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The Nature of Magic and the Gods


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#1 MadMikes

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Posted 14 September 2013 - 05:30 PM

I've always been fascinated by the Magic that GRRM puts in the stories and by extension, the religions. I've been thinking about which, if any, of the religions have some real magical basis. Obviously the Faith of the Red God has shown some significant ability, but then the Old Gods seem to have some power also, as does the Many Faced God.
I wanted to know what others think as to the natures of the Gods in Asoiaf, and their connection to magic.
It seems to me they represent natural forces in the world, which vary in strength. At the time of the books, it seems like the forces of Ice and Fire are growing strong again, but how do we think that relates to the other magical powers, which also appear to be growing?
The Warlocks are more powerful as of late, Wildfire spells are more efficient, Melisandre's powers have grown and various other magical things seem to be happening. Many think that the return of Dragons coincide with the return of magic, but is it a causal factor, or are the dragons just another aspect of magics return?

#2 juanml82

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Posted 14 September 2013 - 05:55 PM

The Seven don't seem to exist. The Old Gods are greenseers, maybe dead people sacrificed to the heart trees and so on. The Drowned God and the Red God religions seem to be onto something.

#3 Queen‍‍‍‍‍‍ Alysanne‍‍

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Posted 14 September 2013 - 06:11 PM

There is a theory that cause the Nights watch is not as strong as it used to be, magic is becoming stonger.
i.e. the wall was blocking magic out of the realm.

#4 mindchap

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Posted 14 September 2013 - 08:39 PM

From perusing the SSMs I get the feeling that GRRMs ideas of a god or gods could not be physically observed. If you can actually see what a god is doing then they can't be much of a god. As for magic I think the Old Gods and the Red priests have definite magical abilities. There are various other magics as well ie HotU, MMD. But because the story is Ice and Fire I tend to think the most powerful of all the magic we have and will observe will be the Old Gods and the Rllorists since they seem tied to the elements themselves. The seven is basically a faith based faith, much like what we have in our own world. The drowned god is still a toss up for me because there is most likely something there(Patchface) but Martin has stated that none of the drowned men ever actually die so there's no resurrection magic there as there are with the other two elementals.

And now to pimp myself there is another thread here that you may like to breeze through. /smile.png' class='bbc_emoticon' alt=':)' />

#5 Arya kiddin'

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Posted 15 September 2013 - 03:20 AM

There is a theory that cause the Nights watch is not as strong as it used to be, magic is becoming stonger.
i.e. the wall was blocking magic out of the realm.


That's new to me. Thanks. Dragons make the magic stronger, and NW contains it. That smells of a Dany vs Jon showdown.

#6 Usrnmhsnomning

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Posted 15 September 2013 - 03:24 AM

I don't think there are any gods. Magic is definitely real.

#7 LordStoneheart

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Posted 15 September 2013 - 03:29 AM

I believe there's some sort of vein of magic, a river, a thread that some are able to tap into. Kind of like the One Power in the Wheel of Time (don't beat me up, WoT critics! let me finish!). Grrm doesn't use magic all that often or at least tries to keep it minimal to avoid deus ex machina type situations. Part of me thinks the curtain of light that Bran sees when he looks north is part of that thread of magic. Its not just one thread with the property of light though. There's darker parts of the magic thread, such as Asshai by the shadow... shadow thread. Light thread. Fire thread (Valyria/Rhllor) Ice thread (Others/NightsWatch).

There are no actual gods; just people who've tapped into the thread of magic and the powers being misinterpreted as dieties/gods.

#8 MadMikes

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Posted 15 September 2013 - 06:13 AM

There is a theory that cause the Nights watch is not as strong as it used to be, magic is becoming stonger.
i.e. the wall was blocking magic out of the realm.


But magic is said to have remained strong in the farthest East, Asshai, the Shadowlands, etc. I think maybe there are two sources of magic. The North and The East. It seems that Ice/Earth magic seems to flow into Westeros from the North, but the Wall has heavily restricted it, holding it back. Westeros still had some semblance of magic after the Wall, but this was the dregs of magic from the East. The Alchemists guild used fire magic, and were powerful up until the Doom. After the Doom, the lands west of Valyria seemed to lose the majority of magic. Even in the East magic weakened after the Doom, with the Warlocks of Qarth seemingly losing their power. Maybe the Wall holds back magic in the West and the Doom (or the Valyrians use of magic in the East) disrupted the flow of it from the East. Now magic is growing stronger from both sides. What connection this has to the Gods i don't know. Maybe humans are just pawns in a conflict between abstract, god like entities that rule over the two sources of magic?

