Hey there friends, patrons, and fellow mythical astronomers! Strap on your bear-paws and throw on an extra wolf-skin, because we are going further into the frozen lands of icy symbolism. In the first Moons of Ice and Fire episode, Mother of Shadows, we compared Melisandre to the Night’s Queen, contrasting them as lunar queens of fire and ice, respectively. We picked up on the pattern of black shadows coming from fire-associated moon figures and moon symbols, and we saw that the moon-pale Night’s Queen with her chilly flesh and cold blue star eyes seems to have been a white shadow factory, the original mother of the Others. In Moons of Ice and Fire 2: Dawn of the Others, we observed that fire dragons play the role of fiery moon children, while the starry-eyed Others play the role of icy moon children. We saw that the “comets, dragons, and flaming swords” motif also applies to the icy side of things, with the colors and temperatures inverted. In particular, we saw that while ice dragon symbolism can apply to actual ice dragons, it can also can refer to the idea of cold falling stars or blue stars, to the Others themselves (because they are like an invasion of cold burning stars), and to Dawn, the ancestral sword of House Dayne, which is both made from a meteorite and associated with ice magic in some sense.
In fact, we talked quite a lot about Dawn, which I believe to have originally been called Ice and originally wielded by a Stark. We saw how the white sword symbol is part of the icy body of symbolism, just as the black sword symbol ties to fire dragons and fiery black moon meteors. We saw that Dawn shares a ton of symbolic language with the Others: Dawn is pale as milkglass and alive with light, while the Others are “milky white” and “sword-slim,” have bones as pale as milkglass, and carry pale glowing swords which are “alive with moonlight.” We also saw that the Wall, a magical structure made of ice, is also “alive with light,” is compared to a snake and a sword and an ice dragon, all of which encourages us to think of Dawn as a magical icy sword in some sense.
We also took a look at clues lurking around Robb and Jon, who are both King of Winter figures, as well as Longclaw and the swords made from Ned’s Ice, and we saw that morning light symbolism abounds. Jon has an interesting experience with the Sword of the Morning Constellation while North of the Wall, as well as that wonderful scene when Jon finds that “the magic north of the Wall” is a cold dawn which encases everything in coats of glassy ice, which turns out to be a great backdrop for talking about turning humans in Others with Gilly. Then we saw that the curtain of light which guards the terrifying Heart of Winter is the Aurora Borealis, a Latin phrase which translates to “dawn of the north.” I hope you guys were as tickled about that one as I was – talk about hidden in plain sight.
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
Finally, at the end of the last episode, I unloaded the symbolism bomb of the Kingsguard – they’ve been posing as Others all this time and nobody noticed. They are like the poor folks at the Halloween party that went just a little too subtle on the costume, and now they’re pissed because nobody knows what they are supposed to be. “I’m supposed to be a white walker! Can’t you see my snow white armor? I specifically asked for “moon pale” lacquer so it would be authentic. Look, I even wrote on my name tag: ‘white shadow.’ God. Morons. Nice Jon Snow costume. Oh who are you supposed to be, Daenerys? Oh, ‘Khaleesi,’ right. That’s great.”
Kidding aside, the descriptions of the Kingsguard we are given throughout the series do seem to match the descriptions of the Others to a stunning degree. Now that we’ve uncovered this connection, it’s time to take the knowledge we’ve accumulated regarding the white shadows and apply it. It’s one thing to realize that the Kingsguard symbolize the Others, but we have to ask, what does it mean for the story?
We will answer this question by discussing the first of the steamy love triangles of ice and fire: Aegon, Rhaenys, and Visenya. When I say ‘steamy love triangle,’ I am of course referring to the moons of ice and fire love triangle: the ‘solar king with two lunar queens.’ The two most important ones seem to be Aegon, Rhaenys, and Visenya, and of course Rhaegar, Elia, and Lyanna… but there are several others we will talk about as well. These triangles are some of the best examples of mythical astronomy that suggests that we did indeed once have a sun with moons of ice and fire, and we will start with Aegon the Conqueror and his two lunar queens, with a little extra attention for Visenya Targaryen, rider of the dragon Vhagar and wielder of the Valyrian steel blade Dark Sister.
Ultimately, what we are leading up to is a dramatic revelation about Night’s King and the creation of the Others, one which is fundamental to understanding the nature of the Others. The answer lies in the story of the creation of the Kingsguard, and in the mythical astronomy. To set that up, let’s go to King’s Landing, where a pair of hills named after a famous pair of sisters tell the story of the moons of ice and fire.
Thanks as always to all of our Patreon supporters, without whom Mythical Astronomy of Ice and Fire would not exist, and of course, thanks to George R. R. Martin for inviting us into his imagination.
A Tale of Two Hills
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The official topic for today is Aegon, Rhaenys, and Visenya, but you folks know how this works by now – we’re really always talking about archetypes at the most fundamental level. The real topic is the solar king or dark solar king with two lunar queens, so although we’ll be focusing on the three Targaryens who unified and conquered Westeros, we’ll also be looking to establish the general relationship between these three archetypal characters in our grand drama. Since RLJ is the other primary love triangle of ice and fire, I’ll be occasionally making references to Rhaegar, Elia, and Lyanna so we can begin to find the commonalities they share with Aegon, Rhaenys, and Visenya. The common symbols between similar characters are what define the archetype, after all.
Since we’ll be focusing primarily on the queens today, let’s first have a quick word about his majesty the solar king… or more accurately, the dark solar king. That’s a concept which represents, on a celestial level, the darkened sun of the Long Night, and in terms of people on the ground, it refers the corruption of the Bloodstone Emperor Azor Ahai who broke the moon and brought on the Long Night (according to theory, of course, heh heh). The dark solar who rules during the Long Night is parallel tot he darkened sun of the Long Night, in other words. We took a good look at this “dark solar king” archetype in the Bloodstone Compendium, and we saw that it can manifest as a “Lion of Night” or a black dragon or even a black shadow with two stars for eyes like the Stranger. You may recall the entertaining symbolism of the black cat of Rhaegar’s daughter princess Rhaenys, who was named Balerion – a black cat is a lion of night symbol, and Balerion is a black dragon. They’re the same figure! The “real king of the castle,” as Syrio Forel later says to Arya.
Anyway, both Rhaegar and Aegon the Conqueror are black dragon figures: they both had that fabulous night black armor, Aegon had the sword Blackfyre and the black dragon Balerion, and Rhaegar had a black-as-night stallion and the black lance from the Tourney at Harrenhall. If these black dragon and lion of night figures represent the idea of a darkened sun, then the black weapons they hold represent that darkened sun wielding the black moon meteors like swords.
Of course, both Aegon and Rhaegar took two “wives,” and that’s ultimately my point: these wives symbolize the idea of two moons.
By the way, when I say wives in this context, it means the same as “lady love” or “mistress” – for symbolism’s sake, the technicalities of legal matrimony matter not, just as chastity matters not. I don’t know if Rhaegar and Lyanna said vows in front of heart tree or not, and for our purposes here it doesn’t really matter all that much. Similarly, Rhaegar was never officially the king, but he’s a dark solar king figure, nevertheless. That’s right, save your angry youtube comments. I know he wasn’t actually king, ha ha.
At a glance, it’s easy to see the fire and ice symbolism of Rhaegar’s two lady loves, Elia and Lyanna – Dorne is the hottest and southernmost kingdom in Westeros, and it has serpent and sun and desert symbolism, while Lyanna is a Stark of the line of the Kings of Winter and the Kings in the North, and is identified with the blue winter rose. Although you have to dig a little deeper with Aegon, Rhaenys and Visenya, it’s definitely, definitely there, and that’s what we will explore today.
I mentioned at the very beginning of this series that, in addition to the love triangles of ice and fire and the comparison of dragons and Others as ice and fire children of the two moons, we also find the moons of ice and fire pattern with physical locations that mirror my hypothesis about the two moons. The tale of Aegon, Rhaenys, and Visenya gives us a fair helping of this physical location symbolism as well, because of course Rhaenys and Visenya are not only Targaryen queens and sisters, they are also famous hills in Kings Landing! It is with these hills that we will start comparing the symbolism of these dragon sisters, because I think the hills probably have the most easily recognizable symbolism.
Consider Kings Landing, a city built on three hills. The Red Keep, essentially the royal palace, is on Aegon’s Hill; the Hill of Rhaenys has the Dragonpit, a blackened and destroyed stone amphitheater with a broken dome which used to be a home of dragons, and the Hill of Visenya has the Sept of Baelor, with its white marble and crystal dome that reminds us a bit of the Temple of the Moonsingers in Braavos. The Red Keep would represent the sun, since it’s the home of the king, the Dragonpit on the Hill of Rhaenys serves as a good analog to the destroyed fire moon, the former home of the meteor dragons, and the unspoiled, snow-white marble and crystal and glass domes of the Sept of Baelor can serve as an analog to the theoretical ice moon, which still hangs in the sky. Let’s see if it works out!
The story of the Dragonpit is quite insightful. Here’s what happened: during the the Targaryen civil war known as the Dance of the Dragons, an angry mob led by a mad prophet called The Shepherd descended on the Dragonpit and the four dragons kept there at that time. Somehow, they had gotten the notion that an unruly mob of peasants should try to kill four dragons in their lairs. Like I said… those mad prophets. They come along at the absolute worst times.
