FFVIII keeps mum. Twice now I've been unable to settle what ought to be uninteresting features of the world: is the junction system a device, or a technique that can be taught; was the Centra civilization destroyed thousands of years ago, or less than a century? This problem of ambiguity gets worse with the juicier parts of the world - in particular, the nature of magic and sorceresses. I am endeavoring to be honest about the many spaces for interpretative room because of that, so please be forewarned: at best, this is speculation.

Let's begin in the most solid ground possible. A sorceress is a woman who can channel magic naturally, the same way that a monster can channel magic. Not all women have the capacity to become a sorceress, and those that do must 'inherit' that power by appropriate proximity to a dying sorceress. Death is never by natural causes for a sorceress; they appear to exist indefinitely and youthfully, though their appearances undergo distortion over time. Rinoa Heartilly receives the powers of Edea and Ultimecia throughout the course of FFVIII, and appears physically unaltered, but the sorceresses who have possessed their powers at length, Adel and Ultimecia, appear mutated. Edea Kramer offers perhaps the most insight into the process of alteration. In our glimpses of her as humble Matron Edea, twenty years before the game begins but still in possession of an unnamed sorceress's powers, she appears as an ordinary dark-haired woman. Twenty years later, since receiving Ultimecia's powers through certain messy time-tangles, a spur of purple veins starts down her cheek, and her fingers extend claw-like. Within the game she passes her powers to Rinoa without dying, possibly because she was possessed by Ultimecia at the time. Though there is not an immediate change in her appearance, the faux home-movie footage during the game credits following the conclusion of the plot shows her once again looking merely human.

Beyond this, it's all up in the air. I want to focus both on the connection between Great Hyne and sorceresses, and on the connection between sorceresses and monsters. Remember that monsters and sorceresses are the only beings who can channel magic naturally, a striking fact given that monsters all originate on the moon; how weird that ordinary human women can share a feature that quite literal aliens possess. Remember also that Ellone, a potential sorceress, had the power to attach present consciousnesses to those in the past - yielding results amazingly like the consciousness-sharing that Guardian Forces undergo when they junction to a particular person, including the loss of embodiment and inability to control the decisions of the attached consciousness. And last, recollect that according to one version of the legend of Great Hyne, the body he discarded to escape humanity resided in sorceresses, the source of their power, yet it's puzzling to say how a 'body' could reside in another. #coughcough

How to connect these dots depends on whether or not you take the creation myth of Great Hyne literally, or figuratively.

If he was a literal being that gave up part of his literal body, one that is curiously physically absent, you could speculate that Hyne's body works rather like a Guardian Force. It attaches to women with the right consciousness to share with Hyne's consciousness. This gives them access to natural magic. Depending on your interpretation of the junction system, it might mean that unlike a device which packs magic away in limited quantities, a sorceress has something like an infinite access to magic. (Interestingly, the Final Fantasy wikipedia notes that there are trends in what powers each sorceress utilizes, suggesting that it's not magic simpliciter that they access but their own 'type.') If it's a technique, however, I find it more difficult to explain. Possibly the strength of the magic that a sorceress can utilize is just much more potent than that of para-magic. What a mere human being does when they draw magic using the junction technique would be to take a sip of that magic, rather than a gulp. The interface doesn't support this interpretation, as there seems to be no difference between how you handle drawing magic, or junctioning, when you have an active sorceress in your party than how you would handle regular human characters, but again, this is just a weakness that comes with trying to distill the rules of the world of a video game - you only experience it through the interface, and the interface models how playing in the world works, not how the world actually works.

Still this leaves a puzzle about how Hyne, and women, could do something that lunar monsters can do. One suggestion might be that Hyne was a literal being, but a lunar being of some kind, as the creation myth of Hyne is the story of how Hyne created humanity, not how Hyne emerged. This might also explain why sorceresses mutate as they age - put another way, they become more monster-like. See Adel's fangs, her purple skin. Edea's claws, the discoloration at her temple. Ultimecia's lion-feet, the tiger-stripes scattered along her body, what may even be horns erupting from her skull. We never see the characters using Guardian Forces mutate; this is either due to the invention of junctioning occurring recently (again, something the game is ambiguous about), or because they do not have sufficiently long lifespans to begin physical alteration.

