Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘burning of the seven’

burning of seven(If you would like to catch up or refresh: Part One, Part Two)

Melisandre (Carice Van Houten) is introduced to “Game of Thrones” fans with the burning of the seven.  In the name of the “Lord of Light,” she induces the Lord Stannis (Stephen Dillane) to burn the effigies of the seven gods of Westeros as a symbolic gesture of renunciation.  Again, one is reminded of Christianity; Christian missionaries were known to have orchestrated the destruction of idols.  But given the Gnostic/Manichean character of Melisandre’s religion, could there be something else going on here?

George_R._R._Martin_signing

I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.  First of all, did George R.R. Martin — author of the “Song of Ice and Fire” series on which “Game of Thrones” is based — have Gnosticism or Manichaeism in mind when crafting Melisandre’s character and religion?

This much is for sure: Martin draws heavily from his studies of medieval Europe in crafting the world of Ice and Fire, and he is very much dedicated to authenticity.  So we should ask whether Gnosticism made an appearance in the Middle Ages.

AlbigensiansWell, in fact, it did.  The Cathars and Albigensians managed to gain quite a foothold in Southern Europe between the 12th and 14th centuries.  Like the Red Woman’s religion — and here it is good to remember Davos Seaworth’s (Liam Cunningham) hard words about Melisandre being “a foreigner preaching a foreign religion” — their belief system came from the East, bringing with it the air of something new and exotic.  St. Dominic fought vigorously against this movement during his life; the Dominican Order,* which he founded for just that purpose, thrives to this day.

faith of the sevenThe attitude of the culture to which Albigensianism came toward its native Christianity was, for the most part, very similar to that of the people of Westeros toward their religion (which appears to be a paganized form of medieval Catholicism).  They held to it as a sort of solid cultural possession, but they didn’t believe in it in too profound a manner (that is, in such a way that it would affect their lives).  So if we are surprised at their susceptibility to something novel and exotic…well, we shouldn’t be.

As Gnostics, the Albigensians and Cathars eschewed the material and the idea that God could be present to it, let alone make Hiimself part of it via the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.  Some of them would publicly burn crucifixes in order to make their point…and here we go back to our first inquiry.  The Cathars were as ready to burn crucifixes as were Melisandre’s followers to burn the effigies of the seven.

*

Innocent VHere’s an interesting historical tidbit: Pope Innocent V (1225-1276) was the first priest from the Dominican Order to become Pope.  When he was elected, he brought the trademark white garments of the Dominicans to the papal office.  This started a whole new tradition…Pope_Francis_in_March_2013…and is why the Pope wears white to this very day.  I just thought it was interesting that such a familiar image came about as an indirect result of the phenomenon on which a key “Game of Thrones” character may be based.

Thanks for reading, and let’s keep an eye on that quirky priestess with the fire-kissed hair.

Images from “Game of Thrones” obtained through a Google image search; remaining images from Wikipedia

Advertisements

Read Full Post »