A Seraphite Shrine from “The Last of Us, Part 2”

The Last of Us, Part 2 is a brutal, epic video game experience, set in a post-apocalyptic America devastated by a fungal infection that transforms humans into monsters. Death runs rampant throughout the grueling game-play, both as inflicted by and upon all the major characters and in terms of motivating a seemingly endless cycle of vengeance.

Most of the story is set in Seattle, home to two warring survivalist factions – the militaristic Washington Liberation Front, nicknamed “Wolves”, and a religious group first introduced by the pejorative nickname “Scars”, but who refer to themselves as Seraphites. The player learns a little about the Seraphite faith, which seems to combine elements of Christianity with a form of neo-pagan primitivism, during several scenes set in their distinctive shrines, as seen above.

These quiet, candle-lit shrines are centered on painted or carved images of the martyred Seraphite Prophet. Bouquets of wild flowers are scattered on the floor around the Prophet’s image and written petitions are affixed to curious mat-like wall-hangings made out of sticks. These latter practices are reminiscent of present-day vernacular roadside shrines and of the wooden ema votive plaques offered by adherents of the Shinto faith.

The game strongly implies that the current, militarized iteration of the Seraphite religion has been corrupted since the death of their Prophet, who appears to have preached non-violence and radical harmony with nature. If you play the game, however, I still recommend lingering inside the Seraphite shrines, which offer a peaceful respite from the bleak carnage of the world outside.

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