• Published 9th Jun 2020
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Soul Marked - PingZing

A soul mate is a rare and precious gift. Usually. Celestia isn't so sure about hers.

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Excerpt from Right Sign's 'Mark of Destiny: A Treatise on Cutie Marks and the Soul'

Chapter 7

Soul Marks

Thus far, we have limited ourselves exclusively to the exploration of cutie marks as found amongst the ponies of Equestria. In later chapters, we will focus on the concepts of destiny and how they relate to the metaphysical concept of the soul. In order to lay a framework for those, however, we must take a brief detour.

The topic at hoof is, of course, the soul mark.

In this chapter, we will introduce the concept of the soul mark, dispel some of the commonly-held myths around it, and finally, enumerate the known properties of soul marks.

First, a brief discussion on what a soul mark is.

Simply put, a soul mark links two individuals (known as soul mates) who are fated for one another. The implications of this vary greatly between individuals, but one element is constant: soul mates always improve each other in some way.

In more concrete terms, a soul mark is a mark—similar to a pony's cutie mark—that appears somewhere on an individual's body. This mark has a counterpart that appears simultaneously upon another individual's body. Soul marks are relatively rare—approximately point-five percent (0.5%) of any given population have a soul mark at any one time. Statistically speaking, if we were to randomly select one of the many small hamlets dotting Equestria, we would find, at most, two soul-marked ponies.

Before we go further, however, we must discuss with a soul mark is not. There is a considerable body of superstition and folklore surrounding them, but remarkably little contemporary academic literature. This text will seek to address some of the more common misconceptions.

First, a soul mark is not divine. There is no evidence that any gods or higher beings are involved in the manifestation of a soul mark. Many ancient pony civilizations held them as sacred and venerated the recipients as touched by holiness. Some modern zebra tribes still consider bearers of soul marks to have closer ties to the spirits of nature which they worship. Minotaur society venerates the spirits of their ancestors and believes soul marks to be a gift from those spirits to their descendants.

However, after extensive review of all known individuals to have received soul marks throughout history, there is no pattern to indicate that the recipients of soul marks are in any way remarkable, more capable, or somehow more ideal, than any given individual. Indeed, the majority of those who have borne a soul mark have been completely unremarkable, save for the mark itself.

Second, a soul mark is not necessarily an indicator of romantic love. While often true, and a popular trope often seen in plays and romantic novels, the reality is more nuanced. For a particularly famous example, we need only examine the friendship between the warrior-poet Quiet Typhoon of Pegasopolis and his counterpart, Steady On, of the Canter Valley earth ponies. Both stallions were leaders of their respective armies. Regarding their first meeting, legends and verifiable contemporaneous accounts agree: both ponies were struck dumb by the sight of a matching soul mark upon the other. They then immediately engaged in a duel. The duration of the duel varies between accounts, but all agree that both refused to concede until, exhausted and unable to continue fighting, they both agreed to a draw.

What followed—especially remarkable in the pre-unification era—was a hundred years of peace, during which Quiet Typhoon wrote and published no fewer than four hundred poems and treatises upon the beauty and grace of his wife, Verdancy. These are especially notable for their references to Steady On, to whom Quiet Typhoon makes frequent declarations of fraternal love and camaraderie. Some scholars have argued these could merely have been attempts to mask a then-illicit love affair between Quiet Typhoon and Steady On. The author admits that, while possible, if paired with contemporaneous accounts of the two stallions' friendship, it is not particularly plausible. Further cementing soul marks' lack of romantic implications, there have been several recorded instances of asexual and aromantic soul mates, several of whom are still alive today.

Third and finally, a soul marking is not a singular event. Though exceedingly rare, there have been several confirmed cases of an individual receiving more than one soul mark—and thus soul mate—in the course of a single lifetime. It is notable, however, that there are no recorded instances of a single individual having more than one soul mark simultaneously. In order for the second mark to appear, the first must disappear, under circumstances which will be outlined below.

Now that we have dispelled some common myths, let us move on to the discussion of what soul marks are.

Soul marks are not limited by species, gender, age, or affiliation (political or otherwise). They differ widely in appearance and location but appear to follow several common themes.

They always appear somewhere readily visible. On a quadruped, such as a pony, this may be the neck or the face. On a biped, such as a minotaur, this may be the face or the palm of the hand.

The paired marks always relate to one another in some way. For example, if some hypothetical mark bearer were a pony with a talent for blacksmithing, the mark that appears upon their soul mate may be a hammer or an anvil. Such symbolism is rarely as overt as that found in cutie marks, however. In one pair of soul mates—both minotaurs skilled in landscaping—one had a soul mark in the shape of an anchor, and the other, a pair of wings. When asked about them, both were able to answer immediately: the minotaur with the anchor mark said that it represented the way their soul mate kept them grounded in a confusing, intimidating world. The minotaur with the winged mark said that it represented the way their soul mate gave them the courage to metaphorically spread their wings and to try new things.

Soul marks are always surrounded by what appears to be some form of written script. This script, however, is unique to every marked pair, and indecipherable to all, save for that pair. This 'soul script' is always the first words that a mark bearer's soul mate will say directly to them. When asked how they can interpret otherwise-meaningless lines and shapes, marked pairs almost always give the same answer: they "just know". This makes forging a soul mark effectively impossible without the assistance of a mark-bearer—an attempted forgery would require some form of script mutually comprehensible to two people, and no one else. (For the curious, this 'soul script' is the subject of much study, and the focus of a later chapter.)

A soul mark appears upon both individuals when the second member of the pair is born—and disappears when one member of the pair dies. Most soul mark bearers are born within several years of one another, and this often informs their development—many spend their formative years seeking their soul mate and memorizing the 'first words' of the soul script. There are outliers, however; some soul marks appear on one member of the pair at a much later date. Such marks often result in long-lasting student-mentor relationships, for example.

Some marks, however, defy explanation.

The most well-known example of such an outlier is perhaps our own Princess Celestia. By all accounts, her distinctive soul mark—all the more notable for being a deep black against her otherwise snow-white coat—appeared approximately four hundred years into her rule. This was approximately three hundred years after what we now know was the banishment of her sister, the recently-returned Princess Luna. Accounts from that era portray the princess as, at first ecstatic, but as the years passed, increasingly desperate, and finally, resigned. After all, what hope was there that her soul mate remained alive after a hundred years of searching? And furthermore, if the most well-known pony in the world could not find a single individual after a century of searching, then perhaps they simply did not wish to be found? But bizarrely, the soul mark persisted—and indeed, remains to this day.

While we must close this chapter out in the interest of moving on to more substantive discussions about the nature of fate and destiny in coming chapters, the author would like to take a moment to break with common practice and address you directly, dear reader. The field of soul mark study is a rich and largely untapped one, but one also rife with pitfalls, and deeply personal, painful stories. Do not make the same mistakes as the author and, for example, ask the bearer of a soul mark why they have not found their soul mate.

Some wounds are still fresh, even after six hundred years.

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