Let’s continue with our quest to find the truth of the Bloodstone Emperor Azor Ahai and Lightbringer. In the last installment, we listed all of the mythical associations of bloodstone, also called heliotrope, and began to explore each one, correlating each “property” or association of bloodstone to an aspect of the Long Night moon catastrophe remembered as the forging of Lightbringer. The premise is simple – George gave us the story of a dark lord who supposedly caused the Long Night, and he named him the Bloodstone Emperor, so I looked up the associations of bloodstone, and they seem to match everything I was already discovering about the Long Night and Azor Ahai.I found that bloodstone’s proper name is heliotrope, from the Greek words meaning “sun” and “to turn.” That’s interesting by itself, because those two names give the stone immediate associations with blood and the sun… in other words, blood and fire. We know that the two key elements of Lightbringer are blood and fire – blood sacrifice to light it on fire, to be exact – and we’ve seen the comet described as a bleeding star or a burning star, and also as the terrible red of blood and flame and sunsets. Similarly, the moon meteors are coated in moon blood and then burnt by the sun as they drink the sun’s fire.
As you can see, bloodstone, also called heliotrope, makes for a great analog to the concepts George seems to want to work with for Lightbringer and objects which symbolize Lightbringer, like meteors and dragons. Because comets are basically flying stones, the idea of the red comet as the bleeding star really matches well with the idea of a bloody stone. And in this way, we can see that the myth of the Bloodstone Emperor causing the Long Night is a nice parallel to the red comet – the bleeding stone – causing the Long Night.
We’ve already covered several of the specific mythical associations of bloodstone and heliotrope. We took a look at the magical properties of bloodstone as the Warrior’s stone and a stone used in magical warfare between ancient sorcerers or Egypt and Sumeria, which fits with the idea of the Bloodstone Emperor worshipping the black stone and working dark magic. We saw that it’s associated with aiding astral travel and communication with the celestial realms, ideas which seem to manifest as the Bloodstone Emperor’s creepy starry wisdom church that he started.
We spend quite a bit of time discussing the idea of bloodstone as a stone consecrated with the blood of a sacrificed god; in particular, the blood of the moon goddess which coated the bloodstone meteors. This idea is represented in the Azor Ahai myth by the idea of Nissa Nissa’s blood coating Lightbringer as it took fire. We saw that bloodstone is associated with causing lightning and thunderstorms, a reference to the firestorm of swords and the thunderbolt of the Storm God in the Grey King myth. Finally, we examined bloodstone’s associations with blood, poison, and snake venom, and by doing so we learned that the poisonous snake is one aspect of Lightbringer and the black bloodstone moon meteors. This also strengthened the identification of the magically toxic oily black stone as some kind of bloodstone – moon meteor stone itself, or perhaps stone burned black in the fiery explosion of a moon meteor impact.
I’ve saved a lot of the coolest bloodstone ideas for this essay, so let’s get started.
I: Astronomy Explains the Legends of I&F
II: The Bloodstone Emperor Azor Ahai
III: Waves of Night & Moon Blood
IV: The Mountain vs. the Viper & the Hammer of the Waters
V: Tyrion Targaryen
VI: Lucifer means Lightbringer
I: The Grey King & the Sea Dragon
II: A Burning Brandon
III: Garth of the Gallows
IV: In a Grove of Ash
V: To Ride the Green Dragon
VI: The Devil and the Deep Green Sea
VII: Daenerys the Sea Dreamer
Pliny the Elder, Bloody Sun Mirrors, Eclipses, and Sun-Drinking
The name “heliotrope” (from Greek ήλιος helios, “Sun,” τρέπειν trepein, “to turn”) derives from the ancient belief that bloodstone had the ability to bend and alter the sun’s reflection. The source of this information is Pliny the Elder’s Natural History:
Heliotropium is found in Æthiopia, Africa, and Cyprus: it is of a leek-green colour, streaked with blood-red veins. It has been thus named, from the circumstance that, if placed in a vessel of water and exposed to the full light of the sun, it changes to a reflected colour like that of blood; this being the case with the stone of Æthiopia more particularly. Out of the water, too, it reflects the figure of the sun like a mirror, and it discovers eclipses of that luminary by showing the moon passing over its disk.
Based on this quote, probably the most well known concerning bloodstone / heliotrope, this section will discuss three main concepts: bloody sun mirrors, darkening or drinking the sun, and eclipses. All of these ideas kind of work together, as they all have to do with turning the sun in some way. The bloodstone submerged in water turns the color of the sun’s reflection to that of blood – meaning, it darkens the sun’s light. Out of water, it reflects the sun like a mirror – now the bloodstone is turning the sun’s light by bending and refracting it. Eclipses represent a darkening of the sun, and we see that bloodstone can not only darken the color of sunlight, but also discover eclipses.
All three of these concepts also describe qualities and actions of the bloodstone moon meteors – that’s the whole point of talking about them, of course.
First, bloodstone is a sun-mirror, a stone which reflects the light of the sun. That makes for a great correlation with the moon itself, which only shines with reflected sunlight. After the moon kisses the sun and explodes, its meteor children the drank the fire of the sun, which also speaks of the sun shining on to the bloodstone.
Next we have the association with eclipses. This idea is pretty simple – in order for the moon to be perceived as “wandering too close to the sun,” and in order for the comet to look “connected” to the sun and create the image of a sun holding a comet sword, we need an eclipse alignment at the moment of impact. Thematically, too, the moon explosion blots out the sun, eclipsing it for the duration of the Long Night. We talked about the idea of the Bloodstone Emperor representing the darkened solar king and the Lion of Night. Just as Azor Ahai becomes the Bloodstone Emperor by destroying the moon, the actual sun becomes a darkened sun when the moon explodes and hides its face. This idea of a darkened sun spills out into various related ideas about shadow and drinking light, black fire or shadow fire, etc. Anything which darkens or drinks light, anything which inverts the bright qualities of fire and light – these ought to put us in mind of the Bloodstone Emperor Azor Ahai, Lightbringer the black sword, and the bloodstone moon meteors.
The third idea, the submerged bloodstone darkening the sun’s light to the color of blood seems like a good fit with the notion of a bloodstone moon meteor which drinks the sun’s fire and lands in the ocean. The bloodstone is said to darken the sun’s reflection to the color of blood – and since we are dealing with black blood instead of red blood when we speak of the moon’s fire transformation, we get stones covered in black blood instead of red.
To really fit the description, our black bloodstones need to be submersed in water. This would take the form of the island-drowning sea dragon which the Grey King supposedly slew, I believe – if falling meteors can be perceived as dragons, then a meteor which falls into the sea and triggers tsunamis would make an excellent sea dragon. The island drowning makes sense, since this legend comes to us from a people who live on islands which probably used to be connected to the main land. A large moon meteor impact anywhere near the Iron Islands would produce horrible tsunamis which would wash over the entire area, likely killing thousands and reshaping the land. It’s the kind of event which would be remembered in local myth, as the sea dragon Nagga certainly is.
This deadly flood tide is associated with blood on two counts. First, it was triggered by the drowning of the moon – the impact of bloody moon meteors in the ocean. Secondly, the ensuing flood itself can be perceived as a blood tide – specifically, a tide of moon blood.
We’re going to be tackling quite a lot of symbolism, so keep in mind that there are three actual, physical, non-metaphorical things which we are really talking about: the moon meteors, the floods they caused when they landed, and the darkness that they caused when they landed. We’re kind of always talking about the original Azor Ahai and Lightbringer, that’s a given, but keep the meteors, floods, and darkness in mind as we go along.
I believe there is an overarching Lightbringer motif of blood and darkness, and of red and black, and that it pertains to the floods and darkness triggered by the meteors in particular. It appears in three slightly different forms: the black and bloody tides, waves of night and blood, and streaks of red fire and rivers of black ice. In the process of showing the next several mythical associations of heliotrope and bloodstone, we will tackle these three symbolic motifs, and we will try to learn more about the meteors, the floods, and the darkness…. because that’s what Lightbringer has to offer us.
The Dark Tide of the Moon
We’ve seen that symbolically speaking, the moon bleeds and burns when it is stabbed by the Lightbringer comet, and the blackened “moon blood” then coats the black moon meteors. This makes them bloodstones in the sense that they are now consecrated with the blood of the dying moon goddess. Lyanna’s bed of blood symbolizes this perfectly – it’s the place where the moon maiden dies, bloodying the stones, but also the place where Azor Ahai reborn and Lightbringer emerge from (Jon Snow in this case). So to for the bleeding and burning heart of Nissa Nissa – the scene of her death, and the birth of Lightbringer. Like the meteors, Lightbringer is covered in Nissa Nissa’s blood as it is born. But the moon blood is not done – oh no. The symbol of the moon blood does not end with bleeding on the bloodstones, meteors, and swords – it also represents the floods triggered by the sea dragon impact, the drowning of the moon.
The idea of a bloody tide caused by a bloodstone meteor fits well with the idea of a bloodstone creating the image of blood in the water which we saw in Pliny the Elder’s quote just now. Stick a bloodstone in the water, and you get blood in the water, that’s the idea. But of course it’s not just blood in the water, but a dark, bloody tide. This is like a trumped up version of the fact that the normal tides are produced by the moon’s gravity. Moons in the sky produce normal tides, but drowning moons produce bloody tides. The image here is of blood in the water, a bloody stone in the water, etc. I actually think Melisandre’s vision of a dark tide in A Dance with Dragons contains clues about this:
Visions danced before her, gold and scarlet, flickering, forming and melting and dissolving into one another, shapes strange and terrifying and seductive. She saw the eyeless faces again, staring out at her from sockets weeping blood. Then the towers by the sea, crumbling as the dark tide came sweeping over them, rising from the depths.
And later in that chapter, when she’s describing her vision to Jon Snow:
“I saw towers by the sea, submerged beneath a black and bloody tide.”
I mentioned last time that the tops of towers and mountains can be used to symbolize the celestial realm, and so a crumbling tower can certainly symbolize a falling heavenly body, as it did at the long-fallen Tower of Joy. The towers by the sea in Mel’s vision are submerged by the bloody tide, which also recalls the bloody stones of the Tower of Joy – both are crumbled towers covered in blood. The Tower of Joy symbolized the moon death and the forging of Lightbringer, and I believe this vision does so as well. To corroborate this conclusion, check out the clear Lightbringer symbols with which this vision ends:
Through curtains of fire great winged shadows wheeled against a hard blue sky.
A thousand red eyes floated in the rising flames.
The red priestess shuddered. Blood trickled down her thigh, black and smoking. The fire was inside her, an agony, an ecstasy, filling her, searing her, transforming her. Shimmers of heat traced patterns on her skin, insistent as a lover’s hand.
These ideas all have terrestrial meanings – Mel is literally seeing dragons flying, a likely reference to Dany’s dragons fighting the Others, and the thousand red eyes refer to Bloodraven’s “thousand eyes and one,” (there’s also a mention of his wooden, corpse white face to go along with it). But these ideas also have celestial meanings as well – the thousand red eyes surrounded by flame is our thousand dragon meteor shower, and the dragons as winged shadows is a reference to the black dragon meteors which bring darkness, which in turn relates to the concept of eclipsing the sun.
The black blood and the fire inside someone are flashing red lights indicating fire transformation, which refers to both literal fire transformation as Mel undergoes here and Beric does elsewhere, as well as the more symbolic fire transformation of the moon. The agony and ecstasy language is a specific callout to Nissa Nissa’s cry of anguish and ecstasy, and the fire which is like a lover implies the procreative side of the Lightbringer myth. We’ve covered these ideas before, and I point them out here to firm up the conclusion that this vision is talking about the forging of Lightbringer. Even better, Mel begins the vision by wishing for one more glimpse of Azor Ahai, and ends it by musing:
I pray for a glimpse of Azor Ahai, and R’hllor shows me only Snow.
Having established this vision as a Lightbringer metaphor, let’s go back to the beginning where we see the skulls weeping blood and the black and bloody tide rising from the depths and sweeping over the crumbling towers by the sea. In addition to the idea that the tops of towers and mountains can be used to symbolize the celestial realm, I would suggest that the tops of people – heads and crowns – can serve the same purpose. Decapitation or throat-slitting can therefore symbolize the fall of a moon or heavenly body. This also fits with the idea of the sun and moon sometimes being perceived as heads with faces, both in A Song of Ice and Fire and in the real world. The sun and moon are like very, very tall people with invisible bodies, in other words.
The eyeless skulls in Mel’s vision, therefore, would seem to symbolize dead and fallen heavenly bodies, which would be our fallen moon, and the bloodstone meteors that came from the moon. Their sockets weep blood, suggesting that the black and bloody tide in the vision is coming from the eyes of the skulls. This would also seem to put the skulls in the position of the moon meteors. When they land as sea dragons, the dark tide rises from the depths. That’s our Long Night tsunami. It’s a flood that is symbolically perceived as blood because it came from the death of the moon, and is triggered by the bloodstone moon meteors. If those thousand red, fiery eyes can be meteors, then the eyeless skulls also speak of a moon with its eyes torn out. The idea of the sockets weeping blood also speaks of the blood tide coming from the moon itself, since a decapitated skull – singular – can represent the dead moon. And later in this chapter, they find the decapitated heads of three Nightswatch brothers stuck on spears of ash wood:
Where their eyes had been, only empty sockets remained, black and bloody holes that stared down in silent accusation.
A head mounted on a spear makes for a great comet symbol, and it’s one Martin has used a few times. The shaft of ash wood creates the image of a trail of ash behind the head of the comet, while the head represents the actual meteorite, just as the eyeless skulls do. And just as the eyeless skulls of Mel’s vision weep the black and bloody tide, here we see the empty sockets of the severed heads are black and bloody holes. This is what I meant about Martin’s use of symbolism being internally consistent – he often gives us different versions of the same symbol in close proximity so that we can piece everything together. The black and bloody sockets even “stare down” at Jon and the rest, like stars falling from the heavens. The black and bloody tide first falls from the heavens, and then it rises from the depths – this is that two part association with the blood tide that I was referring to – first, bloody meteors fall from the sky, then they trigger a bloody tide from the ocean.
Lightbringer is like the fat kid at the pool doing a massive cannonball off the diving board, except the pool is filled with blood and everyone dies. Well, almost everyone. That’s what you get for calling people fat, that’s really mean and you should have known better. Totally inappropriate. So the moon is a little round – it’s just big boned, you know? Festively plump.
Martin often seems to hide complementary symbols and concepts in his sigils and house words, particularly of obscure houses. For example, there’s a house Blacktyde on the Iron Islands. We know of two Blacktydes: Baelor Blacktyde, and Blind Beron Blacktyde, one of Aeron Damphair’s drowned men. Their sigil is an interlocking pattern of black on green, creating the image of black tides flooding green lands. This idea manifests again with Baelor Blacktyde:
Nightflyer was seized, Lord Blacktyde delivered to the king in chains. Euron’s mutes and mongrels had cut him into seven parts, to feed the seven green land gods he worshiped.
A black tide to feed the green lands, once again, and associated with sacrifice. Baelor being cut apart to make the black tides is very similar to the moon being cut up to make black bloodstone meteors. Those moon meteors were night flyers all right, just like the name of Baelor’s ship. Damphair himself prophesies about this dark tide in A Clash of Kings:
Aeron Damphair raised his arms. “And the waters of wrath will rise high, and the Drowned God will spread his dominion across the green lands!”
As for Blind Beron the drowned man, we’ve just been given the image of the moon’s eyes being torn out and its sockets weeping the black and bloody tides, as well as the moon being drowned to unleash the dark tide… and here we see a drowned, blinded man who is a black tide.
We’ve seen eyes weeping tears of blood in a well known scene, of course, and that was Lyanna’s statue weeping blood in one of Eddard’s dreams. And that brings us right back to the Tower of Joy once again, yet another parallel between it and Mel’s vision of the black and bloody tide. Both have the bloody stones and crumbling towers, as well as Jon Snow, who was almost certainly born at the Tower of Joy in Lyanna’s bed of blood and who appears to Mel in her vision when she seeks Azor Ahai.
The fact that Lyanna, the dying moon maiden, is associated with tears of blood strengthens the idea that the eyeless skulls weeping blood represent the bloody moon meteors, the corpse of the dead moon goddess. The parallels between this vision and the Tower of Joy are a good indication that Mel’s vision also refers to the moon’s death and the forging of Lightbringer. And indeed, the idea of the bloodstone meteors triggering a black and bloody tide which rises from the depths is exactly what we are looking for, according to my premise that George is working with Pliny’s notion about submerged bloodstones creating bloody water.
As a follow up to the idea of the skulls as meteor symbols, I’d like to point out that Melisandre repeatedly sees the skulls surrounding Jon Snow, who is of course a dark solar king figure. He’s Azor Ahai reborn, and his servants are the deadly meteors, his dragons woken from stone, and so they surround him:
The flames crackled softly, and in their crackling she heard the whispered name Jon Snow…. But the skulls were here as well, the skulls were all around him.