#9 Ser Pounce FTW

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Posted 15 September 2013 - 06:25 AM

The Seven don't seem to exist.


This is true. Of all the religions, the Seven have shown little in the way of miracles, magic or the supernatural. Their "power" lies completely in the people that belong to the Seven - High Septon, Septas, believers - and will no doubt increase in power now that they have been armed. I'm sure it's purposefully done since the Seven is a loose version of Catholicism and Martin was Catholic.

The Old Gods are interesting in that from the outsider, they really "look" the most like the religions we know in RL. They seem to be omniscient, they recognize sacrifice and can even have you "feel/hear" them. The Red God has a great show but doesn't have the feel of religions we recognize in the modern world. Still, there is no denying the "power" that is connected with R'hollor. The Many Faced God is the most confusing in that it doesn't really match a religion as much as a following/organization that has mastered some level of magic. All in all, it's is an interesting part of the tale.

The theory of the Wall is interesting. I agree, there does seem to be some connection between the magic in the realm and it's strength.

#10 Frozentree

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Posted 15 September 2013 - 06:51 AM

Magic and religions are not directly connected. That a red priests does some spells and says it was R'hllor does not mean it really was R'hllor. They simply worship R'hllor, so they attribute it to him, because if he is the real god, and they believe he is, then, well, who else is there to create the magic?
For the Old Gods, it is the other way around. There is magic, thanks to which people and cotf were able to warg trees and stay preserved in them, becoming what is known as the Old Gods.

People who say that the 7 are not real because they have no magic are forgetting one important thing: if they are real, they do have a lot of magic, because they'd have the power to heal, to kill, to make someone strong, to make someone skillful, etc., basically everything the believers contribute to them

#11 Ser Pounce FTW

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Posted 15 September 2013 - 07:25 AM

Magic and religions are not directly connected.


I think the point here is there is the assumption that religion is magic and vice versa.

People who say that the 7 are not real because they have no magic are forgetting one important thing: if they are real, they do have a lot of magic, because they'd have the power to heal, to kill, to make someone strong, to make someone skillful, etc., basically everything the believers contribute to them


The Seven haven't shown any magic in the series, have they? They seem to have their following based on just the knowledge that they "exist" and, most likely, missionaries and believers who spread the word.

#12 Pero the first of His name

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Posted 15 September 2013 - 07:38 AM

There is a varying "magical field", places where it is stronger, objects and beings that enhance it and those who have the knowledge, ability and/or predispositions to use it differently.

We saw no gods, for all we know gods are just how people describe magic, and other things they are clueless about.

#13 Bright Blue Eyes

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Posted 15 September 2013 - 07:46 AM

The Seven haven't shown any magic in the series, have they? They seem to have their following based on just the knowledge that they "exist" and, most likely, missionaries and believers who spread the word.

Davos disagrees. Even Jaime attributes his dream of Brienne, Rhaegar, his mother and the rest to the Mother, as far as his agnostic self is capable. By and large, each and every god in the series has "shown" magic.

That gods and magic are most likely not related at all is a completely different argument.

#14 Stannis Eats No Peaches

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Posted 15 September 2013 - 07:48 AM

I don't think that the gods exist. The origins of certain magic may be attributed to them by religions, but no true gods actually exist.

#15 Ser Pounce FTW

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Posted 15 September 2013 - 07:55 AM

Davos disagrees. Even Jaime attributes his dream of Brienne, Rhaegar, his mother and the rest to the Mother, as far as his agnostic self is capable. By and large, each and every god in the series has "shown" magic.


When I look at resurrections and divination "from" R'hollor, divination, hearing whispered voices and 'feeling" the old gods in the godswoods, and the Many Faced god allowing followers to change faces, having a dream seems very non magical. What's more, wasn't Jaime sleeping on a weirwood stump when he had the dream? He may attribute it to the Mother because of what he's been told about the Seven but the reader is being told something very different.