Anyway, the results were as follows: thousands of people and all four dragons died, the Dragonpit was engulfed in blood and fire, and then to cap it off, the stone dome collapsed when one of the dragons inside flew up and smashed into the roof, desperate to escape its stony prison. I mean… it doesn’t get much more specific than that – dragons trying to break out of a stone dome like a hatchling breaking out of the shell of its egg amidst a wash of blood and flame. The Dragonpit is now a burnt-out and blackened ruin which used to be the home of dragons, and this is a perfect match for the moon which wandered too close to the sun and cracked open to pour fourth fiery dragons. That would the fire moon, according to the hypothesis.
The actual description of the Storming of the Dragonpit from The Princess and the Queen has some choice mythical astronomy, beginning with the end of the recorded speech of the Shepherd:
“The Stranger comes, he comes, he comes, to scourge us for our sins. Prayers cannot stay his wroth, no more than tears can quench the flame of dragons. Only blood can do that. Your blood, my blood, their blood.” Then he raised the stump of his right arm, and pointed at Rhaenys’s Hill behind him, at the Dragonpit black against the stars. “There the demons dwell, up there. This is their city. If you would make it yours, first must you destroy them! If you would cleanse yourself of sin, first must you bathe in dragon’s blood! For only blood can quench the fires of hell!”
The Dragonpit is black against the stars, reminding us of when the moon is said become “a black hole in the sky” in ADWD, and of the idea of black moons or dark moons in general. The demons dwell “up there,” and boy is that ever true – up there, in the moon, that’s where demons and moon dragons live.
As the mob reaches the Dragonpit, we have an appearance of the fiery meteor shower:
High atop Aegon’s High Hill across the city, the Queen watched the attack unfold from the roof of Maegor’s Holdfast with her sons and members of her court. The night was black and overcast, the torches so numerous that it was as if all the stars had come down from the sky to storm the Dragonpit.
A storm of fiery stars at the Dragonpit – that’s pretty on the money, and reminds us of scenes at Dragonstone where the meteor shower was depicted in similar terms. The night is black and overcast, which works well as an allusion to the Long Night. Queen Rhaenyra, watching from Maegor’s Holdfast on Aegon’s Hill, shows us the “moon wandering too close to the sun” eclipse alignment symbolism, because Rhaenyra, like Rhaenys, seems to be a fire moon figure, and she is on the king’s hill in the king’s palace.
When the madness at the Dragonpit commences, there is a ton of mythical astronomy going on, such as this passage:
Trapped within the pit, hemmed in by walls and dome and bound by heavy chains, the dragons could not fly away, or use their wings to evade attacks and swoop down on their foes. Instead they fought with horns and claws and teeth, turning this way and that like bulls from a Flea Bottom rat pit… but these bulls could breathe fire. The dragonpit was transformed into a fiery hell where burning men staggered screaming through the smoke, the flesh sloughing from their blackened bones…
This one is nice because we get a link between dragons, which come from the moon of course, and bulls, which are often used to symbolize the moon, most notably in the Mithras story of slaying the white lunar bull. A fiery bull dragon does a good job of depicting a monstrous moon which has drank the fire of the sun and is now reigning down death, I would say.
The key line here for our inquiry is the transformation of the Dragonpit into fiery hell, the type of place where Azor Ahai reborn and his dragon might call home. The line about the burning men which appear at this moment would seem to be a reference to Azor Ahai reborn, who is a burning man, a man transformed by fire, especially since right after one of the dragons flies into the ceiling and breaks the dome of the Dragonpit, Azor Ahai reborn’s crown of fire makes an appearance:
A thousand shrieks and shouts echoed across the city, mingling with the dragon’s roar. Atop the Hill of Rhaenys, the Dragonpit wore a crown of yellow fire, burning so bright it seemed as if the sun were rising.
Azor Ahai Reborn is the son of the sun, a second sun, as we’ve talked about many times. In astronomy terms, the meteor children of the sun light up the sky like a second sun, and of course in classical mythology the morningstar is often the sun of the sun god but also a reborn solar figure at the same time – such is the case with Jesus, for example, and so too with Azor Ahai reborn. Here in this scene, we have the symbol of the cracked open second moon (the Dragonpit) transforming into Azor Ahai reborn with his crown of fire, who is like a second sun and a burning man and a fiery bull dragon. Essentially, the fire moon is the mother of Azor Ahai reborn, and that’s why we see his fiery crown here during the destruction of the Dragonpit.
The fiery crown calls to mind the visions Stannis had in the flames concerning the cost of taking on the mantle of Azor Ahai reborn and using Melisandre’s fire and shadow magic, which comes to us in ASOS:
“I know the cost! Last night, gazing into that hearth, I saw things in the flames as well. I saw a king, a crown of fire on his brows, burning . . . burning, Davos. His own crown consumed his flesh and turned him into ash. Do you think I need Melisandre to tell me what that means? Or you?” The king moved, so his shadow fell upon King’s Landing. “If Joffrey should die . . . what is the life of one bastard boy against a kingdom?”
When it says “his shadow fell on King’s Landing,” it’s implying the use of a shadow baby assassin, or perhaps even a dragon woken from stone using the blood sacrifice of Edric Storm, who would be the “one bastard boy” Stannis is referring to. All of this is talking about the death transformation and rebirth of the solar king Azor Ahai, which happens when the moon “wanders too close to the sun and cracks from the heat,” as it is said, just like the dome of the Dragonpit cracking open amidst blood and fire. That’s the eclipse alignment – and indeed, a perfect eclipse with a complete solar ring is called a ring of fire eclipse. That’s why we see the crown of fire symbol in these two places: in Stannis’s vision of his own fate as a would-be Azor Ahai reborn figure, and then at the dragonpit when its dome collapses and the dragonflame lights up the sky like a second sun.
So that’s your Dragonpit and Hill of Rhaenys. There actually used to be a sept on that hill before they built the Dragonpit, and you’ll never guess what happened to that:
On the thirtieth day since the trial of seven, the king awoke with the sunrise and walked out onto the walls. Thousands cheered—though not at the Sept of Remembrance, where hundreds of the Warrior’s Sons had gathered for their morning prayers. Then Maegor mounted Balerion and flew from Aegon’s High Hill to the Hill of Rhaenys and, without warning, unleashed the Black Dread’s fire. As the Sept of Remembrance was set alight, some tried to flee, only to be cut down by the archers and spearmen that Maegor had made ready. The screams of the burning and dying men were said to echo throughout the city, and scholars claim that a pall hung over King’s Landing for seven days.
That was from TWOIAF, and it’s a similar tale to the Dragonpit. Burning men, dragonfire, and the union of the dark solar king, Maegor the Cruel, and the fire moon, which would be the Hill of Rhaenys. A pall hanging over the city seems like a nod to the smoke and darkness of the Long Night, which should immediately follow the destruction of the fire moon.
As you can see, the Hill of Rhaenys has a ton of recognizable fiery moon death / birth of dragons / rebirth of Azor Ahai symbolism going on. And we didn’t even talk about that one time during Year of the Spring Sickness when Bloodraven had all the corpses stacked up ten feet high in the Dragonpit and burned!
But here’s the thing: it’s not just the Dragonpit. The symbolism found at the Dragonpit matches every other place which was at some point a home for dragons. Valyria, like the Dragonpit, is a blackened, burnt, collapsed, and cursed former home of dragons. Then we have Asshai, where the first Dragonlords seem to have originated from and where demons and dragons make their lairs in the heart of the Shadowlands according to TWOIAF – Asshai is very similar to Valyria as a blackened, cursed, and probably burnt city. Valyria is obviously volcanic, while the Shadowlands may also be volcanic, as dragonglass is said to be among their natural resources there… and of course the dragons making their lairs there increases the odds of it being volcanic.
Valyrian cities were made largely with black fused stone, while Asshai is built from light-drinking greasy black stone, both of which are excellent moon meteor symbols (and some of the greasy black stone may even been meteorite stone or earth stone burnt black by a meteor impact in the shadowlands). During the Doom of Valyria, it also rained down “dragonglass and the black blood of demons,” which is more moon meteor symbolism – the black blood in particular gives us moon blood and bleeding stars symbolism to go along with black dragon knives falling from the sky.
Another fire moon analog is Dragonstone, of course. We mentioned it in the last episode when we were talking about examples of the meteor shower / fallen stars motif, which appears at Dragonstone a couple of times. Dragonstone, original Westerosi seat of House Targaryen, makes for a great fire moon symbol because of its volcanism and stockpiles of dragonglass; the fact that its stone has been bathed in dragonfire, burnt black, and turned into stone dragons; and because it’s a home of dragons from which dragons invade. Of course that’s a place where Stannis and Mel do the Lightbringer forging reenactment, so it makes sense to see it as a symbol of the fire moon and its destruction.
But you know what would make Dragonstone a really terrific analog to the destroyed fire moon? Some kind of volcanic eruption, right? Stay on the look out for that – I could definitely see that happening. Remember, if Dragonstone blows its top, you heard it here first. Unless someone else already predicted that, in which case you heard it here also.
Another way that the moon disaster is symbolized at Dragonstone – one that has happened already – is through the unbelievably fierce storm that ripped at the island when Daenerys was born, which destroyed the Targaryen fleet and bestowed upon Dany the ‘Stormborn’ nickname.