…and then again later in the same chapter:
Skulls. A thousand skulls, and the bastard boy again. Jon Snow.
Of course the meteor shower is often depicted as a thousand of something, or some version of that. It was a thousand thousand dragons in the Qarthine myth, and occasionally it’s ten thousand of something, but a thousand is the most common. So what we are seeing here is the dark solar dragon surrounded by his thousand skull meteor children.
The same motif is repeated in the very same vision with Bloodraven, who appears as a corpse face surrounded by a thousand fiery eyes. I’ve mentioned that Bloodraven seems to be playing into the Bloodstone Emperor Azor Ahai archetype, and we will continue to explore the ramifications of this in the future, but for now I just want to point at the consistent groupings of symbols – Jon Snow surrounded by his thousand fiery or bloody skulls, and Bloodraven surrounded by his thousand fiery eyes. Also, notice the watery language of Bloodraven’s eyes in Mel’s vision: it says “A thousand red eyes floated in the rising flames.” That’s very similar to the blood tide of skulls rising from the depths that we saw in that same vision.
Moons and Sickles, The Tauroctony, and the Remaking of the World
The dark tide can come from eyes and eyeless sockets, but it also comes from decapitation, as is implied by the bodiless skulls as symbols of the dead moon and its moon meteor children. Bran’s vision of Ser Gregor as a stone giant with an empty helmet in A Game of Thrones is instructive: behind the visor there is only darkness and thick black blood. This foreshadows Gregor’s literal beheading and the blackening of his blood through the Red Viper’s poison spear, but it also gives us the black and bloody tide motif again, and associated with decapitation. As we’ll see when we break down the Mountain and Viper trial by combat, Ser Gregor the Stone Giant is a tremendous moon symbol. That’s right – not all moon symbols are feminine, and not all solar characters masculine either. Nymeria, who brought the sun sigil to Dorne and sat in the sun shaped throne, is a good example, and of course we talked about the Maiden Made of Light of eastern legend being a representation of the bright face of the sun. Male or female, it makes no matter – decapitating a moon character leads to darkness and black blood, another way of saying “black and bloody tide.”
We’ve made a habit out of referring to Mithras near the beginning of each essay, and it seems we need to do so again. Many of the Azor Ahai and Lightbringer ideas are drawn from Mithras, and the idea of a blood tide covering the earth is to be found in his story as well. Besides rock born Mithras with his sword and torch, the other very famous depiction of Mithras – the one which he appears in in over 60% of all Mithras statues – is called the Tauroctony, the slaying of the white bull. This is a highly astronomical scene, packed with symbolism – just the sort of thing we go for around here! As Mithras slays the bull, the sun and moon look down in favor, and the twelve constellations of the zodiac usually frame the scene. The bull, as well as the scorpion, dog, and snake in the scene are thought to refer to constellations. The exact meaning of the scene and its various elements are the subject of much scholarly debate, but it’s well known that observation of the stars was a central part of Roman Mithraism – they’ve even been called an astronomy cult.
Here are the important parts of the Tauronctony, the ones which pertain to Lightbringer’s forging and Azor Ahai’s rebirth. First, Mithras looks away from the bull as he cuts its throat, because the bull is a friend to Mithras and actually represented a part of Mithras himself – just as Ghost the white direwolf is a part of Jon (yes, this is somewhat ominous). Mithras has to kill the bull to be reborn, and the bull’s blood represents the life giving force, bringing life to the earth – the blood is sometimes depicted as ears of wheat to indicate the bounty of the harvest. The blood of the sacrificed bull renews the world, and allows Mithras to be reborn. There are other myths involving the slaying of a great monster – sometimes a dragon or serpent – that brings a global flood which transforms the world. But we know George is already drawing on the Mithras lore, and so I suspect this might have been the place where he got the notion of symbolizing the flood as a blood tide.
Unfortunately, where Mithras is a solar king, Azor Ahai is an inverted solar king, and so the blood tide unleashed when he sacrificed the moon did the opposite of renewing the world and bringing life – it brought the Long Night, darkness and death. The Worldbook speaks of the Great Empire of the Dawn legend and says that the world which survived the Long Night was “a broken place where every tribe went it’s own way, fearful of all the others..” There’s also a reference to this idea of remaking the world as Tyrion and Haldon Halfmaester overhear the preaching of the red priests in Selhorys, who say that Benerro has decreed Daenerys to be Azor Ahai reborn, and that she was born from smoke and salt “to make the world anew.” I suppose that “remaking the world” can cut both ways, but I’m pretty sure Azor Ahai’s remaking will involve a fair amount of blood and fire.
Let me share a bit of indigenous North American folklore concerning a comet remaking the world. This information is from Graham Hancock’s newest book, Magicians of the Gods, which I very highly recommend, and I’m also borrowing here from an editorial he wrote for DailyMail.com about the book. It turns out that in the real world, scientists have recently discovered evidence that the 1,200 year mini-ice age known as the Younger Dryas which lasted from 10,800 BCE to 9,600 BCE might have been triggered by a comet impact over the North American Ice Sheet. A Long Night indeed – the comet seems to have broken apart and made multiple impacts along the northern ice sheets, destabilizing them. As a result, large parts of the continent were simply erased with basically unfathomably violent flooding, and the ocean received vast amounts of ice cold water, which disrupted the ocean currents. The atmosphere was also clouded with vaporized ice and tremendous amounts of debris – stop me if you’ve heard this one before. The clouded sky and changed ocean currents kicked off a significant climate disruption, one which drove much of North America’s megafauna to extinction. Essentially, George’s Long Night triggered by a comet is a very compressed version of this chain of events triggered by the Younger Dryas comet (as it’s now being called).
It’s nice to have science to tell us what happened ten thousand years ago, but the native peoples have seemingly kept alive stories of this event for that whole period of time (again, stop me if this sounds familiar). I’m going to cite two in particular but there are many, many similar stories spread across North America.
The Brulé people of the Lakota nation in modern-day South Dakota have a legend of a ‘fiery blast [that] shook the entire world, toppling mountain ranges and setting forests and prairies ablaze . . . Even the rocks glowed red-hot, and the giant animals and evil people burned up where they stood. The rivers overflowed their banks and surged across the landscape. Finally, the Creator stamped the Earth, and with a great quake the Earth split open, sending torrents . . . across the entire world until only a few mountain peaks stood above the flood.’
The Ojibwa people of the Canadian grasslands refer to a comet called the Long-Tailed Heavenly Climbing Star which swept low through the skies, scorching the Earth and leaving behind ‘a different world. After that, survival was hard work. The weather was colder than before.’
Ojibwa shaman Fred Pine says “It came down here once, thousands of years ago. Just like a sun. It had radiation and burning heat in its tail. It was just so hot that everything, even the stones, were cooked. The giant animals were killed off. You can find their bones today in the earth. It is said that the comet came down and spread his tail for miles and miles.”
This legend gives us a good idea of the kind of damage a comet or meteor impact can have. They can literally set the entire sky on fire at temperatures that melt stone. They leave behind a different world when they visit the earth, just as Azor Ahai reborn will remake the world, and just as the Long Night left behind a broken world.
These descriptions could just as easily apply to the Long Night. However, if George had given us myths this clear, it would have been too easy; so he’s made it just a bit more obscure by doling out pieces of the disaster in separate legends. There’s so much going on in the story that you don’t really focus on the folktales, but when you line them up as we have done and will continue to do, you can see a picture almost as clear as the quotes we just read: “The moon cracked open and the bleedings stars came down to earth like dragons and brought blood and flame everywhere they went, drowning islands and waking thunderous giants in the earth, hammering and breaking the world and blotting out the very sun. The cold that came after was unstoppable and killed everything that the burning stars had spared.”
Also, notice in the above quote that the comet was “just like a sun” – a second sun, you might say, or perhaps “the sun’s son.” The second sons are a sellsword company, of course, and Quentyn is described by Quaithe as the “sun’s son,” because he’s a child of House Martell, with their sun sigil. I have a feeling those are all references to the comet – the sun spear – being like a second sun in the sky, as the Ojibwa myth describes their comet experience.
Just as the Dothraki say that one day the other moon will kiss the sun and crack as the first one did, the Ojibwa prophesy a return: ‘The star with the long, wide tail is going to destroy the world someday when it comes low again.’ So not only has this myth shaped the past of the Ojibwa and other peoples of North America, it continues to shape their perception of the future. As you can see, George’s use of mythical astronomy which we’ve been chasing down in all of these podcasts has plenty of precedent in the real world. I believe that George is essentially showing us a medieval society without the advantage of modern science to explain what happened 10,000 years ago – all we have is the folklore and scattered bits of hard evidence, just as we did until very recently. The moon destruction scenario is remembered all over the world, but George has cleverly hidden it in the folklore and legends and then has been sure to heap plenty of scorn on “anything heard at a woman’s tit.” But it’s all right there, as we’ve been discovering – the moon’s sacrifice lead to tides of blood and darkness.
Let’s return to the Tauroctony and Mithras’s slaying of the white bull whose blood remakes the world. It’s easy to correlate the slain bull with the moon because after Mithras kills the white bull, it actually becomes the moon… simple enough. The moon and the bull are sacrificed, and a blood tide washes over the earth – the correlation between the Mithras story and the Long Night story is striking.
The association between the moon and horned animals like cows, bulls, stags, boars, and goats is actually one of the most widespread notions in all of world mythology. When the moon is a crescent, it’s called a “horned moon,” because it resembles the horns of these sacrificial animals. In Egypt, lunar deities like Isis are depicted with cow horns to denote their lunar associations. The Egyptians also have a tradition of slaughtering the sacred bull, which they called Apis. His blood and sacrifice was also associated with harvest and fertility, and with the rebirth of the dead king – again, just as with Mithras and the White Bull. Even more interesting is the idea that Apis was conceived by a ray of sunlight, while his mother was supposedly conceived by a flash of lightning from heaven, or by moon beams. This is all right in the wheelhouse of the Lightbringer meteors – conceived by sun and moon, fallen to earth like a thunderbolt. It’s just the kind of myth that George would find useful, and be able to rope into his evolving mythos.
It’s also no coincidence that at Jon’s birth at the Tower of Joy, we find a white bull being slaughtered – Ser Gerold Hightower, the white bull. That’s a pretty great shout-out to the Mithras legend. Calling Gerold a tower is even better, as it alludes to the heavenly realms. Better still, the light of the Hightower’s beacon is described in A Feast for Crows as “a hazy orange moon.” It seems like George has gone out of his way to equate the white bull with the moon, and the sacrifice of each with the birth of Azor Ahai reborn.
There’s another shoutout to this idea when Arya is getting her tour of the various temples in Bravos, which is where we found another Mithras reference last time, that of three headed Trios.
Beyond it, by the canal, that’s the temple of Aquan the Red Bull. Every thirteenth day, his priests slit the throat of a pure white calf, and offer bowls of blood to beggars.”
So, in the temple of the bull, we slit the throat of a white calf, and people drink the blood as nourishment, or perhaps asa way to invoke divine favor. That’s a very close analog to the Tauroctony. Lest we forget, Lightbringer the sword supposedly drank Nissa Nissa’s blood, which is why we see blood drinking ideas here and there.
The curved horns of the bull evoke the crescent moon, but they also evoke the curved knives which were often used in ritual sacrifice.
The moon was a crescent, thin and sharp as the blade of a knife.
Four times in Bran’s final chapter of A Dance with Dragons, we get this description of the moon. That chapter is basically a montage, with the moon descriptions breaking up each mini-scene. The chapter concludes with this vision:
Then, as he watched, a bearded man forced a captive down onto his knees before the heart tree. A white-haired woman stepped toward them through a drift of dark red leaves, a bronze sickle in her hand.
“No,” said Bran, “no, don’t,” but they could not hear him, no more than his father had. The woman grabbed the captive by the hair, hooked the sickle round his throat, and slashed. And through the mist of centuries the broken boy could only watch as the man’s feet drummed against the earth … but as his life flowed out of him in a red tide, Brandon Stark could taste the blood.
So there’s the blood tide unleashed by sacrifice, echoing the bloody tide unleashed by the sacrifice of the moon. The sacrifice in Bran’s vision takes the form of a throat slitting, and with a sickle-shaped blade – a thin and curved blade, just like the crescent moon. We’ve also got the blood drinking again, as with Aquan the Red Bull.
We find another slaughtered bull in A Dance with Dragons in the form of Little Walder (the big one). He’s the one who’s mysterious murder sets off the Freys and Manderlys in Roose Bolton’s Winterfell. “He was butchered like a hog..” says Ser Hosteen Frey. The thing is, in an earlier chapter in the same book, during Ramsay and Jeyne’s travesty of a wedding, the mists play tricks with Theon’s eyes and he perceives everyone strangely… and Little Walder appears in the form of a red bull. No matter what color bull, it seems the fate is the same – cold butchery.
There’s a matching story in The World of Ice and Fire about one of the children of Garth the Green – Bors the Breaker, who founded House Bulwer. Supposedly Bors “drank so much bulls blood he grew a pair of shiny black horns,” and this bulls’ blood supposedly gave him the strength of twenty men. Again we see the same ideas – horns, sacrificing bulls, drinking their blood, and a kind of transformation. The shiny black horns of course put us in mind of the black dragonbinder horn that demands blood sacrifice to operate, which is entirely in keeping with the theme here.
The tale of Bors the Breaker and House Bulwer creates a tie-in to Mel’s black and bloody tide and the decapitated heads on spears with their black and bloody holes for sockets – one of the heads belongs to Black Jack Bulwer, descendent of Bors. That serves a direct equation between the idea of a severed bull’s head an a moon meteor, since the heads on spears represent the decapitated moon. Black Jack’s eyeless head shows us a decapitated moon bull becoming a black and bloody moon meteor, in other words. I don’t know about you, but these clever little links between scenes with the same symbolism amuse me to no end. It’s basically like a little treasure hunt, to find all the links between occurrences of the various motifs.
So now, consider Jon Snow, and the Azor Ahai archetype in general as a parallel to Mithras, which we’ve mentioned many times. Mithras is a solar figure, just as the Azor Ahai is, excepting that Azor Ahai is an inverted, dark solar figure. Jon has a white animal familiar, Ghost, who is a part of him, just as the white bull is a part of Mithras. The white bull is sacrificed in order to resurrect Mithras… so… (akward silence)… it may be that Jon’s resurrection will come at a heavy price. As a silver lining, however, I’ll mention that Jon’s spirit is expected to be stored inside of Ghost for time before his body is resurrected, and when a warg’s spirit does this, it begins to merge with the wolf. In other words, I think that it’s likely that if this scenario comes about, what we will see is the wolf body being sacrificed, and the merged Ghost-Jon spirit will be transferred back to Jon’s resurrected body. So it’s not quite as sad, if that turns out to be the case.
Unfortunately, there’s a bit of foreshadowing of this when Arya is down in the underbelly of the Red Keep in A Game of Thrones, in the chamber of the dragon skulls. She recalls a time when Robb led the other kids down into the Winterfell Crypts:
Old Nan had told her there were spiders down here, and rats as big as dogs. Robb smiled when she said that. “There are worse things than spiders and rats,” he whispered. “This is where the dead walk.” That was when they heard the sound, low and deep and shivery. Baby Bran had clutched at Arya’s hand. When the spirit stepped out of the open tomb, pale white and moaning for blood, Sansa ran shrieking for the stairs, and Bran wrapped himself around Robb’s leg, sobbing. Arya stood her ground and gave the spirit a punch. It was only Jon, covered with flour. “You stupid ,” she told him, “you scared the baby.”
So that’s ghostly Jon, the walking dead, a pale white spirit who makes a shivery sound… It’s GhostJon.
Going back to the scene of the three eyeless heads on spears, one of which is Black Jack Bulwer, we see more foreshadowing:
His huge white direwolf prowled around the shafts, sniffing, then lifted his leg and pissed on the spear that held the head of Black Jack Bulwer.
Aww, no, Ghost, not the one with the decapitated bull’s head, sonuva… Say it ain’t so, Ghost!
There’s actually a lot of foreshadowing about Jon’s resurrection in general, so a dedicated study of all of those scenes is called for and might yield more clues about how it’s going to go down. For now I refer you to Radio Westeros episode 6, “Jon Snow, Only the Cold” or the matching essay on their page, which deal with the mechanics of Jon’s potential resurrection and the foreshadowing which indicates it. That’s one of my favorite episodes right there. While we were talking about Mithras slaying the white bull to be reborn, I had to mention the parallel with Jon Snow and Ghost. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news… but like I said, merged GhostJon is probably going to kick some serious ass, so there is that.
Now, where were we… bloodstone, bloody stones in the water, bloody tides from sacrificed moons… got it. Here’s one more little fun tidbit regarding bloody moons and sacrifice. On the Iron Islands, we find House Wynch, whose sigil is a bloody crescent moon on a field of purple. A winch is a thing which pulls heavy objects out of place – we’re going to need a very big winch for the moon, of course, but that’s another essay. And that sigil – it’s a crescent moon which is literally in a bed of blood. Said another way, a moon crescent could be seen as a blade made of moon – flaming sword moon meteors, in other words, the moon stones which were covered in blood, like the crescent moon of House Wynch.
