The Great Goddess in ASOIAF, Part VI

Conclusion (a.k.a. tl;dr)

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GRRM is making a statement on how the suppression and repression of the feminine in the World of Ice and Fire can lead to unintentional consequences for the realm, the individual and ones own psyche. He does this through a consistent use of the sacred feminine archetypes throughout the stories in all her various facets.

One of these archetypal facets is that of the “whore”, which GRRM associates with its homonym “hoar”. The whores and hoars both symbolize the encroachment or seduction of the Great Goddess onto (often but not always) a man in a transactional manner. The man may be caught unawares because he has repressed his feminine nature so as to not be prepared to face the dark abyss of his soul, which is rooted within the sacred feminine. His marriage to the Great Goddess gives him great wisdom in transcendence, but he also becomes trapped in suffering and death. The only way to break away from this dilemma is to strip one down to ones bare essence, to die and become reborn within the Goddess herself.

In order to prevent or reduce the effect of this enslavement, a man must come to terms with the feminine unconsciousness inside himself and integrate it with his masculine consciousness. He must become aware of the inevitability of his death and suffering by accepting his own weakness and mortality. This effort requires humility, prudence and compassion, all positive feminine traits as traditionally defined, in conjunction with the traditionally ascribed masculine qualities of courage, justice and self-sacrifice.

C.G. Jung called this process individuation. By accepting the Great Goddess in himself, the individuated man can act and behave in a manner that more likely brings forth goodness and prosperity to himself, his companions and his environment.

Songs of Experience

I will conclude this essay by quoting a passage from William Blake’s “Songs of Experience” known as “Earth’s Answer”:

Earth raised up her head

From the darkness dread and drear.

Her light fled:

Stony dread!

And her locks cover’d with grey despair.

”Prisoned on watery shore,

Starry Jealousy does keep my den

Cold and hoar;

Weeping o’er,

I hear the father of the ancient men.

”Selfish father of men!

Cruel, jealous, selfish fear!

Can delight,

Chain’d in night,

The virgins of youth and morning bear.

”Does spring hide its joy,

When buds and blossoms grow?

Does the sower

Sow by night,

Or the ploughman in darkness plough?

”Break this heavy chain,

That does freeze my bones around!

Selfish! vain!

Eternal bane!

That free love with bondage bound.”

Call your mother. She misses you.

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The Great Goddess in ASOIAF, Part V

Wait! What About the Horde of Hoary Whores?

You thought I forgot about the whores, didn’t you?

Har! You know nothing!

Hoary Hairs

As seen in Part I, it seems that many people whose hair has turned or is turning white are described as “hoary”. For these white-haired folk, they are approaching death as they age (as we all are, duh), but I think GRRM is making a point here regarding the growth of consciousness emanating from the unconscious. To understand the inevitability of one’s own suffering and demise is at the very heart of consciousness, yet true meaningfulness of existence comes from facing the abyss of the unconsciousness and then returning with gained enlightenment.

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The Great Goddess in ASOIAF, Part IV

The Throne of Games

This brings us to the most important symbol of the feminine we see in the A Song of Ice and Fire series. Given all we’ve learned to date regarding Great Goddess archetype — how it represents the foundation of unconsciousness that underlies our personal and cosmological experience — it should be no wonder to find it hiding in plain sight in this archetypal story.

There’s a reason by the first book of ASOIAF is called A Game of Thrones. The first book deals primarily with the Westerosi realpolitik and machinations involved in who would sit on the Iron Throne. It’s the first-order viewpoint of any great story, setting up relationships, betrayals, suffering and successes we see over and over again in our own history of battles over who would be king. But in ASOIAF, this is merely one game of many being played, and it becomes increasingly clear that the true battle — the forgotten battle — still rages beneath the surface, both figuratively and literally.

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The Great Goddess in ASOIAF, Part III

Mother of Dragons

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There are too many examples of the Great Goddess in the world created by GRRM to be catalogued in any one summary. As seen earlier, even mentions of the “whore” archetype are overwhelming without considering the other aspects — benevolent and terrifying — portrayed throughout the book series. Fortunately, we have one character who exhibits many of the facets of the Great Goddess, each in their turn as the series progresses.

Prince Aegon sounded shocked. It was plain that he had never before considered the possibility that his bride-to-be might refuse him. “You don’t know her.” He picked up his heavy horse and put it down with a thump.

