Hey there friends, patrons, and fellow mythical astronomers! It’s your starry host LmL, and I’m here with a very special edition episode, once which exists outside the confines of any compendium. Once, a long time ago, when I created the Patreon page for mythical astronomy and named my top tier of patrons after the 12 constellations of the zodiac, I promised an episode explaining how George was using the constellations in the story. Well, I am here today to fulfill my holy oath, sworn in the sight of gods and men, and to pay homage to those stalwart patrons known as the earthly avatars of the twelve houses of heaven.
So many stars, he thought as he trudged up the slope through pines and firs and ash. Maester Luwin had taught him his stars as a boy in Winterfell; he had learned the names of the twelve houses of heaven and the rulers of each; he could find the seven wanderers sacred to the Faith; he was old friends with the Ice Dragon, the Shadowcat, the Moonmaid, and the Sword of the Morning. All those he shared with Ygritte, but not some of the others. We look up at the same stars, and see such different things. The King’s Crown was the Cradle, to hear her tell it; the Stallion was the Horned Lord; the red wanderer that septons preached was sacred to their Smith up here was called the Thief. And when the Thief was in the Moonmaid, that was a propitious time for a man to steal a woman, Ygritte insisted. “Like the night you stole me. The Thief was bright that night.”
This scene from ASOS shows us that Jon Snow has a fairly decent knowledge of the stars, and of course it’s easy to figure that when he speaks of “twelve houses of heaven and the rulers of each,” he’s speaking not only of the twelve zodiac constellations – the rulers – but of the idea that each constellation rules a section or zone of sky along path of the ecliptic, which would be the house. It’s a detailed explanation of the function of the zodiac as a naming convention, in other words, which helps us come to the definitive conclusion that the zodiac is what he’s talking about here.
Unfortunately, we don’t get any other information on these twelve houses in the series proper – but then we got The World of Ice and Fire. In fact, this episode will also double as a great example of one of the many reasons why TWOIAF is far, far more than they typical “worldbook” that we often see in fantasy. TWOIAF is packed with puzzles and symbolism and clues about important mysteries in the main plot, and there’s one in particular that is specifically based on the zodiac. It’s a single page – page 208, to be exact – which contains a sidebar that takes up 90% of the page, and it’s titled “Some celebrated children of Garth Greenhand.” As you might guess, there are twelve children listed, although one of those children is actually a pair of twins, which – spoiler alert – will represent Gemini.
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
We Should Start Back
I: AGOT Prologue
Here’s the full passage:
John the Oak, the First Knight, who brought chivalry to Westeros (a huge man, all agree, eight feet tall in some tales, ten or twelve feet tall in others, sired by Garth Greenhand on a giantess). His own descendants became the Oakhearts of Old Oak.
Gilbert of the Vines, who taught the men of the Arbor to make sweet wine from the grapes that grew so fat and lush across their island, and who founded House Redwyne.
Florys the Fox, the cleverest of Garth’s children, who kept three husbands, each ignorant of the existence of the others. (From their sons sprang HouseFlorent, House Ball, and House Peake).
Maris the Maid, the Most Fair, whose beauty was so renowned that fifty lords vied for her hand at the first tourney ever to be held in Westeros. (The victor was the Grey Giant, Argoth Stone-Skin, but Maris wed King Uthor of the High Tower before he could claim her, and Argoth spent the rest of his days raging outside the walls of Oldtown, roaring for his bride.)
Foss the Archer, renowned for shooting apples off the head of any maid who took his fancy, from whom both the red apple and green apple Fossoways trace their descent.
Brandon of the Bloody Blade, who drove the giants from the Reach and warred against the children of the forest, slaying so many at Blue Lake that it has been known as Red Lake ever since.
Owen Oakenshield, who conquered the Shield Islands, driving the selkies and merlings back into the sea.
Harlon the Hunter and Herndon of the Horn, twin brothers who built their castle atop Horn Hill and took to wife the beautiful woods witch who dwelled there, sharing her favors for a hundred years (for the brothers did not age so long as they embraced her whenever the moon was full).
Bors the Breaker, who gained the strength of twenty men by drinking only bull’s blood, and founded House Bulwer of Blackcrown. (Some tales claim Borsdrank so much bull’s blood he grew a pair of shiny black horns.)
Rose of Red Lake, a skinchanger, able to transform into a crane at will—a power some say still manifests from time to time in the women of House Crane, her descendants.
Ellyn Ever Sweet, the girl who loved honey so much she sought out the King of the Bees in his vast mountain hive and made a pact with him, to care for his children and his children’s children for all time. She was the first beekeeper, and the mother to House Beesbury.
Rowan Gold-Tree, who was so bereft when her lover left her for a rich rival that she wrapped an apple in her golden hair, planted it upon a hill, and grew a tree whose bark and leaves and fruit were gleaming yellow gold, and to whose daughters the Rowans of Goldengrove trace their roots.
At a glance, several of these appear to have an obvious correlation to a zodiac sign: the twins would be Gemini as I mentioned, Bors the Breaker who drank bull’s blood and founder House Bulwer would be Taurus, Maris the Most Fair Maid might be Virgo “the Virgin,” Foss the Archer would be Sagittarius, a centaur with a bow and arrow, and… well, after that, it’s less obvious. Maybe Gilbert of the Vines who founded House Redwyne could be Aquarius, the water-bearer, of you turn the water into wine, but there’s no fox in the zodiac, nor a crane, no bee-keepers, no gold trees, and where do you even start with John the Oak, Owen Oakenshield, or Brandon of the Bloody Blade? I imagine many people saw the list of twelve colorful characters and thought “zodiac,” but since it appears to peter out after five or six correlations, I imagine nobody wrote any theories about it.
Well. Today we are going to do the detective work and figure this thing out. Additional clues can be gleaned from scenes in the book which either involve a character from a given house descended of Garth or symbolism related to the sigil of one of those houses, and also by diving a little deeper into the mythology behind each zodiac sign. Which is what we’re about to do! We will start with the more obvious matches and work our way to the cryptic ones, including the one everyone wants to hear about, Brandon of the Bloody Blade.
This is a Patreon supporter special episode, and so our first thanks must go to our loyal and generous patrons, without whom the thing you know as Mythical Astronomy would not exist. In particular, I’d like to thank three patrons who recently bumped up their level of support, which is always greatly appreciated: JoJo Lady Dayne the Twilight Star, the born mouth, Daughter of Frost Giants and official secret-keeper of starry wisdom; Christine of House Dayne, Helmswoman of the Cinnamon Wind; Mollienissa, Keeper of the Moonsinger’s Law; and Jonnel “Blackheel” of House Thompson, wielder of a Valyrian steel tray of phish food and kraken tacos/
One of the first things to understand about the zodiacal constellations is all of them except Libra, the scales, are either animals or people who were placed in the heavens in honor of some dead they did before they died. They are memorials to dead people and animals, in other words, ones died bravely. I am speaking in the context of Greek myth here, because the Greek myths about the zodiac are the most well known and definitive in terms of western civilization – although it must be pointed out that we have thorough records of Sumerian astronomy incorporating the concept of a zodiac and some of the same constellations we use today. There’s also a very strong case to be made that Taurus is depicted with the Pleiades correctly placed over its shoulder in the cave paintings at Lascaux, France, which would have been painted before 10,000 BCE at the very earliest, and perhaps thousands of years earlier.
So, while the zodiac is very old, it is mainly Greek myth which defines our modern idea of the zodiac. And in Greek myth, the legends behind 11 of the 12 figures of the zodiac are memorials to the valiant dead. They’re heroes of one sort or another who have attained a second life in the amongst the stars, or we might say they now rule one of the twelve houses of heaven. The other main thing that kind of leaps out at you in these Greek myths about the zodiac is that there is a lot of human-animal transformation going on.
So think about this: a dozen heroes associated with human-animal transformation who died and were resurrected as star people? And these twelve somehow correlate with the twelve notable children of Garth the Green, the preeminent horned god figure in ASOIAF mythology? Garth the Green, whose description matches that of the green men on the Isle of Faces? I think you can see where this is going.
The most important symbolism attached to the number twelve in ASOIAF is the last hero’s twelve companions who died, but whom I theorize to have been resurrected as “green zombies,” the first Night’s Watch brothers. You know the theory: they were skinchangers or greenseers, like Jon, and this would have enabled them to be resurrected in a better way that Beric or Lady Stoneheart, as we expect Jon to be, and as Coldhands seems to already have been. Since the zodiac myths are already loaded with human-animal transformation and starry resurrection, they make a natural parallel to the idea of the last hero’s dozen resurrected skinchanger companions, and in fact it may have been part of George’s inspiration to give the last hero a dozen green zombies, assuming the green zombie is correct.
That’s kind of the point, actually, the “purpose” of hiding this zodiac puzzle in TWOIAF: it’s more evidence for the green zombie theory. We’ve already spent a bunch of time in the green zombie series tracing out the staggering amount of horned god / stag man / green man symbolism amongst the members of the Night’s Watch, and we know that resurrection and the cycle of the seasons is the dominant theme of all such corn king figures. That is the point of associating the Night’s Watch with cork king / green man mythology: it implies the dozen green zombie Night’s Watch brothers as stag men and skinchangers. Ergo, disguising this zodiac puzzle as the children of Garth the Green makes a ton of sense and simply reemphasizes the last hero’s dozen as human-animal hybrid people who died heroically and were resurrected as star people.
Accordingly, as we go through the twelve houses of the zodiac and their correlations in ASOIAF, we will find symbols of horned lords, the Night’s Watch, resurrection, weirwood blood drinking stuff, Long Night and War for the Dawn, and of course, lots of moon-related activity.
Bors the Breaker
This section is brought to you by our newest Guardian of the Galaxy patron Rickard Stargaryen, the Steelheart, Father of the Morning and Guardian of the Celestial Moonmaid; and by our priesthood of Starry Wisdom: Nyessa the Water Nymph, Goddess of Pain and Mercy; Jancylee, Lady of the Waves, Bear-Mama of the Sacred Den; Crowfood’s Daughter of the Disputed Lands YouTube channel; and The Bloody Tide, Lord of the Greenblood, the Merling-slayer of the Seven Sees
Bors the Breaker, Who gained the strength of 20 men by drinking only bull’s blood and founded House Bulwer of Blackcrown. (Some tales claim Bors drank so much bull’s blood that he grew a pair of shiny black horns.)
Bors Bulwer, who drank bull’s blood and according to some tales, grew a pair of bull’s horns, is obviously a match for Taurus. Taurus is perhaps the oldest constellation known to man; as I said, it is widely accepted to date back to the Bronze Age and and may date back to whenever the Lascaux caves were painted, again because over the shoulder of the one of the painted bulls in the cave, seven stars are painted in the shape of the Pleiades, in roughly the same location the Pleiades have to the constellation of Taurus. The Pleiades themselves are worth noting, because they appear to the naked eye as a cluster of seven stars, reminding us of the Faith of the Seven and their seven-pointed star. Before we even get into House Bulwer and bull-related affairs, I actually found the ASOIAF appearance of the Pleiades, which comes, fittingly, in the Battle of Seven Stars, which was the great conflict of legend between the Andal invaders and the First Men kingdoms of the Vale. Check out all the super heavy War for the Dawn language here.
After describing the emotions of the soldiers on the night before the big battle, we get this:
Clouds blew in from the east, hiding the moon and stars, so the night was dark indeed. The only light came from hundreds of campfires burning in the camps, with a river of darkness between them.
That’s Long Night symbolism, clearly, and the men are the lights in the darkness like the Night’s Watch. The river of darkness / black river symbol makes an appearance, and it’s acting like a barrier or wall between the two fighters, like the Wall divides the Others and Night’s Watch. Think of Jon seeing the rivers of black ice in the cracks of the weeping Wall, perhaps. Then:
As the east began to lighten, men rose from their stony beds, donned their armor, and prepared for the battle. Then a shout rang through the Andal camp. There to the west, a sign had been seen: seven stars, gleaming in the grey dawn sky. “The gods are with us,” went up the cry from a thousand throats. “Victory is ours.” As trumpets blew, the vanguard of the Andals charged up the slope, banners streaming. Yet the First Men showed no dismay at the sign that had appeared in the sky; they held their ground and battle was joined, as savage and bloody a fight as any in the long history of the Vale.
So there is the Pleiades, probably, and it’s a signal to begin the War for the Dawn. Here’s the cool thing: the Pleiades do indeed sometimes rise just before the sun, although they rise in the eastern sky and not the western. Still, it’s a cool detail. Anyway, we won’t go into the rest of the fight, except to highlight a specific call-out the the Night’s Watch, Night’s King, Nissa Nissa, and the weirwood stigmata:
Seven times the Andals charged, the singers say; six times the First Men threw them back. But the seventh attack, led by a fearsome giant of a man named Torgold Tollett, broke through. Torgold the Grim, this man was called, but even his name was a jape, for it is written that he went into battle laughing, naked above the waist, with a bloody seven-pointed star carved across his chest and an axe in each hand.
