- "In the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, the dominant religion is the Faith of the Seven. First brought to its shores by the Andals, some six thousand years ago."
- ―Catelyn Stark
The Faith of the Seven, also commonly referred to as the New Gods, is the main religion of the Seven Kingdoms. It is little-practiced beyond its borders. The Faith of the Seven is dominant in the south of Westeros. The only regions where it is not the majority religion are the North, where worship of the Old Gods of the Forest remains strong, and on the Iron Islands, where the local religion of the Drowned God is most widespread. There are many exceptions in these areas, however.
The Faith originated six thousand years before the War of the Five Kings in the continent of Essos, specifically in Andalos where, according to legend, the "God of Seven" manifested before the Andal people. Afterward the Andals sailed west and their invasion of Westeros began. Some of the Andal warriors carved the seven-pointed star, the symbol of their religion, into their flesh to demonstrate their devotion. Bearing weapons made of steel, the Andals conquered the First Men and slaughtered the Children of the Forest, viewing their magic as an abomination before the Seven. The Andals burned down most of the weirwood trees in the south, which are considered sacred in the worship of the Old Gods of the Forest. Soon all the kingdoms of the First Men, with the exception of the Kingdom of the North, fell to the invaders, who intermingled with some of the local dynasties, such as House Gardener, or replaced them altogether, as was the case of Mountain Kings of the Vale. As the Andals asserted their dominance over all regions south of the Neck, they asserted their religion over the First Men they conquered, replacing the worship of the Old Gods almost entirely throughout the southern kingdoms of Westeros. Thus the Andals' Faith of the Seven became the dominant religion on the entire continent, except for in the North and the Iron Islands.
Prior to the rule of House Targaryen, the Faith had the right to dispense justice, conduct inquests and trials and pass judgement over all echelons of society, including kings. This justice was enforced by the Faith Militant. However, this right was taken away from it by the Targaryen kings and, whilst the Faith remained an important part of Westerosi customs, they grew corrupt and their practices became little more than a façade. Nevertheless, the Faith's importance could not be understated and most if not all noble Houses had a septa present in their household to raise their daughters, such as Septa Mordane for House Stark (due to the influence of Catelyn Stark, who firmly believed in the Gods, despite the fact that she had married into a Northern family which worshiped the Old Gods).
As a result of the devastation of the War of the Five Kings, a growing disillusionment with the nobility grew among the smallfolk. Progressively, they begun to turn to the Faith for comfort and safety, specifically in the aftermath of the Red Wedding, during which House Frey broke the sacred guest right. A new religious cult emerged from this disillusioned mass, who called themselves Sparrows. The Sparrows believed that all, high and lowborn alike, were equal in the eyes of the Gods and that they shouldn't tolerate their excesses anymore.
After Tywin Lannister's death, the Sparrows arrived in King's Landing and begun spreading their message to the Kingslanders as well as tending to the poorest in the city. Even some highborn, such as Lancel Lannister, joined the new cult. Sometime after their arrival, the Sparrows forced the High Septon to perform a walk of penance through King's Landing after they found him in a brothel, mocking the Gods. When the High Septon appealed to the small council to have the Sparrows arrested and their leader, the High Sparrow, executed, the Queen Mother, Cersei Lannister, arrested the High Septon instead.
Cersei then had the High Sparrow elected as the new High Septon and told him that she planned to give the Faith back the power it had lost to the Targaryens. This includes rearming the Faith Militant and allowing the Faith to wield judiciary power. With the restoration of these rights, the High Sparrow arms his Sparrows as the new Faith Militant and sends them to destroy alehouses, brothels, idols of other religions and to arrest anyone believed to have broken the holy laws. Thanks to Cersei, they learn of Loras Tyrell's homosexuality and arrest him.
A holy inquest is held into Loras's 'sins' and is attended by King Tommen Baratheon, Queen Margaery Tyrell; Loras's sister; Lady Olenna Tyrell and Cersei Lannister. During the inquest, Loras is ordered to stand trial due to Olyvar's testimony and Margaery is also arrested for perjuring herself to save her brother. A few days later, Cersei is also arrested on charges of incest, adultery and the murder of King Robert Baratheon, charges which are due to the testimony of Lancel Lannister, her former lover.
Though Cersei is defiant at first, she eventually confesses her adultery with Lancel in order to be reunited with her son King Tommen. The High Sparrow grants her request but says that there will still be a trial to ascertain the truth behind the other charges that she denies: incest and regicide. Cersei is then forced to walk naked through the streets of Kings Landing from the Great Sept of Baelor to the Red Keep amidst the leering and jeering crowds who have gathered to see her shame and take the chance to insult their hated Queen Mother.