House Winch really does not do anything important in any of the novels, nor even in Ironborn history. Literally the only noteworthy thing that George has written about them is their sigil – and I suspect that’s because their sigil IS the important thing about them. A bloody crescent moon is easy to understand, given what we’ve just looked at concerning sickles and crescent moons and blood sacrifice, and attached to the word winch, it speaks of pulling down the moon. The purple background may be meant to remind us of the Amethyst Empress and Daenerys, the purple-eyed moon maidens.
The real-world phenomena of a blood moon is the result of the moon passing through the earth’s shadow, a kind of reverse-eclipse where the earth is eclipsing the moon. I’m not sure if this is part of George’s thinking, but it’s interesting and so I thought I would mention it, because it ties together bloody moons and eclipsed moons.
So, we’re almost ready to start making bad menstruation jokes – we are talking about “moon blood,” after all – but not quite yet. That will come later when we talk about the idea of a maiden “flowering.” To be honest, I may not need to make any bad jokes; Martin is already having a field day with this. As it is, we can see why he chose to refer to a women’s monthly visitor as “moon blood,” as it makes for a useful metaphor to give us hints about the moon’s sacrifice during the Long Night.
In all seriousness, my purpose here is to introduce the concept the black and bloody tide as being parts of the Long Night shit-storm of magical and metaphorical disasters, and to show how it’s directly related to moon sacrifice. We’ve seen it come from eye sockets and eyes, as well as decapitations and throat slitting. We’ve seen it come from the sky and from the depths. Bloody swords and bloody moons and bloody stones. Bloody blood, everywhere. It’s like some kind of lunar abattoir. Who else feels like they need to wash their hands? See what we’re really doing here is learning the secrets of the bloody bed. This is what Mirri Maz Duur had to go through – tons of of bloody symbolism.
I know I said I’d hold off on moon blood jokes, but I’m serious – the bloody bed and the bed of blood are the same thing. Lyanna’s bed of blood is associated with her death, but it’s where Jon is born. Mirri Maz Dur says she “learned the secrets of the bloody bed” as a way of referring to midwifery, while the Damphair thinks to himself that the world is a cold place where “women brought forth short-lived children from beds of blood and pain.” It’s a core element of the Lightbringer monomyth, death and life. It’s George’s own take on the idea of the sacrificial bull whose blood renews the world. The bull dies, but he was a part of Mithras, and Mithras is reborn. Remember that Jon’s blue rose in the chink in the Wall “fills the air with sweetness” – perhaps there is a renewal on the way, even though the first blood tide seems to have brought death and destruction.
Rivers of Ice and Darkness
While we’re still talking about Jon Snow, I think he’s got his own version of the black and bloody tide. We discussed it last time – the red fire and black ice Jon thing, which is made up of two parallels scenes: his dream of being armored in black ice and wielding a burning red sword, and this optical illusion which appears in the cracks in the Wall:
Jon Snow turned away. The last light of the sun had begun to fade. He watched the cracks along the Wall go from red to grey to black, from streaks of fire to rivers of black ice. Down below, Lady Melisandre would be lighting her nightfire and chanting, Lord of Light, defend us, for the night is dark and full of terrors . “Winter is coming,” Jon said at last, breaking the awkward silence, “and with it the white walkers. The Wall is where we stop them. The Wall was made to stop them … but the Wall must be manned.
I interpreted the astronomy as follows: streaks of red fire turning to black ice as the sunlight disappears and people talk of white walkers and defending the Wall is a representation of fiery meteors streaking down to land and cause massive floods during the Long Night. As you can see, that sequence fits very much with the black and bloody tide ideas, and I think it supports the idea that the rivers of black ice and black and bloody tide motifs do in fact refer to real floods – the rivers of black ice really sound like a flood. It might be portrayed as icy because one of the meteors impacted a glacier in the north, as with the Younger Dryas comet here on earth, or perhaps it’s a cold flood simply because it came during the Long Night, a prolonged winter.
Right after Jon has his dream of being armored in black ice and defending the Wall with a burning red sword in A Dance with Dragons, we find this quote associating rotten ice – which is similar to black ice – with drowning:
“If the wildlings uphold the terms of the bargain, all will go as you’ve commanded.”
And if not, it may turn to blood and carnage. “Remember,” Jon said, “Tormund’s people are hungry, cold, and fearful. Some of them hate us as much as some of you hate them. We are dancing on rotten ice here, them and us. One crack, and we all drown. If blood should be shed today, it had best not be one of us who strikes the first blow, or I swear by the old gods and the new that I will have the head of the man who strikes it.”
So that’s rotten ice which leads to drowning, sandwiched by two mentions of bloodshed, with a side of decapitation. Sounds delicious!
Consider the idea of tears in regards to the appearance of red streaks of fire turning to rivers of black ice in the cracks in the Wall. When the Wall melts, as it does in this scene, it is said to weep. In other words, it is the tears of the Wall which are the red streaks of fire and rivers of black ice. Compare that to the idea of the moon crying tears of blood which are manifested as the bloodstone meteors and the blood tide. Either way, the tears become Lightbringer meteors. Even better, Ygitte tells Jon that the Wall is made of blood, so we can also think of the Wall’s tears as tears of blood in a sense. Jon reinforces this by saying that one crack in the rotten ice means that “it may turn to blood.” I could actually do a whole section on tears – Alyssa’s tears, frozen tears, the tears of Lys, Lyssa’s tears Cat’s tears – but I want to focus on the red fire and black ice right now. Those are the moon’s tears, and they fall from the heavens like streaks of red fire or bleeding stars, and trigger rivers of black ice, the dark tide rising from the depths. And all this goes down as the last light of the sun fades… in other words, as the sun turns dark.
So, Jon Snow, a manifestation of the dark solar king archetype, has his own black and bloody tides symbolism, from the black blood the black brothers are said to have to the streaks of red fire and rivers of black ice. There’s a match to be found in another solar king, Khal Drogo. Drogo is Dany’s “sun and stars,” of course, and like all Dothraki, he has those black “eyes of night.” This is from the night of their wedding, as they prepare to consummate the union, and therefore this scene represents the forging of Lightbringer, when the sun and moon had sexy time together:
Drogo did not reply. His long heavy braid was coiled in the dirt beside him. He pulled it over his right shoulder and began to remove the bells from his hair, one by one. After a moment Dany leaned forward to help. When they were done, Drogo gestured. She understood. Slowly, carefully, she began to undo his braid. It took a long time. All the while he sat there silently, watching her. When she was done, he shook his head, and his hair spread out behind him like a river of darkness, oiled and gleaming. She had never seen hair so long, so black, so thick.
The solar king unleashes a river of darkness when he copulates with the moon. That river of darkness begins coiled, like a black snake, and then spreads out like black oil. The disappearance of the bells probably denotes the disappearance of the stars. I’ve been saving this quote for a while, to be honest. It’s a real prize because it shows that George has had the oily black stone in mind from the very beginning, and not just in the form of the mysterious seastone chair. The oily black river of darkness comes from the sun because the oily black stones came from the sun’s impregnation of the moon, which caused the Long Night. It’s a nice parallel to Jon’s rivers of black ice that come from streaks of red fire as the last light of sun fades.
Two paragraphs before this, Dany notes that “Drogo towered over her as he towered over everyone,” placing Drogo and his river of darkness in the celestial realm, where it should be, just as we saw with Gerold Hightower. The imagery if this scene is paralleled in another scene depicting Lightbringer’s forging, where Dany eat’s the stallion’s heart to give strength to unborn baby Rhaego:
Her stomach roiled and heaved, yet she kept on, her face smeared with the heartsblood that sometimes seemed to explode against her lips. Khal Drogo stood over her as she ate, his face as hard as a bronze shield. His long black braid was shiny with oil.
Bronze shields have been compared to suns on several occasions – with the Karstark sigil, with Oberyn’s shield, and with the molten eyes of Rhaegal, so it makes sense to use that symbol for Drogo’s solar face. Before Drogo towered over Dany; here he stands over her. And again, his braid is associated with black oil. All this while heart blood explodes and covers the moon maiden’s face. Dany will eventually wash this blood off by dipping herself into the “black as night” waters of the Womb of the World. Blood and black water, once again, as moons drown.
The idea of Dany as a heart-eater makes sense when we think about the fact that meteorites are referred to as “the heart of a fallen star.” A bloody heart would be a bleeding star, such as the red comet. So when we see the moon maiden eating a bloody heart, we can think of the moon being force fed the Lightbringer comet. It’s a celestial cataclysm version of that seen in the movie Seven, with the spaghetti.. okay nevermind, that was disgusting.
Anyway, the notion of moon maidens as heart-eaters draws further parallels with Joffrey’s sword named Hearteater, which is replaced by Widow’s Wail. The name Widow’s Wail seems to refer to Nissa Nissa’s cry of anguish and ecstasy, while Lightbringer was a heart-eater, consuming Nissa Nissa’s heartblood. Eating the stallion’s heart also makes Dany feel nauseous, just as the moon was sickened by the poisonous Lightbringer come. Her stomach even “roils” and “heaves,” just like a turbulent ocean, and since her stomach is filed with blood, we are of course talking about an ocean of blood. A couple of paragraphs before the quote we just cited, we read:
Despite the tender mother’s stomach that had afflicted her these past two moons, Dany had dined on bowls of half-clotted blood to accustom herself to the taste, and Irri made her chew strips of dried horseflesh until her jaws were aching.
Two moons, you don’t say. One of those moons was a mother who ate hearts and grew sick, so I’ve heard.
To wrap up the solar king Khal Drogo’s symbolism, we see that not only does he unleash an oily black river of darkness, but he also finds himself with black blood at his time of death, as I mentioned last time. Again we see the notorious black water and black blood motifs paired together, as well as the oil mixed in to create an association with the oily or greasy black stone. When Drogo burns in the pyre, he lets loose greasy smoke, building on the connection between solar death and greasy or oily black stone.
Drinking the Light, Sun Stone
I believe the black and bloody tide motif has a twin sister, and that’s the sweet child known as “waves of night and blood.” Those are the ones we saw in the steel of Oathkeeper and Widow’s Wail, the two swords made from Ned’s Ice, Lightbringer symbol extraordinaire. The description of the steel, which seems to have two distinct layers, is as “waves of night and blood upon some steely shore.” Like the black and bloody tides motif, this creates the image of a dark, bloody flood that came in the Long Night. The fact that Oathkeeper and Widow’s Wail are Lightbringer symbols suggest that the waves of blood and night were triggered by a moon meteor and by the red comet. That’s the same message we came away with from Melisandre’s vision – black and bloody tides triggered by bloody meteors.
That’s also the same idea we came away with from the streaks of red fire turning to rivers of black ice – red meteors triggering black tides during the Long Night which are associated with Lightbringer. That’s why I introduced these three as parallel symbols, because they tell the same story, which is Lightbringer’s story.
The parallels go a bit further than that, though, when we consider the concept of black ice. Black ice seems to, broadly speaking, refer to three general concepts – floods (when the black ice is in river form), comets (which are dirty balls of ice and rocky iron ore) and black swords (such as Ned’s Valyrian steel sword, Ice, which is nearly black, and which I’ve taken the liberty of nicknaming “Black Ice”). I’ve interpreted this to imply that Lightbringer was a kind of prototype for Valyrian steel, a black sword made from a black meteor which burned with red fire or black and red fire. These meteors also caused floods, which is why Jon’s red fire / black ice motif causes dark, icy rivers which drown. Even his black ice armor implies drowning, because in A Storm of Swords, Dany dreams of melting warriors armored ice with her dragons, which turns the Trident River into a torrent.
It’s just the same with Oathkeeper and Widow’s Wail, whose waves of night and blood imply the dark tide. But they also have the black ice element, like Jon’s symbols, because they are made from Ned’s “Black Ice” sword. Black ice is a sword which creates waves of night and blood, I believe that’s the message of Ned’s sword and its children.
Basically, these are same symbols as Jon’s red fire and black ice in a slightly different configuration. Jon’s red fire once takes the form of a burning red sword, and the other time it streaks down and turns into the black ice, which directly implies that fiery sword meteors turned into black ice, meaning black steel. It also implies that fiery sword meteors turned into black ice, as in rivers of cold black water. If Oathkeeper and Widow’s Wail are black ice swords that look like dark floods, what we have here in the cracks in the Wall is icy water which looks like fiery red swords turning into black icy floods. That’s what I mean by the same set of symbols – swords, black ice, dark floods – in slightly different configurations.
As we can see, George is using the “black ice” motif to draw a connection between Oathkeeper and Widow’s Wail’s waves of night and blood and Jon’s red fire and black ice.
There can be no doubt this “waves of night and blood” language is important, because it’s given to us three times. First Tyrion sees Widow’s Wail, and says “waves of night and blood,” and then later in the same scene, he picks up Oathkeeper, which he thinks of as a close cousin to the first and muses that the two swords “shared the same fine clean lines and the same distinctive color, the ripples of blood and night.” Later, when Jamie gives the sword to Brienne, the wording is “Blood and black the ripples shone.” I believe this precise choice of language exists because it is supposed to correlate with the black and bloody tide motif, which means they both refer to the flood triggered by the meteor impacts. The match between “blood and black the ripples shone” and “black and bloody tides” is pretty freakin close.
What’s really cool about Oathkeeper and Widow’s Wail is that they combine several different bloodstone concepts in one package. The first is the blood consecration idea – Ned’s Ice was covered in Ned’s blood. We are even specifically shown during the siege of King’s Landing that Ser Ilyn does not clean the blood off the blade after using it, so it seems we are supposed to think of Ice as being soiled with sacrificial blood, like the bloodstone meteors and Lightbringer itself. We also saw that Arya perceives the red comet – the bleeding star – as Ice, covered in Ned’s blood, so again, I think George is drawing our attention to Ice as a bloody sword, and this association passes along to Oathkeeper and Widow’s Wail, whose red is the color of blood.
The second and third ways that the swords are acting like bloodstone are from the Pliny the Elder quote: darkening the sun’s reflection to the color of blood while submerged, and being a sun mirror. Add to this the general concept of turning the sun or turning in the sun, the literal meaning of heliotrope. Recall that the Maiden-Made-of-Light – the sun – “turned her back” and “hid her face from the world.” In the scene where solar king Jon Snow sees the red fire and black ice in the cracks of the Wall, there’s a line that says “Jon Snow turned away. The last light of the sun had begun to fade.” It’s like Jon is himself the sun here, and when he turns away, the last light of the sun fades… pretty cool.
Now I’ve quoted this scene where Tyrion first sees Oathkeeper a couple of times, and this won’t be the last time either. As you listen, watch out for watery language, and for people turning the blade. In fact, this scene is basically a couple of lions turning the sword in the sunlight over and over again. Their solar, leonine gaze is matched by the sunlight streaming in through the windows. If you like, you can imagine Tywin and Tyrion wearing big fuzzy yellow football mascot lion heads as we read this scene.
The light streaming through the diamond- shaped panes of glass made the blade shimmer black and red as Lord Tywin turned it to inspect the edge, while the pommel and crossguard flamed gold. “With this fool’s jabber of Stannis and his magic sword, it seemed to me that we had best give Joffrey something extraordinary as well. A king should bear a kingly weapon.”
So that’s sunlight shimmering on the blade as solar figure Tywin turns the sword. We see a suggestion of a flaming sword (the crossguard). There’s also a direct reference to Stannis’s magic sword, Lightbringer.
“That’s much too much sword for Joff,” Tyrion said.
“He will grow into it. Here, feel the weight of it.” The sword was much lighter than he had expected. As he turned it in his hand he saw why. Only one metal could be beaten so thin and still have strength enough to fight with, and there was no mistaking those ripples, the mark of steel that has been folded back on itself many thousands of times. “Valyrian steel?”
“Yes,” Lord Tywin said, in a tone of deep satisfaction.
That’s one more sword turning…
Tyrion wondered where the metal for this one had come from. A few master armorers could rework old Valyrian steel, but the secrets of its making had been lost when the Doom came to old Valyria.
I’ve mentioned that the Doom may be serving as a kind of parallel to the Long Night disaster. The Doom was when the skies rained down dragonglass and the black blood of demons – and of course that makes a lot more sense when you think about a rain of black bloodstones instead of black blood. The rain of dragonglass complements this idea by creating the image of falling black blades which are associated with dragons. The Doom was also accompanied by “walls of water 300 feet high” which drowned whole islands, to use a phrase we know. Since I am suggesting the “waves of night and blood crashing upon some steely shore” in these swords is referring to the floods triggered by the moon meteors, I like the fact that the Doom – a story about floods and a rain of black blood and dragonglass – is mentioned right in the middle of this scene.