The songs say that Torgold knew no fear and felt no pain. Though bleeding from a score of wounds, he cut a red swathe through Lord Redfort’s staunchest warriors, then took his lordship’s arm off at the shoulder with a single cut. Nor was he dismayed when the sorceress Ursula Upcliff appeared upon a bloodred horse to curse him. By then he was bare-handed, having left both of his axes buried in a foe’s chest, but the singers say he leapt upon the witch’s horse, grasped her face between two bloody hands, and tore her head from her shoulders as she screamed for succor.
A warrior who knew no fear – the Night’s King, in other words, who I believe to be closely connected to Azor Ahai or even Azor Ahai himself. He is of House Tollet, the same as our beloved Dolorous Edd, which associates Torgold with the Night’s Watch, like Night’s King. Ursula Upcliffe is a sea-with name, making her a goddess of the sea and thus a potential Nissa Nissa figure via the green see symbolism. She’s a sorceress on a red horse, which certainly lends itself to fire moon maiden symbolism. Indeed, the warrior who knew no fear, with bloody weirwood leaf hands, leaps on to her red horse and rips her moon head off as she screams for succor like Nissa Nissa crying out to crack the face of the moon.
Alright, so that was cool, a little bonus constellation for you there in the Pleiades – although they are actually not a constellation, but a “star cluster” or “open cluster.” They are also called “The Seven Sisters,” for what it’s worth, and since George actually has someone sight them in this War-for-the-Dawn-like battle, I thought it would make a good warm-up. But let’s talk about Taurus!
Taurus is a constellation from which we get a very famous, bi-annual meteor shower: the Taurids. Only one shower is observable, which falls in November. That’s a pretty good start; meteor showers! The brightest star in Taurus is Aldebaran – Aldebaran, not Alderan – which is drawn from Arabic and means “the follower,” probably because it appears to follow the Pleiades across the night sky. According to how most peoples have viewed Taurus, this red star is one of the eyes of the bull. You can see how Martin might be able to work with that, right?
The red eye of Taurus is said to glare menacingly at Orion, the Hunter. Orion is easy to spot in ASOIAF as the Sword of the Morning constellation, which I have discussed elsewhere – I believe it was Blood of the Other 2: The Stark that Brings the Dawn. So – a bull with a red eye glaring at Orion, a.k.a. the Sword the Morning – yep, we got it:
“My lady?” Ned looked embarrassed. “I’m Edric Dayne, the . . . the Lord of Starfall.”
Behind them, Gendry groaned. “Lords and ladies,” he proclaimed in a disgusted tone. Arya plucked a withered crabapple off a passing branch and whipped it at him, bouncing it off his thick bull head. “Ow,” he said. “That hurt.” He felt the skin above his eye. “What kind of lady throws crabapples at people?”
“The bad kind,” said Arya, suddenly contrite. She turned back to Ned. “I’m sorry I didn’t know who you were. My lord.”
I mean, it could be a coincidence… but we have a bull with a presumably swollen eye glaring at Arya and the Sword of the Morning, do we not? Even the crabapple might be a Taurus reference, because Taurus contains the crab nebula.
More important than this sort of Taurus-trivia are the bull-man figures like the members of House Bulwer or Gendry here. Gendry has a ton of important symbolism, too much to even go into here in detail, and we’ve touched on a lot of it already. In brief, he’s the son of Robert the Horned God, he wears the bull helm and is called “the bull,” and even has the fire reflecting off his helm at the battle in the abandoned holdfast near the Gods Eye, the one where Arya sees the burning tree and escapes through the tunnel in the burning barn. He’s a smith, as Azor Ahai was, meaning he works with fire and iron and he makes swords, which is like making meteors (again think of the Taurid meteor shower, which makes Taurus a kind of meteor sword smith).
Gendry also has eyes like blue ice – in fact he is the first person to get the ice eyes description after we see the Others in the prologue with their ice-cold blue star eyes. This kind of ice-and-fire juxtaposition is common to the stolen Other figure we tracked in the Blood of the Other series, and indeed, Gendry never knew his father and his mother died when he was young, and was then fostered out. Arya also offers him a place at Wintefell, another match to the stolen Other baby profile. Most importantly, he was set to join the Night’s Watch, which matches both the stolen Other baby archetype as well as the green zombie description. That figures, as all the stolen Other baby figures had green zombie Night’s Watch symbolism going on.
Even better is Gendry swearing allegiance to Beric as one of the “Knights of the Hollow Hill” (who parallel the Night’s Watch). It doubles down on the symbolism of Gendry joining the Watch, and adds in the Azor Ahai figure of Beric.
Put all that together, in light of the green zombie theory and the zodiac children idea: just as Bors the Breaker was the son of Garth the Green, Gendry is the son of Robert, the primary avatar of Garth in the main story. Gendry is a fire and ice horned lord himself who first means to join the Night’s Watch, then joins a group that parallels the watch, lives in a weirwood cave (as the first Night’s Watch might have hid in the caves of the children of the forest), and serves an Azor Ahai dude with a flaming sword and one eye. Gendry absolutely fits the profile of a green zombie as I have described them, and also absolutely fits the profile of one of Garth’s zodiac children.
So too for the members of House Bulwer in the story. Bors the Breaker himself is an interesting fellow – growing a pair of bull’s horns out of his head makes him a horned lord figure and a therianthrope, like his father Garth. It also sounds painful, but whatever, it’s a fable. Bors the Breaker is also quite the name, isn’t it since the only other person we know of named “the Breaker” was “Brandon the Breaker,” who supposedly teamed up with the first Joramun, a King Beyond the Wall, to overthrow Night’s King. So now Bors is a horned lord drinking blood and battling the Night’s King, okay, I see where this is going. Someone get Jon a glass of mulled bull’s blood for his final battle, huh? Yeah? No? Okay. Never mind.
Back in the Weirwood Compendium, we discussed a member of House Bulwer who actually did join the Night’s Watch, a ranger named black Jack Bulwer. The Bulwer name implies Black jack as a horned lord figure, and the name Jack makes him a green man, a la “Jack in the Green” – but instead of a green jack, he’s a black Jack, associating him with the winter king line of symbolism and implying him as a dead green man, just as a green zombie should be.
This symbolism really came to life when Black Jack died. It was in Weirwood Compendium 4: In a Grove of Ash that we specifically talked about poor old Black Jack Bulwer, and how he ended up killed by the Weeper, with his severed, eyeless head being mounted on an ash wood spear just north of the Wall at castle Black. The planted ash wood spear creates the symbolism of the ash tree, a reference to Yggdrasil and thus to weirwoods, while the bloody, carved faces of the three rangers create the image of the bloody, carved weirwood face. It’s a symbolic mock-up of a weirwood, in other words, a bloody totem which depicts Black Jack as a horned lord gone into the weirwood trees upon his death.
One of the other unfortunate rangers was of course Garth Greyfeather, who’s name expresses the same ideas as Black Jack Bulwer: he’s a Garth, but he’s grey, implying death and winter. We know that fishing weirs are called garths, and thus the weirwood tree is really a garth-tree, and here we have a Garth weirwood totem alongside Black Jack… I mean it’s a family portrait of Garth and his son Bors, is it not? And at the risk of stating the obvious… Bors and Garth (and Hairy Hal) died while venturing north of the Wall into the frozen dead lands, like the last hero.
That brings us to the sigil of House Bulwer: “a bull’s skull, bone over blood.” Blood and bone is the famous and oft-used description of the weirwood’s coloring, so this is simply another clue about a dead bull-man going into the weirwoodnet. There’s no question this is a blood red color we are talking about, as it is based on the tale of Bors drinking the bull’s blood. Obviously, this reminds us of blood sacrifice to weirwood trees and the fact that Bran cast taste the blood of the slain victim he sees through the eyes of the heart tree in his last weirwood vision in ADWD. That’s a scene which may well be showing us part of the green zombie process, sacrificing the would-be green zombie in front of the heart tree.
The place that House Bulwer calls home is a little old castle called “Blackcrown.” That’s a dark solar king symbol, as we know well, the calling card of the evil, undead version of Azor Ahai. That’s what the entire body of Bulwer symbolism is showing us, essentially- the dark version of the horned god figure, very similar to the dark horned god known as the Black Goat of Qohor and it’s “avatar” on earth, Vargo Hoat, “the Goat,” who is from Qohor. It’s also reminiscent of the darker version of Garth in the older legends, where he demands sacrifice instead of being sacrificed himself.
While we are speaking of Azor Ahai reborn, I would be remiss if I did not mention that Black Jack gets a bit of the Last Hero math in ADWD:
Outside the world was black and still. Cold, but not dangerously cold. Not yet. It will be warmer when the sun comes up. If the gods are good, the Wall may weep. When they reached the lichyard, the column had already formed up. Jon had given Black Jack Bulwer command of the escort, with a dozen mounted rangers under him, and two wayns.
As with all examples of last hero math, I will remind you that George throws the word “dozen” around a lot, and so these clues are only ever to be read as complimentary to an already established idea. Black Jack’s horned lord symbolism, etc., is well established already, so finding him with last hero math is no surprise and holds with the larger pattern of the people who seem to be associated with last hero math.
Across the Narrow Sea in Braavos, we hear of more bulls and more blood sacrifice and more last hero math as Arya recalls being given a tour of the various temples in the city by the woman known as the Sailor’s Wife. Arya hears of three-headed Trios and the Patternmaker’s Maze, and then when she’s about to fall asleep, she’s offered a red bull:
“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.”
Today was not the thirteenth day, it seemed; the Red Bull’s steps were empty.
Oh ok, not that red bull, an actual red bull. Point being, the thirteenth day marks the time when a blood sacrifice shall be made, and this time it’s child of a bull, a white calf, which reminds us of the white lunar bull that Mithras has to slay to be reborn. Compare this 13-associated bull blood drinking ritual to Black Jack being the thirteenth ranger on the mission, and then later being made into a gory weirwood-sacrifice symbol, and of course he’s carrying the blood-drinking symbolism of his ancestor Bors with him to enhance the parallel. Again, all this simply adds to the treasure-trove of clues about Azor Ahai and the last hero being death-associated horned lord figures.
Here’s a cool House Bulwer snippet. It’s from The Mystery Knight, as Dunk listens to Kyle the Cat talk to Bloodraven in disguise about the contestants at the tourney at Whitewalls:
“Do not slight Ser Buford Bulwer,” said Kyle the Cat. “The Old Ox slew forty men upon the Redgrass Field.”
“And every year his count grows higher,” said Ser Maynard. “Bulwer’s day is done. Look at him. Past sixty, soft and fat, and his right eye is good as blind.”
Placed alongside Bloodraven in disguise as Maynard Plumm, this one-eye symbolism for Buford “The Old Ox” Bulwer is telling, and of course what it is telling us that Odin was here. It’s contributing to the Bulwer archetype, and it combines with the blood and bone coloring of their bull skull sigil to scream “weirwoods! greenseers!” It’s funny because ‘BloodMaynard Plummraven’ is a one-eyed greenseer, and he’s basically spotting another guy with horned lord / greenseer symbolism and identifying him as a fellow one-eyed dude. It’s also a probable reference to the one red eye of the constellation Taurus.
When Lord Buford, who is also called Theomore, takes the field, the description is worth quoting:
“Ser Uthor Underleaf,” the herald boomed. A shadow crept across Dunk’s face as the sun was swallowed by a cloud. “Ser Theomore of House Bulwer, the Old Ox, a knight of Blackcrown. Come forth and prove your valor.”
The Old Ox made a fearsome sight in his blood red armor, with black bull’s horns rising from his helm. He needed the help of a brawny squire to get onto his horse, though, and the way his head was always turning as he rode suggested that Ser Maynard had been right about his eye. Still, the man received a lusty cheer as he took the field.
There’s your requisite sun-swallowing Long Night language which often occurs right before a battle or fight meant to serve as an analog to the War for the Dawn, such as we saw with the Battle of Seven Stars. And then when he finally loses to Ser Uthor, who had been feigning a struggle to affect the gambling odds:
The Old Ox fell on fifth pass, knocked sideways by a coronal that slipped deftly off his shield to take him in the chest. His foot tangled in his stirrup as he fell, and he was dragged forty yards across the field before his men could get his horse under control. Again the litter came out, to bear him to the maester. A few drops of rain began to fall as Bulwer was carried away and darkened his surcoat where they fell.
This is notable because a bull character falling down is probably a symbol of the moon being knocked from the sky, coming here after the sun was swallowed by clouds as it was, and the rain which commences immediately after his fall is said to darken his blood-red surcoat, implying the rain as blood. Now we are in business, because the rain of moon blood is an easily recognizable moon death symbol.
It’s also a bit of detailed Odin symbolism, because Odin is hung upside-down from his tree, Yggdrasil, and Yggdrasil is also considered Odin’s horse in a more metaphorical sense… so the Old Ox is mimicking Odin be being hung upside-down from his horse. Taken with his blind eye, there can be no doubt that Odin symbolism is being applied, and in ASOIAF terms, that means greenseers and death transformation.
