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- "I've been all over the world, my boy, and everywhere I go people tell me about "the true God". They all think they've found the right one!"
- ―Salladhor Saan
Individual religious devotion in all societies is of course on a spectrum, from devout adherents to those that just go through some of the motions by rote as a cultural norm. Moreover, some people are irreligious and privately don't believe in any gods or religious systems.
There are only three religions with significant numbers in Westeros:
- The Old Gods of the Forest - innumerable and nameless spirits of each tree, rock, and stream worshipped by the Children of the Forest and later by the First Men. The original religion of the continent, it was later pushed back by the Faith of the Seven. In the present day, it is the majority religion only in the North and Beyond the Wall, though there still exist a scattered minority of followers in the south of the continent.
- The Faith of the Seven - introduced to Westeros during the Andal Invasion six thousand years ago, it has for millennia been the majority religion on the continent. In terms of number of followers, geographic spread, and influence on politics, the Faith of the Seven is the overwhelmingly dominant religion in Westeros. It is based on the worship of "The Seven" or the "Seven-faced God", a single deity with seven "aspects" or "faces".
- The Drowned God - the local religion of the people of the the Iron Islands. Worshipers of the Drowned God value maritime skill, as well as prowess in combat and in piratical raids. It is the least followed of the three major religions in Westeros as well as the least widespread, being restricted to the lightly populated Iron Islands. Nonetheless, as there are so few major religions on the continent, it is still the third largest religion, and is certainly dominant within the Iron Islands themselves.
In contrast to Westeros, on the eastern continent of Essos across the Narrow Sea there are a large number of local religions, but few religions that are widespread across large geographical areas. Even so, each of the Free Cities or cities of Slaver's Bay may contain worshipers of numerous different local religions that are not to be found anywhere else in the world. The Free City of Braavos has a very diverse, cosmopolitan religious makeup. The one major exception to this is the Lord of Light religion, which is very widespread, from the Free Cities in the west to Asshai in the distant east. Indeed, in the southern Free Cities such as Volantis, Lys, and Myr, the Lord of Light is the majority religion, and it has at least a plurality in many other major cities of the continent. Still, unlike in Westeros where the Faith of the Seven is often the exclusive religion, in many cities in Essos where the faith of the Lord of Light is the majority religion there are still substantial minorities that worship other religions.
- The Lord of Light - focuses on worship of the "one true god", a fire-god known as the Lord of Light. Espouses strong dualistic beliefs, as the Lord of Light struggles against darkness. Loosely speaking it is the majority religion in many parts of Essos, particularly the major trading hubs such as the Free Cities.
- The Bearded Priests of Norvos - an order of warrior-priests who rule the Free City of Norvos as a theocracy.
- The Black Goat of Qohor - a grim god who requires daily blood sacrifices, worshiped as the main religion in the Free City of Qohor.
- The Many-Faced God of Death - a minor religion in Braavos worshiped by the mysterious cult of assassins known as the Faceless Men.
- Moonsingers - one of the more prominent religions in Braavos
- The Valyrian religion - the religion of the old Valyrian Freehold, little-practiced after the Doom of Valyria destroyed their civilization four hundred years ago. The Targaryens named several of their dragons after gods of old Valyria.
- The Ghiscari religion - the major religion followed in Slaver's Bay, run by priestesses known as Graces.
- Great Stallion - the nomadic Dothraki mounted warriors from the central plains known as the Dothraki Sea possess their own religious beliefs and customs, and worship a deity known as the Great Stallion.
- Great Shepherd - a local deity of the Lhazareen, a peaceful people that inhabits the region of Lhazar, northeast of Slaver's Bay and south of the Dothrai Sea. This religion holds that all men are part of one flock.
- The Lion of Night and Maiden-Made-of-Light - chief deities in the religion of Yi Ti, in the far east of Essos.
A larger number of lesser cults are spread throughout the Free Cities and the rest of Essos, which worship other deities such as:
- Bakkalon, the Pale Child - favored by soldiers
- The Weeping Woman - a deity worshiped by a cult in the Free City of Lys, though it is not the majority religion in the city.
- The Hooded Wayfarer - favored by poor men
- The Moon-Pale Maiden - favored by sailors
- The Merling King - also favored by sailors
- Summer Islands religion - Summer Islanders consider sex to be a holy and life-affirming act that honors their gods.
- Tyrion Lannister: "The Lord of Light wants his enemies burned. The Drowned God wants them drowned. Why are all the gods such vicious cunts? Where is the god of tits and wine?"
- Varys: "In the Summer Isles, they worship a fertility goddess with sixteen teats."
- Tyrion Lannister: "We should sail there immediately."