More broadly speaking, Dragonstone is the place from which the dragons invaded Westeros, just as the fire moon was the place from which meteor dragons invaded Westeros and the rest of the world. Dragonlords invaded all of Essos from Valyria, and the first dragonlords seem to have come from Asshai.
Asshai, Valyria, Dragonstone, and the Dragonpit on the Hill of Rhaenys – all former homes of dragons built of black stone and / or stone bathed in dragonfire. The Dragonpit fits right in with those others, and again – it had a stone dome which collapsed when the dragons inside tried to fly out, like a dragon hatching from an egg, and when it did, the hill of Rhaenys wore Azor Ahai’s crown of fire, and it looked as though “all the stars had come down from the sky.”
Sept of the Snowman
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As for the Great Sept of Baelor the Blessed on Visenya’s Hill, it’s essentially set up as an opposite of the Hill of Rhaenys and the Dragonpit, and this is encapsulated nicely in this quote from a Catelyn chapter of AGOT:
Visenya’s hill was crowned by the Great Sept of Baelor with its seven crystal towers. Across the city on the hill of Rhaenys stood the blackened walls of the Dragonpit, its huge dome collapsing into ruin, its bronze doors closed now for a century. The Street of the Sisters ran between them, straight as an arrow.
As for that Sept of Baelor, it’s built of white marble – Cersei, a bit sarcastically, thinks of the Sept as “a magnificence of marble,” which kind of gets the point across, and as she begins her walk of shame at the Sept, she calls the floors “cold marble.” Marble is the obvious stone to use if you want to build a city to parallel the moon – we saw that at the Temple of the Moonsingers in Braavos, and we will see it again at the Eyrie and White Harbor, places which seem like home runs for ice moon cities. To show you what I mean about marble, here is a preview of the symbolism of the Eyrie, which is so extensive that it will require its own episode, I am thinking. This is courtesy of a Sansa chapter of ASOS:
Sansa walked down the blue silk carpet between rows of fluted pillars slim as lances. The floors and walls of the High Hall were made of milk-white marble veined with blue. Shafts of pale daylight slanted down through narrow arched windows along the eastern wall. Between the windows were torches, mounted in high iron sconces, but none of them was lit. Her footsteps fell softly on the carpet. Outside the wind blew cold and lonely. Amidst so much white marble even the sunlight looked chilly, somehow … though not half so chilly as her aunt. Lady Lysa had dressed in a gown of cream-colored velvet and a necklace of sapphires and moon-stones.
Holy shitballs is that a loaded paragraph. Shafts of pale, chilly sunlight give us the cold sun symbolism of the Others blue star eyes, milky white marble with blue veins suggests the blue blood of the Others, and sitting on a weirwood throne, we find a chilly sort of moon maiden, dressed in a cream-colored (or should we say moon-colored) gown, with sapphires and moon stones to drive the point home.
We are just going to have so much fun at the Eyrie. Wait till we get to Alyssa’s tears and the Giant’s Lance, and Sansa making “snow knights” and snow castles. That scene actually comes earlier in this same chapter, as it happens. The thing to take away for now is that we are seeing all the familiar icy symbols: milk, cream, blue blood, a cold sun, moon-stones, sapphires, and of course, white marble. Of course the sigil of House Arryn is a blue field with a cream-colored crescent moon and falcon, and that’s kind of the give-away here as to what we are talking about. The Eyrie is dripping with moon symbolism, but it’s all snow and ice, blue and white, with a cold, blue-eyed lady to cap it off.
The crescent moon on the Arryn sigil calls to mind the discussion we had based around the temple of the moonsingers and the fact that Bran’s last ADWD chapter labels the crescent moon “as thin and sharp as the blade of a knife.” Here’s the description of the Moonsingers’ Temple one more time, just to refresh your memory: “a mighty mass of snow-white marble topped by a huge silvered dome whose milk-glass windows showed all the phases of the moon.” Some of those milkglass moon windows would be crescents, and thus milkglass moon-knives, if you recall. That’s also how I see the Arryn moon crescent, given the blue field and icy nature of the Eyrie – as some sort of cold moon knife symbol. The white falcon works equally well as a white meteor symbol, for what its worth. The seven white marble towers of the Eyrie are described as being “like white daggers thrust into the belly of the sky,” giving us the white knife / white sword symbolism once again.
So, the Eyrie is a great ice moon symbol, as is the Temple of the Moonsingers, and both of them combine white marble with icy descriptors like “snow-white” or “milk-white” and “veined with blue.” Thus, it’s easy to see how the Sept of Baelor being built of white marble is a good start for ice moon symbolism. I must also point out the famous white marble statue of old Baelor Targaryen himself in front of the sept. That’s a white dragon statue, in other words, and if the marble is supposed to be associated with ice and snow, then this would essentially be an ice dragon statue. Call him Baelor the snowman! But we can’t call him the abominable snowman, since he’s all super-pious… the un-abominable snowman?
Now over at White Harbor, the pattern continues: the city walls and palace are made of whitewashed stone, while white marble mermaids flank the entrance of the “New Palace.” White Harbor is a city by a river called the White Knife, mind you, so as with all our other ice moon places, we have white sword symbolism.
Best of all, at White Harbor we find a little old place called “the Sept of the Snows,” a domed and presumably white building that compares well to the snow-white and silver-domed Temple of the Moonsingers, and more importantly, to the Sept of Baelor, the main subject of our ice moon temple conversation. Baelor’s Sept, that magnificence of cold white marble guarded by an ice dragon scultpure, also happens to have a dome of glass, gold, and crystal.
So many domes! Domes are an obvious way to symbolize a moon or a sun (Sunspear has a golden dome, for example), and the domes at The Temple of the Moonsingers, Sept of the Snows, and Sept of Baelor are paired with icy symbolism. Besides having white marble, the Sept of Baelor has crystal in its dome, as well as seven crystal towers, which would seem to parallel the seven white dagger towers at the Eyrie.
Crystal is an important symbol. As we saw in the last episode and will see again when we go back to study the Wall in detail, the word crystal is often used to describe ice. The Wall shines like blue crystal, the Others have crystal swords, and Jon’s “so there is magic north of the Wall” scene uses the word crystal to describe the ice which the cold morning air has encased everything in. Therefore, the crystal dome of the Sept and their general fondness for crystal would seem to be strong ice moon symbolism.
Keeping in mind that the seven white towers at the Eyrie are compared to white daggers, and also that the Palestone Sword tower at Starfall and the White Sword Tower in King’s Landing unite tower and sword imagery, the seven crystal towers of Baelor’s Sept could been seen as symbols of crystal knives or swords, which again suggests the Others and their crystal swords.
The High Septon also wears a crown made largely of crystal, and even better, carries a weirwood staff topped with a crystal orb – that is basically a perfect analog for an icy moon sphere, and a home run for symbolism. We are still putting off the weirwood symbolism for now, but off course we know that the weirwoods are often compared to moons, and we know they are George’s version of the cosmic world tree. Previously, we have compared the red, hand-shaped leaves and black ravens that we find in the weirwood’s branches to fiery moon meteor symbols, so an icy crystal orb atop the weirwood staff really does scream “ice moon.” Or maybe it screams “ice cream,” since we all scream for… well you know.
Alright, so the Dragonpit and other fire moon symbols all used to contain dragons – that’s kind of the defining thing for a fire moon symbol, it has to parallel the second moon which cracked from the sun’s heat and gave birth to a thousand thousand drgaons. Ice moon symbols should therefore contain things which symbolize the Others, right? Since Others are ice moon meteor symbols?
I present to you the beginning of Cersei’s walk of shame, from AFFC, which begins inside the Sept of Baelor:
The tower bells were singing, summoning the city to bear witness to her shame. The Great Sept of Baelor was crowded with faithful come for the dawn service, the sound of their prayers echoing off the dome overhead, but when the queen’s procession made its appearance a sudden silence fell and a thousand eyes turned to follow her as she made her way down the aisle, past the place where her lord father had lain in state after his murder. Cersei swept by them, looking neither right nor left. Her bare feet slapped against the cold marble floor. She could feel the eyes. Behind their altars, the Seven seemed to watch as well.
In the Hall of Lamps, a dozen Warrior’s Sons awaited her coming. Rainbow cloaks hung down their backs, and the crystals that crested their greathelms glittered in the lamplight. Their armor was silver plate polished to a mirror sheen, but underneath, she knew, every man of them wore a hair shirt. Their kite shields all bore the same device: a crystal sword shining in the darkness, the ancient badge of those the smallfolk called Swords.
Did you spot those Others coming, or did you let them sneak up on you? I kid, but these Warrior’s Sons do seem to be symbols of the Others. They wear silver armor polished to reflect like mirrors – very like the reflective ice armor of the Others, ah ha. Next we have those crystal crests on their helms – crystal is symbolically interchangeable with ice, so the Warrior’s Sons effectively have icy moon crest helmets! But the real giveaway is that sigil: a crystal sword, shining in the darkness…
…which compares quite well to the swords of the Others, which are “translucent, a shard of crystal so thin that it seemed almost to vanish when seen edge-on.” And since we only see the Others and their crystal swords at night, the “crystal sword shining in the darkness” sigil of the Warrior’s Sons is a picture-perfect match for the swords of the Others. It’s one of those things where you ask yourself how you didn’t see it before, once you find it… I mean, crystal swords, mirror-like armor…
Oh, and, there are a dozen of the Warriors Sons in this scene. Which, you’ll notice, occurs at dawn, during the “dawn service” as it says. The Sword of the Morning symbolism doesn’t stop there, however: the actual, physical swords of the Warrior’s Son’s have star-shaped crystals in their pommel. Right off the bat, that reminds us very distinctly of the Sword of the Morning constellation, which has that bright white star in its hilt blazing like a diamond in the dawn. The stars in the hilt also implies these crystal swords as star sword or meteor sword symbols, like Dawn. And because the stars are made of crystal and crystal plays on team ice, they’d actually be symbolic of icy meteor swords – which lines up well with the theory that Dawn was once the original Ice of House Stark.