Ok, last tidbit for Bors, and by the way, not every section will be this long. There is quite simply a damn lot of bull symbolism in ASOIAF. There is other bull symbolism I am not including for sake of brevity, in fact.
So as to that last point about our buddy Bors the Breaker, it’s said that he drank so much bull’s blood that he grew a pair of shiny black horns. As it happens, we see two very similar black horns in the story, and you might know the two I am speaking of. The first is the supposedly fake Horn of Joramun that Mance and the wildlings bring to the Wall. Jon sees it first in Mance’s tent before they battle:
And there were other weapons in the tent, daggers and dirks, a bow and a quiver of arrows, a bronze-headed spear lying beside that big black . .
. . . horn. Jon sucked in his breath. A warhorn, a bloody great warhorn.
“Yes,” Mance said. “The Horn of Winter, that Joramun once blew to wake giants from the earth.”
The horn was huge, eight feet along the curve and so wide at the mouth that he could have put his arm inside up to the elbow. If this came from an aurochs, it was the biggest that ever lived. At first he thought the bands around it were bronze, but when he moved closer he realized they were gold. Old gold, more brown than yellow, and graven with runes.
Later, when Melisandre burns the horn alongside Rattleshirt disguised as Mance Raydar in a partially weirwood cage, we are told that these runes are in fact the runes of the First Men. Fake Mance is playing the role of a burning horned lord figure dying and being trapped in the weirwoodnet here, and that was the same thing being symbolized by Black Jack Bulwer’s severed head on the ash wood spear, or the Old Ox being hung upside down from his horse. Mel calls the horn “the horn of darkness” before throwing it into the fire, which kind of fits the overall theme of the dark version of the horned god being equivalent to the dark solar king, the horned lord of darkness.
By the way, in case you weren’t sure, an aurochs is essentially hairy extinct species of cattle, so when it talks of Mance’s huge horn coming from the biggest aurochs who ever lived, this is George telling us to think of this as a black bull’s horn, just like the ones Bors grew, though obviously a person wouldn’t have horns this huge on his head.
The other shiny black horn in the story is the one that Euron Crow’s Eye shows up to the Kingsmoot with, which is nearly a perfect match to Mance’s horn.
The horn he blew was shiny black and twisted, and taller than a man as he held it with both hands. It was bound about with bands of red gold and dark steel, incised with ancient Valyrian glyphs that seemed to glow redly as the sound swelled.
Mance’s horn is eight feet long, and this one is taller than a man, which sounds like they’re about the same size. Mance’s horn had bands of old gold with First Men runes, while dragonbinder here has bands of red gold and Valyrian steel incised with ancient Valyrian glyphs which glow redly at first, then a moment later it says they were “burning brightly, every line and letter shimmering with white fire.” Mance’s horn’s runes didn’t glow themselves, but the entire horn was burned, and so we have the burning horn idea present with both black horns. Dragonbinder is called “the horn of hell” by Aeron Damphair, which compares well to the “horn of darkness” label Mel gave the fake horn of Joramun.
So look – I don’t have a good theory about how these horns were both from Azor Ahai’s black dragon which were made into matching magical horns, with one being sent to Valyria with the very first Valyrians to help them tame dragons while the other was sent north of the Wall and given First Men runes so that it… could be burned by Melisandre for no good reason. Nope, don’t have a crackpot theory about that at all.
What I think is actually going on here is that our dark horn lord figure should be associated with magical horns, ones which may have been used to help bring on the great darkness of the Long Night. That’s kind of it’s own theory that I need to write, so I’ll kind of leave it at that, but if you’re a regular listener or reader of Mythical Astronomy, then you know I have been hinting at the idea of a magical horn being part of the recipe for breaking the moon for a while now. I DO have a very specific theory about that, and that will be forthcoming, but for now we can observe that there is some mystery to these magical horns, the horn of Joramun and dragonbinder, and the clues linking these two huge black shiny horns back to Bors seem to hint that the dark horned lord figure has something to do with magical horns… horns as in ones that make sounds… god this triple entendre horns thing can be confusing. “So, he has horns on his head, and he blows horns, and he’s horny – anything else?”
Bottom line is that as with all the other Bulwer and Gendry symbolism, every last bit of this connects to the Night’s Watch and the War for the Dawn, which was won by green zombies according to our theory.
Harlon the Hunter and Herndon of the Horn
This section is brought to you by our newest Zodiac patron: OuterPanda, the Pan-Doubter, the man in the mirror man and earthly avatar of Heavenly House Gemini; as well as our priests and priestesses of Starry Wisdom: Yang Tar, the Midnight Light, shadowskin-master of the lands of always Bjork; Stone Dancer, The Mind’s Eye, Whorl-Master of the Trident; and Codfish the Steelbender, who words are “Under the Sea, all the metalworkers are codfish”
Next up, for our correlation to Gemini, we have the twins Harlon the Hunter and Herndon of the Horn. It’s not clear if House Tarly officially claims descent from these brothers, but it is likely that they do, as they are considered one of the oldest houses in the reach and live on Horn Hill, the legendary home of these twin brothers:
Harlon the Hunter and Herndon of the Horn, twin brothers who built their castle atop Horn Hill and took to wife the beautiful woods witch who dwelled there, sharing her favors for a hundred years (for the brothers did not age so long as they embraced her whenever the moon was full).
Oh god, not more horned god stuff! Herndon of the Horn, huh? I can see where this is going, you say. Well, you know where this is going because you already read the earlier Green Zombies episodes and you remember that this pair of twins, Harlon the Hunter and Herndon of the Horn, is basically just a word scramble of a famous horned lord figure from English folklore known as Herne the Hunter. Herne is an undead, guardian of the woods figure, less of a god and more of fallen man who has become something more. His was disgraced in life and hung himself from an oak (called Herne’s Oak), but his shade became the guardian of the woods, a stag-antlered, cloaked man man riding a horse and leading a procession of other dead or enthralled creatures.
Herne has a lot in common with Coldhands, and indeed, the two places Herne’s influence are felt the strongest are with Coldhands and House Tarly, who made their home on Horn Hill and took the huntsman as their sigil. That’s highly sensible, since Sam meets up with Coldhands and shares a lot of symbolism with him. As we know already from our earlier exploration of these ideas, all of this symbolism gives strong testimony to the green zombies theory in general. Sam and Coldhands show us what kind of fellow belongs in the Night’s Watch, and I believe the more detailed message is about the original Night’s Watch and their fundamental relationship to greenseers and weirwoods. Coldhands apparently teaches Sam to recite a shorter and presumably much older version of the Night’s Watch oath to the Black Gate weirwood face beneath the Nightfort, while Coldhands shows us what the first Watchmen were like, according to the Green Zombies theory: undead, speaking the old tongue, riding elks and other beasts, and receiving aid from the greenseers and their ravens.
In a sense, all of these original green zombie Night’s Watchmen would be like Herne; they are undead, and they are “guardians of the woods” in the sense that they guard the realm of the living from the vengeful ice demons who (reportedly) seek to ride down on the cold winds of winter and exterminate all warm blooded life.
Again I will point out that before the Andals brought the Faith of the Seven to Westeros, all Night’s Watchmen would have been Old Gods-worshiping First Men, with the small exception of those who worshiped the Drowned God or the sea & sky god duo worshiped in the Stormlands and on the Three Sisters. This helps bring their guardian of the woods role into focus – the Night’s Watch swear their oath to protect the realm of the living to the immortal sentient trees. The fact that Herne’s Oak is the tree he died on – via hanging, a la Odin – implies that the Night’s Watch may have also died in front of their sacred tree, the weirwood, and of course that’s exactly what the Green Zombies theory stipulates, that the original watch was ritually sacrificed before heart trees, only to be resurrected and swear their Night’s Watch vows.
We just talked about Mance’s fake horn of Joramun and Euron’s dragonbinder, and of course Sam has that old cracked warhorn Jon found with the dragonglass at the Fist of the First Men which some people believe to be the original horn of Joramun. Jon may have even given it a toot!
He had made a dagger for Grenn as well, and another for the Lord Commander. The warhorn he had given to Sam. On closer examination the horn had proved cracked, and even after he had cleaned all the dirt out, Jon had been unable to get any sound from it. The rim was chipped as well, but Sam liked old things, even worthless old things. “Make a drinking horn out of it,” Jon told him, “and every time you take a drink you’ll remember how you ranged beyond the Wall, all the way to the Fist of the First Men.” He gave Sam a spearhead and a dozen arrowheads as well, and passed the rest out among his other friends for luck.
I can’t help but notice Sam being given a last hero dragonglass kit: one spearhead and twelve arrowheads. As with Bors Bulwer, seeing last hero math around horned lord figures who are Night’s Watchmen essentially just reinforces the basic premise of the Green Zombies theory, and it makes sense to equate the Night’s Watch with dragonglass in a general sense, because the brothers themselves are like black swords in the darkness who use fire to kill the Others. It’s also worth remembering that House Tarly does possess a Valyrian steel greatsword, Heartsbane, which like dragonglass may come in handy before too much longer.
And just like Black Jack, seeing a potential magical horn in the midst of these symbols again makes us think that the story of Azor Ahai and the last hero have something to do with magical horns, potentially the horn of Joramun. Sam continues to carry this old warhorn around as he sails to Braavos and then to Oldtown, despite the fact that he loses damn near everything else, which is one of the things that makes people think it may prove to be important, despite it’s unassuming status. Anyone who has seen Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade remembers the grail chamber, filled with elaborate chalices and goblets, but of course the true “holy grail” turns out to be the simple wooden cup – because Jesus was a carpenter, of course. Point being, perhaps these these gigantic, flashy magic horns we are shown – Dragonbinder and the fake horn of Joramun – are decoys, and maybe it’s really the old broken one Sam has that is important.
I have to say, I am seduced by the power of Dragonbinder, and I think that’s the one to watch – even if Sam’s was the original horn of Joramun. We’ll have to wait and see, and it’s fun to speculate, but the main point for our purposes is that our first two zodiac children of Garth are strongly connected to horns of basically every type.
As for the legend of Harlon and Herndon, a pair of twins who prolonged their life by some sort of sex magic ritual with a woods witch when the moon was full, this story has clear parallels to the Greek and Roman mythology behind Gemini, which is that of Castor and Pollux, also known as the Dioscuri. They were twin brothers who had the same mothe, Leda, but different fathers (Castor was the son of the King of Sparta, Tyndareus, while Pollux was the divine son of Zeus, who had transofrmed into a swan to impregnate Leda). They are sometimes said to be born from eggs, and they are often said to be born with their sisters as well, Helen of Troy and Clytemnestra.
Castor and Pollux (or Polydeuces, as he is called in Greek) were indeed hunters, as Herndon and Harlon were, and they are almost always depicted on horseback. They have circular caps to symbolize the egg they were born from, and frequently are depicted with stars above them to symbolize Gemini. They are very strongly associated with horses in particular, and even marry two sisters who are known as “the daughters of the white horse.” Between their being the children of a swan borne form an egg and marrying the daughters of a horse, you can see that the therianthrope / human-animal mythology is once again present with this zodiac sign.
Another parallel to Harlon and Herndon is found in the story of Pollux’s death. The circumstances of his death aren’t important, but as he lay dying in Castor’s arms, Zeus offered Castor a choice: he could remain immortal and spend all of his time on Mount Olympus, or give half of his immortality to his brother. He chose the later, and so the twins alternated between Hades and Olympus. They became the two brightest stars in the constellation Gemini, thereby gaining a sort of eternal life after death, as with most of the zodiacal figures.
As you can see, this is somewhat similar to the notion of Harlon and Herndon extending their lives by laying with the woods witch. It’s not an exact match – castor and Pollux marry sisters, instead of the same woman, and their semi-immortality is not granted by their wives, but by Zeus. Still, given that both sets of twins are hunters who sort of ‘share’ their fountain of long life with one another, and given the starry resurrection similarities to the green zombies, it’s enough to see that Martin has essentially spun his own version of the Dioscuri in Herndon and Harlon.
One last bit of Castor and Pollux lore… they are associated with something called St. Elmo’s fire. What is St. Elmo’s fire? Well, and this is borrowing the Wikipedia definition, it’s “a weather phenomenon in which luminous plasma is created by a coronal discharge from a sharp or pointed object in a strong electric field in the atmosphere (such as those generated by thunderstorms or created by a volcanic eruption).” Because it appeared most often on the end of a ship’s mast during a thunderstorm, it is named for St. Erasmus of Formia (also called St. Elmo), who is the patron saint of sailors.
Here’s where Castor and Pollux come in: In ancient Greece, the appearance of a single Elmo flame was called a Helene, as in Helen of Troy and the name the Greeks took for themselves, the Helenes, and this word literally means torch as saw in Weirwood Compendium 3: Garth of the Gallows when we talked about Durran and Elenei. Helen is the sister of Castor and Pollux, and indeed, if there were two flames, they were called Kastor and Polydeuces. The reason I mention any of this is mainly because the flame of St. Elmo’s fire is usually blue!
