Faith of the Seven and Classic Religion

Faith of the Seven

The Faith of Seven

Portrait of the seven aspects of the God in the Faith of Seven 1

Religion plays a key role in the lives and outcomes of the characters in A Song of Ice and Fire and HBO’s television show Game of Thrones. The Faith of the Seven is the main religion within the Seven Kingdoms of Game of Thrones. The deity of this religion goes by many names, including the “Seven-faced God”, the “God of Seven”, the “new Gods” or “the new god” but the most frequently used is the “Seven”. The faith originated over six thousand years before the War of Five Kings (298 AL) in the continent of Essos as the faith of the Andals. 2 The religion came to dominate in Westeros, whereas the other kingdoms held to a multiplicity of faiths and beliefs. 

Andal warriors traveled from Essos and invaded Westeros.  Andal warriors carved the seven-pointed star (the symbol of the Seven) into their flesh to show their devotion.  The kingdoms of the First Men (except for those in the North and the Iron Islands) soon fell to the Andals and their superior steel weapons.  The victorious Andals imposed their religion on their new territories and suppressed the old faiths. They burned down most of the sacred symbols of worship for the Old Gods (the Weirwood trees) and whenever they were discovered, killed the children of the forest. 3

From a Wiki of Ice and Fire, this is an image of the wheel of the seven.

From a Wiki of Ice and Fire, this is an image of the wheel of the seven.

The Seven Pointed Star, with the seven aspects of the Faith of the Seven4

The Faith of the Seven states there is only one God, who has seven faces or aspects: the Father, the Mother, the Maiden, the Crone, the Warrior, the Smith and the Stranger.  Divine justice and judgement of the souls of the dead is represented by the Father. Mercy, peace, fertility and child birth is symbolized by the Mother who is also referred to as “the strength of women.” Purity, innocence, love and beauty is represented by the Maiden, whilst the virtues of wisdom and foresight is manifested by the lantern-carrying Crone. The Warrior has the qualities of strength and courage in battle. Creation and craftsmanship are embodied by the Smith. Death and the unknown are qualities of the rarely prayed-to or worshipped Stranger.

The priests or priestess of the faith, known as septas or septons, try to stress to their followers that the Seven is one god with seven aspects, to counter their followers’ references to the seven aspects as different gods.  The Seven has their own monasteries known as “septries”, where a small number of worshipers gather together after taking the monastic oath. Those who live within septries often take vows of silence or other requirements; the septries are places of quiet contemplation. The only major priestly organization that worships the Stranger are the silent sisters.5 Many of the priests or priestesses of the Seven take on role within their communities to give back and help the less fortunate. Arya and Sansa’s governess in King’s Landing was a septa.

The aspects of the Seven are equally distributed across the genders. Three of the aspects are male (the Father, the Warrior and the Smith) and three female (the Mother, the Maiden and the Crone). The Stranger is neither male or female.

The temples of the Seven are seven-sided buildings called “septs”.6 Each one of the walls are devoted to each of the seven aspects of the god. Temples throughout the Seven Kingdoms follow the same basic plan. The central holy book used within Westerosi society is The Seven-Pointed Star. Hymns are a key part of the religion by creating an oral understanding of the religion for non-literate followers.

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Source: “The Old Gods of the New” special feature from the Game of Thrones, the Complete First Season blue-ray edition. The video details the history of the Old Gods and the Faith of the Seven.  Note the description of the seven aspects of the God and involvement of the Faith of Seven in the monarchy and the politics of King’s Landing and Westros. 

The Faith of the Seven has many holy texts and complex social rules and rituals which adherents should strictly follow.  The rituals marking baptism, marriage, and death heavily invoke the symbolism of seven.  The number seven is sacred in faith of the Seven as the deity aspects are “seven in one” and the symbolism of the number seven is heavily featured in its religion.  The ritual of newborn baptism is marked by anointment with seven oils and a child is named in the light of the Seven. The Seven believe that in death there are Seven Heavens and Seven Hells. Weddings conducted under the Faith of the Seven are elaborate statements of the seven aspects in the life of the new couple.  The ceremonies mostly take place inside the sept and are performed by a septon (the priest).  The bride is escorted to the alter by her father or another important male figure if the father is unable to be part of the ceremony. The groom drapes a cloak bearing his house’s colours around the bride’s shoulders to symbolize her joining of his family.  The bride and groom’s hands are tied together with a ribbon by the septon. The septon then says “In the sight of the Seven, I hereby seal these two souls, blinding them as one, for eternity.” He then asks the bride and groom to say in unison: “Father, smith, warrior, mother, maiden, crone, stranger; I am his/hers and she/he is mine from this day until the end of my days.”8 Four weddings were performed in the tradition of the Faith of Seven up to this point in  A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones; Rob Stark and Talisa Maegyr, Sansa Stark and Tyrion Lannister, Jeffery Lannister and Margery Tyrell (Purple Wedding)  and Edmure Tully and Roslin Frey (Red Wedding).

