• Mattie Stu

Game of Thrones Lore - The Drowned God

Alongside the North, where the Old Gods of the Forest were still worshiped, the Iron Islands was one of the few regions in Westeros to not abide by the main religion of the Seven Kingdoms, the Faith of the Seven. Instead, they worshiped a deity known as the Drowned God…

Depictions of the Drowned God, like statues, were sometimes constructed from assembled pieces of driftwood forming a vaguely humanoid manner with upraised arms, or by finding a single piece of driftwood which somewhat resembled a humanoid shape. The Drowned God was one of many believed by the Faceless Men of Braavos to be one of the faces of the Many-Faced God. The belief system of the Drowned God justified the ironborn way of life, piracy and raiding, since it was believed he created the ironborn to reave, raid and pillage. In addition, the deity’s followers thought he brought flame from the sea. Much of the religion centred around maritime skills and seafaring ability. And to kill enemies in battle was not simply praiseworthy, it was considered a pious act. Furthermore, a young ironborn was not seen as a man until he killed his first enemy. The religion also encouraged paying the “iron price” instead of the “gold price”, meaning it was better to not pay or trade possessions, rather take them by force from the hands of dead enemies.

To outsiders, the Drowned God seemed like nothing more than a petty justification for pillaging and plunder. But the ironborns themselves took their religion very seriously, having a fairly well developed cosmology and belief system surrounding it. Within the belief system, the Drowned God was locked in an age-old struggle against the Storm God. Whilst the latter lived in a castle in the sky with thunderclouds, the Drowned God’s halls were located beneath the ocean. The Storm God constantly tried to send storms to throw ironborn ships against rocks. Resurrection featured prominently in the religion, in the form of being revived from drowning. The Drowned God itself was actually said to have drowned in the sea, only to come back to life “harder and stronger”. Drowning was also employed as a method of sacrificing enemies to the deity. Because of their beliefs, the ironborns did not fear drowning in the sea. Fearless raiders who drowned were said to have been taken to the Drowned God’s watery halls to feast on fish and be accompanied by mermaids for eternity. Due to such, whenever a follower died, it was said that the Drowned God was in need of a strong oarsman.

The common prayer that was exchanged between followers of the Drowned God was: “What is dead may never die”, with the response, “But rises again, harder and stronger”. When a person began the prayer, others were usually expected to join in, and involved clutching the right hand over the heart. Priests of the Drowned God were known as Drowned Men. They blessed devotees using sea water, which was considered to be holy water in their religion. During baptism, infants were ceremoniously “drowned”, being submerged in sea water or having it poured over their face by priests. Adults could also be anointed with sea water in the same fashion whilst receiving a blessing from one of the Drowned Men. During the blessing ceremony, the following exchange occurred:

Drowned Man: "Let [name] your servant be born again from the sea, as you were. Bless him with salt, bless him with stone, bless him with steel."

Response: "What is dead may never die."

Drowned Man: "What is dead may never die, but rises again, harder and stronger.”

Unlike the Faith of the Seven or the worship of the Lord of the Light, the Drowned God religion was sexist. Ironborn men were expected to raid, plunder, kill and command ships, whilst the women were strictly forbidden from doing any of those things. Also unlike other religions, the Drowned God’s priesthood was all male. As a result, it was considered very unusual for Yara Greyjoy to have risen and commanded her own ship, leading men on raids, since she was a young woman. But it was a testament to her command that men would willingly follow her, since she would have had to work harder than any male to gain the respect of such men. Even a very devout and pious follower of the Drowned God, Balon Greyjoy, found himself proud and accepting of Yara’s feats. It was common in the Iron Islands to execute criminals by laying them on their back with their arms and legs chained to four stakes on a beach at low tide. It was done to ensure they would see their death slowly creeping towards them a few inches at a time – an offering to the Drowned God. Just like other major religions in Westeros, the Drowned God religion had several basic social rules against incest, kinslaying, and bastardy. Furthermore, it upheld the laws of hospitality, ensuring the good behaviour of a guest and host towards each other.

Now it’s time for this week’s question: out of all the religions across Westeros and Essos, what one do you think is the best? Let me know in the comments below.

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