Gilbert of the Vines
This section is brought to you by Direliz, the Alpha Patron, a descendant of Gilbert of the Vines and Garth the Green, earthly avatar of Heavenly House Aquarius; as well as our priesthoo dof Starry Wisdom: Lady Silverwing, last child of the forest, Keeper of all leeward shores; John, called St. Baptiste, Apprentice of Satyrs, Cupbearer of Leopards, and The thief of Sometimes; Ash Rose, Queen of Sevens, Mistress of Mythology; and Stefanie Storm Strummer, the Gift-bringer, Raven Minstrel of the Mountains
Gilbert of the Vines, Who taught the men of the Arbor to make sweet wine from the grapes that grew so fat and lush across their island, and who founded House Redwyne.
Aquarius, the water-bearer, is the best match for Gilbert of the Vines. Even though Aquarius is called “the water-bearer,” the most popular Aquarius myth involves a cup-bearer who serves wine as well as water. This would be Ganymede, a very handsome young prince of Troy who is thought to be the most beautiful man in the world. One day while Ganymede was tending his father’s sheep, Zeus abducted him, either by transforming into an eagle himself or sending an eagle, so that Ganymede would be his cup-bearer and according to most versions of the tale, it’s implied that he’s taken as Zeus’s lover as well. Ganymede is often depicted with a golden cup, out of which he served Zeus water, wine, and ambrosia. But one day Ganymede has had enough of serving Zeus, and instead pours out his cup, causing days of rains heavy enough to flood the entire world. Ganymede is eventually put into the sky by Zeus as the constellation Aquarius.
The symbolism of Ganymede being taken to Olympus and being placed in the heavens as a constellation is similar to the Castor and Pollux living at Olympus (well, half the time anyway) and also being placed in the stars. Going to live with the gods is like ascending to heaven and like moving on to the afterlife, so it’s essentially a death transformation. The animal transformation element is here again, though it is not Ganymede transforming but Zeus, who, you know, does that kind of thing all the time (he changed into a swan to seduce Ledo, for example). Ganymede is usually depicted with an eagle.
So, here’s where it gets interesting. Ganymede, in addition to being Aquarius, is also the largest moon of Jupiter! That’s right, Ganymede is a moon figure who is taken captive. George makes a reference to this in the form of the name Gilbert – Gilbert is a Germanic name made up of the root words gisil (“pledge, hostage”) and beraht “bright”. So, bright hostage or bright pledge – a captive moon, or captive moon prince, in other words. Ganymede is the bright captive moon person who pours out the wine and ambrosia of the gods… and that’s starting to sound a lot like a moon being stolen from the sky and unleashing waves of moon blood. And when we look back to House Redwyne, we realize that wine and blood are virtually interchangeable as symbols, and so we are right back to blood drinking and full moons and other occult shit.
In the main story, we have a pair of Redwyne twins who are basically hostages of the crown after Cersei and Joffrey seize the throne – hostages, just like Ganymede. They do make an attempt at escape, which goes as follows, and this is Varys reporting to Tyrion:
Varys made a mark on the parchment. “Ser Horas and Ser Hobber Redwyne have bribed a guard to let them out a postern gate, the night after next. Arrangements have been made for them to sail on the Pentoshi galley Moonrunner, disguised as oarsmen.”
“Can we keep them on those oars for a few years, see how they fancy it?” He smiled. “No, my sister would be distraught to lose such treasured guests. Inform Ser Jacelyn. Seize the man they bribed and explain what an honor it is to serve as a brother of the Night’s Watch. And have men posted around the Moonrunner, in case the Redwynes find a second guard short of coin.”
Hilarious, right? This is what makes it so rewarding to follow George’s rabbit trails… he leaves these wonderful clues which don’t reveal themselves until you know just what you are looking for. These captive princes who descend from Gilbert the “bright captive,” should be left on the moon boat for a few years to see how they like it. meanwhile, the treacherous man from the moon boat shall be sent to the Night’s Watch.
It’s good stuff, and the treasons Varys names right before and after this Redwyne plot reinforce the message. First, Varys tells of the captain of the “King’s Galley White Heart,” who plans to go over to Stannis, to which Tyrion responds “I suppose we must make some sort of bloody lesson out of the man?” So that’s the bloody sacrifice of a solar king stag man, and what does Varys mention right after the Redwyne’s Moonrunner plot? Why, the red comet:
“We also have a sudden plague of holy men. The comet has brought forth all manner of queer priests, preachers, and prophets, it would seem. They beg in the winesinks and pot-shops and foretell doom and destruction to anyone who stops to listen.”
That’s interesting – the comet has brought on a wave of prophets who hang out in winesinks preaching doom, with the captive Redwyne twins attempting to escape on Moonrunner right in the middle of it in a scrambled tribute to the Ganymede myth.
We also saw moon associations with our first two zodiac constellation figures: Bors the Breaker’s moon symbolism came via the nods to Mithras slaying the lunar bull, Harlon and Herndon embraced their woods witch when the moon was full to gain eternal life, while their probably descendant Samwell Tarly has a moon face on four separate occasions. What’s going on here is that the Night’s Watch brothers are basically symbols of black moon meteors, and are synonymous with other black meteor symbols like dragonglass knives, burning brands, and the like. We should expect to find moon and moon meteor symbolism with all of our zodiac children and their extended symbolism.
Speaking of Night’s Watch brothers, there was a famous ranger of the Night’s Watch who, while not of House Redwyne, was named “Redwyn,” and his tale seems to fit the themes we’ve explored so far. See if you can spot the cryptic last her math, and this is Jon speaking to open the passage:
“Did you find the maps?”
“Oh, yes.” Sam’s hand swept over the table, fingers plump as sausages indicating the clutter of books and scrolls before him. “A dozen, at the least.” He unfolded a square of parchment. “The paint has faded, but you can see where the mapmaker marked the sites of wildling villages, and there’s another book . . . where is it now? I was reading it a moment ago.” He shoved some scrolls aside to reveal a dusty volume bound in rotted leather. “This,” he said reverently, “is the account of a journey from the Shadow Tower all the way to Lorn Point on the Frozen Shore, written by a ranger named Redwyn. It’s not dated, but he mentions a Dorren Stark as King in the North, so it must be from before the Conquest. Jon, they fought giants! Redwyn even traded with the children of the forest, it’s all here.” Ever so delicately, he turned pages with a finger. “He drew maps as well, see . . .”
“Maybe you could write an account of our ranging, Sam.”
The last hero math was with the maps – there are a dozen scrolls, then another book written by Redwyn, making Redwyn’s book the thirteenth and thus Redwyn the symbolic last hero. He’s journeying far into the cold dead lands of the north, like the last hero, and trading with the children of the forest, very like the last hero receiving some type of mysterious aid from the children in his tale. Jon finishes by drawing an analogy between Redwyn and Sam by suggesting Sam write an account of their ranging like Redwyn did his, and that makes sense because Sam plays the last hero on other occasions, as we have seen.
Maris the Maid, the Most Fair
This section is brought to you by the faithful Patreon support of Ser Dionysus of House Galladon, wielder of the milkglass blade the Just Maid, earthly avatar of Heavenly House Virgo and Libra; as well as members of our Starry Wisdom Priesthood: Matthar o’ Moontown, fisher of the Shining Sea; and Ser Aenus Frey of the Loudwater
Someone named Maris the Most Fair Maid can only be Virgo. It would seem so on first glance, and further digging confirms it without a doubt. Here’s the passage on Maris:
Maris the Maid, the Most Fair, whose beauty was so renowned that fifty lords vied for her hand at the first tourney ever to be held in Westeros. (The victor was the Grey Giant, Argoth Stone-Skin, but Maris wed King Uthor of the High Tower before he could claim her, and Argoth spent the rest of his days raging outside the walls of Oldtown, roaring for his bride.
From the Bear and the Maiden Fair to Maris the Maid, the Most Fair, there are many a fair maiden running around the lands of Westeros. But in what sense are we using the word “fair?” Are we talking about pretty maidens, or just maidens? Are they good-looking, or even-handed? Or maybe both? The answer lies in some very clever wordplay at work in the story of an ancient hero, Ser Galladon of Morne, and this story is told to us by Brienne of Tarth in AFFC:
Ser Galladon was a champion of such valor that the Maiden herself lost her heart to him. She have him an enchanted sword as a token of her love. The Just Maid, it was called. No common sword could check her. Nor any shield withstand her kiss.
Ser Galladon bore the Just Maid proudly, but only thrice did he unsheathe her. He would not use the maid against a mortal man, for she was so potent as to make any fight unfair.
Surely, there is no fairer maiden that the Maiden herself, even Maris the Most Fair would have to admit that. You can’t compete with a goddess! But the sword the Maiden herself gives out is called the Just Maid, and Galladon won’t use it against mortal men because it would be unfair, emphasizing the theme of justice, as opposed to Maris the Most Fair Maid who is renowned for her beauty. This is more than a clever pun on the word “fair,” however.
The constellation Virgo, the celestial virgin, has long been perceived as holding aloft the scales of Libra, because of their positioning in the sky. Thus, Virgo (or Astraea as she was known to the ancients, whose name means “star maiden”) is the original “just” or “fair” maiden. The goddess-form of Astraea is likewise associated with justice, just as you would think. This is also where we get the concept of blind lady justice, holding up her scales, a familiar sight inside all United States courtrooms. That’s right, lady justice is essentially mythical astronomy. It’s Virgo, holding Libra!
Libra is the only zodiacal constellation which is a thing instead of an animal or person, and thus wouldn’t really work very well with the whole ‘zodiac children of Garth’ puzzle. Therefore, it makes a great deal of sense for George to combine Libra and Virgo to create the concept of the maiden fair. That’s certainly what the ancients did, at least when perceiving Virgo as Astraea, the star maiden associated with justice. She was said to be the last of the immortals to linger on earth during the golden age, only choosing to finally leave the earth when the iron age fell, due to the wickedness of man. She ascended to the stars and became Virgo, matching the pattern of the other zodiac figures we have discussed so far. She is prophesied to return, actually, and to bring a return of the golden age with her.
And yes, combining Virgo and Libra means we now have eleven constellations instead of twelve – yes, that’s true. I’ll explain that in the next section!
As for Ser Galladon and his sword named the Just Maid, let’s consider. This is really just another version of the Azor Ahai fable, isn’t it? Galladon is our magic sword hero, obviously. The Maiden herself, one of the Seven and therefore a Goddess, plays the role of the moon maiden, which means she represents both Nissa Nissa giving birth to Lightbringer and the moon giving birth to Lightbringer meteors. When she loses her heart to Galladon and gives him a sword, that is simply the moon exploding into meteors which are the hearts of a fallen star, the type of thing you can make a magic sword out of, a sword too amazing to even use against mortal men.
Ser Galladon the Perfect Knight is from Morne, a place on the Isle of Tarth which is now only ruins. A champion knight carrying the name Morne and a magic sword? That has to remind us of the Sword of the Morning and Dawn, right? Indeed, there is Venus based Morningstar and Evenstar symbolism around Galladon; on the opposite part of the island of Tarth from the ruins of Morne is Evenfall Hall, the seat of House Tarth, whose lord is known as the Evenstar. Starfall vs. The Evenstar at Evenfall Hall, A Knight of Morne with a magic sword, the Sword of the Morning with a magic sword…. That’s clear enough, and now coincidence is starting to seem impossible. The Galladon / Just Maid myth is just a mash-up of the Dawn and Lightbringer legends.
One of the things said about Ser Galladon, as Brienne tells us in AFFC, is that he once supposedly used the Just Maid to slay a dragon. This is certainly interesting – since Valyrian steel can kill Others, I’ve offered the wild speculation that Dawn, which is like white Valyrian steel, can kill dragons. Think of the ice spear the Night King on the HBO show uses – Dawn might work something like that, perhaps.
In terms of the narrative, the tale of Ser Galladon the Perfect Knight who was reluctant to use his magic sword is used as a device to help Brienne of Tarth realize she needs to be willing to do whatever it takes to win, and not let the sort of stiff honor of Galladon or Ned Stark get in the way. Brienne is using her cheap sword at first, thinks of the Galladon tale, and thinks, I better go get Oathkeeper, which is technically a magic sword, as all Valyrian steel swords are. It’s a good thing she did, as she is soon using Oathkeeper to slay the bloody mummers. Needless to say, the point here is that Oathkeeper is a prime Lightbringer / comet sword symbol, and so the parallel between Oathkeeper and the Just Maid helps tighten up the conclusion that Galladon’s story is another version of our sword hero and his magic meteor sword which was made of a piece of a goddess.
Now we were just comparing the Just Maid to Dawn, and now we have Brienne comparing Just Maid to a black Valyrian steel sword, but it’s possible that level of delineation just isn’t important for the parallels Martin is creating, and it’s also possible that Dawn was the original Ice of House Stark, and thus Oathkeeper, made from the steel of Ned’s Ice, is intended to make is think of Ice and therefore Dawn. As you all know, we are eternally trying to sort out which color sword was wielded by the last hero and Night’s King or whoever else. I would simply say, as I have from the beginning, that there were two “Lightbringer swords” in the War for the Dawn; a big white one called ‘Ice’ which is now known as ‘Dawn,’ and the black sword made from the Bloodstone Emperor’s black meteor which would essentially be a prototype for Valyrian steel swords which came after. Thus it works just fine for me to see parallels being drawn from the Just Maid to both Dawn and a black Valyrian steel sword with a ton of Lightbringer symbolism like Oathkeeper.