The dwarf shrugged. “I know that she spent her childhood in exile, impoverished, living on dreams and schemes, running from one city to the next, always fearful, never safe, friendless but for a brother who was by all accounts half-mad … a brother who sold her maidenhood to the Dothraki for the promise of an army. I know that somewhere out upon the grass her dragons hatched, and so did she. I know she is proud. How not? What else was left her but pride? I know she is strong. How not? The Dothraki despise weakness. If Daenerys had been weak, she would have perished with Viserys. I know she is fierce. Astapor, Yunkai, and Meereen are proof enough of that. She has crossed the grasslands and the red waste, survived assassins and conspiracies and fell sorceries, grieved for a brother and a husband and a son, trod the cities of the slavers to dust beneath her dainty sandaled feet. Now, how do you suppose this queen will react when you turn up with your begging bowl in hand and say, ‘Good morrow to you, Auntie. I am your nephew, Aegon, returned from the dead. I’ve been hiding on a poleboat all my life, but now I’ve washed the blue dye from my hair and I’d like a dragon, please … and oh, did I mention, my claim to the Iron Throne is stronger than your own?’ “

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The Great Goddess in ASOIAF, Part II

madonna like a virgin

You’re a Strange Anima

The religious and mythological symbolism of the Whore is an ancient one, as it is a key characteristic of the Great Goddess archetype. She is a fundamental means by which our deep unconscious reveals itself to us, as it is how we perceive the psychological construct known as the anima. Writing in Aion, the revolutionary psychologist C.G. Jung describes “The Syzygy: Anima and Animus”:

The precision-making factor is the anima, or rather the unconscious as represented by the anima. Whenever she appears, in dreams, visions, and fantasies, she takes on a personified form, thus demonstrating that the factor she embodies possesses all the outstanding characteristics of a feminine being. She is not an invention of the conscious, but a spontaneous figure of the unconscious. Nor is she a substitute figure for the mother. On the contrary, there is every likelihood that the numinous qualities which make the mother-imago so dangerously powerful derive from the collective archetype of the anima, which is incarnated anew in every male child.

Similarly, the corresponding masculine incarnated within females is the animus. Together, these two archetypes exist in all of us, but because one is almost always more dominant in how we display our selves, it can create internal conflict that manifests in our behaviour, either positively or negatively. If integrated properly, however, we can attain a higher, more fulfilling degree of understanding of our selves and in our own actions.

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The Great Goddess in ASOIAF, Part I

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Introduction

“What, me, celibate? The whores would go begging from Dorne to Casterly Rock. No, I just want to stand on top of the Wall and piss off the edge of the world.”

Thus says the Night’s King — er, Tyrion — in A Game of Thrones, with the first of many, many references to “whores” throughout the entire series.

I don’t claim to know the mind or heart of author George RR Martin. Maybe he has a fetish with sex workers. It’s possible, after all, as a man has his desires and interests. However, given his peculiar predilection for punnery, we should have a strong suspicion that there is a larger narrative purpose behind his obsession.

On the surface, the prevalence of prostitution motifs in the extended ASOIAF story reflects our own world, not only in the mediaeval Europe inspirations of fantasy but throughout our extended history, and even far before then. The world’s oldest profession has held a controversial position in all cultures, conjuring up a variety of feelings of lust, revulsion, exploitation, empowerment, greed and even sacredness, depending on the context. That sex work plays a prominent role in GRRM’s worlds is not as surprising as why it doesn’t come up more often in other fantasy literature.

Maybe he’s just highlighting the prominent misogyny found in our world. It’s possible. Our modern sensibilities are quite attuned to this sort of literary approach, and not without reason. GRRM is a noted feminist and it wouldn’t shock us to uncover a wide bevy of cultural criticism in this fashion. The term “whore” prevails throughout not only referring to sex workers, but on many of the female protagonists and key characters (not to mention a few male ones), regardless of their station. It’s a slur, and whether there is slander or merit to these references, the humanity of the target is degraded, consciously or otherwise. That the reader picks up on this is GRRM’s doing; the social commentary is noted. (For an interesting conversation on the use of sex work in ASOIAF, I encourage you to listen in on Lucifer Means Lightbringer’s podcast episode with Jinx Lierre.)

Yet the subtext suggests he’s doing something more. I can’t think of another contemporary writer in any genre who employs a denser tapestry of symbolism and motifs in his stories than GRRM. The thematic repetitions beat on and on like a drum, from the blatant use of house sigils to represent characteristics to how every structure in the story seems to evoke a weirwood tree.

Therefore, in this essay, I will try to make the case that the term “whore” was deliberately used to symbolize the hoary “others”, those pale shadows underlying the entire narrative arc. Yes, that’s right. I’m going there. So, please forgive how I use the term “whore” here. GRRM is doing this for a specific reason.

And yet again, dear reader, it goes even deeper. I will also show how both the use of “whore” and “hoar” (and other ASOIAF homonyms) are related on a more primeval level. Whether or not it was GRRM’s conscious doing (I’m going with the latter), the symbolism is a reflection on our own psyche’s collective unconscious, a.k.a. the Great Goddess of world myth.

But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. Business comes first.

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Short Hiatus

Hi y’all!

As you might have noticed, I’m taking a short break. I have a few IRL projects on the go that require my attention, and I wanted to catch up on some different reading for a little bit. Immersing oneself into Nietzsche and Jung too deeply and without a break can be a bit much, as you might know.