The High Sparrow still holds Loras and Margaery Tyrell captive. Margaery's grandmother, Olenna Tyrell, and her father, Mace Tyrell, are determined to get her out, along with her husband King Tommen. Tommen visits the High Sparrow several times, first in hostility, but soon begins talking and listening to the High Sparrow. Under severe psychological torture, Margaery confesses her sins. When King Tommen visits Margaery, he is surprised to find her talking positively about the High Sparrow. He finds himself agreeing with her about the High Sparrow.
Later, Mace Tyrell leads a faction of the Tyrell army through the streets of King's Landing to a waiting Jaime Lannister. Together, they proceed to the Great Sept, outside which the High Sparrow, Septa Unella, the Faith Militant and a large crowd of city folk are preparing for Margaery's Walk of Atonement. The army arrives, along with Olenna Tyrell in a litter, as the High Sparrow is speaking, and Jaime demands he release Margaery and Loras, before they can "be on their way."
The High Sparrow refuses and fends off Jaime's threats to kill all the Sparrows by saying each Sparrow yearns to die in the service of the Gods. After a tense few moments he proclaims it will not be necessary, as there will be no Walk of Atonement. Margaery has already atoned for her sins by bringing another into the faith. To Jaime's astonishment the doors of the Sept open and King Tommen emerges, escorted by his own guards, and walks down the steps to join the High Sparrow and Margaery in a demonstration of unity between the crown and the faith. He explains that there is a new alliance between the crown and the faith. The crowd burst into cheers after Tommen's speech, demonstrating that the High Sparrow now has the support of both the crown and the smallfolk. Jaime is later sent away from King's Landing, to Riverrun, in order to deal with Brynden "the Blackfish" Tully, who had retaken it in the name of House Tully, and Robb Stark's Kingdom of the North against House Frey. This is presumably part of the High Sparrow's plan to weaken Cersei by removing Jaime from the capital.
King Tommen announces that the trials of his mother and of Loras Tyrell will be held on the first day of the Festival of the Mother. He further decrees that trial by combat is outlawed and that people tried by the faith will face seven septons as it was in the early days.
On the day of the trials, many people are assembled in the Great Sept, including Kevan Lannister, the High Sparrow, Mace Tyrell, Queen Margaery, and Ser Loras. The High Sparrow begins Loras' trial, but he confesses to his crimes and opts to become a servant of the Faith, forsaking his name, lordship, and claim to Highgarden. The High Sparrow accepts and Loras is made a brother of the Faith Militant. Cersei and Tommen are not present and Margaery becomes concerned, telling the High Sparrow then the audience that they need to leave. The Faith Militant bar anyone from the exits and all assembled perish when a cache of wildfire beneath the building is detonated. The Great Sept of Baelor is completely destroyed, along with the entire Faith Militant, completely shattering the faith's power.
The Faith holds that there is one god who has seven faces or aspects: the Father, the Mother, the Maiden, the Crone, the Warrior, the Smith, and the Stranger. Each aspect represents one part of life or existence.
- The Father: represents divine justice, and judges the souls of the dead.
- The Mother: represents mercy, peace, fertility, and childbirth. She is sometimes referred to as "the strength of women".
- The Maiden: represents purity, innocence, love, and beauty.
- The Crone: represents wisdom and foresight. She is represented carrying a lantern.
- The Warrior: represents strength and courage in battle.
- The Smith: represents creation and craftsmanship.
- The Stranger: The Stranger represents death and the unknown. It is rarely prayed to.
The Stranger is depicted as neither male nor female, thus the number of male and female aspects within the godhead is equal: three males (Father, Warrior, Smith), three females (Maiden, Mother, Crone), and one who is neither. Unlike the other aspects which are represented as human figures in artwork, because the Stranger represents the unknown it is often portrayed in a wide variety of forms, often frightening. Sometimes it is represented as a skeletal figure, or a non-human creature possessing various animalistic features.
Due to its seven "aspects", the deity is often referred to as the "Seven-faced God" or the "God of Seven", but most frequently as simply "the Seven". The Seven are also referred to as "the New Gods" or "New God", in contrast with the "Old Gods" of the Forest worshiped by the First Men before the invasion of the Andals.
In practice, many devotees will refer to the aspects as "Gods" plural, though priests of the Faith will attempt to stress the theological nuance to their followers that there is indeed only one God, the "Seven-in-One" deity. This has not stopped the commonly heard exclamation "Gods be good!" from being used pervasively throughout the Seven Kingdoms.
Due to the "Seven-in-One" nature of the deity, the number seven is sacred in the religion, with symbolism involving the number seven featuring heavily in its belief system. Newborn babies are anointed with seven oils and named in the light of the Seven the day they are born. In death, the Faith believes that there are Seven Heavens and Seven Hells. The exclaimed curse "Seven Hells!" is commonly heard in Westeros.
