regards to how to imagine the spiritweb and how sDNA might fit in.


Also, "Metal" is not Investiture on Scadrial (see: AoL AA), and we're by no means sure about color on Nalthis.

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  • 1 month later...

Breath is the Investiture on Nalthis, whether it's a Returned's or a normal person's.


Clarification: Color is NOT Investiture on Nalthis. It's the focus, or the price, or the effect, or something like that. I'm not really sure...

Edited by Curiosity
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Breath is the Investiture on Nalthis, whether it's a Returned's or a normal person's.


Clarification: Color is NOT Investiture on Nalthis. It's the focus, or the price, or the effect, or something like that. I'm not really sure...


Color is *not* the focus.  The focus for Awakening (the only magic system on Nalthis) is the Commands.  The best we can tell color is a fuel.

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Color is *not* the focus.  The focus for Awakening (the only magic system on Nalthis) is the Commands.  The best we can tell color is a fuel.


Sort of like heat seems to be a fuel when using Stormlight?

Edited by Curiosity
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