Ser Petyr Parker

The prevalence of godswoods and the lingering of the Old Gods

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Something I've been thinking about a bit recently is the number of castles in the Seven Kingdoms that still have godswoods, even in the south. It has been thousands of years since the Andals brought the Seven with them, and the Old Gods seem to have largely died out below the Neck. Southerners make jokes about tree worship and it seems to be something they generally find a bit odd.

But godswoods are still everywhere. Why? Even vows are often made in the name of the Old Gods as well as the Seven.

I don't think it can be explained by simple inertia or a fondness for tradition. I don't think it can even be explained by consideration for visitors who might worship the old gods. Space within castle walls must be valuable, and a single siege over the past few millennia could have raised the value of timber significantly. Over thousands of years, no one has ever decided to use that space for something else, or found themselves needing timber enough to fell the trees?

What if some kind of "magic" is influencing even the most pious, Seven-worshipping southerners just enough that cutting down the wood would just feel wrong? The Seven don't appear to have much power, if they exist at all, so perhaps they're not very religiously satisfying. What if, deep down in their subconscious, all the people of Westeros feel a need to preserve these godswoods? It doesn't need to be a strong feeling, just a general unease with the idea of destroying them.

I don't think there's a lot of evidence either way for this, so it's not a strong theory. The best evidence against that I can think of is that there was no particular resistance to the burning of the godswood at Dragonstone Storm's End. On the other hand, no POVs covered that event, so we don't really know how people felt about it.

Does anyone think there's anything to this? Or do the more mundane explanations (like consideration for northern visitors) cover it?

 

Further crackpottery: When the First Men came to Westeros and fought the Children, eventually they came to an accord and the First Men adopted the Old Gods. I suspect there was a strong magical element to this deal to make sure it was binding, and that the effects of it still linger. A similar thing might have happened with the Andals. What if they were forced to make peace and accept the Old Gods in some form, which even thousands of years later prevents their descendants from doing anything to "harm" the Old Gods again? Of course no one remembers this deal, but they still feel an urge to abide by it. The peace between the worshippers of the Old Gods and the Seven is quite remarkable, considering that it has lasted for thousands of years. Going back to the burning of the godswood at Dragonstone, it took an outsider, not bound by this ancient deal and with no inherent understanding of it, to provide the impetus to make that happen.

Edited by Ser Petyr Parker
Correction

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My guess is that it is a mix of tradition and residual magic. A couple quotes from Bran's and Sansa's chapters:

Jojen says to Bran:

Quote

There is a power in living wood, a power strong as fire

And Sansa thoughts in the Red Keep:

Quote

There was something wild about a godswood; even here, in the heart of the castle at the heart of the city, you could feel the old gods watching with a thousand unseen eyes.

 

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27 minutes ago, Ser Petyr Parker said:

Something I've been thinking about a bit recently is the number of castles in the Seven Kingdoms that still have godswoods, even in the south. It has been thousands of years since the Andals brought the Seven with them, and the Old Gods seem to have largely died out below the Neck. Southerners make jokes about tree worship and it seems to be something they generally find a bit odd.

But godswoods are still everywhere. Why? Even vows are often made in the name of the Old Gods as well as the Seven.

I don't think it can be explained by simple inertia or a fondness for tradition. I don't think it can even be explained by consideration for visitors who might worship the old gods. Space within castle walls must be valuable, and a single siege over the past few millennia could have raised the value of timber significantly. Over thousands of years, no one has ever decided to use that space for something else, or found themselves needing timber enough to fell the trees?

What if some kind of "magic" is influencing even the most pious, Seven-worshipping southerners just enough that cutting down the wood would just feel wrong? The Seven don't appear to have much power, if they exist at all, so perhaps they're not very religiously satisfying. What if, deep down in their subconscious, all the people of Westeros feel a need to preserve these godswoods? It doesn't need to be a strong feeling, just a general unease with the idea of destroying them.