As it happens, Brienne the Beauty, the Most Fair Maid of Tarth, parallels both Galladon and the ‘Maiden herself’. So far, we’ve seen that Brienne compares the magic sword she was given, Oathkeeper, to the one Galladon was given, the Just Maid, and she also compares her honor to Galladon’s, both which place Brienne in the Galladon role, and makes Brienne a fair maid in the sense of being just. But Brienne does indeed also compare very well to the Maiden herself; Brienne’s technically a maiden, and though she isn’t regarded as beautiful save for her eyes (and her character, of course!), her ironic nickname is “Brienne the Beauty!” That name is in turn a reference to Venus mythology (she’s the daughter of the Evenstar, after all), and makes Brienne an avatar of Venus, the goddess of love and beauty, if you will.
Ergo, in addition to being just and comparing her sword to the Just Maid, Brienne is also a fair maiden in the sense of Maris the Maid, the Most Fair, who was renowned for her beauty. Brienne hits both side of the “fair maiden” joke, isn’t that lovely. On top of that, she wanders around looking for Sansa saying “I am looking for my sister, a fair maid of three-and-ten,” simply because Martin cannot resist layering his jokes as thickly as possible.
Prediction time: Brienne the fair maid played the Galladon role when Jaime gave her the magic sword, and though I doubt Brienne will “lose her heart” to anyone but Jaime, I wouldn’t be surprised if circumstances have Brienne play the Maiden herself role and give out her magic sword to a worthy champion of great valor – Jon Snow, of course, since he’s been thinking of his father’s sword, Ice, for five books now, despite having Longclaw. Maybe they can trade.. all I know is that I have always thought it would make the most sense for Jon to get his hands on Oathkeeper, since it is the sword of his true father, Ned Stark, and bears the colors and symbolism of his genetic father, Rhaegar.
Bringing the focus back to Maris the Maid, the Most Fair, we see that her story has parallels to the story of Galladon and the Maiden of the Seven. I believe that the Hightowers are most likely descended of the dragonlords from Asshai who would have been part of the Great Empire of the Dawn, and Uthor has an especially dragony name, only one letter off from that of Uther Pendragon, the father of King Arthur of Excalibur fame, with Pendragon translating to “head of the dragon.” He’s playing the Galladon / Azor Ahai role, in other words, and he wins the hand of Maris the Most Fair Maid just as the Maiden herself loses her heart to Galladon.
As many of you know, the word “Maris” means sea, and is often heard in the phrase “stella maris,” which means star of the sea and is a name for both the pole star and… drumroll… the Virgin Mary. Virgo Maris, Virgin Mary. That’s right – Maris’s name does indeed allude to stars and the sea, as well as virginity. She makes a great Nissa Nissa figure. George has given us another stella maris woman as well, and that would be Shierra Sea Star, the lover of Bloodraven. Stella Maris means sea-star, and even the name Shierra is starry, because the Dothraki name for the comet is shierak qiya, the bleeding star. Even better, just as Uthor and Argoth fought over Maris’ hand, Bloodraven and his half-brother Bittersteel hated each other and warred against each other – and were both in love with Shiera Seastar. All of this related wordplay and symbolism simply enhances Maris the Most Fair as our Nissa Nissa to Uthor Hightower’s Azor Ahai.
Considering that Maris was a daughter of Garth, and that there are abundant clues that Nissa Nissa was at least part children of the forest, an elf woman with a connection to the weirwoods, this tale of Uthor of the High Tower building the first Hightower and marrying Maris the Maid seems like something of an echo of Azor Ahai coming to Westeros to marry a child of the forest or a human with child of the forest blood. Such a forest lass could have been remembered as a daughter of Garth the Green, a forest king in his own right. At the very least, we can see a tale which speaks of dragonblooded people coming to Westeros by sea and marrying into the bloodline of the First Men, as Uthor does by taking Maris the daughter of Garth to wife.
I found an echo of Uthor Hightower which suggests him as a greenseer, as I believe Azor Ahai to be. You remeber Uthor Underleaf from the jousting scene earlier, the one with the Old Ox Bford Bulwer from the Hedge Knight? That joust took place at a tourney at Whitewalls, and Uthor Underleaf is really a great character. He’s basically Woodey Harrelson from White Men Can’t Jump; he’s the ultimate ringer who makes bets on himself and then punks his opponents. Woody Harrelson’s character intentionally dressed like a sort of rumpled shut-in who didn’t look like he had any sort of game, which was of course part of a con he was running, and Uthor, a short fellow, uses the humble and unassuming sigil of the snail to encourage people to underestimate him. It’s a great con and Uthor, who Dunk thinks looks more like a merchant than a knight, is hiding abundant wealth in his shabby-looking tent.
More importantly, Uthor under-leaf is a name that implies a greenseer living under a tree, and Uthor kindly wears green enamel armor, carries a green shield, and has silver-snail-on-green sigil to help us think of him as a green knight. And just as Uthor Hightower’s rival was the Grey Giant Argoth Stone-Skin, the winner of the tourney, Uthor Underleaf fights against Dunk – a giant in grey armor with a grey gallows knight sigil in this joust. Dunk is not the champion of the tourney, though he was a tragic kind of champion at the tourney of Ashford Meadow. It’s the grey stone giant thing which really makes it a match though – Dunk is indeed a grey giant with grey iron plate armor. This tourney is at a place called Whitewalls, whereas Uthor took Maris to the white Hightower. Uthor Underleaf doesn’t steal a woman from Dunk as Uthor is implied to – although really, it just says “..but she wed Uthor of the High Tower..” which does not imply an abduction. Maybe Maris didn’t want to marry no stinkin’ stone giant, who can blame her. But the point is, Dunk the grey giant doesn’t come to Uthor Underleaf roaring for his bride back – no, what Uthor has of Dunk’s is not a bride, but a horse, Thunder. Sorry to compare Maris the Most Fair Maid to a horse, but there it is. The Storm God’s thunderbolt was really a piece of the moon goddess falling like a star, so it sort of works.
Kidding aside, Maris and Thunder needn’t be parallel themselves; the parallel is Uthor and Dunk vs Uthor Hightower and Argoth Stone-Skin, and in both cases the Uthor character takes something the grey giant character wants back very badly. Point being, Uthor Underleaf is an intentional parallel to Uthor Hightower, and he’s a green knight who leaves “under leaf,” like a green seer. Uthor Hightower might be able to see even more than we think from his high tower! Again, this simply means he’s the Azor Ahai figure, stealing moon maidens and becoming a greenseer.
Since we’ve talked about Maris and Uthor, let’s tackle the grey Giant himself, Argoth Stone-Skin, even though he seems super heavy and hard to tackle. In all seriousness, Argoth is a pretty mysterious element – I mean we hear of “stone giants” called the Jhogwin in far off eastern Essos, but apart from that it’s hard to figure out what to make of Argoth Stone-Skin. It’s unlikely someone with greyscale would be allowed to compete in a tournament to marry the Most Fair maiden, nor likely someone so afflicted could be the champion of a tourney.
Much to my delight, I have found that this tale is a scrambled version of the tale of Argus, Hermes, and Io,a myth which serves as a possible inspiration for part of the ASOIAF moon disaster. Argoth is essentially a version of Argus, who is also a giant, and his stone skin symbolism is there for purposes of mythical astronomy. Let me explain. Better yet, let me borrow the summary of the Io myth from GreekMythology.com:
Io was the princess of Argos, who Zeus fell in love with. To try to keep Hera from noticing, he covered the world with a thick blanket of clouds. However, as soon as Hera saw that, she immediately became suspicious. She came down from Mount Olympus and began dispersing the clouds. Zeus did some quick thinking and changed Io’s form from a lovely maiden; so, as the clouds dispersed, Hera found Zeus standing next to a white heifer. He then swore that he had never seen the cow before and that it had just sprang right out of the earth. Seeing right through this, Hera faked liking the cow so much that she wanted to have it as a present. As turning such a reasonable request down would have given the whole thing away, Zeus presented her with the cow. She sent the cow away and arranged Argus Panoptes to watch over it. Since Argus had a hundred eyes and could have some of them sleep while keeping others awake, he made for a fine watchman.
Ok, let me cut in here for a moment to point out a few things. Io is a moon maiden – in fact, one of Jupiter’s moons is named after her. As we discussed in the Moons of Ice and Fire series, Io is the logical moon for George to use as a prototype for a magical ‘fire moon,’ because it is entirely made up of magma and silicate rock – meaning that it’s a floating volcano, basically – and Io is also one of the most famous moons in our solar system. The ancient Greeks associated the goddess Io with the moon, and in Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound, Io encounters a bound Prometheus and refers to herself as “the horned virgin”, which is understood to refer to both lunar horns and bovine horns. Notice the virgin part – Io is another fair maiden, like Maris the Maid and Virgo and the Virgin Mary and Brienne the Beauty.
This entire myth grafts onto the AOSIAF moon disaster myth very well, beginning with Zeus covering the world in clouds to hide his love of Io, which reminds us of the Long Night, when the sun and moon kissed and birthed meteor children who covered the earth with clouds of ash and smoke. When Io is transformed into the lunar cow, she is actually tethered to an olive tree in the temple of Hera. It’s important to remember that the Greek myth-makers here understood Io to represent the moon, so this is actually some Greek mythical astronomy – Io the lunar cow walking circles around the olive tree in the temple is a depiction of the moon orbiting the earth’s axis, which his regarded as the cosmic axis by ancient man, observing the stars from earth’s vantage point as they were. Maris the Most Fair Maid is the Io of the story, and she ends up sort of locked away in the Hightower while Argos rages outside, which is kind of like being tied to a tree.
So who is Argus, translated into mythical astronomy? Meaning, what role is Argoth Stone-Skin playing? Well, I think we can see him as the moon’s stone skin! Argus ‘Panoptes’ is the many-eyed giant, and we’ve seen moon meteors symbolized as eyes many times. Therefore I think Maris is like the heart of the moon, and her rightful husband, Argoth Stone-Skin, the Grey Giant, is the moon’s stony crust. The moon is a grey giant with stone skin, and Io is a moon with stone skin, so there you go. Also, consider that Io started off as a priest of Hera in the town of Argos, which was also a region, so she is implied as being “of Argus” in a sense already, even before Argus the Giant became her guardian. The tale continues:
Desperate, Zeus sent Hermes to fetch Io. Disguised as a shepherd, Hermes had to employ all his skill as a musician and storyteller to gain Argus’ confidence and lull him to sleep. Once asleep, Hermes killed Argus; later, Hera took his eyes and set them into the tail of her favorite bird, the peacock.
Cutting in again for a moment, I will point out that Hermes, “the messenger,” would certainly equate to the red comet, the red messenger. In these sun-kill-moon metaphor scenes, the comet is usually depicted as being the sword of the solar king that stabs the moon goddess. Here, Zeus sends Hermes to slay Argus, just as the sun sends the comet to slay the moon. Not sure what peacocks have to do with anything, but let’s continue with the story:
While Io was now free, Hera sent the mother of all gadflies to sting the still bovine Io. The ghost of Argus pursued her as well. This pushed her towards madness and in her efforts to escape, she wandered the world. During her journeys, she came across Prometheus while chained, who gave her hope. He predicted that although she would have to wander for many years, she would eventually be changed back into human form and would bear a child. He predicted that a descendant of this child would be a great hero and would set him free; his predictions came true. Because of her journeys, many geographical features were named after her, including the Ionian Sea, and the Bosporus (which means ford of the cow). She eventually reached the Nile where Zeus restored her human form. She bore Epaphus and eleven generations later, her descendant Heracles would set Prometheus free.
The part about Io wandering when her guardian is slain is the Greek myth-maker implying a moon which has wandered off of its course, untethered somehow from its cosmic axis tree. In ASOIAF terms, George has given us a moon goddess that wanders too close to the sun, cracks from the heat, and drops her stone skin from the sky in the form of dragon-like meteors. The detail about the ghost of Argus pursuing Io made its way into the ASOIAF version of the story as Argoth Stone-Skin raging outside the walls of Oldtown for his bride, I think it’s easy to see. Argus and Argoth can both eat their hearts out, though, because Io turned back into a beautiful women a bore Zeus’s baby, and Maris presumably helped Uthor found House Hightower by having some Hightower babies.
Meanwhile, Uthor of the High Tower who is possibly descended of dragon people, and he now ‘possess’ the heart of the moon maiden. If Argoth is the stone skin, Maris the Most Fair is the “heart of the fallen star” which represents the fire of the gods, or the special meteor to make a sword with. Either way, Uthor now possess the fire of the gods, as Galladon does, having been given the heart of the moon maiden. Hence that crown of red flame that burns atop the white tower in the Hightower sigil.
