LegenDex Entry No. 075 Picture

The Lich

In modern fantasy fiction, a lich sometimes spelled liche, cognate to German Leiche "corpse") is a type of undead creature. Often such a creature is the result of a transformation, as a powerful magician or king striving for eternal life uses spells or rituals to bind his intellect to his animated corpse and thereby achieve a form of immortality. Liches are depicted as being clearly cadaverous, their bodies desiccated or even completely skeletal. Liches are often depicted as holding power over hordes of lesser undead creatures, using them as their soldiers and servants, and thus are a threat both individually and as leaders of belligerent forces.

A lich should not be confused with a zombie. While both are reanimated corpses, the difference lies in their intellect. Whereas a zombie is often depicted as mindless and/or under the control of some magician, a lich retains its independent thought and is as intelligent as a living human - and often, far more so. In some works of fiction, liches can be distinguished from other undead by their phylactery - an item of the Lich's choosing into which they imbue their soul, giving them immortality until said phylactery is destroyed.

In Roman Catholicism and the Church of England, the word "lychgate" refers to a covered area at the entrance to the cemetery where the casket awaits the clergy before proceeding into the cemetery for proper burial, lych being a word derived from Old English meaning "body" or "corpse".

The underlying idea of eluding death by means of arcane study and black magic can be traced to Middle Eastern folklore,[original research?] and the method of achieving immortality by placing one's soul in a phylactery, usually hidden in some vast fortress, is suggestive of the burial practices of Egypt.[original research?]

Eastern Slavic mythology includes stories of a powerful dark wizard or a demon, Koschei the Deathless, who evades death by having his fiery soul placed in the eye of a magical needle. The needle is inside an egg, which is inside a duck, which is inside a hare, which is locked in an iron chest placed at the roots of a great oak tree, which is in a hole in the ground on the magical island of Buyan. Koschei can be killed only by breaking the magical needle, which is much like the phylactery of a lich. This image is consistent with the modern interpretation of the lich.
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