Interestingly, there is one sense of physical alteration, depending on how you link the mind and the brain: our characters lose their long-term memories due to junctioning Guardian Forces. Now, the narrative of the game is careful to offer us equal moral representations of sorceresses. Adel and Ultimecia: bad. Rinoa and Edea: good. But it's interesting to note that Rinoa and Edea seem to have had their powers for a shorter duration than their evil counterparts. One explanation for this might be that just as Guardian Forces cause memory loss, sharing consciousness with Hyne also causes memory loss. Ultimecia and Adel loss their connection to the human origins the longer they remain sorceresses, and that makes it increasingly difficult to remember what not having this power felt like, remember anyone whom they loved or loved them, and so lose any sense of being connected to those people with far less power than themselves.

This interpretation of Hyne might then explain why Ultimecia only possesses fellow sorceresses in the past, as well as why Ultimecia has the forms she takes when she duels the party as herself (rather than through the body of another). Suppose that junctioning, either Guardian Forces, Hyne, or past-consciousnesses, requires the right kind of similarity. Ultimecia may only be able to possess fellow sorceresses because they are all sharing the same Hyne consciousness, and so sufficiently similar. (It may, of course, be because they are all extremely powerful. Possibly she could possess anyone, and chooses the strongest.) In her last battles, Ultimecia moves from her regular horn-headed lion-footed femme fatale self to effectively a monster suit (meant to inspire fear in Squall Leonhart, who wears a pendant of a lion as a personal inspiration that Ultimecia then manipulates in order to strike fear into his heart) to a strange domino monstrosity: on top, a faceless, breasted, alien figure; on bottom, an unconscious feminine person bound by coils of arteries. Possibly this is meant to be a split between the Hyne-body and Ultimecia's own, but it's difficult to discern the significance of this. Is it somehow Hyne's will driving Ultimecia's desire to compress time? The Final Fantasy wiki notes that time compression is in fact a magic spell requiring a consciousness that exists simultaneously in the past, the present, and the future, allowing the wielder to recreate the world according to their desires. If I'm right about the preceding interpretation of Hyne, that Hyne-consciousness already exists across different periods of times, being junctioned to various sorceresses. Puzzling.

Now, if Hyne is not a literal being, it's worth asking what the legend of Great Hyne is a metaphor for. Part of why I alluded to Aristophanes' history of love is its interesting planetary connection, because in that story, the compound beings come in three types: women attached to women live on the earth; men attached to men live on the sun; and androgynous beings live on the moon. I don't take this odd bit of the symposium to have canonical status for FFVIII, but I do think the similarities between the two offer analogous places to start - Hyne might not have a literal body, but he might be a heavenly body.

Given how little evidence there was for even a literal interpretation, I hesitate to expand too far. It could be that the legend of the creation of human beings is how human beings migrated from the moon to earth - moving from a moon, where magical beings and possibly magical sources abound, to an unmagical earth. That might explain the 'trick,' how this body was really the weaker half. (And that might mean that Hyne really refers to both the earth and the moon, a magical moon, an inert earth.) The connection to Hyne's body that sorceresses possess could be a recessive gene connected to X-chromosomes, though I would be at a loss as to how to explain the procedure of inheritance except as some appropriately lunar 'energy' passed from woman to woman.

One could interpret Hyne as specifically the moon, however, and the crystal pillar as the 'weak' body offered to humanity; it could be considered deceitful since that pillar still draws monsters down towards the earth, presumably a bad side effect. As to how this represented a human victory, however, I'm uncertain. This could be a retelling of an ancient attempt to decimate the monster population of the moon, or possibly an ancient but sufficiently advance civilization's attempt to adjust its alignment through a good interstellar knock. (Did I mention I don't have a degree in science?) As to how this version connects to sorceresses, I'm not certain, except perhaps magical-channeling is only possible when sufficiently near a lunar object.

The most plausible of these speculations seems, to me, to be the literal route - but it depends on tenuous connections at best. One favorable component of the second interpretation is that it seems more plausible that multiple lineages of sorceresses could be active at once if there is no singular consciousness (the body of Hyne, as it were) being transferred, and instead being a kind of lunar power. However, this is a game that majorly fucks with time, so contemporaneous sorceresses could easily be caused by future Junction Machine Ellone shenanigans.

If so far as the preceding has counted as strongly about the game, I'm going to veer off.