Sansa and Tyrion Wedding Sansa and Tyrion’s wedding Season 3, Episode 8. The image demonstrates the cloaking ceremony performed in the Faith of Seven weddings. 9  

The moral precepts of the Faith of the Seven, as observed by its followers, prohibit incest, homosexuality, the murder of the king, and illegitimate birth. Jamie Lannister, Cersi Lannister, Renly Baratheon and Loras Tyrell are compelled to secrecy due to the serious repercussions of discovery if the public found out their sins. Mores vary by region; Dorne, for example, is accepting of homosexuality and bastardy. The Faith of the Seven values hospitality and holds sacred the good behaviour of guest and host towards one another during the time of stay within the host’s home.

Andal culture created knighthood and introduced it to the seven kingdoms during the Andal invasion six thousand years ago. Thus knighthood is heavily tied to the Faith of the Seven and the ideal of knighthood is to be not only a honourable warrior but also a devout follower of the Faith of the Seven.  People outside of the faith may become knights, however they may not have the same support or followers when it come to battles.  Knighthood doesn’t exist in other cultures outside of the seven kingdoms.  There are three different types of knights; hedge knights, sworn swords and Landed knights.

The practices and vows of knighthood are closely connected to the Faith of the Seven. The vows taken by a knight to their lord or king are ritualistic, like the marriage vows.  Jamie Lannister stated that “So many vows…. They make you swear and swear. Defend the King, obey the King. Keep his secrets. Do his bidding. Your life for his. But obey your father. Love your sister. Protect the innocent. Defend the weak. Respect the Gods. Obey the laws.“10

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Source: Game of Thrones Season 2: Religions of Westeros. George R.R. Martin, D.B. Weiss, David Benioff. The executive producers and writer explain the religions in Game of Thrones, and the parallels in history and religion. 

Parallels to Classic Religion

The Faith of Seven has several parallels with classic Greek and Roman faiths.  Westeros adopted and subsequently adapted the religion from another society in a manner similar to the Romans.  Exposure to the system of faith in both cases was through conquest; the Romans adopted it after conquering the Greeks and Westeros had the faith imposed by the Andals. George R. R. Martin borrows from Greco-Roman gods and rituals in his depiction of the faith. Note the parallels between the Greco-Roman gods and the Seven:

Faith of the Seven God The description of the Seven God Roman/Greek
The Father Justice – he judges the souls of dead Jupiter (Zeus)
The Mother Fertility, childbirth, mercy and peace Juno (Hera)
The Maiden Love, purity and beauty Diana (Artemis)
The Crone Wisdom and foresight Minerva (Athena)
The Warrior Courage in battle Mars (Aries)
The Smith Creation and craftsmanship Vulcan (Hephaestus)
The Stranger Death and unknown Pluto (Hades)

The segregated roles of priests, priestess, and the temple in the Faith of the Seven parallels Greco-Roman practices. Each Greco-Roman temple worships a specific god and each god had a number of temples of similar design.  The temples for the Faith of the Seven held a standard design of seven walls, each wall dedicated to a specific aspect of the God.12

Martin’s description of rituals suggest compelling comparisons with Greco-Roman culture.  Description of the slaughter of aurochs by a warlock in rituals of bravery and courage are reminiscent of Roman rituals of sacrifice. Sam Tarly had the ritual forced on him by his father to build bravery.  Sam told Jon Snow: “Two men came to the castle, warlocks from Qarth with white skin and blue lips. They slaughtered a bull aurochs and made me bathe in the hot blood, but it didn’t make me brave as they’d promised. I got sick and retched. Father had them scourged.“13

The wedding rituals of Westeros described previously also suggests parallels with Greco-Roman practices of ritual proceedings, marked by symbols of transition to adulthood, family adoption, a cloaking/unveiling of the bride, and a culmination of the ceremony marked by animal sacrifice.14

Battle of Lapiths and Centaurs

The Painting depicts the result of the Wedding Feast of Pirithous, the battle of Centaurs and Lapiths15

Greco-Roman mythological themes of wedding, death, and havoc are also incorporated into Game of Thrones.  The Wedding feast of Pirithous in Greco-Roman mythology led to the battle of Centaurs and Lapiths.  The second marriage of Messalina, the spouse of Roman emperor, Septaor Gaius Sillus, ended in the death of both the emperor and Messalina due to the passion of her vengeful first husband. Medea poisoned and killed her husband Jason’s second wife, the father of the other woman, and Jason’s children in vengeance for her abandonment by Jason.  Dido’s suicide after abandonment by her lover triggered a bloody and futile civil war.16 Similar themes of death and havoc within Game of Thrones are expressed in the wedding of Rob Stark and Talisa Maegyr, the infamous Red Wedding of Edmure Tully and Roslin Frey, and the Purple Wedding of Joffery Baratheon and Margery Tyrell.