- — Tyrion and Varys[src]
George R.R. Martin explained his views on religion in the storyverse of the A Song of Ice and Fire novels: there is no one "true" religion, and as in real life, it is unconfirmed if any of the deities in these religions really exists. This is closely tied to Magic in the storyverse: Martin's view is that what makes something "magic" is that it is a mysterious and not fully understood force: if it was fully understood and reliably cast like spells in a Dungeons & Dragons game, it would really just be "technology" by another name. Magic is real in the world of Westeros and Essos, but few people have experienced it or believe in it (in recent millennia), and none can truly be said to totally understand it. Some groups interpret these magical forces through the framework of the religious beliefs they have constructed, but it is unclear if they are correct.
For example, Melisandre believes in the Lord of Light religion, and she wields some magical powers - prophecies seen through her flames (though she doesn't always interpret them correctly), and fellow Red Priest Thoros of Myr was even able to resurrect the dead. This does not, however, prove with certainty that the "Lord of Light" Melisandre believes in actually exists - as she chooses to understand Him, anyway. For all she really knows, it is the Stranger aspect of the Seven that is answering her prayers, or the Drowned God, or some other completely unknown force that no religion has ever accurately described. She is dabbling in forces beyond human comprehension, and religions like the Lord of Light are a mental framework developed to attempt to explain it. It is possible that whatever "magical" forces are in the world might not even be accurately described as "religious" in nature, save that people apply these meanings to them. Or, the Seven-faced God worshiped in Westeros might literally exist as an actual deity - no one in the story really knows for sure.
As Martin said:
- Question: "There are several competing religions in this series now. Should we be wondering if some are more true than others? In a world with magic, is religion just magic with an extra layer of mythos?"
- Martin: "Well, the readers are certainly free to wonder about the validity of these religions, the truth of these religions, and the teachings of these religions. I'm a little leery of the word "true" — whether any of these religions are more true than others. I mean, look at the analogue of our real world. We have many religions too. Are some of them more true than others? I don't think any gods are likely to be showing up in Westeros, any more than they already do. We're not going to have one appearing, deus ex machina, to affect the outcomes of things, no matter how hard anyone prays. So the relation between the religions and the various magics that some people have here is something that the reader can try to puzzle out."
In the booksEdit
There are a few other religions of note from the A Song of Ice and Fire novels which have not yet appeared in the TV series as of the end of Season 5.
There is actually a fourth religion found in Westeros, the worship of Mother Rhoyne, but its numbers are very small and it is only found exclusively in the main river system of Dorne. A thousand years ago, the Rhoynar people fled Valyria's western expansion and sailed to Dorne, where they intermingled with the local Andals and First Men to form their own unique culture. Most of the Dornishmen abandoned their old religion and adopted the Faith of the Seven, but a small handful clung to their old river-based culture and religion. Living on boats moving up and down the Greenblood River in Dorne, this small minority became known as the "Orphans of the Greenblood", "orphans" because they are separated from their homeland in Essos. Originally, the Rhoynar lived in trading city-states located on the great Rhoyne River and its network of tributaries, in the area of the modern Free Cities. The spirit of the Rhoyne River itself is worshiped in the religion as "Mother Rhoyne", though there are several other river-themed deities in the religion such as the Old Man of the River, a turtle-god, and his enemy the King Crab.
There are a few other major religions in Essos. While the Lord of Light religion is the majority religion in the southern Free Cities of Volantis, Lys, Myr, and Tyrosh, it doesn't seem to be the majority religion in the northern Free Cities, though their exact beliefs have not been given in detail. The Lord of Light is worshiped in Pentos and Qohor and even has a small presence in Braavos, but the exact extent of the religion in these places is uncertain. A deity known as the Black Goat seems to be fairly popular in Qohor, and Norvos has an order of bearded priests (though what they are priests of hasn't been expanded upon).
Little is known of Sothoryos, or the religious practices of its peoples. The inhabitants of the Summer Isles consider sexuality to be a holy and life-affirming act. The people of the island of Naath, off the north coast of Sothoryos, worship a monotheistic deity known as the Lord of Harmony. The Lord of Harmony religion forbids harming any living thing, even animals, thus the Naathi people are vegetarians, refusing to eat the flesh of any animal, and are famous for their adherence to pacifism.
There are a few other religions or cults that get namedropped as existing in the Free Cities, though they don't exist in large numbers and aren't important to the storyline. Many are mentioned only once, and are often in-jokes by author George R.R. Martin, or references to religions in other science fiction stories he has written.
Religions of the Known World
|Major religions in Essos:||
· Great Stallion · Great Shepherd · Ghiscari religion ·
· Moonsingers · Lion of Night & Maiden-Made-of-Light
|Other cults in Essos:||
· Hooded Wayfarer · Moon-Pale Maiden · Merling King