Old gods

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The old gods are nameless deities[1] of stream, forest, and stone[2] worshiped in the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros and beyond the Wall. They are so named because the Faith of the Seven (the "new gods") replaced them in all but the north of Westeros, where their religion is still practiced by northmen, crannogmen, and free folk. Westerosi of various faiths commonly swear by the old gods and the new.[3][4][5][6][7][8]

Theology

The old gods appear to be an animistic religion. The greenseers of the children of the forest were said to be able to talk with all beasts and birds, and to see through the eyes of their carved weirwoods and posses strong magic.[9] Faces were carved into the weirwoods by the children before the arrival of humans in Westeros.[10] The children believe that the weirwood trees were the gods and when they die they become part of the godhood.[11]

Human believers visit godswoods, groves contained within castles throughout the Seven Kingdoms, and pray before sacred heart tree which have faces carved into them. The heart trees are usually weirwood, and godswoods are often the only places where living weirwoods still remain until one goes north of the Wall. Prayer, oaths, and marriages are often performed in the presence of a heart tree.[4][12] Once all noble houses had a godswood with a heart tree in its center, but many families that no longer follow the old gods have converted their godswoods into secular gardens.[10][13] It is said that the old gods only have power where the heart tree faces can see, and since the destruction of most of the heart trees in the south they have no power there.[14]

There are no priests, no holy texts, no songs of worship, and practically no rites that go with the worship of the old gods.[1][15] Blood sacrifice was performed in the past, however.[2][16] It is a folk-religion, passed from generation to generation. Worshipers believe the old gods watch through the trees.[17][14] It is said that the sigh of the wind and the rustle of leaves are the old gods speaking back to worshippers.[18]

Various actions, such as incest,[19] kinslaying,[20] and slavery[21] are considered offensive to the gods, while laws of hospitality are considered sacred.[22] It is believed that the old gods can detect when men lie to heart trees.[23]

History

The old gods were originally worshiped by the children of the forest in most of Westeros in the Dawn Age, thousands of years before the arrival of the First Men from Essos via the Arm of Dorne. The First Men warred with the children and cut down the weirwoods where they found them.[24] The children at Moat Cailin are said to have called upon their nameless gods to use the hammer of the waters,[25] and other tales say they performed blood sacrifice at the Isle of Faces.[26]

In time, however, the First Men made peace with the children at the Isle of Faces within the Gods Eye, agreeing to the Pact and adopting the gods of the children as their own.[24] Other religions of the First Men included the Lady of the Waves and the Lord of the Skies, worshiped on the Three Sisters,[27] and the Drowned God, which is still worshiped on the Iron Islands.[28]

When Corlos spared lion cubs within Casterly Rock, the old gods are said to have rewarded him by revealing gold in Casterly Rock.[29] The Marsh Kings of the crannogmen are said to have been touched by the old gods.[30]

Worship of the old gods remained strong across Westeros until the Andal invasion, with the Andals bringing their Faith of the Seven with them from Andalos. The Andals gradually conquered the south of Westeros, cutting down the weirwoods and supplanting the worship of the old gods with their own, with the exception of House Blackwood in the riverlands.[31] The old gods are still worshipped in the north, however, and by the free folk living beyond the Wall.[32] Some clans of the free folk are said to worship different deities than the old gods, however.[33]

Humfrey I Teague, King of the Rivers and the Hills, attempted to suppress worship of the old gods in the riverlands, resulting in the downfall of House Teague and control of the riverlands by House Durrandon.[34]

During the tourney at Harrenhal, a crannogman prayed to the old gods of north and Neck.[21] During the tourney, the Knight of the Laughing Tree used a shield decorated with a heart tree of the old gods.[21]

Recent Events

A Game of Thrones

Lord Eddard Stark visits the godswood of Winterfell after the execution of Gared.[10]

Although raised in the Faith of the Seven, Samwell Tarly decides to swear the vows of the Night's Watch at a weirwood grove north of the Wall, rather than at the sept of Castle Black.[17]

Bran Stark prays at Winterfell's godswood for the success of his brother Robb in southern Westeros, but Osha warns that the old gods now only have power in the north.[14]

Within the Red Keep, Sansa Stark prays to the old gods in the castle's godswood and to the new gods of the Seven in the sept.[35]

A Clash of Kings

According to Lord Jon Umber, the red comet is a sign of vengeance from the old gods for the execution of Lord Eddard.[36] The Greatjon also believes that the old gods sent direwolves to Ned's children.[37]

Survivors of the Battle of Oxcross claim that Robb is marching with the support of the old gods of the north.[38]

Arya Stark prays to the old gods within the godswood of Harrenhal.[39]

A Storm of Swords

During the retreat toward Craster's Keep after the fight at the Fist, Samwell prays to any god who will listen.[40] After the mutiny at Craster's Keep, Sam prays before a weirwood in an abandoned wildling village.[41]

When the brotherhood without banners visits the ghost of High Heart, the dwarf woman claims the stirring old gods will not let her sleep.[42]

Stannis Baratheon offers to legitimize Jon Snow after the Battle of Castle Black and name him Lord of Winterfell. Jon refuses, however, since Melisandre would require the burning of the castle's godswood.[43] Because Ghost's white fur and red eyes are reminiscent of weirwoods, Jon thinks his direwolf also belongs to the old gods.[43]