In case you’re interested, I’m currently re-reading Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Stories book series, which is so much freaking fun. I’ve also bought some collections of mythical stories for children that I’m reading nightly to my kids. We are focusing on the stories of King Arthur, and I’m training my kids how to be heroes, because what else is fatherhood for?

Anyway, I’m aiming to have my next essay up in April or early May at the latest. I’m looking forward to diving into the material again real soon.

You can also find me in the Twitter peanut gallery if you want to discuss anything here.

 

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The Cosmic Tree in ASOIAF

Like many of you, when I think of Christmas, I think of extruding the entrails of sacrificial victims onto boughs of trees in a ritualistic blood orgy through which we beseech the benevolence of the higher spirits, fulfilling our contractual obligations in exchange for rebirth from death and future prosperity.

christmas-tree

‘Tis the Season!

The theory is that the modern Christmas tree derived, at least in part, from Norse sacrificial rituals, whereby a victim would have their guts strewn about tree branches to recreate the manner in which the god Odin sacrificed himself on the world tree Yggdrasil so as to achieve cosmic wisdom. There is doubt among scholars on the veracity of this story, and most seem to think that if this occurred, it was not particularly widespread and limited to the noble and priestly classes at most.

Nonetheless, the Germanic-Nordic contributions to the modern Western Christmas celebration cannot be discounted. Santa Claus was heavily inspired by Odin and his eight-legged horse Sleipnir riding through the skies during Yuletide on his Wild Hunt. Tradition has it that St. Boniface aborted an attempted ritualistic sacrifice of a boy on Thor’s Oak by cutting down the tree, from which a fir sprouted forth, thus representing the conquest of German paganism by Christianity. It was the Germans who popularized the modern concept of the Christmas tree, which they later brought over to America.

But this whole thing is strange, right? Bringing a tree inside your home and lighting it up during the darkest days of winter seems a bit arbitrary, no? It certainly does not appear logical. Yet, there is method to this merry madness.

In this essay, we will consider the concept of the Axis Mundi, a.k.a. the World Tree, a.k.a. the Cosmic Tree, a.k.a. the Cosmic Pillar, a.k.a the Tree of Life, a.k.a. the Navel of the World, etc., and see how this idea permeates virtually every culture across time (and even our living rooms during Yuletide).

We’ll then look at how George R. R. Martin has appropriated this concept to become a central figure within the A Song of Ice & Fire (ASOIAF) book series.

Finally, we try to understand how this idea is deeply archetypal to our being, and serves a useful purpose to gaining a deeper appreciation of the world and to ourselves.

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Jaime’s Ladder: A Case Study of Shamanism in ASOIAF

Dreams, visions, prophecies — the books comprising George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice & Fire (ASOIAF) abound in shamanic symbolism. Nearly every single point-of-view (POV) character exhibits some form of mystical experience connecting them with a higher spiritual realm and representing a change in their experience or a foreshadowing of their future actions.

Many fans of the series of the series are aware of how Martin’s own dream of direwolves in the snow inspired the story, which indicates indicating that he is more than willing to offer the same visionary experience to his creations.

Obvious examples of this motif are the visions of the greenseers, such as Bloodraven or Bran Stark, but the seasoned reader should also be well attuned to the phenomenon among a wide variety of characters. POVs with this experience include Jon Snow, Danaerys, Ned, Cersei, Arya and Melissandre, while many other characters exhibit the same properties, such as the Ghost of High Heart or Patchface.

A somewhat less obvious exhibitor of the shamanic archetype is Jaime Lannister. Initially brushed off as a brash, arrogant stereotype, his character arc is one of the most captivating in the series.

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“There are no men like me … ladies

Given a closer look, we can discover the deliberate shamanic inspiration for this character and, thus, better understand our own potential to broaden the experience of our existence.

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Zombies, Werewolves & Ghosts: Body, Soul & Spirit in ASOIAF

A Song of Ice & Fire is creepy. Very creepy.

Wight

Creepy.

George R.R. Martin is a master horror writer. Part of what makes good horror fiction (or horror non-fiction, I guess) is the ability to tap deep down through to our most elemental drives, and well our unconscious fears up to the surface. While everyone loves a good jump scare now and then, the darkest, most profound works of horror are those which do not stray far from archetypal forms:

Our deepest convictions are so affected by these images that we are not even aware of their power in our conscious lives. About the only time we might recognize a glimpse of their true nature is when they make an appearance in our dream-world or daydream fantasies. But even then, the archetypes “comport themselves like ghosts” and fade away as quickly as they materialize, like spirits on the wind.

The purpose of this essay is to not focus on specifically horror aspects of ASOIAF. Rather, I intend to show how awareness of Jungian archetypes can help us understand the components of our being, namely our body, soul and spirit. Then, I will take a few examples of how these components of being are being explored within the ASOIAF stories within this perspective, including the wonderful horror tropes. Finally, I will offer a few comments on how we can use these stories to look upon our own lives and better understand the horrors and sufferings we all face in the real world.

Yeah, fun stuff.

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