Religion in Game of Thrones can be one of the more confusing elements of the show. Here we’re going to delve into some of the more common religions to try and make sense of it all and see what role it might play in the upcoming episodes of season 7 & 8.
There are 3 main religions relevant to our story.
The Old Gods
As the name suggests, the Old Gods are deities which have somewhat fallen out of favour in Westeros as time has passed. The religion focuses heavily on the importance of nature and the Gods are portrayed as spirits which do not have specific names or appearances.
They don’t have temples or elaborate ceremonies; instead worshippers normally visit their godswood in order to reflect. Oaths are often sworn in front of Weirwood trees which were found in the centre of the godswood and had faces carved into them representing the forest spirits.
The Old Gods were worshipped by the original human inhabitants of Westeros known as The First Men, as well as another race known as The Children of the Forest.
The religion was eradicated from much of Westeros during an invasion by a race of men known as The Andals who came from Essos in the east. The Andals brought with them The Faith of the Seven and imposed it on the majority of Westeros. However, they did not conquer the North and as such some Northern houses still worship The Old Gods to this day.
The Faith of the Seven
Also sometimes referred to as “the new Gods”, The Faith of the Seven is the most prominent of religions in Westeros and is based around a deity with 7 key faces or qualities:
- The Father – represents judgement and justice
- The Mother – represents mercy and fertility
- The Maiden – represents purity and love
- The Crone – represents wisdom
- The Warrior – represents power and skill in battle
- The Smith – represents creativity and craftsmanship
- The Stranger – represents death and evil
The clergy are known as Septa and Septons, and worship takes place in a Sept.
The Faith is not particularly tolerant of much that we see in Westeros including magic, incest, and the fathering of bastards. The main encounter we have with the religion is during seasons 5 & 6 when a sect known as The Sparrows rises up. The High Sparrow re-established The Faith Militant, a religious army which began bringing sinners to justice, forcing them to atone for their sins and “come into the Light of the Seven”.
Several key characters are arrested by the Faith, most notably Cersei who swore revenge on them after being forced to walk naked through the streets of King’s Landing.
The Lord of Light
Possibly the most interesting of the main religions, followers of the Lord of Light place great emphasis on symbolic prophecy. The Lord is known as a fire god – visions are often seen in the flames and sacrifices burnt to appease him. Melisandre is a Priestess of the Lord of Light and often repeats their trademark phrase, “The night is dark and full of terrors.”
Although the religion is mostly followed in Essos, a small number of followers are currently found in Westeros. Unlike the other religions, we’ve seen real power come from more than one red priest(ess). In season 2 Melisandre gives birth to a shadow which then kills Renly Baratheon. We learnt that Thoros of Myr, empowered by the Lord of Light, has brought Beric Dondarrion back from the dead on several occasions. Later, Melisandre would do the same for Jon Snow.
There are several reasons that the religion is important for the conclusion of Game of Thrones.
Beric & Jon have both been brought back to life by the Lord of Light because they still have a purpose to serve in the war to come – the fight against the White Walkers. There’s also a prophecy that tells of he Prince that was promised (sometimes called Azor Ahai) – a saviour who will bring an end to the long night and defeat the White Walkers.
According to the prophecy, the Prince that was promised will wield a flaming sword called Lightbringer. This is interesting since we have seen Beric Dondarrion magically setting light to his sword in battle, and as we know fire kills the reanimated army of the dead.
Recently the Hound rejoined Beric Dondarrion and Thoros of Myr, seeing a vision in the flames himself. In the vision he saw a castle where the sea meets the wall – this is Eastwatch by the Sea, which Jon has sent the Wildlings to defend. (By the way, the next episode which airs tonight is entitled… Eastwatch!)
Originally, Melisandre believed Stannis to be the prince that was promised, however upon his death seems to believe that it may actually be Jon. This was her motive for setting up the meeting between Jon & Daenerys.
Across the sea in Essos, followers of the Lord of Light have declared that Daenerys Targaryen is the prohesied saviour, saying that her dragons and abolition of slavery are evidence. Interestingly, in season 7 Missandei pointed out that in High Valyrian (the language that the prophecy was originally written in) the pronoun for prince actually has no gender, so the prophecy may refer to a princess.
Below, watch the scene from season 2 where Melisandre proclaims Stannis the Prince that was promised. Take note of her mentioning the dead rising, and the seas freezing over. Could that be a relevant point considering that the White Walkers still need to pass The Wall?
Who do you think is the Prince or Princess that was promised, and why? Let me know in the comments!