The idea that the Elden Ring is a physical item is also supported by the fact that both the game’s official plot summary and creator Hidetaka Miyazaki refer to the idea that the Elden Ring was not only shattered, but broken into “shards”. . While “shattered” can be used to describe a group breaking up, the idea that the members of that group would then be described as “shards” is a little harder to justify.
In fact, the official Elden Ring prologue notes that “Marika’s descendants, all demigods, claimed the shards of the Elden Ring known as the Great Runes, and the mad taint of their newfound vigor caused a war: The Shattering.” That formulation not only supports the theory that the Elden Ring is an item, but also refers to the shards of the ring as the “Great Runes.” Could it be that the ring was broken before Godwyn’s death and that the Rune of Death was actually one of the shards of the Elden Ring? If so, it’s likely whoever broke the ring took that shard for himself and killed Godwyn.
Finally, much of the game’s plot seemingly revolves around discovering who smashed the Elden Ring. If the Elden Ring was simply referring to a council that was broken by certain events, there probably wouldn’t be a mystery as to who “shattered” the ring (unless you’re implying that we’re actually looking for whoever stole the Rune of Death and killed Godwyn, which really requires you to believe the idea that the “Runes” are kind of their own thing).
For now, though, I’d say that most of the official information shared about the game’s plot tends to suggest that the Elden Ring is an actual ring that was broken into shards at some point by a mysterious person.
While elements of the ring’s origin and possible powers remain a mystery, it’s worth noting that the Elden Ring prologue states that the player will be “gracefully guided to wield the power of the Elden Ring” and that the Elden Ring is the “source of the Erdtree” (which is a sort of “World Tree” that some fans believe is the Lands Between to the entities known as The Greater Will and the blessings they provide). That makes it sound like the person controlling the ring essentially determines the favor of the gods and the fate of The Lands Between. Presumably, Godwyn the Golden, Queen Marika, and their descendants shared that power prior to The Shattering.
Of course, if you have any additional theories about what the Elden Ring is, please share them in the comments below.