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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Posted in Axis Mundi, Mythology, Thesis | 2 Comments

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.

shrek-prince-charming

“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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A Tragedy of Ice and Fire

I was reading some Nietzsche recently, as one does, and it struck me that his analysis of Greek culture could have immediate relevance to the most notable modern re-configuration of mythology, namely George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book series. Whether it was a happy accident or divine illumination, I cannot say, and I suppose that doesn’t matter. What matters is that I noticed it and am articulating it with you.

Recent scholarship of the book series found on the ASOIAF forums and the asoiaf sub-reddit have shown that GRRM has secretly but deliberately created a synecdoche of mythology in his fantasy world, featuring heroes, villains, dragons, prophecy and resurrection as key drivers of the narrative.

While the plotline specifics of this story are all Martin’s, the symbols and themes underlying the story are ancient and even primordial. They represent truths hidden behind the artifices of our modern culture such as modern science, skepticism and logic. These truths are the IRL old gods inherent in both nature and our innermost psyche that reveal themselves through various revelation, such as dreams or hallucinogenic episodes.

In this essay, I will attempt to interpret Nietzsche’s thesis that dramatic tragedy is the synthesis of the two primary traditions of the ancient Greek art forms, the Apollinian and the Dionysian, and how this synthesis manifests itself through song. Then I will select two major archetypes revealed in the story of ASOIAF and show the relationship to this Greek tragedy model. Finally, I will try to illustrate how these archetypes merge and underlie the Martin’s grand epic.

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Posted in Mythology, Thesis, Tragedy | 21 Comments

The Symbolic Significance of Ebony & Persimmon in ASOIAF

This is the first essay I wrote for the ASOIAF Forum.

I was not then nor am I now convinced of the conclusions or speculation of this significance, but I still believe that both ebony wood and persimmon fruit are symbolic of … something.

I’ll get back to this topic at some point down the road, but it will be with respect to the meaning of the symbolism identified here.

ebony-tree

Introduction

Reading ASOIAF as a modern-day mythological epic, as Lucifer Means Lightbringer (among others) encourages us to do, has opened up an entirely rich and varied world that goes far beyond mere games of thrones, clashes of kings, storms of swords, etc. You can hardly get past a few pages before you are inundated with symbolic text linking the current events in the books to meteorological or mystical events of the past – and, possibly, the future.

Using this methodology, which has uncovered strong links between supposedly disparate symbols such as weirwoods, the Grey King and Azor Ahai, you start to look for other patterns hidden in plain view, invisible information which is easily brought to light if you know what you’re looking for.

Or, rather, if you know how to look for it.

In this essay, I will examine the elemental duality which GRRM seems to be expressing throughout the narrative in a number of ways. Then, I will propose that one symbolic aspect of this duality has been more apparent than the other, and so I will bring forth some evidence of the opposing aspect through a few examples taken from the text of the main series. Finally, I will briefly speculate on the ramifications of this elemental duality and how it could potentially impact future events in the ASOIAF saga.

While the speculation is a fun and creative exercise for yours truly, my primary objective is to correctly identify the symbolic representations of this elemental duality such as they exist. I hope to encourage the reader to challenge these findings and undergo their own search for meaning behind these and other symbols. In particular, as I haven’t examined TWOIAF, the Dunk & Egg novellas or the other in-universe writings in great detail, I welcome and encourage any contributions from those writings in particular.

Before moving on here, I strongly urge you to read or listen to the work by @LML and others with respect to mythical symbolism in ASIOAF. It would make understanding this essay a whole lot easier.

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Tinfoil #1

Dareon, the silver-tongued brother of the Night’s Watch was sent to the wall for bedding the daughter of a noble lord.

Given his name and what we know of the peccadilloes of a particular highborn lass, I’m guessing he enjoyed the pleasures of Amerei “Gatehouse Ami” Frey, the Lady of Darry before being caught and sent to the Wall.

Because why not?

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An Old Way at Reading A Song of Ice & Fire

I started reading the ASOIAF books in 2011, right after I saw the first episode of the Game  of Thrones series. After about five complete re-reads, as well as at least one go through each of the published literary canon, I remain fascinated by the world George RR Martin has created.

The HBO series is great viewing no doubt. Wonderful characters, varied storylines, smashing special effects, but it pales in comparison to the depth and complexity and human insight tackled in the written work.

With every re-read, I find more intrigue and subtext after subtext that I never found previously. This has been enhanced appreciably by the ASOIAF fandom, in the forums and social media and podcasts and YouTube channels.

Over the past year or so, I’ve been introduced to an entirely new subtext, that of the layers upon layers of mythological symbology that Martin has appropriated from various cultures from around the world.

What really brought this to light was the Great Empire of the Dawn video from History of Westerns podcast featuring Lucifer Means Lightbringer.

LmL explains his approach as such:

The central hypothesis of the mythical astronomy theory is that many of the ancient legends of Westeros and the rest of the “Planetos” are actually telling us about the global cataclysm which is known as the Long Night through the use of symbolism and metaphor. This would be consistent with mythology in real life, which is quite often based on observation of the heavens and the cycles and characteristics of nature and its forces…I’ll be comparing the various legends and myths of the story to the main characters and their symbolism, and to scenes which I think contain metaphorical references to the Long Night events. As you’ll quickly see, I do not think George chooses his descriptive language haphazardly, but rather with the utmost intention. The reoccurring turns of phrase that we find throughout the books create a tapestry of symbolism which is remarkably consistent, and I would suggest, meaningful.

Here’s LmL’s main thesis:

To LmL, to History of Westeros, and to all who have contributed to reveal this hidden symbolism in the writings and opened up a vast new perspective, you have my thanks.

Synchronicity is a bizarre and wondrous thing, and it so happens that at that same time I was learning about comparative symbology, I started becoming familiar with the online lectures of Jordan B Peterson. Dr Peterson is a clinical psychologist and a tenured professor out of the University of Toronto who lectures on the psychological significance of mythology and religion. His lectures have become incredibly popular online, and for good reason.

By following these lectures and reading material, including a study of some of Dr Peterson’s own influences, such as Karl Jung, Friedrich Nietzsche and Merced Eliade, I quickly came to the conclusion that ASOIAF would be a gold mine for a similar approach to myth and religion.

You see, the work of LmL and others, while both prodigious and insightful, has missed this approach, at least to date. While LmL notes that this symbology is meaningful, so far the bulk of his effort has been toward exposing these symbols and metaphors, their sources and analogs, and how they are being applied to plot, character and theme.

But mythology is more than simply a means to understand material phenomenon. Yes, natural forces and cycles inspired many mythological stories, such as how the abduction of Persephone explains the cycle of the seasons. However, it’s much more complex than that. The reasons these stories and symbols endure is because they resonate to the very core of our being, of who we are as individuals, societies and even the cosmos. These symbols aren’t esoteric abstractions; they are us.

I don’t want to remake the wheel, which would be poorly constructed even with the blueprint provided by more observant folk than me. I couldn’t even if I wanted to. This approach is as old as the stories themselves. Ancient societies understood them implicitly. They weren’t simplistic, anachronistic pagans worshipping rocks that fall from the sky. They were people trying to figure out how to live with each other in the most successful way possible, just like we are.

I hope my efforts on these pages will be to take these uncovered representations and ascertain their underlying psychological meaning, as best to my ability.

Perhaps someone has already undertaken this approach. I’m not aware of them, but that’s not my concern. This is an exercise to develop my own ability to read and critique.

If I’m really lucky, I might gain a deeper understanding of myself.

And maybe survive the next Long Night.

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