I don't think there's a lot of evidence either way for this, so it's not a strong theory. The best evidence against that I can think of is that there was no particular resistance to the burning of the godswood at Dragonstone. On the other hand, no POVs covered that event, so we don't really know how people felt about it.

Does anyone think there's anything to this? Or do the more mundane explanations (like consideration for northern visitors) cover it?

 

Further crackpottery: When the First Men came to Westeros and fought the Children, eventually they came to an accord and the First Men adopted the Old Gods. I suspect there was a strong magical element to this deal to make sure it was binding, and that the effects of it still linger. A similar thing might have happened with the Andals. What if they were forced to make peace and accept the Old Gods in some form, which even thousands of years later prevents their descendants from doing anything to "harm" the Old Gods again? Of course no one remembers this deal, but they still feel an urge to abide by it. The peace between the worshippers of the Old Gods and the Seven is quite remarkable, considering that it has lasted for thousands of years. Going back to the burning of the godswood at Dragonstone, it took an outsider, not bound by this ancient deal and with no inherent understanding of it, to provide the impetus to make that happen.

Many First men houses married into the Andals peacefully, so they kept a tree for traditions sake but converted to the Faith of the Seven. Hence why most noble houses still have a God's wood?

What's peculiar is that there is a God's wood at K.L. Maybe just a sign of respect by Aegon? Maegor?

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23 minutes ago, AlaskanSandman said:

Many First men houses married into the Andals peacefully, so they kept a tree for traditions sake but converted to the Faith of the Seven. Hence why most noble houses still have a God's wood?

It just seems like a lot of commitment for that explanation. Maybe at first, but thousands of years later? Is there really enough intermarrying between the different religious groups to justify keeping a godswood just in case? I won't rule it out as the explanation GRRM has in mind, but it just doesn't seem to account for the apparently almost universal presence of godswoods in castles.

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1 minute ago, Ser Petyr Parker said:

It just seems like a lot of commitment for that explanation. Maybe at first, but thousands of years later? Is there really enough intermarrying between the different religious groups to justify keeping a godswood just in case? I won't rule it out as the explanation GRRM has in mind, but it just doesn't seem to account for the apparently almost universal presence of godswoods in castles.

If im not mistaken most are gone from the houses of the south, it's just certain castles that still have them, largely the old ones that trace back to Garth and the Age of Heroes. 

Though it's weird too that they tried to plant one in the Eyrie and that it wouldn't take hold cause of the soil. Yet they sit upon a weirwood thone. Close enough? For a veryyyy Andal House, this is a strange inclusion. 

There may be some other reason for keeping some of them though, other than just heritage after all. Or maybe they just didn't have any building plans to replace it so why bother? The Andals may have recognized the power of the trees at the least, even if not liking them.

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3 minutes ago, AlaskanSandman said:

If im not mistaken most are gone from the houses of the south, it's just certain castles that still have them, largely the old ones that trace back to Garth and the Age of Heroes.

According to the wiki, there are godswoods are the following southern castles: Casterly Rock, the Eyrie, Harrenhal, Highgarden, Raventree Hall, the Red Keep, Storm's End (burnt) and the Whispers. That's not a long list, but it covers a lot of the major strongholds. It's also not an exhaustive list - I think it just covers the castles with confirmed godswoods. However, I don't remember ever specifically hearing that somewhere doesn't have a godswood. I think by extrapolation from the fact that most places we've visited do have godswoods, we could assume that most places we haven't visited also do. That could be wrong, though.

Correction: Earlier I said Stannis burnt the godswood at Dragonstone, but it was actually the one at Storm's End.

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7 minutes ago, AlaskanSandman said:

If im not mistaken most are gone from the houses of the south, it's just certain castles that still have them, largely the old ones that trace back to Garth and the Age of Heroes. 

Though it's weird too that they tried to plant one in the Eyrie and that it wouldn't take hold cause of the soil. Yet they sit upon a weirwood thone. Close enough? For a veryyyy Andal House, this is a strange inclusion. 