We’ve also seen that the moon-pale, snowy-cloaked, white shadow Kingsguard express the Sword of the Morning line of symbolism when Ned sees their banners at the Hand’s Tourney in AGOT, which are described as “the pure white blazons of the Kingsguard, shining like the dawn.” And just as the Kingsguard are called “the white swords” and the “Sword of the Morning” is a person named after a sword, the Warriors Sons are nicknamed “the Swords.”
Here’s the point: every time we seen Dawn symbolism placed on someone who also symbolizes the Others, as we do here with the Warrior’s sons and the Kingsguard, it strengthens our hypothesis that Dawn is tied to the Others and ice magic.
Here’s the other point, regarding our hypothesis that the Sept of Baelor on Visenya’s Hill is a symbolic representation of the ice moon: look inside, and we find knights who remind us so strongly of the Others. The Others are like an invasion of cold burning stars, and they come from a cold, moon-pale queen, so the idea of the Warrior’s Sons issuing forth from the domed Sept of Baelor with crystal star sword symbolism makes a damn lot of sense… if indeed the Sept of Baelor is meant as an icy moon symbol as I suggest. Or I guess it could all be coincidence… you’ll have to be the judge.
In my opinion, one of the main purposes for this seeming parallel between the Others and the Warrior’s Sons is to help us see the Sept of Baelor on Visenya’s Hill as a parallel for the ice moon, and by extension, Visenya herself as a symbol of the icy moon. Just as the Dragonpit on the Hill of Rhaenys holds dragons, Baelor’s Sept of the Hill of Visenya contains knights who symbolize Others.
As for the white shadow Kingsguard and the White Sword Tower where they come from… we’ll talk about that in a bit.
Ok, to wrap up this section, I’ll show you a little Easter egg I think I found in TWOIAF. It’s not really central to proving my hypothesis, but it seems to line up with everything else we’ve seen concerning the hills of Visenya and Rhaenys. It’s a funny little tale full of mythical astronomy, just a weird little sidebar to the Dance of the Dragons civil war – and I mean that it’s literally a sidebar section in TWOIAF in the part where they recount the history of the civil war. I give you the story of the moon of the three kings:
Madness gripped the city after Rhaenyra fled, and it showed itself in many ways. Strangest of all was the rise of two pretender kings who reigned during the time remembered as the Moon of the Three Kings.
The first was Trystane Truefyre, a squire to a disreputable hedge knight named Ser Perkin the Flea, who Ser Perkin declared was the natural son of Viserys I. After the storming of the Dragonpit and Rhaenyra’s flight, the Shepherd and his mob ruled much of the city, but Ser Perkin installed Trystane in the abandoned Red Keep and began to issue edicts. When Aegon II eventually retook the city, Trystane begged the boon of knighthood before he was executed, and this he received.
Okay, so right after the Dragonpit is “stormed” and collapsed – an event which represents fire moon death – we see a dark solar king occupy the Red Keep. Trystane Truefyre claimes to be a bastard dragon, the son of the dead king, and the bit about him being ‘knighted’ and then killed makes him a dead dragon associated with night and darkness (he was turned into a night, get it…).
Like the storming of the Dragonpit, the other event mentioned in the paragraph with Trystane Truefyre represent fire moon death as well. Rhaenyra’s “flight” from the city is a parallel symbol to the storming of the Dragonpit, because this Targaryen civil war was sometimes referred to as “blacks vs. greens,” with Rhaenyra’s side being the “blacks” – the black dragons. They fled like the meteor dragons when the Dragonpit collapsed, and when Trystane Trufyre enjoyed his short reign. Finally, there’s one more link to the Hill of Rhaenys with Trystane Trufyre, which is the guy who crowned him, Perkin the Flea – the name reminds us of Flea Bottom, which is on the Hill of Rhaenys.
Then we hear of the the “Other King:”
The other king was curiouser still—a child who became known as Gaemon Palehair. The son of a whore, this four-year-old boy was claimed to be a bastard of Aegon II (which was not improbable, given the king’s bawdy ways in his youth). From his seat in the House of Kisses atop Visenya’s Hill, he gathered followers by the thousands and issued a series of edicts. His mother later was hanged, having confessed he was the son of a silverhaired oarsman from Lys, but Gaemon was spared and taken into the king’s household. In time he befriended Aegon III, becoming his constant companion and food taster for some years, before dying of poison that might have been intended for the king himself.
Tystane Truefyre was associated with the color black via his link to the dragonpit and his being “knighted” (“nighted”), while Gaemon’s story uses words that suggest a bright, unspoiled moon (he’s called “Palehair” and born of a “silverhaired oarsman from Lys”). Most importantly, Gaemon is installed as the ‘Other King’ atop Visenya’s Hill, with all its ice moon associations. The ice moon symbols generally outlive the fire moon counterparts – that’s the case with Lyanna, who outlives Elia, if only slightly, and with Visenya, who outlives Rhaenys by many years – and that’s the case here with Gaemon Palehair as well. I’d also suggest that being a food taster who die s to save the king is not too far from a Kingsguard, whose role is also to sacrifice himself for the King. Boros Blount of the Kingsguard is even made Tommen’s food taster after Joffrey’s death, so maybe it’s not a stretch after all.
That’s a fun little bit from TWOIAF, huh? George can really do a lot of work in a small space, and this story of the “Moon of the Three Kings” compliments the ice and fire moon symbolism of Visenya and Rhaenys.
Having set the stage with their two hills, let’s move closer to the queens themselves.
Vhagar is also Great, and Would Suffice
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I have to say that in general, I do not talk very much about the personalities of characters when speaking of symbolism, because I think one of the main ways in which Martin disguises the fact that he has so many characters with similar symbolism is to give them different personalities. When George wants to use someone’s personality to reinforce their symbolism, I have observed that he will do it with the descriptor words used for a person, and that’s the case with Visenya and Rhaenys and their relationships with Aegon. TWOIAF will be our source for this information, and it tells us that:
By tradition, he was expected to wed only his older sister, Visenya; the inclusion of Rhaenys as a second wife was unusual, though not without precedent. It was said by some that Aegon wed Visenya out of duty and Rhaenys out of desire.
George R. R. Martin often cites a famous poem by Robert Frost as the partial inspiration for the title of the series, and as it’s very short, I’ll just quickly read it to you:
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
In other words, desire is aligned with fire, for obvious reasons, and thus it seems meaningful that Rhaenys was wed for desire. This poem is also a good insight into the motivation of the Others, by the way – it has to do with old hated and old grudges, I would think.
Martin puts a shout-out to the famous Robert Frost poem in the mouth of Lady Catleyn as she foreshadows her Lady Stoneheart identity in ACOK:
“Send my daughters back unharmed?” Catelyn smiled sadly. “There is a sweet innocence about you, child. I could wish . . . but no. Robb will avenge his brothers. Ice can kill as dead as fire. Ice was Ned’s greatsword. Valyrian steel, marked with the ripples of a thousand foldings, so sharp I feared to touch it. Robb’s blade is dull as a cudgel compared to Ice.”
Ice can kill as dead as fire – that’s basically a paraphrasing of Frost. Even better that she speaks of Ned’s Ice, which was forged in dragonfire, as that’s kind of a symbol of both ice and fire.
Returning to Visenya and Rhaenys, TWOIAF gives us a full description of the personalities of the two queens, and it generally holds with the pattern:
Visenya, eldest of the three siblings, was as much a warrior as Aegon himself, as comfortable in ringmail as in silk. She carried the Valyrian longsword Dark Sister, and was skilled in its use, having trained beside her brother since childhood. Though possessed of the silver-gold hair and purple eyes of Valyria, hers was a harsh, austere beauty. Even those who loved her best found Visenya stern, serious, unforgiving, and some said that she played with poisons and dabbled in dark sorceries.
Although it isn’t a hard and fast rule, I have noticed that many of the ice moon queens are warrior women: Visenya, Lyanna (who was almost certainly the Knight of the Laughing Tree), Brienne the Blue of the Sapphire Isle, or even Val the Wildling, although to be fair, all wildling women are basically warrior women.
In any case, it’s not hard to see that Visenya’s personality is a bit cold. I mean, “harsh, austere, stern, serious, unforgiving” – are we talking about the Starks and the Northmen here, or Visenya?
There’s an interesting line about Visenya in the new Sons of the Dragon short story that just came out recently, which is as follows:
On Dragonstone, the Dowager Queen Visenya had grown thin and haggard, the flesh melting from her bones.
This is just before she dies, and of course the obvious thing of note here being the flesh melting idea, as if she were an Other stabbed with dragonglass. That’s even suggested by the wording here – “on dragonstone, the Dowager Queen Visenya…” as if she impaled on dragonstone, with dragonstone implying dragonglass. You might say it like this: ‘Impaled on the dragonglass, the Other queen grew thin and haggard, the flesh melting from her bones.’ It could also be an innocuous use of the phrase “melting from her bones,” but it does line up with everything else, so I’m inclined to believe it’s clever wordplay.
