Ser Petyr Parker

The prevalence of godswoods and the lingering of the Old Gods

25 posts in this topic

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. 

At one point it seems as if the Moon Door - made of weirwood - is better than nothing:

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The Eyrie boasted a sept, but no septon; a godswood, but no heart tree. No prayers are answered here, she often thought, though some days she felt so lonely she had to try. Only the wind answered her, sighing endlessly around the seven slim white towers and rattling the Moon Door every time it gusted.

 

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A faint wind sighed through the godswood and the red leaves stirred and whispered. Summer bared his teeth. "You hear them, boy?" a voice asked.
...

Osha studied him. "You asked them and they're answering. Open your ears, listen, you'll hear."
Bran listened. "It's only the wind," he said after a moment, uncertain. "The leaves are rustling."
"Who do you think sends the wind, if not the gods?"

 

And I think someone says this at some point:

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Words are wind.

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The tradition of keeping a godswood complete with a weirwood heart tree within the walls of a castle was started by the First Men when they took up the faith of the old gods.  When the Andals invaded Westeros with their Faith of the Seven weirwoods came to represent the old faith and were burned or cut down in forests throughout much of the south but many Andal lords chose to keep their godswoods and heart trees in order to prevent religious warfare and consolidate their victories.  When you consider that a weirwood will live forever if undisturbed the presence of a heart tree complete with carved face becomes a very powerful symbol in a castle that exists for a thousand years or more.  I don't find it all that hard to believe that tradition, superstition and belief have helped to preserve the heart trees even south of the Neck. 

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38 minutes ago, White Ravens said:

many Andal lords chose to keep their godswoods and heart trees in order to prevent religious warfare and consolidate their victories

Yes.

In fact, I think we may be able to guess how this started.

The first of the great Andal victories was the climactic battle in the Vale, where all of the Andals united under Ser Artys Arryn, and all of the First Men under King Robar II Royce, and Artys won. Most of the First Men houses immediately became loyal vassals, with the Royces becoming the most loyal of all—they even helped the Arryns drive the handful who wouldn't bend the knee into the mountains.

Of course we don't know what these negotiations were like, but it seems pretty likely that Artys offered his defeated foes something important to them to gain that kind of loyalty. And one obvious possibility is that he offered to protect the godswoods and let them keep their religion unmolested (especially since that's incredibly valuable to them but costs him next to nothing).

And, since it worked so well the first time, as the Andals spread out and conquered the rest of the continent, they brought the same deal with them. Which is why Westeros ended up with such a strong commitment to religious freedom that "the Old Gods and the New" is still a common expression millennia later, and why so many Southern houses have godswoods. Even if everybody south of the Neck (except the Blackwoods and maybe a few smaller houses) has long since converted and stopped caring, it's one of the foundational principles of their society, so nobody would think of changing it.

Of course a lot of this is speculation, but it's just one example of how they could have ended up with this system of religious freedom, and I think most of the plausible ways would similarly lead you to expect some kind of symbol that used to be important to the conquered First Men, so it's not that surprising that there are godswoods in so many castles.

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Some men are crusaders, some are tolerant. Some religious organizations refuse to tolerate the presence of infidels, some prefer to coexist, and some even seek interfaith cooperation. We see this play out in ASOIAF. 

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TWOIAF has a paragraph about this.

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Regardless, the few children remaining fled or died, and the First Men found themselves losing war after war, and kingdom after kingdom, to the Andal invaders. The battles and wars were endless, but eventually all the southron kingdoms fell. As with the Valemen, some submitted to the Andals, even taking up the faith of the Seven. In many cases, the Andals took the wives and daughters of the defeated kings to wife, as a means of solidifying their right to rule. For, despite everything, the First Men were far more numerous than the Andals and could not simply be forced aside. The fact that many southron castles still have godswoods with carved weirwoods at their hearts is said to be thanks to the early Andal kings, who shifted from conquest to consolidation, thus avoiding any conflict based on differing faiths.

 

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