There may be some other reason for keeping some of them though, other than just heritage after all. Or maybe they just didn't have any building plans to replace it so why bother? The Andals may have recognized the power of the trees at the least, even if not liking them.

The Eyrie is built in a mountain previously occupied by Griffin King and the Winged Knight. The Winged Knight was able to control eagles, was friendly with the giants and married a CoTF. So it is possible that the woodswood and weirwood throne are remnants of that time.

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2 minutes ago, Ser Petyr Parker said:

According to the wiki, there are godswoods are the following southern castles: Casterly Rock, the Eyrie, Harrenhal, Highgarden, Raventree Hall, the Red Keep, Storm's End (burnt) and the Whispers. That's not a long list, but it covers a lot of the major strongholds. It's also not an exhaustive list - I think it just covers the castles with confirmed godswoods. However, I don't remember ever specifically hearing that somewhere doesn't have a godswood. I think by extrapolation from the fact that most places we've visited do have godswoods, we could assume that most places we haven't visited also do. That could be wrong, though.

Correction: Earlier I said Stannis burnt the godswood at Dragonstone, but it was actually the one at Storm's End.

Well Casterly Rock, High Garden, and Storm's End are all castles held by descendants of Garth. Raventree Hall is interesting based on it's size, association to Blackwoods and by extension Bloodraven, and the Blackwoods used to rule from where the Starks now rule. All first men houses though possibly just clinging to tradition and heritage, along with the Whispers.

The Eyrie is interesting for above mentioned reasons. Though i must say that the Winged Knight wassss said to have married a COTF even though he was an Andal of the Faith of the Seven. Even stranger.

Harrenhal is very strange as there is no reason for Harren to have any connection to Weirwood trees and the Old Gods. Yet, there it is. 

The Red Keep again for reasons mentioned before. Aegon seemed about the Faith of the Seven and even went to his Sept on Dragonstone before beginning his invasion.

So Eyrie, Harrenhal and Red Keep are the ones i find strange.

But i have suspicions about House Hoare and their knowledge after conquering and ruling Old Town for a time. A looked over detail. 

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3 minutes ago, AlaskanSandman said:

Well Casterly Rock, High Garden, and Storm's End are all castles held by descendants of Garth. Raventree Hall is interesting based on it's size, association to Blackwoods and by extension Bloodraven, and the Blackwoods used to rule from where the Starks now rule. All first men houses though possibly just clinging to tradition and heritage, along with the Whispers.

The Eyrie is interesting for above mentioned reasons. Though i must say that the Winged Knight wassss said to have married a COTF even though he was an Andal of the Faith of the Seven. Even stranger.

Harrenhal is very strange as there is no reason for Harren to have any connection to Weirwood trees and the Old Gods. Yet, there it is. 

The Red Keep again for reasons mentioned before. Aegon seemed about the Faith of the Seven and even went to his Sept on Dragonstone before beginning his invasion.

So Eyrie, Harrenhal and Red Keep are the ones i find strange.

But i have suspicions about House Hoare and their knowledge after conquering and ruling Old Town for a time. A looked over detail. 

The legend of the Winged Knight (First Men) was merged with the legend of the Falcon Knight (an Arryn and an Andal).

Edited by Tucu

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8 minutes ago, Tucu said:

The Eyrie is built in a mountain previously occupied by Griffin King and the Winged Knight. The Winged Knight was able to control eagles, was friendly with the giants and married a CoTF. So it is possible that the woodswood and weirwood throne are remnants of that time.

The Winged Knight? With heavy implications in the Knight part? There are alot of good reasons to suspect Ser Arty's Arryn, the Falcon Knight, was the Winged Knight. Why else is their a knight in westeros, in the Vale no less?  This goes into concepts of a fudged time line by the Maesters and or Septons who first supposedly set down the histories. Possibly to dissociate them selves from certain events they may have been involved in long ago, but not as long ago as they'd have us believe. 