In the newest trailer for Game of Thrones, Daenerys Targaryen say she does not want to stop the wheel, she wants to break it. The religions in Westeros and the six kingdoms seem to be spinning on a wheel, changing what religion is dominant in the seven kingdoms. First it was the Old Gods, now it is the Faith of the Seven. The Lord of Light may be the next one to dominate the Seven Kingdoms.

Footnotes

1 Steamboat28.”Faith of Fiction:The Faith of the Seven (ASOIAF). Brass Laurels.January 2015
2 War of Five Kings. Game of Thrones Wikia.
3 “Faith of Seven”.A Song of Ice and Fire Wikia.
4 “Faith of Seven”.A Song of Ice and Fire Wikia.
5 Alexa Clipman.”Religious Orders in Fanstasy Game of Thrones: Silent Sisters”. Sci-Fi,Fantasy and Historical Writing
6 Jamie Adair. “Pagan Sacrifice:A Glimpse an Ancient Religion in Game of Thrones”. History Behind Game of Thrones
7 The Old and New Gods. Games of Thrones and HBO
8 Game of Thrones Wedding Vows. Tumblr
9 George R. R. Martin. The Second Sons Season 3, episode 8. Game of Thrones and HBO
10 George R.R. Martin. A Clash of Kings. Bantam Books, 2000. Chapter 55
11 George R.R. Martin. Game of Thrones Season 2: Religions of Westros. Game of Thrones and HBO
12 Roman Religion. Ancient Roman Encyclopedia
13 George R.R. Martin. Game of Thrones. Bantam Books 1996, page 260
14 Jennifer Goodall Powers. Roman Weddings. Suny Albany 1997
15 Peiro di Cosimo. Battle of Centaurs and Lapiths
16 Brittany Garcia.”The Similarities You Never Saw Coming”. A Classic and Ancient History Blog

Bibliography

Clipman, Alexa. “Religious Orders in Fantasy – Game of Thrones Silent Sisters.” Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Historical Writing. June, 2013 http://imaginationlane.net/blog/religious-orders-in-fantasy-game-of-thrones-silent-sisters/

di Cosimo, Peiro. Battle of Centaurs and Lapiths. The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisherwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002 Goodall Powers, Jennifer. Roman Weddings. Suny Albany. 1997. http://ablemedia.com/ctcweb/consortium/ancientweddings7.html

Krule, Miriam. “What You Need to Know About the Religions of Game of Thrones.” Slate Culture Blog. http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2014/06/13/game_of_thrones_religions_ old_gods_new_gods_and_more_explained_video.html.

“Faith of the Seven”. A Song of Ice and Fire WIkiahttp://gameofthrones.wikia.com/wiki/Faith_of_the_Seven

Garcia, Brittany. “The Similarities You Never Saw Coming”. A Classic and Ancient History Blog. http://classicsnewsneedsandnow.blogspot.ca/2014/05/game-of-thrones-and-ancient-rome.html

Martin, George R.R. A Clash of Kings. Bamtam Books.2000, Chapter 55

Martin, George R.R. Game of Thrones. Bamtam Books. 1996. Page 260

Martin, George R.R. The Second Sons. Game of Thrones. Season 3, episode 8. Game of Throne.HBO

“Roman Religion”. Ancient Roman Encyclopedia. http://www.ancient.eu/Roman_Religion/

Steamboat28. “Faith of Fiction: The Faith of the Seven (ASOIAF)”. Brass Laurels. http://www.brasslaurels.com/2015/01/faith-or-fiction-the-faith-of-the-seven-a-song-of-ice-and-fire/.January 2015.

“Tumblr of Thrones.” Game of Thrones. HBO. http://tumblrofthrones.tumblr.com/post/25261829529/tempella-robb-stark-and-talisas-wedding-vows
“War of Five Kings”. A Song of Ice and Fire Wikia. http://gameofthrones.wikia.com/wiki/Faith_of_the_Seven

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