This is of course another manifestation of the “storm of swords” motif, and again there’s a parallel to be found on the Iron Islands, where they sing “old reaving songs” like “The Bloody Cup” and “Steel Rain” – you know, all the classics. Time after time, we see these concepts paired together – the rain of swords or steel and the waves of blood, with the idea of a bloody cup giving us the blood-drinking connotation we saw earlier with Aquan the Red Bull and Bors the Breaker, a connotation which of course originates with Lightbringer drinking Nissa Nissa’s blood. Like I said – meteors, floods, and darkness.
“The colors are strange,” he commented as he turned the blade in the sunlight. Most Valyrian steel was a grey so dark it looked almost black, as was true here as well. But blended into the folds was a red as deep as the grey. The two colors lapped over one another without ever touching, each ripple distinct, like waves of night and blood upon some steely shore. “How did you get this patterning? I’ve never seen anything like it.”
There’s our payoff quote, and once again it’s the same structure – swords that bring blood and night. All of the watery imagery in this scene and in the sword itself works to create the image a submerged bloodstone. Just a minute ago, we saw a rain of blood that symbolizes sword-like meteors, and we saw something very similar when we looked at Melisandre’s vision of the black and bloody tide, where the skulls weeping blood symbolized the sword meteors. Now we see the reverse: a sword that looks like waves of blood, instead of blood that represents swords. Of course it goes without saying that all of these symbols are associated with Lightbringer.
We also see another blade turning – that’s three now – and this time it’s turned in the sunlight specifically. And now, the other payoff quote, which will introduce our next important concept:
“Nor I, my lord,” said the armorer. “I confess, these colors were not what I intended, and I do not know that I could duplicate them. Your lord father had asked for the crimson of your House, and it was that color I set out to infuse into the metal. But Valyrian steel is stubborn. These old swords remember, it is said, and they do not change easily. I worked half a hundred spells and brightened the red time and time again, but always the color would darken, as if the blade was drinking the sun from it. And some folds would not take the red at all, as you can see.
So, it was colored a bright red, but that stubborn old sword absolutely insists on darkening the color to that of blood – just like a submerged bloodstone is supposed to do. That’s a pretty specific reference to heliotrope, and it’s the kind of thing that should clear up any doubt about whether or not George is mining the associations of bloodstone and heliotrope as a part of his Lightbringer mythos.
Drinking the sun’s light is important, because the the moon meteors drank the sun’s fire – I’ve mentioned this before, you’re not impressed. Well, that was before we were thinking about bloodstone as something which darkens the sun’s light. We are about to get into plants which are said to act “heliotropically” because their flowers and leaves very noticeably turn to face the sun throughout the day, the better to drink up its light. Another related concept is the idea of bloodstone as a sun stone – a stone which soaks up the sun and is therefore imbued with solar energy. These are all types of light-drinking.
The list of things which drink the light in A Song of Ice and Fire seems carefully chosen, when you take a look at them, and I believe that they all refer to moon meteors, or thing burnt by moon meteors. The moon drinks the sun’s light and fire, and as a result, the moon meteor children are themselves sun-drinkers, so either Lightbringer itself or things stabbed by Lightbringer should be expected to drink the light.
- Oathkeeper and Widows Wail – we got that. Lightbringer symbols.
- The oily black stone of Asshai – might be moon meteor stone, or stone burnt black by moon meteor impacts. Perhaps there’s a nasty black moon meteor at the heart of the shadowlands whose poison is leeching into the very land and turning the stone black and greasy. Any of these ideas would fit the pattern.
- The stone of the pit Viserion and Rhaegal are chained up in in A Dance with Dragons: “Walls and floor and ceiling drank the light. Scorched, he realized. Bricks burned black, crumbling into ash.” Stone burnt by dragon fire fits in with the bloodstone meteors which drank the sun’s fire.
- The House of the Undying, from A Clash of Kings: “Long and low, without towers or windows, it coiled like a stone serpent through a grove of black-barked trees whose inky blue leaves made the stuff of the sorcerous drink the Qartheen called shade of the evening. No other buildings stood near. Black tiles covered the palace roof, many fallen or broken; the mortar between the stones was dry and crumbling. She understood now why Xaro Xhoan Daxos called it the Palace of Dust. Even Drogon seemed disquieted by the sight of it. The black dragon hissed, smoke seeping out between his sharp teeth. “Blood of my blood,” Jhogo said in Dothraki, “this is an evil place, a haunt of ghosts and maegi. See how it drinks the morning sun? Let us go before it drinks us as well.” A stone serpent is a great comet symbol, and this stone serpent is heavily associated with shadows. To find it drinking the sun – the morning sun, no less – is not a surprise. As a bonus, I’ll mention that the Nightswatch brother called Stone Snake comes from the shadow tower – and the House of the Undying literally is a shadow tower, a tower which doesn’t actually exist. Dany seems to climb up and up, only to run straight out after Drogon lights the place up. It’s a shadow tower that’s a stone snake, a pretty cool parallel.
- Renly’s armor right before he’s assassinated: this scene is too heavy to even get into in any depth, but the long and short of it is that Renly’s armor drinks the light, right before he has his throat slashed by Azor Ahai’s “shadowsword,” the shadow of a sword which is not there – Stannis’s fake Lightbringer. As a victim of Lightbringer, he is the right man to drink the light – sorry Renly, you don’t get a choice. After Renly’s throat is cut, the blood washes over his armor like a “dark tide” and “an evil flow,” and “drowns out the green and gold,” which are the colors of summer and life, of plants and sunshine. Renly’s last word is “cold…” As this dark deed goes down, all the lamps in the tent go out. The tent was a “magical castle, alive with light” right before, so the transformation is notable. Light-drinking, Lightbringer the shadowsword, throat cutting, the dark blood tide, and then darkness and cold.
(Interestingly, there’s a link between the light drinking stone of the dragon’s pit under the pyramid and Renly’s armor. Renly’s light-drinking armor is described as “a deep green, the green of leaves in a summer wood,” while Rhaegal, the green and gold dragon, has “scales of dark green, the green of moss in the deep woods at dusk, just before the last light fades.” We’ll revisit this idea when we turn the focus to Garth the Green and horned god archetype, a subject I am eager to get to.)
As we can see, the “drinking the light” or “drinking the sun” phrases are consistently used in a way which refers to the Lightbringer meteors, and I believe this is in accordance with bloodstone as being a stone which darkens the sun, which drinks its light. Since it is one of the first basic facts we are given about the meteors – they drank the fire of the sun – I think it’s quite important. Essentially, I see this as a corroboration of the general premise of the last episode, that the Bloodstone Emperor Azor Ahai represents the inverted solar king who brought the Long Night, and that Lightbringer is associated with shadow and darkness, with drinking the light instead of giving it off. Contrast the “alive with light” language applied to the sword Dawn with the idea of “drinking the sun’s light” associated with Oathkeeper and Widow’s Wail – should we really expect Azor Ahai’s sword to give off light? Not any kind of natural light, that’s for sure. It should be light or fire that has been turned, somehow…
I can’t help but think that the concept of black fire goes back to Lightbringer as well. All the symbolism between the black dragons and Lightbringer match, so I don’t see why Azor Ahai’s sword wouldn’t light up with black and red flame. I’ve got my fingers crossed that Brienne’s sun drinking, red and black sword might have a chance at doing the black fire thing. Maybe Blackfyre itself, if it ever surfaces. Fingers crossed.
To finish up on Oathkeeper and Widow’s Wail, here are the ways in which these swords act like bloodstone. They are consecrated in blood like bloodstone; they turn in the sunlight like bloodstone, they drink the sunlight like bloodstone, they darken the sun’s reflection to the color of the blood like bloodstone, and they imply a submersion in water as they darken the sun’s reflection to blood, like bloodstone. I believe this is good evidence in support of the ideas laid out so far concerning bloodstone and Lightbringer, and that the waves of blood and night swords which drink the light are a part of the Lightbringer family of symbolism.
This also raises the possibility that Ned’s sun-drinking black sword is literally made from moon meteor stone. Perhaps it’s the original Lightbringer of Azor Ahai, kept in the crypts of Winterfell for millennia until it could be passed off as Valyrian steel. Or perhaps the Valyrians sold Ned’s ancestor Lightbringer by accident! Whoops! (I’m picturing some silver haired Valyrian intern getting fed to a dragon by his superiors for selling Ned’s great-grandaddy Lightbringer by mistake.) Or perhaps all Valyrian steel has black meteor stone in it – that’s probably more likely to be the case. It’s hard to know because we haven’t seen anyone try to color another Valyrian steel sword, so we don’t know if the weird way Ned’s sword acts is unique or not. I’m going to do an episode focusing on Valyrian steel sword exclusively, and we’ll take a detailed look at what exactly happens when Ice is split and reforged.
The Black Dread Reborn
Compare the three bloody flood motifs we’ve examined so far – the black and bloody tides, the waves of night and blood, and the red fire and rivers of black ice – to one of our other prime Lightbringer symbols, Drogon, and notice the tight correlations in the wording. The black dragon in Dany’s dream which represents Drogon has scales as “black as night, wet and slick with blood,” matching the “waves of night and blood” language exactly. Drogon’s egg meanwhile is called “black as a midnight sea,” like waves of night, in other words – “yet alive with scarlet ripples and swirls” – there’s our waves of blood, and the whole thing speaks of a black and bloody tide from the sea. When Drogon’s egg finally hatches, there are many uses of watery language to describe the fire, which I highlighted when we dissected that scene in the first podcast. Drogon’s blood, of course, is black and burning.
“Aegon’s dragons were named for the gods of Old Valyria,” she told her bloodriders one morning after a long night’s journey. “Visenya’s dragon was Vhagar, Rhaenys had Meraxes, and Aegon rode Balerion, the Black Dread. It was said that Vhagar’s breath was so hot that it could melt a knight’s armor and cook the man inside, that Meraxes swallowed horses whole, and Balerion … his fire was as black as his scales, his wings so vast that whole towns were swallowed up in their shadow when he passed overhead.”
The Dothraki looked at her hatchlings uneasily. The largest of her three was shiny black, his scales slashed with streaks of vivid scarlet to match his wings and horns. “Khaleesi,” Aggo murmured, “there sits Balerion, come again.”
“It may be as you say, blood of my blood,” Dany replied gravely, “but he shall have a new name for this new life.”
He is Balerion the Black Dread come again, and like Balerion, Drogon the Winged Shadow has that black fire shot through with red. Although this fire can still be bright when in a very dark place, such as the House of the Undying where Drogon’s fire is described as “bright and hot,” the general notion of fire which is black speaks of inverting the luminescent qualities of fire – in other words, drinking the light, darkening the sun’s fire, etc. The House of the Undying example is the only time his fire is called bright – every other time it’s “dark flame” or “black fire.” As an aside, the idea that even the black fire of the black dragon can be bright in comparison to unnatural blue shadows like the Undying might suggest that Lightbringer the evil black sword might still be effective in fighting the Others – this could be the potential redemption arc for Lightbringer which I have mentioned a few times. Perhaps the idea is that we have to drink all that blue starlight clean out of their bodies so they melt into a little puddle.
Drogon also matches other aspects of bloodstone, such as the idea of bloodstone being a sun-stone which is imbued with the power of the sun (due to all that sun-drinking it does, of course). The Qarthine myth tells us that the dragon meteors drank the fire of the sun, and that that is why they breathe flame – they’ve been imbued with solar power (dark solar power, but still). Last time we examined a couple of quotes that show that Lightbringer is imbued with the power of the sun – it’s called “the sun made steel” when Stannis unsheathes it at the Wall, and Grenn tells Jon that “it glows like it had a piece of sun inside it.” Drogon, who is himself “fire made flesh,” has some similar quotes:
She put her palm against the black egg, fingers spread gently across the curve of the shell. The stone was warm. Almost hot. “The sun,” Dany whispered. “The sun warmed them as they rode.”
There’s also this line about living Drogon from A Dance with Dragons:
Drogon was curled up beneath her arm, as hot as a stone that has soaked all day in the blazing sun.
Look, he’s even curled into a cute little Drogon-ball. The language here is pretty specific – Drogon soaks up the sun, like a stone. He’s just like the bloodstone, a stone which drinks the sun and is therefore imbued with solar energy.
Let’s even slip in a little eclipse talk here too, because Drogon, the winged shadow, seems to have a habit of covering things in shadow. We already saw that Balerion’s wings could swallow a whole town in shadow when he passed overhead – when he eclipses the sun, in other words, and Drogon exhibits the same behavior. This is from the end of A Dance with Dragons, as Dany is stranded with Drogon in the Dothraki Sea:
The second time he passed before the sun, his black wings spread, and the world darkened.
Earlier in A Dance with Dragons, when Drogon lands in the fighting pits with Daenerys, like her knight in shining armor, we get this quote:
Drogon rose, his wings covering her in shadow. Dany swung the lash at his scaled belly, back and forth until her arm began to ache. His long serpentine neck bent like an archer’s bow. With a hisssssss, he spat black fire down at her. Dany darted underneath the flames, swinging the whip and shouting, “No, no, no. Get DOWN!” His answering roar was full of fear and fury, full of pain. His wings beat once, twice… and folded. The dragon gave one last hiss and stretched out flat upon his belly. Black blood was flowing from the wound where the spear had pierced him, smoking where it dripped onto the scorched sands. He is fire made flesh, she thought, and so am I. (ADWD, Daenerys)
Drogon is just kind of showing off the range of Lightbringer symbolism here: a serpent, an archer’s bow, a spear, a whip, wings of shadow, burning black blood, black fire, smoke… Drogon also “rose,” like a rising sun or moon or star. The folded wings may reference the idea of folded steel – Valyrian steel – which is steel made in dragon fire, of course.
The mention of the whip, also called a lash in this scene, brings up a little detail I’d like to clean up from the first podcast. During the Alchemical Wedding scene, I pointed to Drogo’s flaming lash which seems to crack open the first dragon’s egg as the specific symbol of Lightbringer the comet:
Now, she thought, now, and for an instant she glimpsed Khal Drogo before her, mounted on his smoky stallion, a flaming lash in his hand. He smiled, and the whip snaked down at the pyre, hissing.
I neglected to point out that at the beginning of the scene, Dany looks right at the comet and calls it the “Dragon’s Tail.” The tails of the dragons are in turn often described as a whip and a lash – it happened twice in the fighting pit scene, a bit before the section I quoted. The idea that a “dragon’s tail” can refer to the red comet or a lash reinforces the idea that Drogo’s hissing, flaming lash was in fact meant to represent the comet as it “snaked down” and cracked the stone egg, just like Lightbringer is supposed to. Just for good measure, George also gives us several occurrences of a whip cracking like thunder, evoking the lightning / thunderbolt motif and bloodstone’s association with causing lightning and thunderstorms, while the dragon’s eggs cracked by Drogo’s fiery, hissing lash make a sound “as loud and sharp as thunder.” Drogon himself also brings thunder, as we see in this earlier quote from the Daznak’s pit scene:
Above them all the dragon turned, dark against the sun. His scales were black, his eyes and horns and spinal plates blood red. Ever the largest of her three, in the wild Drogon had grown larger still. His wings stretched twenty feet from tip to tip, black as jet. He flapped them once as he swept back above the sands, and the sound was like a clap of thunder.
The flying dragon “turns, dark against the sun,” evoking the sun-turning definition of heliotrope and the ideas of darkening the sun and eclipsing the sun. Dark against the sun implies an eclipse, with Drogon playing the role of dragon moon superimposed over the sun. Drogon’s red is called blood red, to go along with the various times his scales have been called “black as night.” Night and blood, once again. Elsewhere in A Dance with Dragons, Drogon’s eyes are called “pits of fire” and “smoldering red pits,” which remind us of the black and bloody holes in the decapitated heads of the Nightswatch brothers. Even better, Dany actually sees herself in the reflection of Drogon’s red eyes in the pit scene – since reborn Daenerys is now a solar king, Azor Ahai reborn, Drogon’s eyes are acting like sun-mirrors – but of course the reflected image is turned to the color of blood, like a true bloodstone.
There’s just one more bloodstone idea to be found with Drogon. Bloodstone is sometimes called the “mother goddess stone,” and it’s associated with moon goddesses who resurrect the dead solar king, like Isis, Inanna, and Ishtar / Astarte. Drogon is a symbol of Azor Ahai reborn and Lightbringer, which parallels the idea that Drogon is named after Drogon and hatches when Drogon is burned, or even that Drogon contains some element of Drogo’s spirit or life-force. Dany hatched Drogon – so in other words, she resurrected the solar king. There are actually a lot of Ishtar / Daenerys parallels – Ishtar’s statues usually have amethyst for eyes, for a start – but I will save that for a future essay focusing on moon goddesses and night goddesses. The red comet, which also represents reborn Drogo, is of course a bleeding stone, so again we see the resurrection of the solar king concept intertwined with bloodstone.