The Seven Pointed Star is the most prominent symbol of the Faith, representing how each of the seven aspects is one facet of a unified whole. This is used as an allegory to explain the complex theological concept of a single God composed of Seven persons: just as the star has seven points, but all points are part of the same star, so too is there only one deity, which appears to men in seven different ways.
The Faith also holds to the belief that, just as there are seven aspects of their deity, it also preaches the existence of seven heavens and, likewise, seven hells."
Styles of worship
Unlike the Old Gods of the Forest, whose worshipers in the North are looked down upon by members of the Faith of the Seven as savages who worship multiple gods, the Faith is based on a number of holy texts and complex social rules. The central holy text of the religion is The Seven-Pointed Star.
Temples of the Faith are seven-sided buildings known as "Septs", with each wall dedicated to one of the seven aspects. Followers of the Faith gather in septs for group prayer, which frequently involves singing hymns of praise to the Seven. One such hymn dedicated to the Mother is "Gentle Mother, Font of Mercy". There are also monasteries, known as "septries", where smaller numbers of worshipers gather who have taken a monastic oath. Septries often have vows of silence or other requirements, and are places of quiet contemplation.
- See main article: "Knighthood".
Mounted warriors known as knights dedicate themselves to a code of behavior known as chivalry, heavily influenced by the Faith of the Seven and its principles. The will of the Seven is said to favor the victor in a trial by combat.
Along with the Old Gods, the Faith shares several basic social rules against incest, kinslaying, and bastardy. The Faith of the Seven, along with all major religions, also upholds the laws of hospitality, which hold sacred the good behavior of a guest and host towards each other.
The Faith of the Seven considers homosexuality to be a sin, albeit one of lesser severity than incest or kinslaying. Therefore, homosexuals in the Seven Kingdoms such as Ser Loras Tyrell and Renly Baratheon must keep their true sexual and romantic behavior secret, or else face significant social consequences.
Only members of House Targaryen are permitted to practice incest in order to "keep the bloodline pure", after the Faith was forced to turn a blind eye towards the incest after the.Faith Militant uprising.
There are no different denominations within the Faith of the Seven, as all adherents are part of one universal organization. However, different regions of the Seven Kingdoms may interpret and apply its rules more or less strictly than others, particularly Dorne. When the Rhoynar migrated to Dorne a thousand years ago, they brought with them their own social customs from their river-based city-states on the continent of Essos. The Rhoynar converted to the Faith of the Seven, but in many ways they picked and chose which parts of the religion they liked and simply ignored the parts they didn't want to follow. Thus the present-day Dornishmen who descend from them follow the rules of the Faith somewhat loosely. In particular, the Rhoynar were quite tolerant of sexual behavior including homosexuality, and thus homosexuality or bisexuality carries little if any social taint in present-day Dorne, even though they are still nominally followers of the Faith of the Seven. Thus while a knight from the Reach such as Ser Loras Tyrell must hide his homosexuality, several major lords and ladies in Dorne are openly bisexual or homosexual - such as Oberyn Martell and Ellaria Sand. The Rhoynar also had much less disdain for bastards than the peoples already established in Westeros when they arrived. While bastards in present-day Dorne do have to use the bastard surname "Sand" and are less likely to inherit, it is actually not unusual to see bastards living at the court of their noble parents there.
Unlike the faith of the Old Gods of the Forest, which lacks elaborate ceremonies, weddings under the auspices of the Faith of the Seven are elaborate and highly ritualized. These ceremonies typically take place inside of a sept and are presided over by a septon. At the beginning of the ceremony, the bride is escorted to the altar by her father where the groom and the septon await. The groom is then told, "You may now cloak the bride and bring her under your protection" and drapes a cloak bearing his house's colors around the bride's shoulders.
The bride and groom then join hands, which are tied together with a ribbon by the septon, who says, "In the sight of the Seven, I hereby seal these two souls, binding them as one, for eternity." He then instructs them to, "Look upon one another and say the words." At this point, the bride and groom turn to face each other are recite the following vow in unison: "Father, Smith, Warrior, Mother, Maiden, Crone, Stranger, I am his/hers and she/he is mine from this day until the end of my days."
Deviations from this ritual do occur sometimes. Owing in large part to its spur-of-the-moment, secret nature and the characters' remote location at the time, the wedding of Robb Stark and Talisa Maegyr takes place outside instead of inside a sept. It also appears that Robb did not cloak Talisa - possibly because he did not have a cloak available. Talisa is also not given away by her father, who was not present or anyone else for that matter. By contrast, Sansa Stark is given away at her wedding but not by her father, who had been executed beforehand. Instead, King Joffrey Baratheon, as "the Father of the Realm," takes it upon himself to give Sansa away.
