Walk of atonement

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Cersei Lannister disrobing before the walk of shame, by Magali Villeneuve © Fantasy Flight Games

A walk of atonement[1] is a punishment in the Seven Kingdoms. Historical walks have had women walk naked through the streets of cities.[2][1] While the custom can be a penance,[1] it is also a way to degrade a woman and rob her of her pride and power.[1][3]

History

After Queen Rhaenyra Targaryen fled King's Landing during the Dance of the Dragons, Ser Garth the Harelip surrendered the Red Keep to Ser Perkin the Flea and his gutter knights. Mysaria, Rhaenyra's hated mistress of whisperers, was taken while attempting to flee the castle. Perkin informed Mysaria that if she could travel naked through the city to the Gate of the Gods while being whipped, she would be allowed to live. Mysaria only made it halfway before dying on the city's cobblestones.[2]

When Tywin Lannister's father Tytos died, Tywin found his father's mistress trying on one of the gowns of his late mother, Jeyne Marbrand. A common-born woman and the daughter of a chandler, the mistress had dominated Lord Tytos utterly, ordering the household knights about, dismissing servants, and helping herself to Jeyne's jewelry.[4][3] Expelling the mistress from Casterly Rock, Tywin had her stripped naked and forced the sobbing woman to walk through the streets of Lannisport into exile at the docks, confessing to every man she met that she was a thief and a harlot.[5][1][3]

Recent Events

A Dance with Dragons

Cersei Lannister's walk from the Great Sept of Baelor to the Red Keep, by Marc Simonetti ©

Cersei Lannister, having confessed to adultery,[6] is forced to perform a walk of atonement by the High Septon of the Faith of the Seven. She is to walk nude from the Great Sept of Baelor to the Red Keep. Cersei is shaved of hair from her entire body, then stripped naked. An escort of Warrior's Sons, Poor Fellows, and several septas protect her from the leering and jeering crowds that have flocked to see her shame. The humiliated Cersei hallucinates during her walk.[1] Afterwards, the Lord Regent, Ser Kevan Lannister, feels his niece has lost her power.[3]

Quotes

Moelle: This sinner has confessed her sins and begged for absolution and forgiveness. His High Holiness has commanded her to demonstrate her repentance by putting aside all pride and artifice and presenting herself as the gods made her before the good people of the city.
Scolera: So now this sinner comes before you with a humble heart, shorn of secrets and concealments, naked before the eyes of gods and men, to make her walk of atonement.[1]

I have sinned and must atone, must parade my shame before the eyes of every beggar in the city. They think that this will break my pride, that it will make an end to me, but they are wrong.[1]

Cersei Lannister's thoughts

This is my penance, Cersei told herself. I have sinned most grievously, this is my atonement. It will be over soon, it will be behind me, then I can forget.[1]

Cersei Lannister's thoughts

All the self-seekers who had named themselves her friends and cultivated her favor had abandoned her quickly enough when Tywin had her stripped naked and paraded through Lannisport to the docks, like a common whore. Though no man laid a hand on her, that walk spelled the end of her power. Surely Tywin would never have dreamed that same fate awaited his own golden daughter.

Behind the Scenes

George R. R. Martin may have been inspired by penitential walks, such as the three barefoot walks of Eleanor Cobham and the kirtle-clad walk of Jane Shore.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 65, Cersei II.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Fire & Blood, The Dying of the Dragons - Rhaenyra Overthrown.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 A Dance with Dragons, Epilogue.
  4. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 66, Tyrion IX.
  5. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 3, Cersei I.
  6. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 54, Cersei I.