I’ve mentioned that the concept of Azor Ahai reborn can appear as resurrected Azor Ahai, or as the child of Azor Ahai. You might even be tired of me saying it. But consider this – Drogon represents both the resurrected solar king AND Dany’s child. And that’s exactly what I am talking about with consistency of symbols. Martin devises ways to create symbols which represent two concepts at once, or even more than two. And then there’s this bit from A Dance with Dragons, as Daenerys ponders the meaning of Mirri Maz Durr’s “prophecy:”
The meaning was plain enough; Khal Drogo was as like to return from the dead as she was to bear a living child.
Khal Drogo returning from the dead and Dany bearing a living child would both represent Azor Ahai reborn, just as Drogon represents both reborn Drogo and Dany’s living child.
All in all, we can see that Drogon is a Lightbringer symbol par excellence, and just like Oathkeeper and Widow’s Wail, he’s showing off many of the attributes of bloodstone.
Dark Wings, Dark Stars
The ultimate sun drinking quote comes from a Bran chapter of A Dance with Dragons. What, I ask you, is the absolute epitome of drinking sunlight? In the whole entire universe, what’s the most well known mascot of drinking the light? Why, a black hole of course. A dark-star. Since the chief sun-drinker in our story is the moon, it sure would be nice if Martin found some way to describe the moon as a black hole.
The moon was a black hole in the sky. Wolves howled in the wood, sniffing through the snowdrifts after dead things. A murder of ravens erupted from the hillside, screaming their sharp cries, black wings beating above a white world. A red sun rose and set and rose again, painting the snows in shades of rose and pink. Under the hill, Jojen brooded, Meera fretted, and Hodor wandered through dark tunnels with a sword in his right hand and a torch in his left. Or was it Bran wandering? No one must ever know.
The great cavern that opened on the abyss was as black as pitch, black as tar, blacker than the feathers of a crow. Light entered as a trespasser, unwanted and unwelcome, and soon was gone again; cookfires, candles, and rushes burned for a little while, then guttered out again, their brief lives at an end.
Wooo-boy! Now we’re getting somewhere. The moon is a black hole, a dark star, a light-vortex. It’s like a b-side to Soundgarden’s “black hole sun” – black hole moon.
First, wave hello to Mithras! The sword in one hand and torch in the other of Bran-controlled Hodor is a clear allusion to rock-born Mithras. Mithras-HodorBran “wanders” – the word is used twice – as the sun rose and set and rose again, giving us the idea of a dying and resurrected sun, or perhaps a dying and resurrected solar deity. Which is exactly what Mithras is, of course, and it’s what Azor Ahai seems to be.
Ok, so let’s talk about ravens. Ravens are obviously a very important symbol in the novels, woven through many scenes and chapters in every book. Similarly, they are a very important symbol in regards to mythical astronomy. It may not surprise you that I am going to propose that ravens (and crows) represent black moon meteors. There are several reasons of this, so here it goes.
Crows and ravens are flying black things, like the meteors. Note the synergy of blackness in this quote between the abyss, the ravens, the crows, and the black hole moon. The moon is a black hole, while the abyss gets an entire paragraph dedicated to describing how uber-black it is (that’s so metal, bro). The ravens erupt like meteors, and just when the moon is a black hole – that’s exactly when we should see meteors. The ravens have beating black wings – beating like a heart pumping black blood, I would say. It reminds us of Orell’s eagle with it’s heart burnt to a blackened cinder by fire magic, as well as the other black hearts we’ve discussed. Just the other day I noticed that Robert refers to having driven the spike of his war hammer right into Rhaegar’s “black heart,” which is perfect, since Rhaegar is a terrific incarnation of the Azor Ahai / dark solar king archetype, the black dragon. Then we have the black feathers of a crow, to which the light-drinking abyss is compared. This certainly puts us in mind of the NightsWatch, who are called crows, and are said to have “black blood.” Crows and ravens basically share the same symbolism – they’re like cousins, as we are told by Maester Aemon. Darkness, black blood, erupting or “pouring forth,” drinking light and killing the light – stop me if this sounds familiar to you.
These two paragraphs seem like a terrific example of George presenting us with a cohesive set of symbols which all pertain to the same thing, a technique we have seen many times by now. The raven – meteor parallels actually go a bit further, too. The maester’s chain link for learning ravencraft is… (wait for it) …black iron. Black iron meteorites are exactly what we are talking about. Those are the ones you can make swords from.
The ravens come from places which symbolize the celestial realm. In the above quote, it was the hillside, which is something like a small mountain. Just as with mountains and towers and people, the tops of trees can be used to symbolize the celestial realm, as it is in the real world with the Yggdrasil tree of Norse myth and many other mythological “world trees.” Items placed in the upper branches of such a tree therefore represent heavenly bodies. Of course the limbs of the weirwood trees are usually where we find the ravens.
We also find the red leaves of the tree, which are described as bits of flame or bloody hands, both of which are familiar to us as moon meteors symbols. There’s a black abyss of symbolism around red and bloody hands we can fall into – another time perhaps – such as with Benerro and his fiery-fingered moon-destruction pantomime, or with Timmet, the “Red Hand” of the “Burned Men” in the “Mountains of the Moon.” We’ve also got Jon Snow, who burns his hand fighting the wights, and then shortly after, gets both arms bloody to the elbow while flinging dead meat to the ravens. We’ll stop there for now, but the point is made: bloody hands of flaming hands represent the fiery hand of god which flings the bloody meteors, so to speak, and I believe that’s why Martin chose them as symbols for the weirwood leaves, because the branches of the tree represent the celestial realms. That also includes things besides the ravens and the red leaves, such as fruit, when Martin wants to show a star being “plucked” from the sky. This also ties in to the Garden of Eden story and the fruit of the tree which represents the knowledge of the gods that Adam ate. Stealing the knowledge of the gods, plucking the apple from the tree, plucking the moon from heaven – this is the well-known mythological theme which George is making excellent use of.
Ravens are used as messengers – “dark wings, dark words,” as they say. They are viewed as omens – dark ones – and the red comet is called the “red messenger” and is said to foretell blood and fire. You might even say these meteors were messengers of starry wisdom, since the Bloodstone emperor worshipped his black stone and became the high priest of said starry wisdom church.
The red comet is also called the “sword that slays the seasons” just as the white ravens are sent out to herald the change of seasons. I think the white ravens being the ones to herald the season change is interesting, because Lightbringer was white hot right before it stabbed Nissa Nissa, and we’ve talked about that correlating to the original Lightbringer comet being white and pale blue like a normal comet before it struck the moon, with the surviving half only turning red after passing through the fire. The white raven / comet heralded the change of season – from fall to winter, but then we only got the black ravens / meteors during the night. This would also square with the idea of Dawn representing some kind of technology from the lost Great Empire of the Dawn, whose gemstone emperors appear to Daenerys in her wake the dragon dream holding swords of pale fire. It seems like Azor Ahai’s black sword might be a corrupt version of the original design, which shone with pale flame.
Not only do crows and ravens erupt from the heavens and drink the light – they’re good for eclipses, too. Since we have the raven imagery fresh in our minds, let’s take a look at this quote, the scene in which Coldhands makes his dramatic entrance, stage left:
“Fair.” The raven landed on his shoulder. “Fair, far, fear.” It flapped its wings, and screamed along with Gilly. The wights were almost on her. He heard the dark red leaves of the weirwood rustling, whispering to one another in a tongue he did not know. The starlight itself seemed to stir, and all around them the trees groaned and creaked. Sam Tarly turned the color of curdled milk, and his eyes went wide as plates. Ravens! They were in the weirwood, hundreds of them, thousands, perched on the bone-white branches, peering between the leaves. He saw their beaks open as they screamed, saw them spread their black wings. Shrieking, flapping, they descended on the wights in angry clouds. They swarmed round Chett’s face and pecked at his blue eyes, they covered the Sisterman like flies, they plucked gobbets from inside Hake’s shattered head. There were so many that when Sam looked up, he could not see the moon. “Go,” said the bird on his shoulder. “Go, go, go.”
A fabulous clue that the limbs of the weirwood represent the celestial realm comes here as the the starlight stirs while the leaves whisper. Whispering leaves is in fact the communication medium of the weirwoods, as we have seen with several Bran scenes throughout the series. Starlight, too, whispers, to Daenerys on three different occasions. I believe this relates to the concept of starry wisdom – the wisdom of the heavens. In one scene, Quaithe is literally manifesting herself as a mask of starlight in the sky while whispering advice to Dany. Being a shadow binder from Asshai who dispenses wisdom through starlight, Quaithe is a prime candidate to be an actual devotee of the Church of Starry Wisdom – I certainly tend to think of her in this way. In any case, we see the leaves whispering and the starlight stirring in the same sentence, and right at the crucial moment. From the celestial realm of the weirwood, angry clouds of ravens with sharp beaks and cries pour forth – so many that they blot out the moon. During the Long Night, everyone gets eclipsed. All heavenly lights are blotted out. You might say that “when the moon disappears from sight, we get angry clouds of black death messengers.”
There’s a cool line in A Clash of Kings from Salladhor Saan that’s quite similar:
When you speak to King Stannis, mention if you would that he will owe me another thirty thousand dragons come the black of the moon. He ought to have given those gods to me. They were too beautiful to burn, and might have brought a noble price in Pentos or Myr.
Just as we get clouds of black, sun-drinking ravens when the moon is a black hole or when the moon is blotted out, we also get thousand of dragons come the black of the moon. George has written this paragraph so that Salla wants the dragons and the burning gods, and that’s because the dragons we are really talking about – the flaming moon meters – are to be thought of as pieces of a burning god, or goddess. When the moon turns black, the dragons are coming.
Elsewhere in the same book, it says that King Stannis’s fiery heart banner arrived at King’s Landing “during the black of the moon.” Aegon the Conqueror was the original king that landed here, he with his night black armor, black dragon, and Blackfyre sword. Stannis is the king who’s landing now, and he’s an Azor Ahai symbol with a fiery heart and a flaming sword called Lightbringer. The fiery heart calls out to Nissa Nissa’s burned heart, as well as the idea of a meteor being the heart of a fallen star – a burning one, to be sure. In other words, the king that lands by the black water is a fiery heart and a black dragon – Azor Ahai reborn in the form of a black meteor, burning red. This meteor lands when the moon turns black. Note also the parallel this draws between Stannis’s Lightbringer and Aegon’s sword Blackfyre… potentially another clue that Azor Ahai’s Lightbringer lit up with black fire.
One more for good measure, this time mixing the red comet with the ravens and stars. This is from A Clash of Kings:
Jon clapped him on the shoulder with his burned hand. They walked back through the camp together. Cookfires were being lit all around them. Overhead, the stars were coming out. The long red tail of Mormont’s Torch burned as bright as the moon. Jon heard the ravens before he saw them. Some were calling his name. The birds were not shy when it came to making noise.
The idea here is that the ravens and the stars that are “coming out” – as in coming out of the sky – both represent the moon meteors. So looking at the sequence of symbols in this passage, we see that the stars “come out” as the red wanderer burns as bright as the moon – in other words, after the comet and moon both burn brightly. Immediately after, the black ravens come. It goes one level further, actually, because Sam is said to have a “moon-face” on four separate occasions, while Jon represents Azor Ahai. So when he claps Sam on the shoulder with his burned hand, we can imagine the burning hand of the sun clapping the moon – thunderclapping, more like. And right after, the stars and cook fires come out, the comet and moon burn, and the ravens come in the darkness.
We’ve one last note on ravens and crows as meteors. Remember Jon’s dream of black ice armor and a burning red sword? Of course you do, we’ve talked about it enough. Well in that dream, the scarecrow brothers – the ones who represent fallen NW brothers – are said to “tumble down, black cloaks ablaze.” Now you can see that those burning crows are representations of flaming meteors, black flying things burning red. They come from the top of the Wall – the celestial realm – as Jon performs the deeds of Azor Ahai and the Bloodstone Emperor, just as the black meteors would come from the sky as the comet stabs the moon.
As to the ramifications of the Night’s Watch being one of the many black meteor symbols… let’s consider. The meteors function as reborn Azor Ahai’s dragons or his Lightbringer. The Night’s Watch is a sword in the darkness, and they fight the Others with flame, so that lines up. Does this suggest that the original Night’s Watch were Azor Ahai’s troops, his warriors? This could work with the idea that the Last Hero was the son of Azor Ahai, what you might call Azor Ahai reborn. Jon was Lord Commander when he had his Azor Ahai dream, commanding his scarecrow Night’s Watch brothers to “feed them flame.” He also seems to be playing the role of Last Hero in that dream, abandoned and alone as he fights the undead enemies scuttling up the ice.
Another possible meaning of the black brothers / black meteors equivalency I can think of would be the idea that perhaps the original Night’s Watch all wielded dragonsteel, or perhaps just dragonglass. We know the latter is true, and dragonglass, as black frozen fire that can make blades, works as a fine meteor symbol in its own right, as I believe it did with the Doom and the idea of a rain of black blood and dragonglass.
So, we’ve seen ravens erupt as the moon was a black hole. We’ve seen ravens descend in angry clouds that blot out the moon, a type of eclipse. We’ve seen thousands of dragons promised by an Azor Ahai type come the black of the moon. We’ve seen Drogon eclipse the sun on two occasions. To round out this group, I give you the Darkstar eclipse:
He kept his face clean-shaven, but his thick hair fell to his collar like a silver glacier, divided by a streak of midnight black. He has a cruel mouth, though, and a crueler tongue. His eyes seemed black as he sat outlined against the dying sun, sharpening his steel, but she had looked at them from a closer vantage and she knew that they were purple. Dark purple. Dark and angry.
He must have felt her gaze upon him, for he looked up from his sword, met her eyes, and smiled. Arianne felt heat rushing to her face. I should never have brought him. If he gives me such a look when Arys is here, we will have blood on the sand.
Darkstar is outlined against the dying sun here, which means he’s standing in front of it – in other words, the dark star is in eclipse position… and sharpening steel swords, preparing to unleash the storm. The moon is a black hole and a dark star, and when the sun died and the swords came out, the moon appeared black as it stood outlined against the dying sun. It’s the same language as we saw with Drogon turning “dark against the sun” as he passed in front of it. I think it’s cool how we see these symbols of the Azor Ahai reborn / dark solar king archetype like Drogon and Darkstar eclipsing the sun. I would think it’s cool, because it supports my theory about bloodstone and the moon and eclipses, but perhaps you think it’s cool as well.
We See Dead People
Recall back to the black hole moon quote, where we saw Mithras Hodor-Bran wandering with the sword and the torch, and right next to a sentence about the red sun rising and setting and rising again. I mentioned that Mithras is resurrected solar king, just as Azor Ahai reborn is. Dany is reborn in fire to become the Last Dragon. And in the Darkstar eclipse scene above, the sun that he eclipses is a “dying sun.” Beric is a literally resurrected Azor Ahai / Bloodstone Emperor figure, and of course Jon Snow seems headed for some kind of resurrection. Bloodraven too is half a corpse. Heck, there’s even persistent talk of Rhaegar being resurrected, such as when the rumormonger in Vaes Dothrak says that Rhaegar has “returned from the dead and was marshaling a vast host of ancient heroes on Dragonstone to reclaim his father’s throne,” or when Cersei first beholds Aurane Waters and “almost thought Rhaegar Targaryen had returned from the ashes.” Jaime even sees Rhaegar’s shade in his weirwood stump / flaming sword dream.
The whole point of following all this symbolism is to gain insight about the story and the characters, of course, and when an idea manifests as consistently as this, we have to ponder the meaning. I can’t help but wonder if the message here is that Azor Ahai became an undead person at some point. The Bloodstone Emperor was said to practice necromancy, and the city of Nefer – home of Azor Ahai look-alike “Neferion,” is known for their necromancy. Meanwhile, Benerro, the high priest of the red temple in Volantis, says that Daenerys is Azor Ahai returned, and that “death itself will bend its knee, and all those who die fighting in her cause shall be reborn …” …but I bet the people in the crowd weren’t thinking reborn as in zombies. Hilariously, right after this line, Tyrion ask Haldon Halfmaester “do I have to be reborn in the same body?” Yes Tyrion, I’m afraid that’s part of the deal. The point is, the theme of necromancy and resurrection – zombies, in other words – is pretty thick. Undead or half-dead Azor Ahai is a distinct possibility we have to consider. I’d even say it’s more likely that not, given what we have seen with zombies so far in the story.
Taking this one step further, I’m actually seeing clues about undead black brothers who defend the Wall during the original Long Night as well. Last time, I talked about how the scarecrow brothers on top of the Wall, the ones stuffed with straw, were named after fallen or absent Night’s Watch brothers. Those are the ones who tumble down from the Wall, black cloaks ablaze, in Jon’s Azor Ahai dream. Now consider the other black cloaked scarecrow in the story, Beric, who is called a scarecrow and has actual black blood. Beric was resurrected by fire – he’s a fiery undead, a burning scarecrow. Therefore, I think it’s possible that the burning scarecrow brothers in Jon’s dream represent undead black brothers, fighting with undead Azor Ahai at the Wall during the original Long Night. We’ve already seen one undead black brother – Coldhands – and we are about have another in the form of Jon Snow.
