Do illithids or 'mind flayers' have a spirit &/or soul to be captured in a Ring of Mind Sheilding? This is related to a previous question regarding the mind flayer return to a (previous/humanoid) form.

It seems that the invading parasite slays the (humanoid) target during the ceremorphosis process. This transformed biology may even keep memories, similar to a metamorphasis with a caterpillar chrysalis. But is this newly-born abomination any kind of life-force that survives death?

What if a mind flayer dies whilst wearing a Ring of Mind Shielding? What is captured, if anything?

Relevant quote:

If you die while wearing the ring, your soul enters it, unless it already houses a soul. You can remain in the ring or depart for the afterlife.

The reason for this interest: answers to this question may relate to the capture and preservation of consciousness in general. This may also pertain to the 'death' and re-animation of: undead, sentient magic items, golems, simulacra, or even seeking to ascertain the difference between a dwarven or human soul vs. elven spirits.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Are asking for strictly 5e material or can we consult previous editions’ source material? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 28, 2020 at 8:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ Does this question basically boil down to "does an illithid have a soul"? \$\endgroup\$
    – NathanS
    Commented Jul 28, 2020 at 8:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NathanS Yes, you figured out the boil-down. Also: there is more to know about all the other souls - but that is for other questions. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 28, 2020 at 15:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ "Capture" may not be the best word here as the ring doesn't capture. The ring has the ability to contain should the 'soul' want it. That's very different than capture (which implies lack of choice.) \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Jul 28, 2020 at 17:59

1 Answer 1


It would appear that illithids likely do have souls, and therefore can be captured in a Ring of Mind Shielding

Illithids themselves at least don't believe that they have souls

In Volo's Guide to Monsters, p. 80, under the Divine Magic subsection of the Mind Flayer chapter, it says the following:

Illithids acknowledge the existence of divine entities, but it is unusual for any but a deviant mind flayer to actively worship such a power. Since the are capable of planar travel, illithids don't view the afterlife and the Outer Planes in the mythic way that most other races do. Illithids don't believe they possess souls whose eternal fate is governed by the gods. Instead, when a mind flayer's brain is returned to the elder brain to be consumed, the creature's intelligence lives on. Only if an illithid's brain isn't retrieved after death would its consciousnesses be cast into oblivion.

It's clear that illithids themselves don't believe they have a soul given the above quote. On the other hand, it mentions that their "consciousness [would] be cast into oblivion"; what exactly that means I am unsure about, since that might imply that, regardless of what they believe, they do end up in some kind of afterlife, which would in turn imply that they do have souls, or this might just be a poetic way of saying that they are dead.

Slight counterargument: Illithids just don't believe in divine judgement

An alternative reading to the above could be that illithids actually do believe they have souls, they just don't believe that their souls will be judged by the gods. Consider this reading:

Illithids don't believe they possess souls whose eternal fate is governed by the gods.

In other words, they believe they possess souls, but not souls whose "eternal fate is governed by the gods". In either case, this is just a reading on what mind flayers think is true, and isn't actually hard evidence on what is actually true.

That said, it is possible for a mind flayer to achieve lichdom, which requires them to have a soul

On pages 171-172 of VGtM, it describes alhoons and illithiliches, both of which are described as having phylacteries.

From p. 171 about alhoons:

Dreadful Deliverance. Lichdom offers salvation and the prospect of being able to pursue knowledge indefinitely. Having feasted on the brains of people when alive, a mind flayer has no compunction about feeding souls to a phylactery.

From p. 172 about illithiliches:

The path to true lichdom is something only the most powerful mind flayer mages can pursue, since it requires the ability to craft a phylactery and cast the imprisonment spell.

If we couple this with information on liches from elsewhere, such as in the Monster Manual (p. 203):

A lich is created by an arcane ritual that traps the wizard's soul within a phylactery.

then we must conclude that illithids, despite what they typically believe, do in fact have souls, else they would not be able to achieve lichdom.

Therefore, if they have a soul, then it is possible for the soul of a mind flayer to be trapped within a ring of mind shielding.

Slight counterargument: the alhoon description avoids the term "soul"

I have, however, noticed that not once in the description of alhoons or illithiliches does it actually explicitly mention that the mind flayer has a soul. Instead, it refers to their mind, implying that they might have a form of consciousness that can even exist beyond death but that is separate from a soul:

Precarious Immortality. Unlike with true lichdom, the periapt of mind trapping doesn't restore the alhoons to undeath if they are destroyed. Instead, a destroyed alhoon's mind is transferred to the periapt where it remains in communication with any other trapped alhoon minds, as well as the souls of those sacrificed.

It mentions the souls of the sacrifices plenty in these descriptions, but never the soul of the mind flayer. I'm not sure if that's significant, but it could be thought of as a flaw to my above conclusion. Then again, this could simply be a detail pertaining to how an alhoon is different from a "true" lich, an illithilich, of which there is precious little information to be found in this book.

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    \$\begingroup\$ last paragraph: wouldn't it be an "illithilich" instead of an "ithillilich"? (sentences I'd never have thought I would write at some point) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 28, 2020 at 10:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PixelMaster You're right; I spelt it correctly once, then managed to misspell it every time after that! \$\endgroup\$
    – NathanS
    Commented Jul 28, 2020 at 10:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ It may also be helpful to note that there isn't much of a reason for an illithid to opt to do this. It's entirely voluntary to go into the ring of mind shielding. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Jul 28, 2020 at 14:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NathanS This discussion-argument is a tour de force, and thank you - though this now begs all sorts of other soul-searching stuff (ironically? literally?). Good call on the periapt-thingy... Volo's had us completely fooled. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 28, 2020 at 15:25

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