Interestingly, Uther Pendragon of the Arthurian legend actually kills almost all the living dragons, and TWOAIF tells us there are stories of the first Hightowers finding dragons roosting on the fused stone fortress on Battle Isle when they got there – dragons they had to kill:
How old is Oldtown, truly? Many a maester has pondered that question, but we simply do not know. The origins of the city are lost in the mists of time and clouded by legend. Some ignorant septons claim that the Seven themselves laid out its boundaries, other men that dragons once roosted on the Battle Isle until the first Hightower put an end to them.
So, Galladon was a dragon-slayer, Uther Pendragon was a dragon-slayer, and the first Hightowers may have been dragon-slayers as well (and there are solid theories about the Hightowers being part of a plot to kill off the last Targaryen dragons, too, for what it’s worth). Building on my pet theory about Dawn being a dragon-killer sword like the Just Maid, consider that I have pointed out before that the Daynes and Hightowers seem to be in the same boat in a lot of ways, particularly as Westerosi “First Men” houses which actually descend from the Great Empire of the Dawn and who may have turned against the evil Azor Ahai and fought on team Westeros when he invaded, assuming that that is a thing which happened, as I theorize.
Starfall has the Palestone Sword tower and a glowing pale sword, while Starfall has the white tower crowned with flame sigil and the “we light the way” house words. I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that Ser Gerold Hightower, the White Bull, stands alongside Ser Arthur Dayne at the Tower of Joy – I think Dayne and Hightower have been playing on the same team for a long time now. We also have a Gerold Hightower – that’s Darkstar’s real name – which is like a mash-up of Gerold Hightower and Arthur Dayne.
All of this helps set up the triple parallel between Uthor Hightower, Galladon of Morne, and the first Dayne who followed the falling star and made Dawn from the pale stone meteorite of magic power that he found. Uthor possessed Maris the moon maiden in his flaming white tower; Galladon of Morne won the heart of the celestial Maiden and won a magic sword, the Just Maid; and the Daynes possessed the heart of a fallen star which they made into a magic sword. The Hightowers and Galladon are rumored dragon-slayers, can Dawn slay dragons? Another clue about this is that there is both a Davos Dayne in recent times and a Davos the Dragonslayer legend from the Age of Heroes.
I hope you guys are ready for someone to stab a dragon with Dawn, because you freaking heard it hear first.
Lest you think Maris the Most Fair Maid would wriggle out of some sort of Night’s Watch symbolism, think again! When the wildlings come through the Wall in ADWD, Jon stations the spearwives in their own castle, Long Barrow, so as to avoid any Dany Flint situations. Jon has to station a couple of actual Night’s Watch brothers there to keep things running, and he chooses two he can trust, Dolorous Edd and Iron Emmet, the former master-at-arms at Castle Black. That leads to this funny line, when Dolorous Edd returns to Castle Black and reports back to Jon:
“Place was overrun with rats when we moved in. The spearwives killed the nasty buggers. Now the place is overrun with spearwives. There’s days I want the rats back.”
“How do you find serving under Iron Emmett?” Jon asked.
“Mostly it’s Black Maris serving under him, m’lord.”
She’s serving ‘under’ Iron Emmett, very funny Edd. They are going very far to suggest Maris as a Night’s Watchman though – she’s “Black Maris,” she’s serving under the Lord Commander, and she’s manning one of the forts on the Wall. So once again, we see that Garth’s children are implied as joining the Night’s Watch in some way. We also had a Runcel Hightower who was Lord Commander of the Watch, but he disgraced himself by trying to make the position hereditary so he could pass it to his son. There’s also good old Garth of Oldtown, one of the three Garths who join the watch. He’s not a Hightower, but I thought I would mention him here anyway since he’s “Garth of Oldtown.”
There’s one other Maris, and she’s a fair maid too, although like Brienne, the name is somewhat ironic. I speak of Pretty Meris, the official torturer of the Windblown, a sellsword company from Essos that we meet in ADWD. She is said to be able to stretch out a man’s dying for a moon’s turn – very interesting. She has no ears and scars on her face, and she has survived countless horrors. As a result, she has “eyes as cold and dead as two grey stones” according to Quentyn. That sounds like moon meteor talk as well Night’s Queen / Corpse Queen talk, and hearkens to mind the Grey Giant, Argoth Stone-Skin as a description of the moon. Maris seems like a vengeful sort of moon meteor, in other words, and that in turns help with our identification of Maris the Most Fair as a moon maiden.
John the Oak
Shiera Luin Elen, the Blue Star of Heaven and resident linguist of the podcast; Esdue dei Liberi, called Islandsbane and The Silent Blade; ilas the Red Beard, Chief of the Redsmiths; Ser Therion Black, The Justiciar, bearer of the Valyrian steel sword Altarage; Greenfoot the Gorgeous; Meera of House Gardener, Keeper of the Glass Gardens and Bearer of the Sea Dragon’s Torch; and The Dread Pirate Barron, the Demon Deacon, whose direwolf is called Megantic
Alright, it’s John the Oak time. This was some of the most fun stuff that I turned up while researching this project. First of all, I have to tell you if you were trying to figure out this puzzle on the own, this was one of the hardest ones. It’s almost unfairly difficult, and I only figured out because I just happen to be a big fan of both the constellation Ophiuchus and the myth of Astraea. Astraea was the big tip-off that we are supposed to combine Virgo and Libra, which creates a hole in the zodiac. Let’s listen to the the tale of John the Oak and then I will tell you who I think that replacement is:
John the Oak, the First Knight, who brought chivalry to Westeros (a huge man, all agree, eight feet tall in some tales, ten or twelve feet tall in others, sired by Garth Greenhand on a giantess.) His own descendants became the Oakhearts of Old Oak.
Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to the constellation Ophiuchus, the serpent-bearer, one of my favorite constellations. I have to say I was thrilled to discover George making use of Ophiuchus mythology. Ophiuchus is a giant dude wrestling a snake which is sort of wound behind his waist and around his wrists, and he can serve as a zodiac constellation because his feet stand astride the path of the ecliptic. He appears to stand on top of Scorpio, and was perceived as doing just that in some myths, so Ophiuchus is kind of a badass: he wrestles snakes and tramples scorpions.
That’s one of the things which helps us identify Ophiuchus with John the Oak and House Oakheart: Ophiuchus is a giant who fights with snakes and scorpions, while John the Oak is half-giant, and House Oakheart has been mortal enemies of the snakes and scorpions from Dorne for thousands of years. Check out this passage from Arys Oakheart’s “The Soiled Knight” chapter of AFFC:
The Dornish garb was comfortable, but his father would have been aghast had he lived to see his son so dressed. He was a man of the Reach, and the Dornish were his ancient foes, as the tapestries at Old Oak bore witness. Arys only had to close his eyes to see them still. Lord Edgerran the Open- Handed, seated in splendor with the heads of a hundred Dornishmen piled round his feet. The Three Leaves in the Prince’s Pass, pierced by Dornish spears, Alester sounding his warhorn with his last breath. Ser Olyvar the Green Oak all in white, dying at the side of the Young Dragon. Dorne is no fit place for any Oakheart.
The hostility is mutual, as we hear from the other side of the feud when Gerold “Darkstar” Dayne speaks of Arys and the Oakhearts, also in AFFC:
“No, my lady. What I know is that Daynes have been killing Oakhearts for several thousand years.”
His arrogance took her breath away. “It seems to me that Oakhearts have been killing Daynes for just as long.”
“We all have our family traditions.”
So there you go – this is a seriously old and hateful enmity, exceeding even that of the Blackwoods and Brackens, who have, after all, married into each other’s families on occasion. Of all the houses in the Reach, the Oakhearts have some sort of extra-special hatred for the Dornish – any Dornish, it would seem. This one liner from TOWIAF, referring to some mysteriously horrible events of Aegon’s Conquest, is perhaps the most ominous of all:
Worse occurred at the hands of the Wyl of Wyl, whose deeds we need not recount; they are infamous enough and still remembered, especially in Fawnton and Old Oak.
Nobody has any idea what these infamous deeds are; we just haven’t been told. If they’re too horrible to speak of in the context of a George R. R. martin story, then they must be really bad. Think about it. But then check out the sigil of House Wyl: a black adder biting a heel on yellow. Thus, we can see a correlation between House Oakheart (think John the Oak, the giant) being savaged by House Wyl (the snake biting his heel). It’s very similar to Ophiuchus, who wrestles a snake while a scorpion bites his heel – that’s right, he doesn’t get a free pass for trampling the scorpion, as many depictions of Ophiuchus have the scorpion stinging one of his heels.
There’s a bit more about Ophiuchus which is relevant to ASOIAF, and I’m paraphrasing this summary from wikipedia. The older Greek myths saw Ophiuchus as the god Apollo wrestling a huge snake that guarded the Oracle of Delphi, while later myths identified Ophiuchus with Laocoön, the Trojan priest of Poseidon, who warned his fellow Trojans about the Trojan Horse and was later slain by a pair of sea serpents sent by the gods to punish him.
Apollo is actually seen in the form of Rhaegar and the Valyrians in general more than House Oakheart, but I’ll tell you a couple things about him. Apollo is a complex deity, but he is often merged with the figure of Helios, making Apollo the sun god. His chief epithet is Phoebus, which means bright, and whether or not he’s merged with Helios, he’s always considered the god of light, or dare we even say, the Lord of Light. Another of his titles is Apollo Phanaeus, which means “light-bringing.” Sometimes we’ll talk about the Rhaegar / Apollo parallels, as they’re pretty good.
The Trojan fellow, the priest of Poseidon who warned of the Trojan Horse, I don’t think he has any bearing on anything – I mention him mostly to point out that the Greeks did not have a super strong bead on Ophiuchus. However, the Romans, who adopted much of the Greek pantheon, remedied this with the most widely-known association of the Ophiuchus constellation: Asclepius.
Asclepius was a legendary healer who learned the secrets of keeping death at bay after observing one serpent bringing another healing herbs. Asclepius was a son of Apollo, and both bore the title “the Healer.” The familiar snake-wound-around-a-staff symbol which stands for healing is known as the rod of Asclepius, so you can see why the Romans might see Ophiuchus, the man wrestling a serpent, as Asclepius, and since he’s a son of Apollo anyway, it’s not even that much of a change. Apollo is already the sun god, so he didn’t need a constellation too I guess.
Anyway, the story of Asclepius turns when, to prevent the entire human race from becoming immortal under Asclepius’ care, Jupiter (Zeus) kills him with a bolt of lightning. Silver lining: Zeus later places his image in the heavens to honor his good works.
Think about that for a second: Asclepius’ healing skills were so good, he essentially obtained the grail of immortality, the keys to defeating death. As we know, that’s an especially grievous sin in the world of ASOIAF, and Zeus apparently thought so too, striking him down with lightning. This is somewhat similar to George’s Grey King myth of his obtaining fire by means of the Storm God setting a tree ablaze with a thunderbolt, but more importantly, this is the familiar Lucifarian / Promethean theme of challenging the gods by taking their power and seeking to become like them which defines the Azor Ahai archetype. You may recall the High Priest of the Red Temple saying something about “all those who die fighting” for Azor Ahai reborn shall themselves be reborn, which makes Azor Ahai reborn sound like a raiser of the dead, like Asclepius.
In Greek lore, the serpent was a sacred animal associated with wisdom, healing, and resurrection, and so the figure of a man successfully controlling and containing the serpent would indeed represent a kind of mastery over these things. Again we are reminded of Azor Ahai possessing the fire of the gods in the form of Lightbringer, a sword which is symbolic of dragons and comets.
Interestingly, the notion of Ophiuchus as a tamer of snakes was found outside the Western world too – in medieval Islamic astronomy (Azophi’s Uranometry , 10th century), the constellation was known as Al-Ḥawwaʾ “the snake-charmer.”
So now let’s think about John the Oak and the Oakhearts who descend from him. John is half giant, and he’s called “the oak,” which makes him sound like a tree-person and obviously reminds us of a weirwood tree, especially since “Oakheart” also implies a tree with a heart, like a heart tree. Now since John the Oak is both tree and man, think for a moment about Ophiuchus as a tree with a snake wrapped around it instead of a man with a snake wrapped around him. You basically get the rod of asclepius – a snake wrapped around a staff. We’re going to start bringing Arys Oakheart into the mix here as well – and if you’ll forgive my juvenile humor, Arys had a snake wrapped around him as well… meaning Arianne Martell, who absolutely plays Arys like a fiddle, using his infatuation to manipulate him into committing treason and eventually, suicide. Take a look at Arianne where Arys goes to meet her in secret in his “The Soiled Knight” chapter of AFFC:
He saw patterned Myrish carpets underneath his sandals, a tapestry upon one wall, a bed. “My lady?” he called. “Where are you?”
“Here.” She stepped out from the shadow behind the door. An ornate snake coiled around her right forearm, its copper and gold scales glimmering when she moved. It was all she wore.
