The setting of A Song of Ice and Fire is one where there are many faiths, and many faithful. Belief in high powers and supernatural threats runs deep through the culture of the known world and influence most aspects of life. In The Seven Kingdoms nearly all children are raised praising either the new gods or the old and fear of the Others coming to claim them if they misbehave. Across the narrow sea children are often given to be raised to priesthood of one of the many deities worshipped there. Little is known about the actual deities and their powers, so far only R'hllor has been shown to possess real power and influence the world directly.
Westeros has relatively few significant religions. They include:
- The old gods, tied to the earth, are the gods of the forest, mountains and streams. They are nameless deities worshiped by the Northern population of Westeros, symbolized by weirwood trees. They are the oldest religion in Westeros, worshipped by the magical children of the forest before the First Men came to the continent and later adopted the religion.
- The Faith of the Seven, the dominant religion in the Seven Kingdoms, is built around symbology of the number seven, the seven facets of the one god. Its many institutions and priesthood structure closely mirrors the way Christianity operated in the Middle Ages.
- The Drowned God and the Storm God are the gods of the ironborn. The Drowned God is a harsh deity and his religion is a harsh one, favouring reaving and plundering in its name. Children are initiated into the faith by being drowned in sea water and resuscitated.
- R'hllor, the Lord of Light, is a foreign faith from Essos and is little known in Westeros, though it has gained support in recent times. It holds a very black-and-white view of the world, with R'hllor being the one true god and the rest being demons that must be destroyed. Worship of fire is a key component.
- Mother Rhoyne is worshiped by the remnants of the Rhoynar practicing along the river Greenblood in Dorne.
- The Lady of the Waves and the Lord of the Skies were worshiped on the Three Sisters prior to the Seven.
- Aquan the Red Bull, whose priests sacrifice calves.
- Bakkalon, the Pale Child favored of soldiers
- the Black Goat, a deity worshipped in Qohor.
- the Great Shepherd, the deity of the Lhazareen.
- the Hooded Wayfarer, a patron of the poor.
- the horse god, the deity worshipped by the Dothraki.
- the Lady of Spears, the deity of the Unsullied.
- the Lion of Night, a god preferred by rich men.
- the Many-Faced God of Braavos, believed to be the true face of all the gods.
- the Merling King, a deity worshipped by sailors.
- the Moon-Pale Maiden, a deity worshipped by sailors.
- the Pattern, a labyrinth leading to wisdom.
- R'hllor and the Great Other, a dualistic religion.
- Semosh and Selloso, brother gods with twin temples.
- the Silent God, who is worshipped at the Stones of the Silent God.
- the Stone Cow of Faros, a deity worshipped on Faros.
- Trios, a three-headed deity.
- the Weeping Lady of Lys, a favorite of old women.
Influences and Theology
- See also: Themes in A Song of Ice and Fire
Unlike J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, A Song of Ice and Fire addresses religion in some detail and portrays several competing religions. More than any other novel in the series, A Dance with Dragons explores the different religions of Westeros and Essos. Each of the religions reflects its culture's temperament. George R. R. Martin based the series' faiths on real religions, tweaking or expanding them a little. However, no religion is presented as the true faith, although there are displays of power on many sides, nor do any have a monopoly on virtue.
Known influences include:
- The old gods seem like an animistic religion.
- The Seven bears some distinct similarities to the Catholic church in structure and organization. The Seven is an analog of the Trinity, having seven gods in one rather than three (Father, Warrior, Smith, Maiden, Mother, Crone, and Stranger), and complete with monastic orders, dormant military orders (Faith Militant), and a Pope/College of Cardinals (High Septon/Most Devout).
- R'hllor is similar in many ways to Manichaeism and Zoroastrianism, with a strong dualism between the Lord of Light and the Nameless Other of Darkness, apocalyptic theology, and religious practice that is strongly intertwined with the use and symbiology of fire.
- Some other religions are examples of polytheism, in which people attempt to understand forces of nature by giving them human shapes.
- The Storm God and the Drowned God could be related to Norse mythology, encouraging the lifestyle of raiding and reaving just as the religion of the Vikings did.
- The Mother Rhoyne religion is polytheistic worshipping of the Rhoyne and many lesser river-dwelling deities such as the Old Man of the River and the Crab King. The Rhoynar may be inspired by the Roma, to a degree.
Martin tries to slowly reveal in how the many different kinds of magic in the Ice and Fire world may be manifestations of the same mysterious supernatural forces. This leaves readers free to wonder about the validity, teachings and supernatural power of the competing religions, allowing for a sense of wonder, for things that escape the net of explanation in terms of the physical sciences. Martin regards any religion's claim to truth with suspicion, as he does the claims of real religions. The series' gods, he said, are unlikely to appear deus-ex-machina in Westeros.
- See list of Prophecies.
Notes and References
- ↑ A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 64, The Ugly Little Girl.
- ↑ Many Gods & Dark Faiths article by Ran and Linda
- ↑ Anders, Charlie Jane (July 21, 2011). "George R.R. Martin explains why we'll never meet any gods in A Song of Ice and Fire". io9.com. http://io9.com/5822939/george-rr-martin-explains-why-well-never-meet-any-gods-in-a-song-of-ice-and-fire. Retrieved 2012-02-13.