Besides being Aerith’s mother and the last remaining pure Cetra, we don’t really know too much more about Ifalna. She died around the age of 29 years old, and when Aerith was seven:
The pair have held the prisoner for seven years, during which time Ifalna gave two things to her daughter: the White Materia, and the knowledge of how to use it to summon Holy. Ifalna escaped with Aeris but was mortally wounded.
With her death, the Cetra became extinct, and the last remnant of their legacy lived on through her daughter.
From this we can also glean two other things:
- Ifalna had the White Materia
- Ifalna knew how summon Holy
How did she get White Materia? And how do the Cetra know how to use White Materia?
The Cetras are very spiritual in nature. They could use the White Materia “to speak directly with the Planet and once the Planet receives the message“. But there’s only one White Materia in existence. So then it only begs the question of how they got it. Apparently, it was a gift to the Cetra:
Long ago, the Cetra were given two gifts from the Planet: the Black Materia, which had the power to destroy, and the White Materia, which had the power to protect. Being peaceful people, the Cetra embraced the power of the White Materia and rejected the Black, sealing it away by transforming it into a complex, booby-trapped, labyrinthine temple that became known as the Temple of the Ancients.
What was this? Was it the gift of the goddess, that Genesis ranted and raved about? As the ultimate white magic, it has the power to heal Genesis of all degradation. But this assumes that the goddess Minerva was around at the time:
The nature of Minerva’s existence is unclear. In the mission chaining leading up to her, Shinra corporation detects her as “an incredibly strong summon signal”, and the Crisis Core Complete Guide says Minerva is similar to a summon in substance. Despite this, Minerva is not shown to be associated with a Materia shard as other summonses are. Given the nature of Materia, she may be summoned directly from the Lifestream instead.
In this sense, Minerva would be the collective entity of all previous life. And it would make sense that the Cetra race might actually have more influence over what form Minerva takes. But why would the goddess take the form of a woman? Perhaps Ifalna’s consciousness pushed through, in order to help Aerith for when she’ll inevitably cast Holy?
As Aerith and Zack were both born in 1985, and Ifalna died seven years later. Over a decade afterward, Zack would discover the goddess in the caves. Maybe Zack’s first introduction to Aerith’s mother is punching her?