During their lovemaking, Arianne is put in the snake role, as it says “When she wrapped her legs around him, they felt as strong as steel.” She’s very like the metal snake she is wearing, in other words. In another scene, Areo Hotah observes Arianne wearing “snakeskin sandals laced up to her thighs,” which enhances the mental image of Arianne’s legs being like snakes as they wrestle Ser Arys. She also rakes his back, drawing blood – she”bit” him, in other words. ” Arys is a poor Ophiuchus, and he’s losing this wrestling match. Finally, Arianne offers to share Ser Arys with one of her sand snake cousins, which may be nothing it may be intended to complete the “snakes wrapping around Ser Arys” theme.
The snake and tree motif is important to pick up on for a couple of reasons. It suggests the Garden of Eden, which has all the same themes about immortality and man seeking to become like god and a wise serpent, and of course that’s a big influence on the overarching Azor Ahai myth. It also has the elements of the sea dragon meteor “setting the tree on fire,” if we think of the snake as the meteor. The meteor setting the tree on fire is of course primarily a metaphor for Azor Ahai, the dragon, entering the weirwoodnet. And although I’d say the weirwood tree is more wrapped around Bloodraven that the other way around, any time you snakes and trees together we also have to mention Yggdrasil with its Nidhogg serpent beneath it, and Bloodraven the dragon among the white serpent weirwood roots. And come to think about, if the weirwood roots are like white serpents, then we do indeed have the Ophiuchus symbolism of snakes wrapping around a person. That person being a greenseer, as John the Oak may have been.
I mentioned that statue of Apollo at the oracle of Delphi which has Apollo wrestling a snake, so the snake-wrapping and wrestling stuff can also work as a call-out to Apollo. Oddly enough, if we go back to that quote where Arys thinks of the tapestries at Old Oak depicting the death of Dornishman and whatnot, there is a line that I didn’t include that makes Arys an honorary sun god, like the form of Apollo who is merged with Helios:
His hand drifted down to brush lightly over the hilt on the longsword that hung half-hidden amongst the folds of his layered linen robes, the outer with its turquoise stripes and rows of golden suns, and the lighter orange one beneath. The Dornish garb was comfortable, but his father would have been aghast had he lived to see his son so dressed.
Not only is Arys wearing suns on his clothes, George slyly mentions his father so that he can refer to Arys as his father’s “son,” reinforcing Arys as an Apollo Helios sun figure. I don’t want to break down the entire death scene at the boat on the Greenblood with Areo Hotah and Myrcella and Arianne and Darkstar and all that, but I will tell you that Arys is actually not playing the role of an Other there, despite his status as a white knight of the kingsguard. I hate to throw you such a curveball, but Azor Ahai’s Lightbringer was white hot and smoking before he stabbed Nissa Nissa with it, and that’s exactly what Arys Oakheart is leading up to his death as he’s led through the deserts sands of Dorne, being sunburned and reddened all the way, with Arianne wondering if he’ll cook in his armor. When he has sex with Arianne, a snakey Nissa Nissa figure who is hot to the touch, Arys can be imagined as the white hot sword “stabbing” Nissa Nissa, if you will. His sword will be “shining silver” in his death scene.
Speaking of his death scene, we find a different moon maiden is wounded across the face – Myrcella – by a dastardly dragonlord-looking dude, Darkstar. Arys himself dies a sort of sacrificial, foolish Azor Ahai death akin to Dontos or Viserys. The key line is when his head is cut off:
The white knight raised his blade, too slowly. Hotah’s longaxe took his right arm off at the shoulder, spun away spraying blood, and came flashing back again in a terrible two-handed slash that removed the head of Arys Oakheart and sent it spinning through the air. It landed amongst the reeds, and the Greenblood swallowed the red with a soft splash.
Alright, that’s hammer of the Waters injuries, arm and neck, and here in Dorne no less. They came from an axe as opposed to a hammer, but since the ancient Andals seem to have used them interchangeably as symbols, according to the maesters, and it’s certainly close enough. Of course we notice the green blood swallowing the red – that’s kind of the highlight and the clincher for identifying Arys as playing the Azor Aha. He’s losing his life to enter the weirwoodnet, and immediately following a Nissa Nissa moon maiden event (Myrcella’s wounding) and a sharp set of Hammer of the Waters injuries. This might make him a green zombie candidate, with the greenblood river that drinks his blood standing in for the pool before the Winterfell heart tree that drinks the blood of the victims sacrificed to it.
The boat Areo Hotah is standing on is itself is a weirwood symbol too; it’s a wooden boat that navigates the greenblood, very comparable to the symbolic idea of Grey King sailing a weirwood ship in the green see. Check out the quotes about the boat; first we find it “hidden beneath the drooping branches of a great green willow,” and then the boat itself is described:
This one was done in shades of green, with a curved wooden tiller shaped like a mermaid, and fish faces peering through her rails. Poles and ropes and jars of olive oil cluttered her decks, and iron lanterns swung fore and aft.
A green mermaid boat, with iron, oil, and fire on board: it’s a jumble of fire moon and sea dragon symbols, basically. Areo’s monstrous axe adds to the weirwood symbolism too: his “ash and iron wife,” because it has a pole of ash wood, and as we have discussed in the Weirwood Goddess series, this is a symbol of the ash tree, and thus Yggdrasil, and thus the weirwoods and the weirwood goddess – and again, Areo creepily calls the ash-and-iron axe his “wife”. Areo on the green mermaid boat dispensing justice to Azor Ahai is essentially a Nissa Nissa’s revenge scene.
There is another good clue about Arys trying to fly like a greenseer: as he charges the boat, his horse is “feathered” with crossbow bolts, making hit a winged horse.
It also seems symbolically appropriate that Arya Oakheart was cut down by an axe, since his sigil is three oak leaves on gold and he has “a spreading oak tree worked upon the breast of his tunic in shining gold thread.” These kind of make Arys himself an honorary oak tree… who was cut down by an axe.
Alright, to finish up with John the Oak and the Oakhearts, let’s talk about their Night’s Watch symbolism. It’s a bit cryptic, as we don’t have any Oakhearts in the Watch or anyone named John in the Wat– oh. Well we do have a Jon I suppose. But remembering that John the Oak was said have been fathered on a giantess, check out this scene:
But the gate was a crooked tunnel through the ice, smaller than any castle gate in the Seven Kingdoms, so narrow that rangers must lead their garrons through single file. Three iron grates closed the inner passage, each locked and chained and protected by a murder hole. The outer door was old oak, nine inches thick and studded with iron, not easy to break through. But Mance has mammoths, he reminded himself, and giants as well.
Old Oak is the place the Oakhearts are from, and this old oak gate is being pitted against giants. It’s like the giants coming to Old Oak and playing come-into-my-castle, which is an obvious euphemism for sex (as is “smashing my portcullis”). And look – it’s a guy named Jon inspecting the old oak, like John the Oak who established Old Oak. Here’s the old oak gate after the fight:
The last twenty feet of the tunnel was where they’d fought and died. The outer door of studded oak had been hacked and broken and finally torn off its hinges, and one of the giants had crawled in through the splinters. The lantern bathed the grisly scene in a sullen reddish light. Pyp turned aside to retch, and Jon found himself envying Maester Aemon his blindness.
It kind of reminds me of the horrific deeds of the Wyls being remembered at Old Oak – here the grisly scene at the old oak gate is so horrific that Pyp has to wretch and Jon wishes he was blind. The giant has come to old oak, so to speak.
Giants are often associated with oaks, as it happens; not only in that last scene, but in Jon’s Azor Ahai dream of defending the Wall with a burning red sword and a bunch of burning scarecrow brother! There’s a line that says “Giants lumbered amongst them, forty feet tall, with mauls the size of oak trees.” It would be nice to get one of those giants on the Watch, so we could have a giant oak-wielding fellow on the Watch for symbolism’s sake… and indeed, Wun Wun does sort of join the watch in the sense that he comes to Castle Black and is put to work as a builder of sorts. Wun Wun also has a oaken weapon – a stone maul with an oaken shaft. When he wakes up in the weirwood grove of nine scene with Jon, it was like a “boulder coming to life,” sort of like a combination of giants waking in the earth and a stone moon exploding in to meteor childbirth, events which I think are related of course.
Finally, I will close by noting that oak trees are the second choice for heart trees when no weirwoods are available, as we see in the Kings Landing godswood when Ned prays there in ACOK. Oak-heart-tree, ha ha. Better still is the huge (meaning giant) oak tree that the wildlings carve a face into south of the Wall in ADWD:
Just north of Mole’s Town they came upon the third watcher, carved into the huge oak that marked the village perimeter, its deep eyes fixed upon the kingsroad. That is not a friendly face, Jon Snow reflected. The faces that the First Men and the children of the forest had carved into the weirwoods in eons past had stern or savage visages more oft than not, but the great oak looked especially angry, as if it were about to tear its roots from the earth and come roaring after them. Its wounds are as fresh as the wounds of the men who carved it.
It’s a huge oak, like John the Oak who was part giant. It’s a watcher, like the Watchers on the Wall or the Others, who are called watchers twice in the prologue of AGOT. It’s a heart tree, so it’s already kind of like a tree person, and this one is suggested as being ready tear up its roots and walk like an ent from the Lord of the Rings.
My favorite giant and oak quote is, fittingly, tied to the Night’s Watch, and it’s one we’ve read before:
Giant had crammed himself inside the hollow of a dead oak. “How d’ye like my castle, Lord Snow?”
A night’s Watch ranger wearing the skin of a dead oak? This is basically like saying an undead oak tree person became a Night’s Watch ranger – a green zombie, in other words. An undead tree person. Who is also a giant oak, since the ranger’s name is Giant and he’s living in an oak tree. On the most basic level, a Night’s Watch ranger living in a tree suggests a greenseer Night’s Watchmen anyway. Which is the entire point of this entire exercise! Ta-da!
This section is dedicated to the longtime Patreon support of Melanie Lot7, a.k.a. The child of the forest known as FeatherCrow, the Weircat Dryad, earthly avatar of Heavenly House Capricorn; as well as our acolytes of Starry Wisdom: Rupee the Funkateer, ArchMaester of Synesthesia; Edward Greenhand, the transplanting transplant with a history of history; Icarus Drowning, the Public Eye; Mystica Faery, Reddish Star of the North and Fire Jewel Faery Locked in Ice; Matanues, Alaskan God of Thunder and Sex. the Cookie-Burner; and Virginie the Selekarian, Master of Homingaway
Here’s a bit of a challenging one. There’s really not much to go on, and it’s hard to know what to make of it:
Owen Oakenshield, who conquered the Shield Islands, driving the selkies and merlings back into the sea.
What we have here is a case of reverse association. Capricorn is the sea goat, a creature which is basically a goat with a fish tail instead of hind legs, and some legends associate it with a man who can transform into a sea goat. That is rather merling-like, and Owen Oakenshield is the only child of Garth with fish people involved in their legends, so I think it’s a good match.
A closer look at a few of the myths associated with Capricorn make the links more apparent. One legend sometimes identified with Capricorn is t he tale of the goat-horned god Pan giving himself a fish’s tale so that he might escape the monster known as Typhon. That’s pretty on the nose, as it casts Capricorn as a horned green man figure who escaped into the sea. Right away you can see that this myth is a natural fit for Martin’s green sea / green see wordplay that Ravenous Reader discovered, which we explained in Weirwood Compendium 6: The Devil and the Deep Green See. The horned god transformed himself to enter the green see – I mean the story barely needs any alteration. It overlays with the story of Garth becoming trapped in the weir perfectly.
Another Capricorn-related myth is that of Amalthea, the goat that suckled baby Zeus after his mother, Rhea, saved him from his father, Cronos, who wanted to eat him as a tasty snack. Best of all, the goat’s broken horn was transformed into the cornucopia, a.k.a. the horn of plenty, and between that and Amalthea suckling the baby Zeus, we can see the fertility and bounty of nature associations with the horned creature mythology. The other tale about the nurturing of baby Zeus was that of the Meliai, if you recall from the Weirwood Goddess series, and the Meliai are ash tree nymphs that seem to have influenced Martin’s idea of the children of the forest and the wildling spearwives as spear-maidens who defend the sacred ash tree, which is the weirwood in ASOIAF.
The most common sea-goat myth is that of Pricus, the god of sea-goats. He apparently has always been a sea-goat and will always be a sea-goat, as he’s immortal; no transformation needed. Pricus is the son of Chronos, and like his father he has power over time. This comes in handy because he has a bunch of sea goat children who tend to walk onto land, lose their tails, and eventually forget how to talk, and Pricus turns back time, repeatedly, to try to prevent this. The sea goats, it seems, are wise and kind, but they just kept walking ashore and turning to regular goats. Pricus’s efforts at turning back the clock are in vein, however, because the little sea goats just keep doing the same thing every time. Pricus eventually begs Chronus to take away his immortality and let him die, because he can’t bear to be the only sea goat (so sad, right?). But Pricus cannot die, and so Chronos places him in the sky as the constellation Capricorn so that he can watch over his goat children forever, even the ones high in the mountains (he can see them because he’s up in space).