A Feast for Crows

Arya refuses to dispose of Needle in Braavos, believing that the olds gods want her to keep Jon's gift.[44]

A Dance with Dragons

Melisandre requires that submitting free folk burn weirwood branches to symbolize their acceptance of R'hllor.[45] Some of the wildlings continue to carve faces on trees south of the Wall, however.[46]

Ser Bartimus admits that although he is a knight, he still follows the old gods.[16]

Bran learns from the three-eyed crow and children of the forest in a cave beyond the Wall. Greenseers rest within the roots of weirwoods.[47][48]

Lord Roose Bolton announces to his bannermen at Winterfell that the old gods will destroy Stannis with a blizzard for his worship of R'hllor.[49] Queen's men in Stannis's army want to burn sacrifices to R'hllor to end the storm.[50] Theon Greyjoy prays to the old gods in Winterfell's godswood.[51]

Quotes

For her sake, Ned had built a small sept where she might sing to the seven faces of god, but the blood of the First Men still flowed in the veins of the Starks, and his own gods were the old ones, the nameless, faceless gods of the greenwood they shared with the vanished children of the forest.[10]
- thoughts of Catelyn Stark


Castle Black had no godswood, only a small sept and a drunken septon, but Jon could not find it in him to pray to any gods, old or new. If they were real, he thought, they were as cruel and implacable as winter.[52]
- thoughts of Jon Snow


Slight as they were, the children were quick and graceful. Male and female hunted together, with weirwood bows and flying snares. Their gods were the gods of the forest, stream, and stone, the old gods whose names are secret.[24]
- Luwin to Bran Stark


I see you talking to the heart tree. Might be the gods are trying to talk back.[53]
- Osha to Bran Stark


The Mother was merciful, all the septons agreed, but the Seven had no power beyond the Wall. This was where the old gods ruled, the nameless gods of the trees and the wolves and the snows.[40]
- thoughts of Samwell Tarly


Tyrion: I confess, I know little of the old gods. Perhaps someday you might enlighten me. I could even accompany you.

Sansa: No. You ... you are kind to offer, but ... there are no devotions, my lord. No priests or songs or candles. Only trees, and silent prayer.[15]

- Tyrion Lannister and Sansa Stark


The maesters will tell you that King Jaehaerys abolished the lord's right to the first night to appease his shrewish queen, but where the old gods rule, old customs linger.[54]
- Roose Bolton to Theon Greyjoy


Bran: What do the trees remember?

Jojen: The secrets of the old gods. Truths the First Men knew, forgotten now in Winterfell ... but not in the wet wild. We live closer to the green in our bogs and crannogs, and we remember. Earth and water, soil and stone, oaks and elms and willows, they were here before us all and will still remain when we are gone.[48]

- Bran Stark and Jojen Reed

References and Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 70, Jon IX.
  2. 2.0 2.1 The World of Ice & Fire, Ancient History: The Dawn Age.
  3. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 35, Eddard IX.
  4. 4.0 4.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 47, Eddard XIII.
  5. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 10, Davos I.
  6. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 22, Catelyn II.
  7. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 58, Jon XII.
  8. The Hedge Knight.
  9. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 28, Bran IV.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 2, Catelyn I.
  11. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 36, Daenerys VI.
  12. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 37, The Prince of Winterfell.
  13. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 40, Catelyn VII.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 53, Bran VI.
  15. 15.0 15.1 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 53, Tyrion VI.
  16. 16.0 16.1 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 29, Davos IV.
  17. 17.0 17.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 48, Jon VI.
  18. Many Gods & Dark Faiths article by Ran and Linda
  19. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 34, Jon IV.
  20. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 52, Sansa IV.
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 24, Bran II.
  22. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 57, Daenerys V.
  23. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 13, Jon II.
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 66, Bran VII.
  25. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 56, Tyrion VII.
  26. The World of Ice & Fire, Dorne: The Breaking.
  27. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 9, Davos I.
  28. The World of Ice & Fire, The Iron Islands.
  29. The World of Ice & Fire, The Westerlands.
  30. The World of Ice & Fire, The North: The Crannogmen of the Neck.
  31. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 48, Jaime I.
  32. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 49, Jon X.
  33. The World of Ice & Fire, The Wall and Beyond: The Wildlings.
  34. The World of Ice & Fire, The Riverlands.
  35. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 57, Sansa V.
  36. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 7, Catelyn I.
  37. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 39, Catelyn V.
  38. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 32, Sansa III.
  39. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 47, Arya IX.
  40. 40.0 40.1 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 18, Samwell I.
  41. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 46, Samwell III.
  42. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 22, Arya IV.
  43. 43.0 43.1 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 79, Jon XII.
  44. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 22, Arya II.
  45. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 10, Jon III.
  46. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 21, Jon V.
  47. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 13, Bran II.
  48. 48.0 48.1 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 34, Bran III.
  49. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 41, The Turncloak.
  50. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 42, The King's Prize.
  51. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 46, A Ghost in Winterfell.
  52. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 19, Jon III.
  53. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 4, Bran I.
  54. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 20, Reek II.

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