Let’s consider Jon’s dream atop the Wall from the standpoint of Jon as the Last Hero. We are told that the Last Hero has 12 companions, who died, and that the Last Hero ended up by himself against the Others before receiving some kind of unspecified aid from the children of the forest. Similarly, Jon finds himself abounded and alone atop the Wall – but is he? No, actually, he has the burning scarecrow brothers. If those represent undead Nightswatch, then perhaps the twelve dead companions of the Last Hero were more like twelve undead companions. We are also told that Azor Ahai did not win his battles alone, and there is a song about the Night’s Watch riding out to fight the War for the Dawn, both of which make it seem like the person fighting the Others should be by themselves. Perhaps the Night’s Watch did ride out to fight the Others with the Last Hero – but they might have all been undead or resurrected people.
And that makes a lot of sense, practically speaking – think about the unique skill set of the conscious undead, and how perfectly is tailored to the needs of journeying into the frozen dead lands to face the Others. Coldhands doesn’t have to worry about sleep or food – neither does Mel or Beric, for that matter – and Coldhands is impervious to cold, and Melisandre seems to be as well, although for different reasons. Whether these twelve undead companions of the Last Hero were reanimated by ice or by fire, they have specific attributes which would be very, very useful for anyone trying to do what the Last Hero and his party were doing. And again, this is most likely what Jon is headed for – some kind of undead, resurrected state. And Jon may very well be playing the role of the Last Hero. If the original Last Hero was resurrected too, then it all fits pretty well, with the future echoing the past.
The last thing I’ll say about this is that the three people I cited as examples – Coldhands, Beric, and Melisandre – all have access to magic. Beric is the least magical, but he lights his sword on fire with his own black blood. Melisandre is a given; birthing shadow babies and burning eagles out of the sky is proof of potent magic. Coldhands, meanwhile, communicates with the ravens and the great elk. The elk should be afraid of his corpse stink, but instead he obeys Coldhands, even after they split up – the elk takes the children to a predetermined location of Coldhands’ choosing. The ravens flock to him at night as if he were a weirwood tree, and he’s communicating with them in a few scenes as well. They attack the wights in concert with Coldhands’s rescue of Sam and Gilly. Coldhands is acting like a powerful skinchanger or greenseer – except he’s undead. And no, I absolutely do not buy even the possibility that he’s being skin changed by Bloodraven. What we can conclude from all this is that resurrected or transformed states of being do not seem to decrease one’s magic. If you think about it, this makes a lot sense – resurrected Jon is probably going to need more magic at his disposal, not less.
I’ve actually got a lot of notes and evidence gathered on this specific topic, and it’s one of the ones we’ll be turning to in the fairly near future as I pivot from all the Azor Ahai stuff over to greenseers and skinchangers and weirwoods. That’s right, we will eventually be talking about things other than Lightbringer and moon meteors.
To finish up the sun-turning ideas, I’ll toss you some lighter fare, something fun to break up all the bloodshed. There exists a modern device called a heliotrope that uses mirrors to reflect sunlight over great distances to mark the positions of participants in a land survey. This device uses regular mirrors, not mirrors made from actual heliotrope – rather, it’s the “sun-mirror” connotations of heliotrope they were naming the instrument for. This calls to mind the tale of Serwyn of the Mirror Shield, who slew the dragon Urrax with a spear throw to the eye after using his shield as a mirror, a trick which seems to be drawn from the slaying of the serpent-goddess Medusa of Greek mythology, where Perseus used a similar mirror-shield trick to turn the Medusa to stone with her own reflection. Even without the bloodstone – sun-mirror idea in mind, it’s easy to see why George might use the Medusa story as inspiration, since it has a goddess turning into a stone snake with more than one head. The story of Serwyn is actually a detailed celestial metaphor with direct relevance to the Azor Ahai legend, as we will show in a future essay. There’s also a moment in the Oberyn vs. Mountain fight where Oberyn uses the sun-mirror trick – that’s absolutely not a coincidence, as we will see when I break down that scene. We also saw this symbol in the eye of Dany’s dragons, which can be like polished shields or mirrors. Naturally, those mirrors reflect only blood and fire.
Purple Flowers and Poison Kisses
The term “heliotropism” is used to describe certain species of flowering plants (genus heliotropium in particular) which turn their flowers to face the sun as it moves throughout the day. The concept of the heliotropic plant is another application of the idea of “sun turning” (remember that “heliotrope” is made up of root words which mean “sun” and “to turn”). In this case, the heliotrope flowers are turning towards the sun, the better to drink the sunlight, instead of bending, refracting, or darkening the sunlight.
There is actually a Greek myth behind this idea, that of the Okeanid Nymph Klytie, who along with her six Okeanid sisters, were goddesses of the clouds and fresh water. Klytie was loved by the sun-god Helios, but after he left her for the “white goddess” Leucothea, a sea goddess, Klytie pined away for Helios for nine days, lying on the ground and turning her head to follow the sun in its course through the sky until her limbs took root and she was transformed into the sun-gazing flower, the heliotrope. It’s important to note that this myth puts the heliotrope in the role of the female lover of the sun god, which in our celestial model, would be represented by the moon goddess, who was indeed a sun-drinker. The idea of a moon turning to follow the sun which leads to transofHelios, the sun god, even loves and leaves her for another – that sounds like the part of the Qarthine legend that prophesies that one day the other moon will kiss the sun too. The sun is supposed to have two wives, two moons, after all, so this is a convenient Greek myth for George to rope into his bloodstone lore. It’s likely he chose bloodstone for some of the reasons listed above – the martyr’s stone idea, most of all – but having done so, he likely would have noticed the Greek myth of Klytie the heliotrope, since it fits so conveniently into his “sun god with two wives” motif.
Now that we
There’s another reason I can confidently say that the heliotropium plants have been part of George’s thinking since the very beginning of the first book. Why do I say this? Well, one of the plants in genus heliotropium is called a “valerian” – you might have caught your spellcheck trying to change “Valyrian” to this word, in fact. The valerian plant has flowers which are – and you’re going to like this – purple. Well, white or pink or purple, but still – valerians have purple flowers, and they are heliotropes. Daenerys is the character in the main story who most prominently symbolizes the second moon, and she is of course a Valyrian with purple eyes. The Amethyst Empress, another symbol of the second moon, is obviously associated with purple via her name. The idea of the purple valerian flower being a type of heliotropium might suggest that the Valyrians are descended from the Bloodstone Emperor, the Amethyst Empress, or both – and I actually have suggested that very idea in another essay, which will actually be the basis for an upcoming joint podcast between the mythical astronomy of ice and fire and the History of Westeros podcast – that will probably be the next episode you will see after this one, so look out for that. Interestingly, the purple variety of valerian is also called the Jacob’s Ladder, tying in to the theme of men who challenge god and seek to gain access to the heavens. I don’t mean to make too much of this, but it just kind of shows how naturally the heliotrope / bloodstone lore fits into the themes and ideas George was already working with.
In other words, “where did George get the idea for the name of the Valyrians?” The answer is, from the heliotrope flower.
The thing I’m trying to emphasize is that it would seem he had the bloodstone / heliotrope / valerian connections in mind before he began writing the story. That fits with my general premise of these essays, that George has had a kind of master plan or pattern from the beginning which he has hidden in metaphor in every book, one based on the forging of Lightbringer / Long Night disaster.
Early on in A Game of Thrones, there’s another amusing clue that George was thinking about heliotrope as both flower and bloodstone from the very start. The party from Winterfell is making it’s way down the Kingsroad through the Neck, and Arya muddies herself collecting purple and green flowers for Ned. She earns praise from Ned and makes Sansa wroth. But there’s a catch:
Then it turned out the purple flowers were called poison kisses, and Arya got a rash on her arms.
The forging of Lightbringer is also a procreative act, but one that poisons the moon rock – thus, “poison kisses” are a perfect description of what is going on here. A snakebite is a poison kiss, in other words, and these black bloodstone meteors are like poisonous snakes. But poison kisses can also be purple flowers as we see here, which makes perfect sense when you discover the heliotrope connections. In fact, real heliotropium plants are actually toxic to people and animals. Personally, I’m impressed with the creativity on display here by the author, weaving these ideas together in a way that makes terrific sense and creates compelling imagery. To drive the point home, the paragraph above continues on to say that Arya had purple welts and bruises on her body, which of course she received from sword-fighting practice with Micah. The purple bruises left by a sword parallel the purple flowers that leave a rash, and tie the poison purple flowers to swords striking maidens. Swords and poisonous purple flowers alike leave a mark on moon maidens.
In A Dance with Dragons, we see a follow-up to this scene as Theon goes to Moat Cailin to deceive the remaining Ironborn there. This is near where Arya found the poison kisses. Theon is essentially receiving a scrolling tour of Lightbringer symbols as he rides down the causeway through the swamp:
The swampy ground beyond the causeway was impassable, an endless morass of suckholes, quicksands, and glistening green swards that looked solid to the unwary eye but turned to water the instant you trod upon them, the whole of it infested with venomous serpents and poisonous flowers and monstrous lizard lions with teeth like daggers. Just as dangerous were its people, seldom seen but always lurking, the swamp-dwellers, the frog-eaters, the mud-men. . . . The ironborn called them all bog devils.
I believe this is yet another case of George using a favorite technique: listing several things which seem separate but are really all describing the same thing. Everything in the bog represents a different aspect of the Lightbringer meteors, that’s my hypothesis. There are five things in the swamp: poisonous serpents, poisonous flowers, lizard lions, bog devils, and the black stones of Moat Cailin. Poisonous serpents and flowers are two meteor symbols we have just examined in the previous scene with Arya and the poisons kisses and the section about Lightbringer the poisonous snake, so it’s nice to see them hear side by side to emphasize the connection. The lizard-lions fit right in, because the sun is chiefly depicted as a lion or a dragon, and here we get a bit of both, with the lizard suggesting the dragon. The teeth described as daggers matches exactly the description of the teeth of dragons. The dragon’s teeth are a natural fit for a moon meteor metaphor, and are described as being like black diamonds. Diamond are usually equated with stars, so black diamonds give us the dark-star motif again. Blackness and starlight, black falling stars that bite and poison – that’s how I am seeing these bloodstone meteors. Next we have the bog devils – the are devils who blow poison darts… that’s simple enough.
Finally, for the fifth and final thing in the swamp, we have the black stones of Moat Cailin. This quote is from just before the previous one:
Where once a mighty curtain wall had stood, only scattered stones remained, blocks of black basalt so large it must once have taken a hundred men to hoist them into place. Some had sunk so deep into the bog that only a corner showed; others lay strewn about like some god’s abandoned toys, cracked and crumbling, spotted with lichen. Last night’s rain had left the huge stones wet and glistening, and the morning sunlight made them look as if they were coated in some fine black oil.
Moat Cailin is made from black basalt, which like obsidian, is a lava-rock, for what it’s worth. It’s a different sort of frozen fire, in that sense. But the stones of Moat Cailin might also fall into the class of “oily stone” buildings with Asshai, Yeen, the Isle of Toads, and the Seastone Chair, based on this quote. It’s inconclusive because the rain is helping to create the image of oily stone. It’s interesting that Yeen and Moat Cailin have the same style of construction – enormous, square hewn blocks of black stone. However, whether or not the black stones of Moat Cailin are actually oily black stone – and therefore, according to my theory, meteorite stone – they are being used to symbolize them here. Some god’s abandoned toys – that’s a great description. It may be that George calls them oily looking here just for the metaphorical purpose of using the black stones as symbols for moon meteors, but whatever the case, god’s abandoned toys are oily black stones. Even better, it is the sunlight hitting the stone which makes them look oily. The sun is the one who poisoned the moon and created the black bloodstones.
There’s actually a couple more Lightbringer symbols in the swamp, but it would take to long too explain here because I need to introduce other concepts for them to make sense, so we’ll save those for another time. However, in the next paragraph after seeing all the things in the swamp, we get this:
Closer to the towers, corpses littered the ground on every side. Blood-blooms had sprouted from their gaping wounds, pale flowers with petals plump and moist as a woman’s lips.
According to the wiki of Ice and Fire, these blood-blooms are apparently actual flowers that grow from corpses. That’s flowers, that grow from corpses, with leaves that are the color of blood and look like woman’s lips. The lips evoke the poison kisses and the procreative theme of Lightbringer’s forging. The blood flowers symbolize post-moon explosion flowers, the bloodstones, and so they are the color of blood. The bloodstone meteors pour forth from the moon goddess’ corpse, just as the blood flowers grow from the corpses here.
And of course, I have to mention the mention of the Hammer of the Waters, which comes immediately after these paragraphs. Theon remembers that the children supposedly called down the Hammer from the Children’s Tower, which now has a broken crown, appropriately. It’s described thusly in A Game of Thrones when they pass through the first time:
It looked as if some great beast had taken a bite out of the crenellations along the tower top, and spit the rubble across the bog.
Are these black oily stones in the bog some god’s abandoned toys, or are they the spittle of a great beast? Again, I think the answer is “all of the above.” The idea of the black stones as being spit from the mouth of a great beast hearkens back to the general motif of things in the mouth or coming from the mount as representing meteors, such as dragon flame and dragon’s teeth, the darts of the bog-devils, fiery or bloody tongues, etc.
What I love about all the symbolism around Moat Cailin and the Children’s tower is how consistent and tight it is. The language in books one and five match each other and work together. You can more or less put together the whole thing with just Moat Cailin clues. The Hammer of the Waters is when some great beast of a diety bit the top off a tower and spit the poisonous black stones across the planet. The children’s tower is described as slender and spear-like, calling to mind the slender-as-a-spear maidens we see from time to time and associating the children’s tower with a maiden, as it should since it’s broken crown represents the broken moon. And I can’t help but remember the idea of Nissa Nissa as a children of the forest, via the “helpful elf” translation of Nissa that we looked at last time… this idea is tantalizing but needs further investigation.
Returning to Ned’s dream recall of the Tower of Joy, consider again the storm of flower petals in the bloody sky. This image takes on new meaning, in light of these connections – if we are symbolizing the moon goddess as a flower, then the pieces of the flower, blown about in a storm, are the pieces of the moon – the moon meteors. Appropriately, they appear in a blood-streaked sky. Of course, we have a parallel heliotrope symbol to this already at the Tower of Joy – the bloody stones used to make cairns. That’s pretty awesome, the sun-drinking moon flowers and the bloody stones both represented at the Tower of Joy, the birthplace of the reborn black dragon.
As for Jon himself, he’s Nissa Nissa reborn (or in this case Lyanna reborn) just as much as he is Azor Ahai or Rhaegar reborn, so it’s cool to see the more feminine flower symbol together with the more masculine, dragon-like bloody stones symbol at the place of his birth. Jon’s personal symbolism matches this as well. When Dany sees the blue rose in the chink in the Wall which fills the air with sweetness in her House of the Undying vision, it’s pretty clear that it represents Jon Snow – specifically Jon’s Stark heritage through his moon mother Lyanna. Jon also has the black ice / red fire and dragon symbolism from his solar king father, Rhaegar.
Now, think about the moon as a heliotrope flower, turning to follow the sun and experiencing some kind of transformation as Klytie the Greek goddess did. The transformation cycles in A Song of Ice and Fire which we have looked at involve the life and death cycle, represented by darkness and light. We’ve seen the heliotrope moon turn the sun dark, triggering the solar king death and resurrection cycle, and the moon itself transforms and turns black as it is burnt by the Lightbringer comet. So, what is the phrase Martin has chosen to describe the passage of one month? That’s right, a moon’s turn… you saw that one coming, didn’t you? A moon’s turn is when the moon goes through one cycle, from full and bright to a black hole and back again. And now you know why he calls it that! Naturally, a woman’s moon blood comes once a month or so… once every moon’s turn.
Now, in the interest full disclosure, moon blood can be quite terrifying and you better give it some respect. Here’s Jamie in A Storm of Swords:
“Oh, very good.” Jaime laughed. “Your wits are quicker than mine, I confess it. When they found me standing over my dead king, I never thought to say, ‘No, no, it wasn’t me, it was a shadow, a terrible cold shadow.’ ” He laughed again. “Tell me true, one kingslayer to another— did the Starks pay you to slit his throat, or was it Stannis? Had Renly spurned you, was that the way of it? Or perhaps your moon’s blood was on you. Never give a wench a sword when she’s bleeding.”
For sure, don’t give moon maidens a sword when their moon blood is on them, that can lead to the near destruction of the entire world, and also to the Long Night. Unfortunately, Jamie doesn’t take his own advice, and this is also from A Storm of Swords:
He undid his breeches and climbed up and pushed her bare white legs apart. One hand slid up her thigh and underneath her smallclothes. When he tore them away, he saw that her moon’s blood was on her, but it made no difference.