#16 Bright Blue Eyes

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Posted 15 September 2013 - 08:32 AM

When I look at resurrections and divination "from" R'hollor, divination, hearing whispered voices and 'feeling" the old gods in the godswoods, and the Many Faced god allowing followers to change faces, having a dream seems very non magical. What's more, wasn't Jaime sleeping on a weirwood stump when he had the dream? He may attribute it to the Mother because of what he's been told about the Seven but the reader is being told something very different.

It is as much attributed to the Sevens as ressurections and divination to R'hllor, whispering leaves and a feeling to the Old Gods, changing faces to the Many-Faced God. Or CPR to the Drowned God.
And Davos on the Spears of the Merling King is far, far away from anything beside the Seven (and maybe the Drowned God).

It's al in the interpretation of the people experiencing it.

#17 Ser Pounce FTW

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Posted 15 September 2013 - 08:39 AM

It is as much attributed to the Sevens as ressurections and divination to R'hllor, whispering leaves and a feeling to the Old Gods, changing faces to the Many-Faced God. Or CPR to the Drowned God.
And Davos on the Spears of the Merling King is far, far away from anything beside the Seven (and maybe the Drowned God).

It's al in the interpretation of the people experiencing it.


Religion and magic are indeed up to those experiencing it but since the OP is asking the reader for their interpretation based on what they've experienced while reading, I think there is a disconnect between citing what the characters in the story are interpreting based on their experiences in the story.

I've always been fascinated by the Magic that GRRM puts in the stories and by extension, the religions. I've been thinking about which, if any, of the religions have some real magical basis.


Real life not story, if I've read that correctly.

Edited by Ser Pounce FTW, 15 September 2013 - 08:40 AM.


#18 Bright Blue Eyes

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Posted 15 September 2013 - 09:12 AM

The point is, that the Old Gods/Red R'hllor/Many-Faced One/Drowned God have no more magic directly tied to them than any faith else.

#19 Breaking Stannis

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Posted 15 September 2013 - 09:57 AM

As someone said being a god in Martin's world means being as absent as possible.
However i think we can figure out the Old Gods and their magic relatively accurate. We know Old Gods are dead greenseers who go into the weirwoods. Their power and knowledge accumulates in the same pool. A thousand eyes, a hundred skins, knowledge as deep as ancient roots.
So i am thinking the magic Children of the Forest performs are tapping into the source of greenseers contribute to and using it to influence the world around them. Like smashing the Arm of Dorne or turning The Neck to a swamp. But when the weirwoods of Westeros got cut down the source perhaps "lessened" and therefore was less than effective.

I don't think dragons are the source of magic at all. They definetly have some but they are very predetory if thats a term. They are too much of an animal to have that kind of influence.

It might be that the creation of the world was magic itself and with time it faded away. But why is it coming back now i cannot say.

#20 MadMikes

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Posted 15 September 2013 - 12:57 PM

I think the Old Gods could be thought of as a kind of ancestor magic maybe. Perhaps the COTF return to the natural world when they die, becoming the spirits that the living ones revere. Greenseers are just able to commune with these spirits.
The Faceless Men have a kind of magic, which allows them to bind the faces of the dead to themselves perfectly, even tapping into the memories and emotions of those dead slightly. Does this come from a God? Death is present as a God in several of the faiths and is generally feared, The Stranger, the Great Other etc. But only the Faceless Men seem to understand Death, or what I call understanding, in that they know it is just as important as life, thus they gain power through it.
I think R'hllor is more of an abstract force in the world, whose opposite is the force called the Great Other. It may even be that these forces are embodied by abstract entities, but they would be way beyond human comprehension. The humans who serve them impose their beliefs about God onto these entities, because that is the only way they can interpret them, but I doubt the two forces really care about anyone.
The Drowned God seems to be nonsense, but maybe we just haven't seen enough.

Real life not story, if I've read that correctly.


I did generally mean in the actual world rather than character interpretations, but also character interpretations are important. Melisandre's chapter for example gave a lot of insight into the magic and Gods of the story.