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2 minutes ago, AlaskanSandman said:

The Winged Knight? With heavy implications in the Knight part? There are alot of good reasons to suspect Ser Arty's Arryn, the Falcon Knight, was the Winged Knight. Why else is their a knight in westeros, in the Vale no less?  This goes into concepts of a fudged time line by the Maesters and or Septons who first supposedly set down the histories. Possibly to dissociate them selves from certain events they may have been involved in long ago, but not as long ago as they'd have us believe. 

Probably just a matter of translation. Winged Knight is the name of a First Men hero in the andal language. We don't know what was the exact name in the Old Tongue. The world book tells us that is likely that the legend of the Winged Knight was merged with the Falcon Knight.

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10 minutes ago, Tucu said:

The legend of the Winged Knight (First Men) was merged with the legend of the Falcon Knight (an Arryn and an Andal).

That's what the Maesters claim as reported by the Septons. Since the Septons claim the Andals came 6000 years ago, with some Maesters thinking 4000, while others think 2000. Same discrepancy in Alyssa Arryn. Except if you look at events and reports in the east and west. It shows that the Andals likely arrived much sooner than 6 or 4000 years ago, having arrived at the Axe and resided their for some time before being driven out by the Valyrians finally, ending the migration of Andals into Westeros. A knight in the Vale? Why? The Age of Heroes didn't end at the Long Night. Look at the text about the Reach and Serwyn of the Mirror shield, and Davos the Dragon slayer, and these knights of the Age of heroes, then goes on to list the Gardener Kings they served. Alyssa Arryn in part of the Age of Heroes legends and cant be with out the first Arryn, Ser Artys, founding the house. I could go on about the Roynish wars helping to line up events and such but i think theres enough credible evidence already to suggest my point about the time line being misunderstood or off and the Age of Heroes ending much more recently than you think. 

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Even Elio and Linda have made references to this time line issue GRRM seems to be alluding to. 

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Don't godswood trees have "faces"? That may have put the men off cutting down these trees. Also, we are talking about old forests here. Even those who follow the New Gods will have respect for old trees and forests. It could be the reason for small patches being left off. The old trees symbolism ancestry too. Like someone of an old house can say, look at that weirwood tree in our backyard, that is how old our house is. 

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Most castles have a Godswood. Even the Andal ones.  We visit several in the books but it is not said that most southern houses don't keep one, only that there are few Weirwoods in the South outside of the Godswoods, and the Isle of Faces. It is, in fact, the Gods wood at Storms end which is burnt by Stannis we don't know if Dragonstone has one, But I suspect it might be the only castle which does not. There is a Garden there called Aegon's garden which sounds like a Godswood with no hearttree. But it is not referred to as such. 

I suspect also that the Godswood at KL predates the castle. And that when the land was cleared to build the castle they simply retained part of the original woodland within the castle walls and carved out a heart tree from the great Oak. As there was no Weirwood there. We do know not all southern Godswoods have a weirwood, and that this practice of using another tree does occur. But it does seem most have a weirwood. given that Visenya, Aegon & Rhaenys were attempting to integrate into Westeros and took the faith of the 7 it makes sense that they'd want their castle to feel like all the rest in the realm and have a Godswood. Especially if they expected to have Northern Lords visit, take up offices such as Master of whatever or even Hand etc. Which one assumes they would anticipate. 

The Eyrie though is a Mystery! The Andals don't feel like a culture to make a Godswood out of respect for visiting Northerners and yet, the Gates of the Moon also built by the Arryn's and I assume given they attempted to plant one at the Eyrie that there is a Godswood here, though it has not been mentioned as yet?  I'm kind of assuming that in TWOW Sansa will visit it though. - A dangerous move for a girl disguised as a former novice of the 7. And thus a clue to whoever is watching her as to her true identity. And also an opportunity for Bran to try to contact his sister. 

My feelings regarding why so many Godswood south of the neck is that most people upon converting to the seven still understood and felt the sentiment Sansa expresses that you can feel the Old Gods watching you in the Godswoods. And so despite conversion still could not get rid of them. It felt wrong, combined with respect for the shared faiths of Westeros.