Unlike the worship of the Old Gods, the Faith of the Seven has an organized clergy with a complex internal hierarchy. Both men and women can be priests of the Seven. Male priests are known as septons and female priests as septas.
The head of the Faith is known as the High Septon, who resides at the headquarters of the Faith of the Seven, the Great Sept of Baelor, which is located in the capital city King's Landing. The ruling council of the Faith is known as the Most Devout, who also reside in the Great Sept. The Most Devout rank just below the High Septon, but are responsible for electing a new High Septon when the current one dies.
There are several monastic or devotional orders that believers in the Faith of the Seven may belong to. One of the most prominent of these is the Silent Sisters, a separate all-female monastic order devoted to the Stranger, the aspect that represents death. The Silent Sisters are responsible for dressing and preparing dead bodies for funeral rites, and have taken vows of silence and chastity. Silent Sisters are separate from the regular clergy, and are not considered to be septas.
- Farmer: "We ask the Father to judge us with mercy accepting our human frailty. We ask the Mother to bless our crops so we may feed ourselves and all who come to our door. We ask the Warrior to give us courage in these days of strife and turmoil. We ask the Maiden to protect Sally's virtue to keep her from the clutches of depravity."
- Sandor Clegane: "You're going to do all seven of the fuckers?"
- Arya Stark: "Father!"
- — A pious Riverlands farmer prays to the Seven, annoying his guest Sandor Clegane.[src]
- Farmer: "We ask the Smith to strengthen our hands and our backs so we may finish the work required of us. We ask the Crone to guide us on our journey from darkness to darkness."
- Sandor Clegane: "And we ask the Stranger not to kill us in our beds tonight for no damn reason at all."
- — Breaker of Chains
- Farmer: "Walder Frey committed sacrilege that day. He shared bread and salt with the Starks. He offered them guest right."
- Sandor Clegane: "Guest right don't mean much anymore."
- Farmer: "It means something to me. The gods will have their vengeance. Frey will burn in the seventh hell for what he did."
- — The same Riverlands farmer curses Walder Frey.[src]
In the books
Author George R.R. Martin has stated that the Faith of the Seven in the A Song of Ice and Fire novels is loosely analogous, at least in social function, to the medieval Catholic Church. Martin himself was raised Roman Catholic but by the time of the TV series, describes himself as a "lapsed Catholic". He borrowed the idea of the three-in-one Holy Trinity (Father-Son-Holy Ghost) and modified it into a "Holy Septinity" of sorts when he made the seven-in-one god of the Faith of the Seven.
When Aegon the Conqueror invaded and subdued Westeros three centuries ago, he gained the support of the Faith, who crowned him King and convinced the rulers of the city of Oldtown to open their gates to him. The Faith's support was critical to Aegon taking control of the continent. However, when he died and his son Aenys (born of incest, which is proscribed by the Faith) took the throne, they led a religious uprising against him. This uprising was eventually crushed by the Targaryen dynasty with great loss of life, when the weakling Aenys died and was succeeded by his ruthless brother Maegor the Cruel. Peace was reached when Maegor died and was succeeded by Aenys' son Jaehaerys, who brokered a peace agreement: the Faith didn't have to actively support the incestuous marriage practices of the Targaryens, but it did have to at least acknowledge the marriages as valid, and the Faith's leadership accepted the offer. The Faith's military forces, the Faith Militant, disbanded and the Faith have remained loyal supporters of the crown ever since.
Many septons and septas are based at a sept or septry, but "begging brothers", septons without a sept, wander the Seven Kingdoms and minister to smaller towns and villages which lack septs of their own. This is analogous to medieval friars.
Similar to the real-life College of Cardinals in Catholicism, the Faith is ruled over by a council known as the Most Devout, which elects the High Septon. New High Septons are usually selected from among the members of the Most Devout, but this is not a requirement. While septons and septas serve on the council of the Most Devout, the High Septon is usually male. It hasn't been mentioned if there is an actual rule against electing a "High Septa" and there has never been one, or if there were High Septas in the past, and one simply hasn't been elected during the timeframe of the novels.
- HBO viewers guide, season 2 appendix, Gods Old and New entry
- Complete Guide to Westeros: "The Old Gods and the New"
- Complete Guide to Westeros: "The Age of Heroes"
- Complete Guide to Westeros: "House Arryn"
- Complete Guide to Westeros: "The Old Gods and the New"
- "Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken"
- "High Sparrow"
- "The Wars to Come"
- "Sons of the Harpy"
- "Kill the Boy"
- "The Gift"
- "Mother's Mercy"
- "No One"
- "The Winds of Winter"
- Complete Guide to Westeros: "The Old Gods and the New"
- "The Lion and the Rose"
- "A Golden Crown"