Jamie is a solar king, so he just can’t help himself from giving bloody moon maidens “the sword.” On the grisly side of things, this is the notorious sex scene which takes place in the sept where Joffrey’s dead body lies in wake. As with dead baby Rhaego, we see the son of the sun is a dead person when Lightbringer is forged. Also, Jamie literally puts Cersei on the altar of the Mother while this goes down – as if Cersei were a bloody moon sacrifice, which is exactly what she is. Sacrifice and procreation, together again like the best friends that we know them to be.
Sansa Stark Explains her Moon Blood
Once again, I’ve buried the lead. This blood blooms we just saw aren’t the half of it, when it comes to bloody moon flowers. Consider: when a Westerosi maiden gets her moon blood, she is said to have flowered. When a maiden loses her virginity, when her “maidenhead” is broken and bleeds, she is said to be “deflowered.” It’s kind of a bad joke, but it’s great symbolism, and directly tied to the heliotropium flower / bloodstone concept.
Check out the very memorable scene of Sansa receiving her first moon blood in A Clash of Kings. She’s been dreaming of the riot at Kings Landing, and in the dream, the mob is tearing her apart, and that’s where I am picking up the quote:
Then she saw the bright glimmer of steel. The knife plunged into her belly and tore and tore and tore, until there was nothing left of her down there but shiny wet ribbons.
When she woke, the pale light of morning was slanting through her window, yet she felt as sick and achy as if she had not slept at all. There was something sticky on her thighs. When she threw back the blanket and saw the blood, all she could think was that her dream had somehow come true. She remembered the knives inside her, twisting and ripping. She squirmed away in horror, kicking at the sheets and falling to the floor, breathing raggedly, naked, bloodied, and afraid.
George has given us a nice connection between the flowering / moon blood motifs and the moon maiden stabbing of the Lightbringer story by depicting Sansa’s flowering as a knife stabbing. The sexual violence implied here calls to mind the procreation / death dual nature of the Lightbringer metaphor. The “bright” steel “glimmers” and the blood is “shiny,” evoking Lightbringer, while the knife “plunges” and Sansa falls to the floor to evoke the falling bits of moon. The Lightbringer symbolism continues through the scene:
Madness took hold of her. Pulling herself up by the bedpost, she went to the basin and washed between her legs, scrubbing away all the stickiness. By the time she was done, the water was pink with blood. When her maidservants saw it they would know. Then she remembered the bedclothes. She rushed back to the bed and stared in horror at the dark red stain and the tale it told. All she could think was that she had to get rid of it, or else they’d see. She couldn’t let them see, or they’d marry her to Joffrey and make her lay with him.
Snatching up her knife, Sansa hacked at the sheet, cutting out the stain. If they ask me about the hole, what will I say? Tears ran down her face. She pulled the torn sheet from the bed, and the stained blanket as well. I’ll have to burn them. She balled up the evidence, stuffed it in the fireplace, drenched it in oil from her bedside lamp, and lit it afire. Then she realized that the blood had soaked through the sheet into the featherbed, so she bundled that up as well, but it was big and cumbersome, hard to move. Sansa could get only half of it into the fire. She was on her knees, struggling to shove the mattress into the flames as thick grey smoke eddied around her and filled the room, when the door burst open and she heard her maid gasp.
Starting from the beginning of this section, we see the bloody moon maiden immersing herself and creating bloody water, matching the bloodstone association with a bloody stone submersed in water and the idea of a moon maiden drowning. A bit later in this scene, Sansa again washes herself in a tub of “scalding hot water,” evoking the moon drowning again, and it seems notable that the TWOIAF version of the Qarthine origin of dragons story says the moon was “scalded” by the sun’s heat. I wouldn’t base an entire theory on one word connection like this, but since it fits with all the other symbolism, I’m inclined to think the word “scalding” is chosen intentionally, but who knows.
Next we see a dark red stain, which is cut out from the sheet, leaving a hole. Sounds very like a bloody moon which was cut out of the sky, leaving a hole, as we just saw with the black hole moon. The bloody sheets and blankets are then balled up, to make them more moon-like I suppose, before being shoved in the fire. That’s blood and fire, our favorite recipe. Next, the burning of the moon blood fills the room with thick grey smoke. This seems like a pretty clear allusion to the smokey haze which caused the sun to be hidden during the Long Night, a smoke that came from a burning and bloody moon which was cut out of the sky. Last but not least, we hear a maid gasp, which seems a likely shout-out to moon maiden Nissa’s Nissa’s scream of anguish and ecstasy which left a crack across the face of the moon.
Just in case you were wondering whether or not the astronomical symbolism ever manifests in the form of food symbolism… I’d have to say yes. When Sansa gets cleaned up, she dines with Cersei, who serves her porridge and milk (ok, no big deal) as well as boiled eggs (oh my) and crisp fried fish (dun dun dun). The boiled eggs suggest eggs which are both heated and submersed, like dragon’s eggs meteors which land in the sea – the sea dragon. A dragon which swims in the sea is a kind of fish, as I mentioned last time while discussing the fishy nature of dragons in Chinese mythology, so fried fish again gives us a burning sea dragon. Even better, or worse as it may happen, the sight of the food makes Sansa feel ill, a reference to the poisoning of the moon and snake venom. Looking at sea dragons makes moon maiden Sansa feel sick, as well it should. The sea dragon is really the same image created by moon maiden Sansa taking a bloody bath – drowning moon meteors.
To finish up here, George seems to be making a point about the dark nature of Lightbringer. First, here’s a mention of the smoke having ruined Sansa’s clothing. The moon’s clothing would be her crust, her outer shell, and it is from here that we would get the stony meteors. These are the poisoned and poisonous black bloodstone meteors, which are all about defilement and corruption, and so Sansa’s clothing being ruined by the smoke seems a reference to this idea. Then there’s this exchange with Cersei, after Sansa refuses the sea dragon food:
“I don’t blame you. Between Tyrion and Lord Stannis, everything I eat tastes of ash. And now you’re setting fires as well. What did you hope to accomplish?”
Sansa lowered her head. “The blood frightened me.”
“The blood is the seal of your womanhood. Lady Catelyn might have prepared you. You’ve had your first flowering, no more.” Sansa had never felt less flowery.
The moon blood frightens, and Sansa doesn’t feel flowery – more reference to the ominous nature of Lightbringer’s forging. The moon is setting fires, and Azor Ahai stand-in King Stannis is also filling the air with ash as he lays siege to King’s Landing with his fiery heart. Again and again, we are being told that moon burning brings smoke and ash, that Lightbringer-wielding dudes bring smoke and ash. We are being shown that poison and sickness and corruption come with these moon meteors which represent Lightbringer. The chapter closes with a fantastic ramming home of these points:
Robert wanted to be loved. My brother Tyrion has the same disease. Do you want to be loved, Sansa?”
“Everyone wants to be loved.”
“I see flowering hasn’t made you any brighter,” said Cersei. “Sansa, permit me to share a bit of womanly wisdom with you on this very special day. Love is poison. A sweet poison, yes, but it will kill you all the same.”
It’s a wonderful expression of the duality of the Lightbringer myth: love is poison. Compare that to the poison kisses flowers which we saw a moment ago. Birth and death, bloody beds and bloody battle, bloody swords and bloody cocks, sex and swordplay. The sun loved the moon, and also poisoned the moon. And the moon’s flowering hasn’t made her any brighter – no, quite the opposite. I love that line. The flowering of the second moon brought darkness, fire, and blood. That’s one of the fun parts of following George’s mythical astronomy – he leaves these little inside jokes which you only get if you understand the astronomy side of things. George wrote these jokes years ago, almost two decades in some cases, and here we are chuckling at them.
Recappping the chain of symbols in this scene, moon maiden Sansa “had the knives inside her,” which is very like having the “fire inside you.” Those bright glimmering knives tore at her insides and triggered the moon blood, which creates a bloody bed. The bloody moon maiden then immerses herself in water, creating the sea dragon moon meteor motif. Sansa cuts the dark red moon blood out of the bed, leaving a bloody hole, then balls up the moon blood, coats it with oil – there’s a tremendous oily black stone reference – and burns it, filling the air with thick grey smoke.
I must admit, it feels funny to say “look, George was giving us the answer to the Long Night all along in this scene about Sansa’s period,” but yeah, there it is. I’m officially making that claim. If you want to understand the moon blood and the Long Night, you have to ask Sansa.
There’s actually some really great set-up for this whole scene earlier in the chapter which simply adds to the richness of this metaphor. I skipped over it before so that I could get right to the point with the flowering, but having done so, let’s go back the night before Sansa has her terrifying dream and burns all her sheets and caused a Long Night:
Turning back to the stair, Sansa climbed. The smoke blotted out the stars and the thin crescent of moon, so the roof was dark and thick with shadows. Yet from here she could see everything: the Red Keep’s tall towers and great cornerforts, the maze of city streets beyond, to south and west the river running black, the bay to the east, the columns of smoke and cinders, and fires, fires everywhere. Soldiers crawled over the city walls like ants with torches, and crowded the hoardings that had sprouted from the ramparts.
Sansa the heliotrope moon “turns,” and then Stannis’s smoke blots out the stars and the.. wait, was that a thin crescent moon? Right before all the moon blood? And what’s this about the black water? I kid, but of course this is densely packed symbolism, yet it is familiar to us. The moon sacrifice symbol appears with the smoke that blots out the stars and fires everywhere. As a result, the top of the tower – where Sansa the moon maiden is, looking down on the world like a goddess – is now thick with shadow.
Next, Sansa sees three catapults – think of the three heads of the dragon motif applying to moon meteors, since catapults are for flinging rocks. They don’t make Sansa feel “any less fearful,” however, just as the moon blood frightens Sansa. Then, we get this:
A stab went through her, so sharp that Sansa sobbed and clutched at her belly. She might have fallen, but a shadow moved suddenly, and strong fingers grabbed her arm and steadied her.
That’s all pretty clear moon maiden stuff – Sansa is atop the tower, she sees the crescent moon blotted out, gets stabbed and cries, and then we see the idea of falling implied, just as we saw with the rumor that Sansa turned into a winged wolf and flew out of the tower after the purple wedding. When this happens, a shadow moves suddenly. In this scene Sandor is saving Sansa from falling, but that seems more a part of the logistics of the scene than anything metaphorical. The actual moon did fall – we know that – even though it’s only an almost-fall in this scene. But a paragraph or two later, there’s more metaphor:
“You were glad enough to see my face when the mob had you, though. Remember?”
Sansa remembered all too well. She remembered the way they had howled, the feel of the blood running down her cheek from where the stone had struck her, and the garlic stink on the breath of the man who had tried to pull her from her horse. She could still feel the cruel pinch of fingers on her wrist as she lost her balance and began to fall.
She’d thought she was going to die then, but the fingers had twitched, all five at once, and the man had shrieked loud as a horse. When his hand fell away, another hand, stronger, shoved her back into her saddle. The man with the garlicky breath was on the ground, blood pumping out the stump of his arm, but there were others all around, some with clubs in hand. The Hound leapt at them, his sword a blur of steel that trailed a red mist as it swung. When they broke and ran before him he had laughed, his terrible burned face for a moment transformed.
This is some great stuff here, because the one who pulls down the moon maiden gets his hand chopped off – that’s our fiery hand of R’hllor, whose fingers are like fiery spears. I listed some of the relevant burned hands earlier when we talked about the leaves of the weirwood being either bloody hands or bits of flame, and this is more of the same. Right before the hand pulls her down, she is struck by a rock, and bleeds. The blood runs down her cheek, evoking the bloody tears. She’s even wearing a moonstone hairnet in this scene, which parallels the poison amethyst medusa hairnet she wears at the purple wedding, when Sansa kills the solar king she was supposed to marry. It’s pretty much all there – the moon maiden stuff is really vivid in this chapter.
I think this scene makes the relationship between Sansa and the Hound clear – after Sansa almost falls, again, the Hound appears, again. I think the Hound, who was a shadow earlier on top of the tower, represents Azor Ahai reborn, the child of son and moon death. In this memory of the riot, the Hound has a transformed, burned face and a blurry sword that trails a red mist, a perfect match for Azor Ahai reborn and Lightbringer. A sword trailing blood makes us think of the bleeding star, the red comet, whose tail is perceived as a trail of blood. The red mist coming from a sword also ties in to the rain of blood motif, which we saw with the Doom’s rain of black blood and the Valyrian steel sword “Red Rain.” This is another nice link between Lightbringer and Valyrian steel – many of the names of Valyrian steel swords seem to describe Lightbringer and it’s effects, such as Red Rain, Nightfall, Blackfyre, Heartsbane, Brightroar, Orphanmaker, and Longclaw, while others seem to describe the sacrificed moon, such as Dark Sister, Lady Forlorn, Widow’s Wail, and Lamentation. The red mist trailing from the Hound’s sword also implies the boiling and steaming blood which is the hallmark of Lightbringer transformation, just as we saw in Dany’s dragon dream of fire transformation where her blood turns to steam or when Azor Ahai fought a monster and boiled its insides. Remember also that the bloody skulls in Mel’s visions dissolved into mist. And here, the Hound’s fiery face is transformed, just to re-emphasize the fire transformation aspect of the Lightbringer process.
Thinking again about the hand which tries to pull Sansa down, notice that when the bloody hand goes away, the Hound’s stronger hand replaces it – just as Azor Ahai reborn replaces Azor Ahai. Sansa starts out riding a chestnut mare – a reddish horse, in other words – but the Hound puts Sansa on a black horse, symbolizing the transformation of the moon into those black moon meteors, and paralleling another moon maiden with a black mount, Dany with Drogon. Even better, the horse is called Stranger, and the Stranger of the Faith of the Seven is called “the wanderer from far places,” which is of course a way of describing a comet, a wandering star from far places. One that is a messenger of death, like the Stranger and like the ravens.
I think all of these clues make it easy to identify Sandor in these scenes. George is using Sansa as the moon maiden, and the Hound as the reborn solar warrior. He’s a hellhound, basically, which like the poison snake, is one aspect of Lightbringer and Azor Ahai reborn. It’s interesting to think about the hellhound as a guardian of the moon, or as an agent of vengeance – Sandor fills both of these rolls for Sansa. We’ll talk more about the Stranger and about hellhounds in the future, but let’s stick with bloody moon flowers for now.
It may seem odd to suggest that Sansa is playing the role of Sandor’s mother… until you consider the song she chose to sing for him the night he fled from King’s Landing: “Gentle mother, font of mercy, save our sons from war we pray…” Sandor’s appearance in that scene is consistent with Azor Ahai reborn: he is burned of course, he has an iron grip, and he reeks of “blood, blood, blood.” George is also using the description of Sansa’s tower room and the scene outside to slip us Long Night clues. When she enters the room, it is “as black as pitch,” and then as she rips back the drapes, she sees that the “sky was aswirl with glowing shifting colors, the reflections of the great fires below,” and also “aswirl with fire” as men died “in their hundreds and their thousands.” The orange and green flames “warred against each other,” with each “birthing armies of short-lived shadows to die again an instant later.” Then we read that “the air itself smelt burnt,” like a soup kettle “left on the fire too long and all the soup boiled away.” Soup kettles are black iron in medieval life, so that’s black iron having its contents boiled away to make the atmosphere smell burnt. Just like Sansa’s scalding bath and the boiled eggs she was offered, this is talking about boiling and scalding the moon.
I’ll pick up the text again here, because it’s just too good to summarize:
Then something stirred behind her, and a hand reached out of the dark and grabbed her wrist.
Sansa opened her mouth to scream, but another hand clamped down over her face, smothering her. His fingers were rough and callused, and sticky with blood. “Little bird. I knew you’d come.” The voice was a drunken rasp.
Outside, a swirling lance of jade light spit at the stars, filling the room with green glare. She saw him for a moment, all black and green, the blood on his face dark as tar, his eyes glowing like a dog’s in the sudden glare. Then the light faded and he was only a hulking darkness in a stained white cloak.
“If you scream I’ll kill you. Believe that.” He took his hand from her mouth.
Well, it look alike George found a way to slip the black blood in there, as the Hound’s blood is as dark as tar. His eyes glow like a dog’s eyes – like a fiery hellhound’s eyes, I would say. “Then the light faded, and he was only a hulking darkness” – that’s pretty great right there – Lightbringer is a hulking darkness. Sandor was a quick moving shadow atop the tower earlier, and in this scene his hand comes from the dark as well. I mentioned that earlier Sandor’s has an iron grip, so let’s consider all the descriptions of his hands – they are covered in blood, they are like iron, and they reach out of the shadow. Blood and night and steel, the familiar motif. Sandor’s stained white cloak might refer to the idea of Lightbringer the sword being white hot and the comet being white and blue before the forging in the heart of the moon maiden, and the idea of Dawn representing an undefiled Lightbringer sword. In any case, it effectively communicates the idea of Lightbringer being soiled and stained and defiled.