Imagine trying to make a marriage between a Tully & a Stark if the Tullys had felled their godswood?  "You wish to wed my eldest Daughter Lord Tully? I think not, for where would she worship? how could she hold her faith in your godless castle? No, I think not my Lord."  Many southern brides have gone North and many Northern ones gone South too, this would not be possible if either refused to provide the means for them to keep their own gods. Eddard has a sept built for Catelyn as she is the first Seven worshipping wife to a Stark. But building a sept is relatively easy compared to growing a wood, and a Heartree large enough to carve. 

When the South mostly took the seven they still had to maintain a working relationship with the North and whilst some people see them as heathens who worship tree's note these are usually either extremely religious people or actual Septons. Most Southerners just accept the Northerner's faith and respect their beliefs. Trade would be hard if you had burnt your godswood or used the sacred heart tree to build a cart. Imagine trying to buy beer or sell your wines when the Lord see's you as a disrespectful heathen? Fuck you and the horse you rode in on is how I think it would go if a Seven worshipping Lord who had felled his Godswood asked to buy timber from the North. 

 

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A merge of the old and new, I'd say. Rituals from pagan times survive in Christianity, atheists celebrate formerly religious holidays... traditions die hard, only their spirit changes with time. Where I live, there is a cave at a place called Bull Rock. The name can be found in the historical records from 17th century, along with folk tales about a procession of maids entering/exiting the cave, a white or fiery bull roaming around etc. And what was found during archeological research in 19th century? A cult site and a bull statuette, among others.

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One possibility for the Eyrie:

When the First Men of the Vale united behind Robar II and made their last stand and lost to Artys Arryn, they immediately swore fealty, helped Artys drive the dissenters into the mountains, and remained more faithful vassals than most kings get from their own kind. 

Maybe this is because Artys gave them a good deal in exchange. A deal that could have included never touching the godswood atop Giant's Lance? Even if nobody else in the Vale even cares about it anymore, the Arryns still stick to their side of the deal, because it's worked out pretty well for them in the intervening years. (Also, the Arryns traditionally pride themselves on being honorable knight types, and keeping to a millennia-old contract when there's only minimal benefit in breaking it is a pretty easy way to reinforce your honor to yourself and your followers.)

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14 hours ago, The Weirwoods Eyes said:

The Eyrie though is a Mystery! The Andals don't feel like a culture to make a Godswood out of respect for visiting Northerners and yet, the Gates of the Moon also built by the Arryn's and I assume given they attempted to plant one at the Eyrie that there is a Godswood here, though it has not been mentioned as yet?  I'm kind of assuming that in TWOW Sansa will visit it though. - A dangerous move for a girl disguised as a former novice of the 7. And thus a clue to whoever is watching her as to her true identity. And also an opportunity for Bran to try to contact his sister. 

My feelings regarding why so many Godswood south of the neck is that most people upon converting to the seven still understood and felt the sentiment Sansa expresses that you can feel the Old Gods watching you in the Godswoods. And so despite conversion still could not get rid of them. It felt wrong, combined with respect for the shared faiths of Westeros.

Imagine trying to make a marriage between a Tully & a Stark if the Tullys had felled their godswood?  "You wish to wed my eldest Daughter Lord Tully? I think not, for where would she worship? how could she hold her faith in your godless castle? No, I think not my Lord."  Many southern brides have gone North and many Northern ones gone South too, this would not be possible if either refused to provide the means for them to keep their own gods. Eddard has a sept built for Catelyn as she is the first Seven worshipping wife to a Stark. But building a sept is relatively easy compared to growing a wood, and a Heartree large enough to carve. 

The Eyrie used to have a weirwood. The Arryn throne is made of one. 

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On 10/09/2017 at 3:45 AM, Ashes Of Westeros said:

The Eyrie used to have a weirwood. The Arryn throne is made of one. 

They have a throne carved from Weirwood. this does not translate to The Eyrie used to have a Weirwood. 

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