Moving from descriptions of Visenya to descriptions of her relationship with Aegon, TWOIAF also tells us that “In their later years, their relationship—never a warm one to begin with—had grown even more distant.” So there you have it. Not a warm relationship. Sons of the Dragon also gives us this tidbit about the building of the Red Keep:
To oversee the design and construction of the new castle, he named the King’s Hand, Lord Alyn Stokeworth (Ser Osmund Strong had died the previous year), and Queen Visenya. (A jape went about the court that King Aegon had given Visenya charge of building the Red Keep so he would not have to endure her presence on Dragonstone.)
That kind of gives you the idea, I think. True or not, it typifies the way people viewed their relationship.
Then we get the description of Rhaenys and her relationship with Aegon, which is essentially just the opposite:
Rhaenys, youngest of the three Targaryens, was all her sister was not: playful, curious, impulsive, given to flights of fancy. No true warrior, Rhaenys loved music, dancing, and poetry, and supported many a singer, mummer, and puppeteer. Yet it was said that Rhaenys spent more time on dragonback than her brother and sister combined, for above all things she loved to fly. She once was heard to say that before she died she meant to fly Meraxes across the Sunset Sea to see what lay upon its western shores. Whilst no one ever questioned Visenya’s fidelity to her brother/husband, Rhaenys surrounded herself with comely young men, and (it was whispered) even entertained some in her bedchambers on the nights when Aegon was with her elder sister. Yet despite these rumors, observers at court could not fail to note that the king spent ten nights with Rhaenys for every night with Visenya.
I think this bit about Rhaenys being with Aegon far more often is indicative of the fact that it was the sun / fire moon eclipse alignment which occurred when the Long Night fell – the ice moon is sort of standing off to the side or something, while the sun and fire moon get their groove on. It’s similar to Trystane Truefyre, the fire moon king in the Moon of Three Kings story, setting up shop in the Red Keep, while Gaemon Palehair occupied the Hill of Visenya. Speaking in more literal terms, you can see that the passion between Aegon and Rhaenys is real, a seeming diametric opposite to Visenya and Aegon. Aegon and Rhaenys are hot for each other, I think it’s safe to say!
When we consider a dragonrider queen, we must also consider her dragon of course, as the dragon is simply an extension of the rider in the same way that a sword is the extension of a swordsman… or swordswoman, in Brienne’s case. As you might have guessed, the dragons Aegon’s two queens ride tell the moons of ice and fire story as well. Aegon rides the black dragon, indicative of his dark solar king status, while the dragons ridden by the two queens have coloring that is suggestive of lunar symbolism. Rhaenys rides “Meraxes of the golden eyes and silver scales,” with silver being a moon color and gold typically a color for sun and fire – a good mix for the fire moon which drank the fire of the sun. Vhagar’s color takes a bit of work to figure out, but the key is this description of Vhagar from the Princess and the Queen, George’s short story which catalogs the Targaryen civil war known as the Dance of the Dragons in more detail that TWOIAF:
No living dragon could match Vhagar for size or ferocity, but Jace reasoned that if Vermax, Syrax, and Caraxes were to descend on King’s Landing all at once, even “that hoary old bitch” would be unable to withstand them.
Hoary means “greyish white,” or “white with age,” and its synonyms include “snowy” and “frosty.” Thus we can probably assume that Vhagar is a white or greyish white dragon, and most tellingly, the word “hoary” carries with it the connotation of snow and ice. Thus, Vhagar is a highly suitable mount for Visenya the ice queen.
Better still – and this is one of my favorite bits of symbolism, actually – we find that 120 years later during the Dance of the Dragons, Vhagar is ridden by Aemond One Eye Targaryen, who has replaced his wounded eye with a blue star sapphire. Thus, if Vhagar is indeed a hoary white dragon, Aemond’s blue star eye makes this pair an perfect analog of the ice dragon constellation, which is described thusly in ACOK:
“Osha,” Bran asked as they crossed the yard. “Do you know the way north? To the Wall and . . . and even past?”
“The way’s easy. Look for the Ice Dragon, and chase the blue star in the rider’s eye.”
Pretty cool, right? I’m not one to believe that George would place a rider with a blue star eye on top of the hoary white dragon w ithout intending us to think of the ice dragon in some sense. I mean, it’s just too perfect – Aemond One Eye literally has a blue star sapphire in his eye. That makes Vhagar the ice dragon, at least in a sense, and Vhagar was first the mount of Queen Visenya. You can see how this stuff starts to stack up – this is a major clue indicating we should associate Visenya and Vhagar with ice, at least in the symbolic sense.
It’s also worth noting that Dany’s dragon named Viserion is the cream-colored one, which is basically close enough to say “white dragon.” Viserion, the whitish dragon, and Visenya, who rode a whitish dragon.
And unless you’ve been living under a rock and not going on the internet, like ever, you know that the HBO show chose to have the their version of “Night King” transform Viserion into some kind of blend between a wighted dragon and an ice dragon. I don’t know if that will happen in the books, and I’m not really here to discuss the show vs. book canon dynamic, but at the very least, we can say that making the white-colored dragon the “wighted dragon” or “ice dragon” makes a lot of sense.
It may be that George derived the name “Vhagar” from the name of the star Vega, which is the fifth brightest star in the sky. Vega is classified as “blue-tinged white main sequence star,” and it appears in the northern sky – in 12,000 BCE, it was actually the pole star, and eventually it will be again, due to the cycle of the precession of the equinoxes. Thus, it makes for a good contender to be not only the inspiration for Vhagar, but also part of the inspiration for the blue star which is the eye of the rider of the ice dragon constellation.
It seems pretty clear that the primary inspiration for the ice dragon blue star would be another occasional pole star, Alpha Draconis, which means “head of the serpent.” It’s a blue-white supergiant located in the head of the constellation Draco which was the pole star from 3940 BCE to 1790 BCE. It’s easy to conclude that Draco itself is the Ice Dragon constellation, particularly with that blue star in its head, but I think George might have drawn from Vega as well.
I’ll also note that Vega is part of the constellation Lyra, the lyre – which is basically a harp. It’s often thought of as the harp of Orpheus, a sad guy who wandered around playing his harp, kinda like Rhaegar. Perhaps Lyanna, who shed a tear for Rhaegar’s harping and singing, has a name drawn from “Lyra.”
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The conquest, for which Aegon the Conqueror is named, provides more clues about Rhaenys and Visenya as avatars of the fire moon and ice moon. We’ll again be pulling from the section of TWOIAF called “The Conquest,” which is specifically known to be written by George in its entirety. That’s also where we got the descriptions of the two queens that we quoted a moment ago. This comes right after Aegon and his sisters have taken a few castles around what would become King’s Landing and after Aegon had declared his intent to conquer the Seven Kingdoms:
Within days of his coronation, Aegon’s armies were on the march again. The greater part of his host crossed the Blackwater Rush, making south for Storm’s End under the command of Orys Baratheon. Queen Rhaenys accompanied him, astride Meraxes of the golden eyes and silver scales. The Targaryen fleet, under Daemon Velaryon, left Blackwater Bay and turned north, for Gulltown and the Vale. With them went Queen Visenya and Vhagar. The king himself marched northeast, to the Gods Eye and Harrenhal, the gargantuan fortress that was the pride and obsession of King Harren the Black and which he had completed and occupied on the very day Aegon landed in what would one day become King’s Landing.
Naturally, when Aegon and his sisters divide and conquer with their dragons, it is Visenya who goes to the Vale, with all its icy lunar symbolism – not once, but twice, actually. Rhaenys and Meraxes stick with King Aegon – that’s more fire moon / sun eclipse alignment of course – and then they head to the Gods Eye, which represents the eclipse. Harrenhall, a castle built of black stone and then burnt and melted in dragonfire, is another obvious fire moon symbol. In a perfect world, it would be built on the Isle of Faces, as the Isle of Faces corresponds to the moon, but being built on the shore of the Gods Eye works too.
While Aegon and Rhaenys were fighting around the Gods Eye, they fought a battle called “the Wailing Willows,” evoking Nissa Nissa’s “widow’s wail,” her cry of anguish and ecstasy which was said to leave a crack across the face of the moon. On the other hand, Visenya’s naval forces were met by the fleet of House Arryn, which was augmented by a dozen Braavosi warships. Ironically, these were both Targaryen defeats, if only temporary:
Such defeats proved no more than setbacks, however, and in the end, Aegon’s enemies had no answer for his dragons. The men of the Vale sank a third of the Targaryen ships and captured near as many, but when Queen Visenya descended upon them from the sky, their own ships burned. Lords Errol, Fell, and Buckler hid in their familiar forests until Queen Rhaenys unleashed Meraxes and a wall of fire swept through the woods, turning the trees to torches. And the victors at the Wailing Willows, returning across the lake to Harrenhal, were ill prepared when Balerion fell upon them out of the morning sky. Harren’s longboats burned. So did Harren’s sons.
The burning tree is an important symbol that anyone who has read or listened to the Weirwood Compendium will recognize, and it is quite appropriately linked to the fire moon, as played by Rhaenys and Meraxes. And remember when I said Harrenhal would be even better if it was built on an island in the Gods Eye lake? Well, here his ‘sons’ are crossing the lake when they are burnt by dragonfire.
