Editor’s note: The below contains spoilers for Episode 8 of House of the Dragon.It is somewhat ironic that the characters in House of the Dragon attempt to justify their actions based on religious reasons. There isn’t a single main character in the series that doesn’t have blood on their hands in one way or another, so claiming to have integrity feels somewhat strange. However, House of the Dragon is grounded in some elements of medieval history. Just like in the real world, the Westerosi families have committed disturbing acts of violence on the basis of faith.
In King’s Landing, the primary religion is the Faith of the Seven; in Game of Thrones, the deities of this belief system are referred to as the “New Gods.” It is not the only religion in George R.R. Martin’s fictional universe. The Starks and the other northern houses honor the Old Gods of the Forest, and the Greyjoys of the Iron Island believe in the “Drowned God” and his connection to the sea. There is a multitude of different religions and philosophies in Bravos, as there is a confluence of culture beyond the Narrow Sea.
However, the Faith of the Seven has a strict hold on the decisions made by those close to the Iron Throne. Some characters in House of the Dragon appear to take their faith more seriously than others. In “The Princess and the Queen,” Alicent (Olivia Cooke) claims that Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy) had an affair with Harwin Strong (Ryan Corr), and that her sons Jacaerys (Leo Hart), Lucerys (Harvey Sadler), and Joffrey are illegitimate. While Alicent obviously has political motivations for questioning the children’s fitness to rule, she does so on the argument that they are in violation of the Faith of the Seven.
What Is the Faith of the Seven?
The Faith of the Seven is over six thousand years old and originated on Essos among the Andals. The Andals believed that the “God of Seven” spoke to them and offered guidance. This “God of Seven” is composed of The Father (representing justice), The Mother (representing mercy), The Maiden (representing purity), The Crone (representing wisdom), The Warrior (representing strength), The Smith (representing craftsmanship), and The Stranger (representing death). This deity is honored with a seven-pointed star that can be seen in many of both shows’ religious ceremonies.
When the Andals began their invasion of Westeros, they took their religion with them. Armed with steel weapons, the Andals easily conquered the First Men and discredited their spiritual belief. As we learn in Game of Thrones, the Andals murdered the Children of the Forest and burned down their weirwood trees because they viewed them as an affront to their faith. Except for the Iron Islands and the north, the kingdoms loyal to the invaders chose to cease practicing their local customs.
The Faith of the Seven is led by the High Septon in the Great Sept of Baelor that we see in King’s Landing in Game of Thrones. Followers gather in Temples of the Faith for formal ceremonies like weddings, funerals, and knightings. The Faith is strict about the integrity of its followers, and expressly forbids incest, homosexuality, infidelity, and kinslaying.
The Faith’s Connection to House Hightower
In House of the Dragon, King Viserys I falls under the influence of his hand, Ser Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans). Otto slowly erodes Viserys’ judgment and presents his daughter as a potential new bride. In “The Lord of the Tides,” Rhaenyra returns to King’s Landing to find that House Hightower’s influence has spread. The drakes and Old Valyrian statues in the palace have been replaced with a seven-pointed star representing the Faith of the Seven. Alicent wears a necklace of the same symbol.
The Hightowers have a historical connection to their religion. Otto’s ancestor, Manfred Hightower, was one of the first lords of Westeros to bow before the Andals. House Hightower leveraged their new relationship to gain a position of power within the Faith. The first Sept was built in their kingdom of Oldtown. When Aegon the Conqueror began his siege, House Hightower was met with adversity. The Targaryens initially did not follow the Faith of the Seven.
Aegon eventually converted after a critical victory, but the Septs took issue with his marriage to his sister. Those loyal to their religious beliefs became known as the “Faith Militant,” and eventually rebelled against House Targaryen during the rule of Maegor. Viserys’ predecessor, King Jaehaerys, disbarred the Faith Militant from taking arms against the crown.
The Faith’s Role in ‘Game of Thrones’
The Faith Militant return in the fifth season of Game of Thrones under the control of their new leader, the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce). The Sparrows become increasingly powerful among the people of Westeros, and brutally attack those that commit sins of the Faith. The Sparrows eventually corrupt the mind of the young King Tommen Lanniester (Dean-Charles Chapman) and publicly shame his mother Cersei (Lena Headey) for having an affair with her brother, Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau).
However, Cersei gets her revenge on the Faith Militant by staging a trap at her own trial. She uses a secret device to detonate the Great Sept of Baelor, which wipes out the Faith Militant and House Tyrell. This allows Cersei to take control of the Iron Throne for herself despite having no claim to it.
House of the Dragon premieres new episodes every Sunday on HBO and HBO Max.