The threat to kill the moon maiden goes along with the idea of her screaming, just as Nissa Nissa’s cry of anguish and ecstasy left a crack across the face of the moon.
There are some greenseer ideas here I am not ready to dive into yet, but take note of the swirling lance of jade light that is spit at the stars – this could be a reference to the idea of greenseers calling down the Hammer of the Waters. Renly’s stag on his golden crown is made of jade – the colors of Highgarden – and therefore evoke the idea of Garth the Green, who might have had antlers on his head like a stag, an image which is recreated when one of the Baratheons dons their antlered helm.
There’s just a bit more to quote from this scene:
The Hound laughed. “I only know who’s lost. Me.”
He is drunker than I’ve ever seen him. He was sleeping in my bed. What does he want here? “What have you lost?”
“All.” The burnt half of his face was a mask of dried blood. “Bloody dwarf. Should have killed him. Years ago.”
“He’s dead, they say.”
“Dead? No. Bugger that. I don’t want him dead.” He cast the empty flagon aside. “I want him burned. If the gods are good, they’ll burn him, but I won’t be here to see. I’m going.”
Azor Ahai reborn is the wanderer from far places, or the red wanderer. Sandor, accordingly, is lost, and has lost all. I think this is consistent with the idea that being Azor Ahai reborn is not necessarily great deal of fun, as Jon discovered in his Azor Ahai dream, where he feels abandoned and alone. The highlight of this part is that Sandor was sleeping the bed of the moon maiden. This is a direct parallel to the idea of Jon Snow emerging from Lyanna’s bed of blood. The bed was even specifically made into a burning moon blood symbol when Sansa bled upon the bed – making it a bloody bed – and then burned it. And again, all this at the top of a tower. The Hound’s face is a mask of dried black blood, which sounds a lot like Beric’s face, which was called a “death mask,” or like Quaithe’s red lacquer mask.
Tyrion, of the likely heads of the dragon, gets a shout out here as a bloody dwarf that Sandor wants to see burn. Sansa thinks he’s dead, then Sandor says no, implying resurrection or an undead state. Tyrion has a symbolically rich dream of being dead after he’s knocked unconscious in this battle, but we don’t have time for that here. If Tyrion is in fact half Targaryen, and that’s a theory I tend to believe in, he’s part lion and part dragon, a perfect solar symbol. His green and black eyes might be referring to the same motif that Sandor’s momentary green-and-black appearance we saw a moment ago refers to. When Renly was killed in the tent by Stannis’s shadowsword, it was described as black on green. The targaryen civil war was the blacks vs. the greens. I think I know what all of this means, but I’ll have to save it for another time.
I’d like to thank my fellow blogger Sweetsunray of the Mythological Weave of Ice and Fire blog for the tip-off about this earlier part of Sansa’s moon blood chapter atop the tower. She just caught this and brought it to my attention as I was recording and I just barely squeezed it in. She’s got some really fabulous essays on the Cthonic underworld realms in ASOIAF, as well as a study of Lyanna as Persephone, an abducted moon goddess which I highly recommend.
There’s another appearance of the the moon as a flower motif at the birthing of the shadow baby in A Clash of Kings. Melisandre represents the destroyed second moon, the mother of Lightbringer, as we’ve seen before. She’s been impregnated by Stannis – who’s playing the role of Azor Ahai of course – and she’s going to give birth to the shadow baby, which represents Lightbringer. Notice that it’s actually the moon which gives light – temporarily, as it explodes – and Lightbringer which is made of darkness.
There was no answer but a soft rustling. And then a light bloomed amidst the darkness.
Davos raised a hand to shield his eyes, and his breath caught in his throat. Melisandre had thrown back her cowl and shrugged out of the smothering robe. Beneath, she was naked, and huge with child. Swollen breasts hung heavy against her chest, and her belly bulged as if near to bursting. “Gods preserve us,” he whispered, and heard her answering laugh, deep and throaty. Her eyes were hot coals, and the sweat that dappled her skin seemed to glow with a light of its own. Melisandre shone.
Panting, she squatted and spread her legs. Blood ran down her thighs, black as ink. Her cry might have been agony or ecstasy or both. And Davos saw the crown of the child’s head push its way out of her. Two arms wriggled free, grasping, black fingers coiling around Melisandre’s straining thighs, pushing, until the whole of the shadow slid out into the world and rose taller than Davos, tall as the tunnel, towering above the boat. He had only an instant to look at it before it was gone, twisting between the bars of the portcullis and racing across the surface of the water, but that instant was long enough. He knew that shadow. As he knew the man who’d cast it.
We looked at the Lightbringer symbolism here last time – the agony and ecstasy phrase which matches Nissa Nissa’s cry of anguish and ecstasy, the light in the darkness motif, the fire transformation with burning blood, etc. The word I am focusing on here is “bloomed” – this is the moon’s light blooming like a flower. Not Lightbringer, Lightbringer’s mother. The moon maiden, in the moment that she gives birth to Lightbringer, shines. Attention is drawn to it – they are in a dark cave, and her skin is literally shining. She’s pregnant near to bursting – she couldn’t possibly eat another mint, even if it is wafer-thin. That’s all quite vivid – a moon bursting open, creating momentary light, giving birth to black shadow children. That moon was a bright flower before she died, before she drank too much of the sunlight. As Salladhor Saan says to Davos in A Clash of Kings, “Too much light can hurt the eyes, my friend, and fire burns.”
Notice that Lightbringer the black shadow looks just like his father, “Azor Ahai as played by Stannis Baratheon.” He even has a crown of shadow and towers above the boat – there’s our shadow tower motif again. But while his father is a living person and a king, the son is a black shadow version of the father. That’s the family portrait here – the sun dies, and is reborn as a black shadow sun, a night sun. That’s our Bloodstone Emperor, King of the Nightlands.
The Ghost of High Heart, who sees everything and everyone in terms of symbols and sigils, describes Stannis’s shadow baby assassin thusly in A Storm of Swords:
“I dreamt I saw a shadow with a burning heart butchering a golden stag, aye.”
As we can see, the burning heart and the black shadow are core elements of Azor Ahai reborn. The fiery heart of the moon maiden becomes the the black shadow meteors, which are themselves fiery hearts that bring darkness and shadow. We’ll get into Renly’s symbolism on a different occasion, but I will point out that the slaughtering of the “golden” stag describes the death of the golden sun.
The Black Iron Rose of Spreading Darkness
We’ll wrap up this podcast with one last truly epic flower of darkness quote. This scene takes place in A Game of Thrones, at the Battle of the Red Fork, better known as the fight where Tyrion fought with the mountain clans in his father’s army. Tywin, as usual, plays the role of the sun:
Tywin Lannister’s battle armor put his son Jaime’s gilded suit to shame. His greatcloak was sewn from countless layers of cloth-of-gold, so heavy that it barely stirred even when he charged, so large that its drape covered most of his stallion’s hindquarters when he took the saddle. No ordinary clasp would suffice for such a weight, so the greatcloak was held in place by a matched pair of miniature lionesses crouching on his shoulders, as if poised to spring. Their mate, a male with a magnificent mane, reclined atop Lord Tywin’s greathelm, one paw raking the air as he roared.
His rondels were golden sunbursts, all his fastenings were gilded, and the red steel was burnished to such a high sheen that it shone like fire in the light of the rising sun.
The solar lion imagery is kind of hitting you over the head here, I’m you noticed that, but check out the really cool clue about idea of there being two moons. The solar lion on the great helm has two lionesses – his is called “their mate.” One sun, two moon wives, just like Aegon and Rhaegar and a few others I haven’t mentioned yet.
As the battle is about to begin, it starts to sound a little bit like the War for the Dawn:
Pale crimson fingers fanned out to the east as the first rays of the sun broke over the horizon. The western sky was a deep purple, speckled with stars. Tyrion wondered whether this was the last sunrise he would ever see …
A warhorn sounded in the far distance, a deep mournful note that chilled the soul.
In this corner, we have a deep purple night, speckled with stars, and in this corner, we have the pale crimson fingers of dawn. Gentlmen, I want a good clean fight. At the sound of my horn… aoooooo aaaooooo aaaoooooooooo I kid, but of course the speckled with stars phrase calls out to Lord Beric’s cloak, described in the exact same terms, and to the Bloodstone Emperor’s Starry Wisdom. That’s on the opposite side of dawn, opposing dawn if you will.
Right after this, the rising sun creates an illusion with the dew on the grasses which seems to mirror the sky, and we’ll pick up the text here:
The clansmen climbed onto their scrawny mountain horses, shouting curses and rude jokes. Several appeared to be drunk. The rising sun was burning off the drifting tendrils of fog as Tyrion led them off. What grass the horses had left was heavy with dew, as if some passing god had scattered a bag of diamonds over the earth. The mountain men fell in behind him, each clan arrayed behind its own leaders.
In the dawn light, the army of Lord Tywin Lannister unfolded like an iron rose, thorns gleaming.
We’ll start with the divinely scattered diamonds, which evoke the meteor shower that came from the moon goddess, and this image is mirrored by the deep purple sky speckled with stars. It also brings to mind the black stones of Moat Cailin, scattered like some god’s abandoned toys. God sure throws a lot of stuff out of heaven, doesn’t he? This illusion of diamonds scattered by a god is created by sunlight on wet blades of grass, connecting the fallen stars with shining blades.
There’s even a very clever sun-drinking idea here, spread across the end of one sentence and the beginning of the next. One sentence ends by talking about the mountain men from the Mountains of the Moon, several of whom “appeared to be drunk.” The next sentence begins with “The rising sun…” In other words, the mountain men appeared to drink the rising sun. I’ve seen George do this kind of thing before, and in this case I think it is intentional because a moon associated thing is the exact right thing to be described as sun-drinking, and because we are in the middle of an astronomy metaphor. There’s another one of these in the same paragraph: after the “like diamonds over the earth” sentence, the next sentence begins with “The mountain men fell in behind…” This leaves us with the mountain men as another depiction of the meteors – falling mountains which drink the rising sun. It may seem like a stretch, but don’t forget the names of those clans – moon brothers. Burned men, led by the red hand. Stone crows – that’s a really good one, and another nod to the ‘crows and ravens as meteors’ idea. This is a good example of how George likes to use things like house sigils or clan names in complement with the action to build a larger metaphor.
And then, the payoff quote, and I’ll repeat it: “In the dawn light, the army of Lord Tywin Lannister unfolded like an iron rose, thorns gleaming.” Solar King Tywin’s army is his weapon, and it unfolds like a black iron rose. A black iron weapon wielded by the sun symbolizes the the black steel of Lightbringer and the black meteors from which it was made (according to my theory, of course). It also is a home-run reference to two important bloodstone concepts tied to the moon – the flower which drinks the sun’s light, and the stone which darkens the image of the sun. And this coming after the clever mountain men “drinking the sun” reference.
The idea that the sun’s black weapon is both a black flower and a thing made of black iron basically seems like purely poetic language without the bloodstone ideas in mind, but makes perfect sense with them. The moon was a sun-drinking flower that gave us black iron sun-drinking meteors to make swords out of. Inside that iron flower, we find burned men and burned hands, stone crows, and sun-drinking moon brothers.
Even without the heliotropium flower ideas, roses can make an excellent comet symbol in their own right, as they have a round head and a long tail… and don’t forget those sharp thorns. Thematically speaking, the thorns that prick and the connotations of love found in the rose are a good fit for expressing the procreation / death double meaning of Lightbringer. We saw roses used as the moon flower of choice at the Tower of Joy with Lyanna’s storm of blue roses. Those roses later “spilled from her palm, dead and black,” symbolizing death in general and the darkening of the moon’s blood and stone to black. The sun-turning heliotrope flower of the Greek Klytie myth was purple; but our moon was transformed and burned by Lightbringer the comet to produce those black, sun-drinking bloodstone meteors, so it should now be represented by a black, sun-drinking flower. Here we get the black iron rose, unfolding like a spreading darkness, a twin to Lyanna’ s dead black roses.
Tywin is no ordinary solar lion in this scene – he has become the Lion of Night, the night sun, wielder of “dark lightbringer,” if you know what I’m saying, and I know you do. Just as Drogo let loose an oily black river of darkness, and Jon his rivers of black ice, Tywin has his black iron rose of spreading darkness. These are the “waves of night” in the “waves of night and blood” motif, and of course they come from Lightbringer.
By way of teasing the upcoming episode on Ironborn mythology, I will leave you with this:
“And when battle was joined upon the shores, mighty kings and famous warriors fell before the reavers like wheat before a scythe, in such numbers that the men of the green lands told each other that the Ironborn were demons risen from some watery hell, protected by fell sorceries and possessed of foul black weapons that drank the very souls of those they slew.” (TWOIAF, The Ironborn)
Lightbringer drank Nissa Nissa’s soul – what are these Iron demons from hell doing with black swords that drink souls?
What does it all mean???
Wow! We did it! All the mythical associations of bloodstone and heliotrope which I believe George R. R. Martin is making use of in his own mythology, and it only took five hours of podcasting to do it! I wish you guys knew how hard it is to narrow down the choices of quotes to use. The struggle is never to find enough examples of one of the archetypal patterns or motifs, but rather to choose the best ones to use as examples. Quite honestly, these lightbringer metaphors are in almost every chapter. You’ll start finding them on your own as you do re-reads, now that you have these symbols and motifs in your mind, I promise you. There’s a lot of text to pour over, and I haven’t found them all by any stretch. People frequently message me with astronomy metaphors they have discovered, and you’ll hear me mention them for hat-tips from time to time. Like I said, it’s a kind of treasure-hunt, and that’s only to find them, and to say nothing of deciphering their specific meaning. All I can do is to keep podcasting, take my best shot, and wait for the Winds of Winter to come out.
As for this podcast itself, I’m going to begin to branch out with both subject and format. I’m going to continue to do the big Bloodstone Compendium episodes, continuing the series that I have been doing so far, but I’m also going to do some smaller, more contained episodes which focus on one specific scene or chapter, kind of like I did at the end of the first podcast with Dany’s alchemical wedding scene. Some of the ones I have in mind for this are Dany’s various visionary sequences, like the Stallion Who Mounts the World prophecy chapter, the series of visions in her Wake the Dragon dream, and the House of the undying chapter. Other great scenes and chapters I want to dissect are Arya’s chapters under the Red Keep with the dragon skulls, Asha Greyjoy’s Wayward Bride chapter where they fight the mountain clans in the woods, Davos smuggling Edric Storm off of Dragonstone, Jon Snow’s trip to the weirwood grove of nine when they found the starving wildlings, Jamie’s trip to Raventree Hall, and both Oldtown chapters in A Feast for Crows… and many more. One of the first ones I’ll be doing will the Mountain vs Red Viper trial by combat which I referred to in this podcast. It was originally a part of this one but had to be cut because of length. It will be a bit of a follow of a lot of the bloodstone ideas, so look out for that soon.
I’m going to also start to do character based episodes, where we will break down all the symbolism of a specific character and try to figure out what it means of that person. As I mentioned a little earlier, I’m also going to be getting into the very important topics of greenseers and the Others, and I believe that I going to be able to tear away the veil of secrecy around the Green Men and the Isle of Faces. I’m really looking forward to that one in particular, because I believe we are going to see the Isle of Faces in the next book and get some answers, so I’ll be sure to get that one as soon as possible.
I’m also very excited to officially announce that I’ll be doing a joint episode with Aziz and Ashaya from the History of Westeros podcast. That will appear as a podcast in your mythical astronomy feed just like normal, but you’ll also be able to see it in video form on the History of Westeros youtube channel. The topic is an important one – the Great Empire of the Dawn and the Dawn Age dragonlords. I’ve referred to my Fingerprints of the Dawn essay a few times, and this joint podcast will be the official podcast version of this information. It compliments all the Bloodstone Emperor Azor Ahai stuff we’ve been covering, because it traces out the hard evidence of contact between the far east and Westeros in the Dawn Age. In addition to the Great Empire of the Dawn and Asshai material, we’re basically going to cover all the evidence of people other than First Men in Dawn Age Westeros – strange folktales, anachronistic buildings, evidence of dragons, etc, so it should be a lot of fun. The History of Westeros folks will have some interesting things to say, to be sure, and we’ll have plenty of free-form discussion, which will be a nice change up from my regular format.
I also did a guest appearance on History of Westeros’s House Dayne Part 2 podcast which was a lot of fun – thanks for having me guys! – and you can find that by looking up History of Westeros on youtube.
Thanks to everyone who voted for my ideas about the Long Night and the Great Empire of the Dawn in the recent ASOIAF fandom poll conducted by Brynden BFish of Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire. It’s really tremendous to see the moon-destruction theory getting around a bit. One of the main reasons I’m doing this besides the pure enjoyment of it is to get the word out about what George is doing with his mythology so everyone can enjoy it as much as we are. So thanks again, thanks to everyone who has listened and shared my page and podcast. I really appreciate it. So long for now everyone.
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