We must take a moment for the burning of Harrenhal itself, which is described to us here in loving detail by our author. After telling Harren the Black that “when the sun sets, your line will end,” the battle begins with yet more dying sun language:
As the last light of the sun faded, Black Harren’s men stared into the gathering darkness, clutching their spears and crossbows. When no dragon appeared, some may have thought that Aegon’s threats had been hollow. But Aegon Targaryen took Balerion up high, through the clouds, up and up until the dragon was no bigger than a fly upon the moon. Only then did he descend, well inside the castle walls. On wings as black as pitch, Balerion plunged through the night, and when the great towers of Harrenhal appeared beneath him, the dragon roared his fury and bathed them in black fire, shot through with swirls of red.
Oh man. So epic. Black fire shot through with red, wings as black as pitch, and the Balerion the Black Dread like a fly upon the moon before making his descent… like a black dragon coming from the moon. The narrative continues:
Stone does not burn, Harren had boasted, but his castle was not made of stone alone. Wood and wool, hemp and straw, bread and salted beef and grain, all took fire. Nor were Harren’s ironmen made of stone. Smoking, screaming, shrouded in flames, they ran across the yards and tumbled from the wallwalks to die upon the ground below. And even stone will crack and melt if a fire is hot enough. The riverlords outside the castle walls said later that the towers of Harrenhal glowed red against the night, like five great candles…and like candles, they began to twist and melt, as runnels of molten stone ran down their sides.
As I sometimes like to say, that’s pretty freaking metal. What we are seeing here is one half of the fused stone-making process… all Aegon needed here were a few fire sorcerers to shape the stone as he melts it and then fix it in place. Without the requisite magicians, however, it’s just the straight-up ruination of the largest castle ever built in Westeros.
We recognize the stone cracking, burning man, and flaming shroud symbols, and there is also an unmistakable call-out to glass candles here, as the black stone towers of Harrenhall glow like twisted candles. The description of the glass candle we see in Marwyn the Mage’s chambers is described as “three feet tall and slender as a sword, ridged and twisted, glittering black.”
Interestingly, this is also the beginning of Aegon collecting the swords of his foes to make the iron thone with. It says “When the ashes had cooled enough to allow men to enter the castle safely, the swords of the fallen, many shattered or melted or twisted into ribbons of steel by dragonfire, were gathered up and sent back to the Aegonfort in wagons.” As a matter of fact, it’s possible that Aegon first got the idea for the iron throne when he saw these melted swords here at Harrenhal. He was like “hmm, you know what would be really freaking metal…” and so he called for the wagons. Or maybe he’s just into the whole reuse / recyle thing, who knows.
There’s also a quote from a Jaime chapter of AFFC which describes Harrenhal like a grasping black hand:
Across the pewter waters of the lake the towers of Black Harren’s folly appeared at last, five twisted fingers of black, misshapen stone grasping for the sky.
When Harrehal’s black hand of a castle glowed red on the night of its destruction, this is essentially the flaming hand / fiery sock puppet symbol that we see often as a symbol of the exploding moon. Remember this legendary quote from ADWD with Benerro, the High Priest of R’hllor?
Benerro jabbed a finger at the moon, made a fist, spread his hands wide. When his voice rose in a crescendo, flames leapt from his fingers with a sudden whoosh and made the crowd gasp. The priest could trace fiery letters in the air as well. Valyrian glyphs. Tyrion recognized perhaps two in ten; one was Doom, the other Darkness.
In case you don’t remember the sock puppet metaphor, the moon is like the empty sock puppet, and the sun’s fire that the moon drinks is the fiery hand animating the sock puppet. Thus, the burning hand symbol can be used to represent the burning moon, as it would seem to do here with Harrenhal. It’s the same with the red leaves of the weirwood which are usually described as looking like bloody hands, because they are also called “a blaze of flame amongst the green” by Theon. Blood and fire hands, that’s the idea, and you may remember Jon Snow feeding the ravens with Maester Aemon shortly after he burned one of his hands – his burned hand got bloody up the elbow.
As a final note on Harrenhal, I’ll mention that Arya recalls Old Nan telling her that “fiery spirits still haunted the blackened towers” of Harrenhal, the victims of Balerion’s fires. This is yet another clue tying Harrenhal to our archetype of the fire moon, since we know that Azor Ahai and quite possibly Nissa Nissa are reborn as fiery spirits following the initial “forging of Lightbringer” blood magic ritual, whatever that turns out to have been in the specifics. The fiery Harrenhal ghosts also remind us a bit of Melisande’s shadowbabies, the “shadows with burning hearts” which symbolize the dark and deathly children of the fire moon.
So as you can see, all of the symbolism works together here in this first phase of the conquest – Harrenhal and the Gods Eye symbolize the fire moon wandering too close to the sun, and Aegon and Rhaenys go there with their dragons. The Vale represents the ice moon, and so Visenya and Vhagar go there. This pattern continues later in the conquest, after the Field of Fire where all three dragons came together to roast the combined armies of the Reach and the Westerlands, as alluded to here:
Now once again Aegon Targaryen and his queens parted company. Aegon turned south once more, marching toward Oldtown, whilst his two sisters mounted their dragons—Visenya for a second attempt at the Vale of Arryn, and Rhaenys for Sunspear and the deserts of Dorne.
Ah ha. The Vale of Arryn and the icy Eyrie once again for Visenya and Vhagar, and it’s to be Sunspear and the deserts of Dorne for Rhaenys and Meraxes. Dorne is of course the home of Elia Martell, Rhaegar’s fire moon bride, so that’s again an excellent fit for the larger pattern.
After describing the many fortifications and preparations made by Sharra Arryn and the Valemen, it says
All these defenses proved useless against Visenya Targaryen, who rode Vhagar’s leathery wings above them all and landed in the Eyrie’s inner courtyard. When the regent of the Vale rushed out to confront her, with a dozen guards at her back, she found Visenya with Ronnel Arryn seated on her knee, staring at the dragon, wonderstruck. “Mother, can I go flying with the lady?” the boy king asked. No threats were spoken, no angry words exchanged. The two queens smiled at one another and exchanged courtesies instead. Then Lady Sharra sent for the three crowns (her own regent’s coronet, her son’s small crown, and the Falcon Crown of Mountain and Vale that the Arryn kings had worn for a thousand years), and surrendered them to Queen Visenya, along with the swords of her garrison. And it was said afterward that the little king flew thrice about the summit of the Giant’s Lance and landed to find himself a little lord. Thus did Visenya Targaryen bring the Vale of Arryn into her brother’s realm.
It’s a cute little story, for sure, but the noteworthy thing is Visenya receiving the crown and swords of the Vale; these are the accouterments of an icy monarch given the symbolism of the Eyrie and the Arryn sigil. Also notable is the name Sharra – you may recall the Dothraki naming the red comet shierak qiya, the ‘bleeding star.’ Shierak means star, and any time someone has a name like Sharra or Shiera, you should think of comets and stars. Shiera Sea-Star, for example, a Targaryen royal bastard, lover of Bloodraven, and maybe just maybe the mother of Melisandre. Shekhqoyi is the name for a total solar eclipse by the way, and you can see it’s made up of similar phoenetic roots.
In other words, Sharra Arryn of the Eyrie is an icy star queen in an icy castle, but one who recognizes her true monarch, Visenya the ice queen, rider of Vhagar the symbolic ice dragon.
Visenya also gets an A+ for strategy here; a bloodless conquest wherein you still manage to demonstrate your ability to use overwhelming force is about as good as it gets in terms of battle outcomes.
As for Rhaenys in Dorne, the narrative continues by telling us that “Rhaenys Targaryen had no such easy conquest.” The Dornish basically ran and hid when she came by, offering no soldiers to burn and stymieing the Targaryen attempt to make them submit. She eventually found an extremely aged Princess Meria Martell, the so-called “Yellow Toad of Dorne,” who basically told her to take her dragon and shove it where the sun don’t shine (see what I did there). The exchange is recorded as follows:
“I will not fight you,” Princess Meria told Rhaenys, “nor will I kneel to you. Dorne has no king. Tell your brother that.”
“I shall,” Rhaenys replied, “but we will come again, Princess, and the next time we shall come with fire and blood.”
“Your words,” said Princess Meria. “Ours are Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken. You may burn us, my lady…but you will not bend us, break us, or make us bow. This is Dorne. You are not wanted here. Return at your peril.”
When she returned later with more Targaryen forces and Aegon himself, it was essentially a quagmire of cat-and-mouse battles across the Dornish deserts and mountains. At one point Aegon and Rhaenys “took control” of Sunspear and declared Dorne conquered, but all the forces they left in various places to hold Dorne succumbed soon after the dragons left. I hardly have to point out that Aegon and Rhaenys appearing together in Dorne is another metaphorical depiction of the fiery moon wandering too close to the sun.
Although the rest of Westeros was essentially conquered shortly after this point, with Aegon being anointed King by the High Septon in Oldtown around this time, Dorne remains the lone excpetion to this for some hundred years or so. The Targaryens continue to try to bring Dorne to heel after the Conquest, and the conflict really comes to a head in 10 AC with the death of Rhaenys in Dorne.