The main takeaway here is that the Pricus story has much in common with selkie and mermaid mythology, where the main tension is built around the idea of an aquatic humanoid who is caught between land and sea, always doomed to love someone they cannot be with. Most mermaid myths are romantic in nature, while Pricus love his little sea goat children that keep wandering away, but it’s still a very similar theme. Thus, I think it’s safe to associate the merlings and selkies of the Owen Oakenshield story with Capricorn, the sea goat. We might imagine Owen Oakenshield, the son of a horned fellow, driving off Pricus’s little sea goat merling children.
So that’s interesting: Owen the son of Garth is pitted against the implied horned folk coming out of the sea, or we might simply regards the merlings as therianthropic monsters from the sea. We are already inclined to view the children of Garth as Night’s Watch figures, and indeed, there is a Night’s Watch castle named Oakenshield. Interestingly, Oakenshield is eventually given to Tormund Giantsbane to command, with Tormund being a horny Garth figure for sure, although he’s definitely a wintery version.
When Jon is defending the Wall against the Wildling attacks in ASOS and using the far-eye to spy on their camp, we get a cool line about Tormund, the future lord of Oakenshield, and check out what he’s eating:
He still saw no sign of Mance Rayder in the camp, but he spied Tormund Giantsbane and two of his sons around the turtle. The sons were struggling with the mammoth hide while Tormund gnawed on the roast leg of a goat and bellowed orders.
Not only is Tormund the future lord of Oakenshield gnawing on a goat, symbolizing Owen Oakenshield’s war against the merlings which stand in for the sea goats of the Capricorn myth, there is an implication of Tormund and his sons being under water here, as they are wrestling with a “turtle.” This idea continues when Jon speaks of Tormund again in ADWD to Bowen Marsh. Bowen begins this quote commenting on the likelihood of the wildling survivors from the battle climbing the Wall:
“Unlikely,” said Bowen Marsh. “These are not raiders, out to steal a wife and some plunder. Tormund will have old women with him, children, herds of sheep and goats, even mammoths. He needs a gate, and only three of those remain. And if he should send climbers up, well, defending against climbers is as simple as spearing fish in a kettle.”
Fish never climb out of the kettle and shove a spear through your belly. Jon had climbed the Wall himself.
Okay, so now the wildlings who climb the Wall are compared to fish climbing out of a kettle, reminiscent of the merlings and selkies coming out of the see to Battle Owen Oakenshield. Again we see Tormund paired with goats – Tormund has herds of goats and people who will be like fish when they climb the Wall. Sea goat ahoy!
More importantly, we’ve already tuned into the idea that the Wall symbolizes the surface of the icy lake which imprisons the Others, an imitation of Dante’s frozen lake which traps the beast form of Lucifer in the ninth circle of hell. Thus anyone “climbing out of the frozen lake” side of the Wall, like the Others when the finally invade, would be akin to Lucifer when he eventually breaks free of the icy lake in time for Armageddon, as is tradition.
Now that we know about the under the see symbolism, we can see a new layer to the Others and all there icy lake / frozen pond symbolism (recall that their voices are like the cracking of ice on a winter lake). The notion of the Others coming out of a frozen lake, or climbing the wall with their ice spiders like fish climbing out of a kettle, implies them as coming from the weirwoodnet… which is exactly what we think about them! They’re the “white walkers of the wood” who “emerge from the dark of the wood” whom George describes as being like icy versions of aes sidhe, the elf-like spirits or Irish folklore who are thought to be attached to certain mounds, which are called side. Icy elves, you say? Frozen spirits that walk the wood? There are many other clues about this which we still need to fully explore, but I think you can see already that merlings and squishers – monstrous white fish people who come out of the sea to steal and or eat human babies – function very well as analogs to the Others, who are monstrous white ice people who come out of the sea of the weirwoodnet.
So now think about the Owen Oakenshield myth again – here’s a son of Garth who shares a name with a Night’s Watch castle, warring against the monsters from the sea, who might represent the Others. Starts to make more sense, right? Check out that Jon scene at the Fist of the First Men where he compares the Haunted Forest to a Sea:
When the wind blew, he could hear the creak and groan of branches older than he was. A thousand leaves fluttered, and for a moment the forest seemed a deep green sea, storm-tossed and heaving, eternal and unknowable.
Ghost was not like to be alone down there, he thought. Anything could be moving under that sea, creeping toward the ringfort through the dark of the wood, concealed beneath those trees. Anything. How would they ever know? He stood there for a long time, until the sun vanished behind the saw-toothed mountains and darkness began to creep through the forest.
The forest is like a deep green sea, and the Others and their army of the dead are the shadows creeping through the dark of the wood which is like a sea. To attack the Night’s Watch, it should be noted! There’s a lot more to the Others / merlings symbolism, but I am again hoping that I’m giving you enough to go on here to see how it works. Passages like this make it easier to see how a man named Oakenshield battling merlings that come out of the sea makes a good symbolic reference to the Night’s Watch battling the Others, the white shadows who come from the dark wood that is like a sea.
Bouncing back to the Night’s Watch defending the Wall in ASOS, we find a black brother named Owen – not Owen Oakenshield, but rather Owen the Oaf. Check out this scene though:
But the gate was a crooked tunnel through the ice, smaller than any castle gate in the Seven Kingdoms, so narrow that rangers must lead their garrons through single file. Three iron grates closed the inner passage, each locked and chained and protected by a murder hole. The outer door was old oak, nine inches thick and studded with iron, not easy to break through. But Mance has mammoths, he reminded himself, and giants as well.
“Must be cold down there,” said Noye. “What say we warm them up, lads?” A dozen jars of lamp oil had been lined up on the precipice. Pyp ran down the line with a torch, setting them alight. Owen the Oaf followed, shoving them over the edge one by one. Tongues of pale yellow fire swirled around the jars as they plunged downward. When the last was gone, Grenn kicked loose the chocks on a barrel of pitch and sent it rumbling and rolling over the edge as well. The sounds below changed to shouts and screams, sweet music to their ears.
That’s some great moon meteor last hero math there – twelve jars of burning lamp oil (think of oily black stone moon meteors, on fire) and then for the +1, we have a barrel of pitch – more burning black oily stuff. Or perhaps we should think of Yin Tar, one of the five given names for Azor Ahai, whose name translates to “black tar.” Point is, like Sam’s dozen dragonsglass arrows and one spearhead, this is last hero math in the form of fiery black weaponry in the hands of the Night’s Watch. Owen the Oaf is the one who shoves the dozen burning lamps off the edge, indicating the symbolic place of an “Owen figure” in the last hero’s dozen, and hear I am referring to Owen Oakenshield of course.
Owen the Oaf is again shoving things off the edge of the Wall to kill wildlings a bit later in the battle, and he really seems to get a kick out killing the sea creatures trying to get through the well, a la Owen Oakenshield killing the merlings and selkies on the Shield Islands.
Grenn got behind a barrel, put his shoulder against it, grunted, and began to push. Owen and Mully moved to help him. They shoved the barrel out a foot, and then another. And suddenly it was gone.
They heard the thump as it struck the Wall on the way down, and then, much louder, the crash and crack of splintering wood, followed by shouts and screams. Satin whooped and Owen the Oaf danced in circles, while Pyp leaned out and called, “The turtle was stuffed full of rabbits! Look at them hop away!”
A turtle is not a sea goat, ’tis true, but again it’s close enough to the Owen Oakenshield myth that I had to mention it, plus the mental image of Owen the Oaf dancing in circles is pretty freakin funny. Owen also takes up the fiddle when everyone at Castle Black parties down as a part of Alys Karstark’s wedding, so he’s quite the musical fellow. He even dances with Patchface, which everyone finds hysterically funny. Patchface is a horned person from the sea, very similar to the concept of a sea goat, so maybe there’s hope for healing the great Owen – sea creature divide. Patchface does offer to lead the Night’s Watch into the sea and out again, famously. Watch out for “dead things in the water,” though.
Now, regrettably, there aren’t not actual sea goats in ASOIAF. However, we get something very close in the Asha Wayward Bride chapter which has the matching green sea forest quotes to the Jon quote at the Fist of the First Men that we just read. You will surely recall the basics: Asha can’t see the sea, because of the forest, which she compares to the sea and calls “an ocean of leaves.” Then she compares the sighing of the leaves of the forest, also called whisperings, to the waves of the sea, thinking the sound they made was softer than the sea. Then we had the quote where Stannis’s allies in the Mountain Clans of the North cloak themselves in leaves and branches and sneak through the ocean-like forest, and here’s the pay-off paragraph:
Asha saw only trees and shadows, the moonlit hills and the snowy peaks beyond. Then she realized that trees were creeping closer. “Oho,” she laughed, “these mountain goats have cloaked themselves in pine boughs.” The woods were on the move, creeping toward the castle like a slow green tide. She thought back to a tale she had heard as a child, about the children of the forest and their battles with the First Men, when the greenseers turned the trees to warriors.
There’s your sea goats: the mountain goats have cloaked themselves in the green see so they might pass through undetected. They’re green see goats! I think they represent Others too, for the reasons I pointed out in Weirwood Compendium 6: before catching sight of the mountain goat warriors, she sees only trees, shadows, moonlight, and snow, which are all the things used to describe the Others, snowy white shadows who emerge from the trees, blades alive with moonlight. Then the mountain goats in service to a Night’s King figure, Stannis, emerge from the green see forest to attack Asha, their axes “shivering ” her shield. Then there’s that line about the children of the forest turning the trees to warriors which either applies to the creation of the Others or to the green zombies. Or maybe both, since weirwood magic seems to be involved in the creation of both.
So once again, we have the idea of cold monsters from the sea, this time associated with goats directly. The idea of the Others coming out of the sea or out of the frozen lake to menace and terrorize really does click in with Owen Oakenshield fighting off merlings from the Shield Islands, and since Oakenshield is a Night’s Watch castle… it really works. House Hewitt, the house that has held dominion of Oakenshield Island down south, has an interesting sigil: it’s an oak and iron shield on a field of blue and white wavy stripes. They are guarding against raiders from the sea – traditionally the Ironborn, whom we already know have a ton of Others symbolism, especially Euron and the Drowned Men. The blue and white coloring represents the ocean, but also matches the colors of the Others, who are the real monsters from the see.
‘Oak and iron’ rings a bell: it’s Dunk’s mantra of course. “Oak and iron, guard me well, or else I’m dead and doomed to hell.” Some have observed that oak and iron seems to have a symbolic role of guarding against evil in ASOIAF, building on this mantra and other appearances of iron and oak, and this takes on new meaning when you think about oak and iron shields defending against the Others… who come from a frozen hell, surely. Lucifer’s frozen lake in the ninth circle, to be exact!
Oak is the tree of the ‘summer king’ in the Oak and Holly King schema, and Garth is himself a solar deity and a summer king. He planted the living “Oakenseat” at Highgarden for the descendants of his firstborn son, Garth Gardener, to rule upon. Two other sons are John the Oak and Owen Oakenshield, so there’s a whole lotta oak goin on, is what I’m saying. It makes sense that oaken summer king people would defend against symbols of the Others.
As I mentioned, Oakenshield and the rest of the Shield Islands (Greenshield, Greyshield, and Southshield) are conquered by the Ironborn, who tend to symbolize the Others. Lord Hewitt and his family suffer badly at Euron’s hand, and Euron gives Oakenshield to Gnute the Barber. A newt is an aquatic animal, and Gnute spelled with a ‘g’ is almost like Goat the Barber. No? Okay, yeah I’m not sure about that last bit. But the Ironborn are like Others, and they rely on both goats and the sea for sustenance, according to TWOIAF:
The soil of the Iron Islands is thin and stony, more suitable for the grazing of goats than the raising of crops. The ironborn would surely suffer famine every winter but for the endless bounty of the sea and the fisherfolk who reap it.
They raise goats by the sea, just saying, and they invade like merlings. And they believe they descend from merlings for that matter, so there you have it.
The Dothraki are very much analogs to the Ironborn, and sometimes to the Others. They are pirates of the green Dothraki Sea that believe it’s literally wrong to plant crops in the ground (think, “we do not sew.”) Now check this line from TWOIAF about their sea goats:
The Dothraki remain nomads still, a savage and wild people who prefer tents to palaces. Seldom still, the khals drive their great herds of horses and goats endlessly across their “sea,” fighting one another when they meet and occasionally moving beyond the borders of their own lands for slaves and plunder…
The idea of herding goats endlessly across the sea reminds of Pricus, who turned repeatedly back time to try to herd his sea goats and keep them from leaving the sea!
Alright, well, that will do it for the first half of our Zodiac constellations… now you can see why it took me so long to get this together. Twenty thousand words.. to do half of them. Each one is its own rabbit hole. I have lots of notes prepped for the other six, but it will take some time to follow all the trail sand write them. I will do my best not to leave it hanging so long, so hopefully you’ll get that one soon. Thanks everyone, especially to all our Mythical Astronomy Patrons, and especially especially our zodiac patrons… this one was for you.