Rhaenys, as the fire moon maiden, dies before Visenya, and the manner of her death attests to her fire moon nature. Not only does she die in Dorne, but she specifically dies at a place called the Hellholt. The story is that her gold and silver dragon, Meraxes, was shot through the eye with a scorpion bolt. This is a mimicking of the the idea of the Gods Eye being put out – and this is where I remind you that if you haven’t watched the “Caverns of Dragonglass” video that I did with History of Westeros, you’re missing out on an important mythical astronomy concept known as the god’s eye, so be sure to check that out if you haven’t already. We put a lot of work into that one and I am really happy with the way it turned out, so go to my youtube channel and look under the “collaborations with History of Westros” playlist.
If you didn’t see it, the very basic theory is when the fire moon wandered too close to the sun, it made an eclipse, which looks very like a great celestial eye. The sun and moon are sometimes seen as the eyes of god in various world mythologies, and I believe that Martin is playing on this concept with the implied eclipse alignment looking like the eye of god.. which is then blinded by the comet. There are many quotes about the moon being like an eye, and one of our moons got poked by the comet, then you see how an eye-gouging works well to symbolize the destruction of the moon.
The Gods Eye lake has the Isle of Faces in the middle, which would correlate to the moon, and the lake to the sun, and these correlations are, as always, well supported by symbolic language in the books about the lake being on fire and things of that nature. The main point here is that a dragon or fiery person loosing one eye usually symbolizes the destruction of the fire moon, and that would seem to be the case here with the death of Meraxes and Rhaenys in Dorne, where Meraxes is speared through the eye.
There’s also brief mention of this “dragon speared through the eye” idea during the storming of the Dragonpit, which is a parallel event to the death of Rhaenys and Meraxes:
Unable to flee, Dreamfyre returned to the attack, savaging her tormenters until the sands of the pit were strewn with charred corpses, and the very air was thick with smoke and the smell of burned flesh, yet still the spears and arrows flew. The end came when a crossbow bolt nicked one of the dragon’s eyes. Half-blind, and maddened by a dozen lesser wounds, Dreamfyre spread her wings and flew straight up at the great dome above in a last desperate attempt to break into the open sky. Already weakened by blasts of dragonflame, the dome cracked under the force of impact, and a moment later half of it came tumbling down, crushing both dragon and dragonslayers under tons of broken stone and rubble.
If you’ve read or listened to the Weirwood Compendium series, you’ll know that there is some serious greenseer dragon stuff going on here with the one-eyed dragon whose name includes the word dream and who broke the fire moon symbol. It’s very similar to seeing one-eyed Beric sitting in a weirwood throne in a weirwood cave, but resurrected through fire magic and wielding a burning sword.
Setting that aside, the main point is that the reborn solar king, who is often a dragon figure since this is basically Azor Ahai reborn we are talking about here, is often shown with one eye, and this is both a reference to Odin symbolism and to the “sun wandering too close to the moon” eclipse which looks like a great celestial eye. We see it at the Dragonpit, and we see it at the Death of Rhaenys at the Hellholt in Dorne, because both of these events and places symbolize the fire moon’s destruction – according to my theory of course.
Wrapping up with Rhaenys and the Hellholt, we read that Rhaenys was either killed in the fall, or else wounded and then taken to the dungeons of the Hellholt to die a horrible death. Either of these endings kind of sends the same message, which is that Rhaenys went to hell. The years following the death of Rhaenys are called the “Years of the Dragons Wroth,” and that’s what we are going to talk about next.
This will actually be the clincher for Rhaenys and Visenya’s fire and ice moon symbolism, and the punchline to the riddle of “what is George saying by having the Kingsguard parallel the Others. It’s this: just as Visenya’s Hill contains the Other-like Warrior’s Sons, Visenya the icy moon queen created the Other-like Kingsguard.
Azor Ahai’s Other Queen
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Visenya’s creation of the Kingsguard is a terrific parallel to the Night’s Queen creating the Others, I hope that is readily apparent; and of course, the same applies to the Warrior’s Son’s living in the Sept of Baelor on the Hill of Visenya. Linking these two orders of knights who impersonate the Others to Visenya implies Visenya as a white shadow factory, just like the Night’s Queen. I’ll give you a moment to let that soak in.
If you’ve been skeptical about my suggestion that Visenya parallels to the ice moon and the Night’s Queen, this is where the correlations should become too much to explain by coincidence, in my opinion. All of the symbolism of the hill, Visenya herself, Vhagar, the Conquest – but this is really the point, right here. George really wants us to understand that the Others come from the Night’s Queen. She is their creator – their original creator, I believe, despite the fact that most people think Night’s King and Queen did their thing after the Long Night. I disagree, as I have proposed before, or at least I will say that the symbolism indicates that Night’s King and Night’s Queen were the creators of the Others.
Consider the story of the formation of the Kingsguard, taken from TWOIAF, and I’m quoting the passage at length because it’s just really good ASOIAF history to know, and a great example of why everyone should read TWOIAF, as is the section on the Conquest.
Yet despite a reign covered in glory, the First Dornish War stood out as Aegon’s one great defeat. The First Dornish War began boldly in 4 AC, and ended in 13 AC after years of tragedy and spilled blood. Many were the calamities of that war. The death of Rhaenys, the years of the Dragon’s Wroth, the murdered lords, the would-be assassins in King’s Landing and the Red Keep itself; it was a black time.
But out of all the tragedy was born one glorious thing: the Sworn Brotherhood of the Kingsguard.
I’m going to cut in here to point out the obvious: Rhaenys’s death represents the fire moon cracking event which precipitated the Long Night, and these “the years of the Dragon’s Wroth,” which the narrative here describes as “a black time,” serves as a metaphor for the Long Night falling after the death of the fire moon. This is when the Others – the Kingsguard – were created by Visenya, who stands in for the Night’s Queen. This correlates to what Old Nan says about the Long Night, that “in that darkness, the Others came for the first time..”
The story continues:
When Aegon and Visenya placed prices on the heads of the Dornish lords, many were murdered, and in retaliation the Dornishmen hired their own catspaws and killers. On one occasion in 10 AC, Aegon and Visenyawere both attacked in the streets of King’s Landing, and if not for Visenya and Dark Sister, the king might not have survived. Despite this, the king still believed that his guards were sufficient to his defense; Visenya convinced him otherwise. (It is recorded that when Aegon pointed out his guardsmen, Visenya drew Dark Sister and cut his cheek before his guards could react. “Your guards are slow and lazy,” Visenya is reported to have said, and the king was forced to agree.)
This little bloody object lesson from Visenya is a depiction of Night’s Queen taking the blood of Night’s King to create the Others. The legend says Night’s King gave her his seed and soul, and blood can serve as a symbol of both of those things, such as when someone says they are of the same blood as their relative, or when blood is shown to be a powerful fuel for darker kinds of magic. This drawing of Aegon’s blood is what causes him to agree to let her create the white sword brotherhood.
As for the Dornish assassins and catspaws who were sent to try to kill Aegon and Visenya, they were triggered as part of the fallout of Rhaenys’s death in Dorne, so they would seem to represent the black meteor dragons that came from the fire moon explosion, the ones which darkened the sun (meaning they killed or tried to kill the sun) and potentially struck the ice moon. The narrative continues:
It was Visenya, not Aegon, who decided the nature of the Kingsguard. Seven champions for the Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, who would all be knights. She modeled their vows upon those of the Night’s Watch, so that they would forfeit all things save their duty to the king. And when Aegon spoke of a grand tourney to choose the first Kingsguard, Visenya dissuaded him, saying he needed more than skill in arms to protect him; he also needed unwavering loyalty. The king entrusted Visenya with selecting the first members of the order, and history shows he was wise to do so: two died defending him, and all served to the end of their days with honor.
First and foremost, you can see that in every way possible, Visenya created the Kingsguard, who are white shadows with snowy, moon pale armor. The kingsguard, who are beautiful but unnatural white steel swords that look ghostly in the moonlight… and they were created by Visenya, who likes white temples built of marble and crystal, white marble statues of dragon people, snowy white dragons, and long flights around the snow-white castles with blue moon banners on the back of her snowy white dragon. She likes making white shadows too – who woulda thought.
The bit about modelling their vows after the Night’s Watch is instructive, since the Others and Black Brothers are in many senses a pair of opposites, or even like long lost brothers… the black sword brothers and the white sword brothers. Night’s King was said to be a Night’s Watchman, yet his sons are Others, so that sort of makes sense.
So, to quickly sum up, Visenya, rider of the implied ice dragon Vhagar, mirrors the white shadow factory role of the Night’s Queen by creating the Kingsguard, who symbolize the Others, and because Visenya’s Hill is home to the Warrior’s Sons, who symbolize the Others. Both of these orders of Other-impersonator knights who are linked to Visenya also have ties to dawn symbolism.
What does this tell us tell us? Well, it really solidifies the identification of Visenya as the ice moon queen, opposite Rhaenys as the fire moon queen. It sets up Visenya as a parallel to the Night’s Queen, the creators of white shadows and crystal sword knights. I think it also implies that Night’s Queen and King were the first to make white shadows, as I mentioned.. although I do want to stress that I think we are still missing a big piece of the puzzle in regards to how exactly a Night’s Queen baby becomes an White Walker, and that’s something we will come to understand better when we start talking about the connection between the Others and the weirwoods.
The other really important thing about Visenya being tied to knights who symbolize the Others is that it also sets up Aegon to parallel the Night’s King. King Aegon and Night’s King are both warrior kings who knew no fear (I mean think about the cahones it takes to think you are the right guy to conquer a medium sized continent that has never been unified under a single ruler – Aegon was indeed fearless). Aegon and Night’s King both have a demonstrated and consistent fondness for wearing black, and of course both married ice moon queens, Visenya and Night’s Queen, respectively.
Put simply, Night’s Queen was making white shadows with the Night’s King, just as Visenya created the Kingsguard with Aegon the Conqueror.
More specifically, we can observe that Visenya created the Other-like Kingsguard to serve the black dragon king, Aegon Targaryen, the wielder of Blackfyre and rider of Balerion the Black Dread – a signature dark solar Azor Ahai reborn figure. So… this would seem to be a parallel between a black dragon Azor Ahai figure and Night’s King. Is Night’s King part of the dark solar king archetype?
This is where I remind you that we already identified Stannis Baratheon as playing the role of both dark Azor Ahai figure and Night’s King. His flaming sword, residence on Dragonstone, and Azor Ahai reborn moniker all make him an Azor Ahai reborn figure, and his taking of the Nightfort as a seat, setting himself up as a rebel king at the Wall, and the fact that his relationship with Mel the succubus is like a temperature-inverted parallel of Night’s King and Corpse Queen make Stannis a Night’s King figure.
The obvious implication is that Azor Ahai and Night’s King might have been the same person in some sense. I’ve suggested this before, and let me say it now for the record: I believe that Azor Ahai eventually became the Night’s King. Either that, or his son became the Night’s King, which is symbolically almost the same thing. Night’s King was the blood of the dragon, in other words, perhaps that’s the most important way to think about it. That’s doesn’t preclude him also being a “Stark” as well, and we’ll address this in a little bit.
The idea of Night’s King being a version of the dark solar king archetype should not be a surprise – it’s right there in the name, really. He’s a king, which is almost always associated with the sun, but word night replaces the sun with the image of a black sky. That’s more or less the exact idea behind the “Lion of Night,” whose statue in the House of Black and White is “a man with a lion’s head seated on a throne, carved of ebony.” The legend of the Great Empire of the Dawn says that when the sun hid its face during the Long Night, the Lion of Night came forth in all his wroth etc. etc., which helps clue us in to the idea that the Lion of Night represents the absence of the sun or the inversion of the sun. During the Long Night, when the sun was hidden, the Lion of Night punished mankind – and so too did the Bloodstone Emperor, whom I believe to be the man who broke the moon, Azor Ahai, since the moon breaking seems to be the cause of the Long Night. That makes the Bloodstone Emperor and potentially Azor Ahai the “king of the Long Night,” kind of like the earthly avatar of the Lion of Night, if you will.
Compare that to what Old Nan says about Night’s King, as remembered by Bran while staying at the Nightfort:
Night’s King was only a man by light of day, Old Nan would always say, but the night was his to rule. And it’s getting dark.
A man who transformed into something more during the night? He’s either some kind of werewolf, or this is really talking about a man who transformed himself into a powerful figure at the fall of the Long Night – and we know who that is. Azor Ahai, who underwent some kind of transformation or death transformation to become Azor Ahai reborn, the dark solar king and possible zombie. It’s also the Bloodstone Emperor, who seized power through dark magic at the fall of the Long Night.
I have always proposed that Azor Ahai / the Bloodstone Emperor came to Westeros during the Long Night – or else who cares, right? – plus the fused stone fortress and the dragonsteel of the last hero – so it seems possible that whatever magical deeds were done to provoke the Long Night by Azor the moon breaker may have been performed in Westeros. Perhaps on the Isle of Faces? That’s probably a topic for another time though. The point is that the idea of Azor Ahai coming to Westeros in some capacity provides the “conveyor-belt of plausibility” by which he or his son or brother can become the Night’s King.
What I am saying is that these three – Night’s King, Azor Ahai, and the Bloodstone Emperor – are at the very least, the same “king of night” archetype, and indeed, they may all be the same person or members of the same family.
Let’s consider how some of these parallels line up. Night’s King has the Corpse Queen for an icy moon bride, Aegon the Conqueror has Visenya for an icy moon bride, and Rhaegar the black dragon figure has Lyanna Stark of the Blue Winter Rose for his icy moon bride. It’s a similar pattern every time. Night’s Queen makes white shadow Others with Night’s King; Visenya makes white shadow Kingsguard with Aegon the black dragon, and Lyanna makes Jon Snow the ice dragon that was promised with Rhaegar, with the three Kingsguard outside the Tower of Joy at Jon’s birth adding to the Others / white shadow symbolism, and of course the presence of Dawn the white sword does the same thing.
That is one of the purposes of Martin creating symbolic parallels throughout his writing; it allows him to tell a story that rhymes, a story that has synergy and balance and rhythm. It also provides him a great way to hide the clues needed to solve the various delightful mysteries in the books!
Obviously, if Azor Ahai was also the Night’s King in some sense, then we can see a new and most important of love triangles emerge: Nissa Nissa was Azor Ahai’s fiery moon bride, and Night’s Queen was his icy moon bride, his Other Queen. He called forth dragon meteors with his fire moon bride (and he almost certainly made some little dragon babies with her as well, babies that could grow up to be last heroes or founders of certain great houses), and he made the Others with Night’s Queen.
Alternately, as I said, we might have a father-son duo or a pair or brothers playing these roles – I don’t think the signs are clear enough to draw those conclusions in any kind of firm way, as of yet. But again, the important hypothesis I want you to consider is that the Others were created when a blood of the dragon person of the Azor Ahai lineage placed his dragon seed in the cold womb of the Corpse Queen, also known as Night’s Queen.
The Others can therefore be thought of as frozen dragons, and not just in the sense that they symbolize cold meteors and thus “ice dragons.” I mean that if Night’s King was the blood of the dragon – Azor Ahai or his son or relative – the Others are kind of like frozen dragon-spawn. Perhaps that’s where the “burning cold” of the Others comes from, a twisting of the affinity for fire which flows in the blood of the dragon into an icy medium.
I’ll have much more on this to come very soon, but consider again that white marble statue of Baelor… a symbol of an ice dragon statue, whose temple holds the knights with mirror armor and crystal star swords. Or think of Ser Barristan in his white enameled plate armor “hard as ice and bright as new-fallen snow,” which is at times completed by his white, dragon-winged helm. Barristan is simultaneously a white shadow and an ice dragon person, in other words – and in service to an Azor Ahai reborn figure with a black dragon, Daenerys Targaryen.
The white dragon is a symbol well need to spend time unraveling, but we can see at a glance that it can certainly imply some combination of dragon symbolism and Others symbolism. I would explain this and other such correlations we’ll be talking about in the next few episodes as expressing the idea of a blood of the dragon person Night’s King creating the Others with his ice priestess Night’s Queen.
I’ve actually seen a couple of versions of the “Others are frozen dragonlords” theory in the fandom here and there, and yes, I think that’s what’s going on here. That seems to be one of the primary implications of this grand symbolic puzzle of the Kingsguard serving as analogs of the Others. The Kingsguard were created by a black dragon and an ice queen, and the same is true for the Others. I think! That’s my theory anyway.
And for those of you who are fans of the show, yeah, it makes a lot of sense to me to see their version of the Night King riding a wighted, icy dragon. The show Night King is definitely not book canon, of course, but if Azor Ahai ‘making the Others’ is book canon, then it may well be that George passed along something to that effect to Dave and Dan, the producers of the HBO show.
So now picture King Aegon after the death of Rhaenys and the creation of the Kingsguard as an archetypal scene of Night’s King and Queen. Picture Aegon, sitting the Iron Throne in his black armor, as the Night King, surrounded by white shadows in snow white armor that do his bidding, with Night Queen Visenya at his side. Rhaenys the fiery moon queen is dead, but her shadow haunts the solar king, just as the fire moon’s death turned the sun dark, and just as Azor Ahai was transformed by whatever horrible blood magic he did with Nissa Nissa.
The point is, with both Aegon and Night’s King, we see a dark solar king surrounded by white shadows and accompanied by an ice moon queen.
Consider the very end of the “The Conquest” section of TWOIAF, which I withheld from you earlier, and we see the same pattern, minus Visenya. Aegon goes to Oldtown and ends up being crowned by the High Septon, with all the Other-like Warrior’s Son’s in attendance pledging their allegiance to Aegon as their king. It creates the same image – a dark solar king with Other-like knights to carry out his orders.
It’s interesting to note that Aegon’s sons, Aenys and especially Maegor, would come into conflict and eventually war with those same Warrior’s Sons… shades of Azor Ahai’s son as the last hero fighting the Others, perhaps? That’s definitely a topic we’ll return to soon when we explore some of the other love triangles of ice and fire in a lead up to our RLJ: A Recipie for Making Ice Dragons episode. That episode will be called “The Night was his to rule,” and it is there that we will further develop this idea of Night King as a blood of the dragon person.
So thanks again for joining us everyone, and we’ll see you next time for more Mythical Astronomy of Ice and Fire. If you’d like to support the show, you can click on the Patreon link at lucifermeanslightbringer.com, and you also help us get the word out by giving our podcast a nice review on iTunes, by subscribing to the lucifermeanslightbringer YouTube channel, and especially by sharing our main Long Night video that is at the top of all of my pages. So long for now…