A Study of the Elements and Magic in ASOIAF
Fire magic is the force behind healing, and is a component in prophetic dreaming and glamouring. It is a spiritual purifying agent and plays a role in sexual magic.
You’re about to embark on the second part of the series ‘The Elements and Magic’ which explains the different kinds of magical forces we encounter in the narrative.
Please read part one to familiarize yourself with the theme of Magic and
the Elements in general.
Topics discussed in this post:
Healing Power of Fire | Fire and Spiritual Cleansing | Rubies and Glamours
Sexual Magic | Prophecy
Without the heat of the sun, there would be no growth. It is the spark of life, the element of action, inspiration, passion and joy. Fire is the most powerful element but also the one with the least endurance. It needs fuel to keep it going.
Within the body, fire is responsible for internal combustion, driving digestion. Its spiritual seat
is the solar plexus, the third chakra of the body, regarded as the centre of willpower, self-confidence and the place from which courage and honour emerge. Since the heart relies on electrical impulses to beat, fire is also associated with the heart and circulatory system.
Although the destructive nature of fire is indisputable, it is a symbol of transformation and regeneration. It consumes the phoenix, which rises from the ashes to greater glory.
Fire’s healing properties are the easiest to explain. Our own inner fire, fever, is part of the
body’s own disease-fighting arsenal: rising body temperatures kill off many disease-producing organisms. The healing power of fire is demonstrated many times in the narrative:
We begin with Maester Luwin who instructs Osha to treat his wolf-bite.
… ooh, seven hells, that burns, no, don’t stop, more. Too young, as I say, but you, Bran, you’re old enough to know that dreams are only dreams.”
“Some are, some aren’t.” Osha poured pale-red firemilk into a long gash. Luwin gasped.
Firemilk burns like hell, yet Maester Luwin demands more of the stuff. Fire cleanses wounds. It disinfects and enhances the healing process. The firemilk used here is probably more effective than the boiling wine otherwise used to wash out wounds.
Myrish Fire Wine:
is consumed both for relaxation and as an aid to digestion after heavy eating.
A form of fire wine is also applied in healing wounds:
Belwas howled and complained, but Dany scolded him and called him a big bald baby until he let the healer stanch the wound with vinegar, sew it shut, and bind his chest with strips of linen soaked in fire wine.
As an aide to digestion:
… and Myrish fire wines to help in their digestion.
Miiri Maaz Duur prepared a healing poultice for Khal Drogo:
“I made him a poultice of firepod and sting-me-not and bound it in a lambskin.”
“It burned, he said. He tore it off. The herbwomen made him a new one, wet and soothing.”
“It burned, yes. There is great healing magic in fire, even your hairless men know that.” AGOT, Daenerys
Many believe that MMD’s treatment led to his demise but this is not so. Drogo failed to follow her instructions, tearing off the poultice because it burned and had it replaced with a wet, soothing one. This was a wrong move and MMD points out that even regular ‘hairless healers’ should be familiar with the healing magic in fire. Drogo additionally dulled the pain with milk of the poppy and drank alcohol, all of which the godswife advised against. The above quotes show that burning wines and herbs heal. Boiling wine is regularly applied to fresh wounds.
Is it any wonder then that Drogo’s wound festered? When the poultice is removed, the stench
is awful and black blood gushes from the wound:
Khal Drogo thrashed, fighting some unseen enemy. Black blood ran slow and thick from his open wound. “Your khal is good as dead, Princess.” AGOT, Daenerys
Drogo’s is clearly suffering from sepsis, blood poisoning, and it will be his undoing.
Originally, the wound oozed fresh blood (‘A fresh wave of blood ran down his breast, from where Ogo’s arakh had cut off his nipple’), so this black blood here is definitely the result of an infected wound. George emphasises this point by having Drogo fight some unseen enemy, which we can visualize as the ‘poison spirits’.
After MMD’s fateful blood ritual, Drogo is still physically alive but devoid of his wits and senses.
His wound, however, is fully healed and though there is no way to prove this conclusively, the godswife must have employed fire-magic to rid his body of blood poisoning and to heal the wound. We have several examples of that coming up.
Another example of healing with fire from the Ironborn. Aeron Damphair is convinced that fire treatment would have saved the patient.
Instead of healing Urri’s hand the Old Way, with fire and seawater, she gave him to her green land maester, who swore that he could sew back the missing fingers. He did that, and later he used potions and poltices and herbs, but the hand mortified and Urri took a fever. By the time the maester sawed his arm off, it was too late. AFFC, The Prophet
Lord Beric’s fatal wounds:
Though we tend to concentrate on Lord Beric’s reanimation, it’s clear that Thoros’ fiery ‘kiss of life’ also healed Beric’s fatal wounds. Beric does not exhibit the black hands and feet characteristic of wights. This and the fact that he draws blood from his arm to ignite his sword are the ultimate clues to blood that circulates through his body. We have to be careful here because a beating heart does not mean he is in possession of his full vital capacities. He isn’t. His heart simply recycles the blood available – there is no gaseous exchange and no rejuvenation of his blood. It is like Drogo’s, flowing out ‘in a hot black gush’ when the Hound pierces him. But his wounds are healed and Thoros is thought of as a great healer:
“Only … well … I thought the Hound had killed you, but …”
“A wound,” said Lem Lemoncloak. “A grievous wound, aye, but Thoros healed it. There’s never been no better healer.”
Lord Beric gazed at Lem with a queer look in his good eye and no look at all in the other, only scars and dried blood. “No better healer,” he agreed wearily. ASOS, Arya
Later in the story, we encounter Moqorro, the black priest who is rescued from the sea to become a member of Victarion’s crew. He heals Victarion’s arm and hand with fire magic
in a secret process involving singing. The healed hand itself is charred but feels strong.
“Victarion came back on deck. He was naked from the waist up, his left arm blood to the elbow. As his crew gathered, whispering and trading glances, he raised a charred and blackened hand. Wisps of dark smoke rose from his fingers as he pointed at the maester.”
“The arm the priest had healed was hideous to look upon, pork crackling from elbow to fingertips. Sometimes when Victarion closed his hand the skin would split and smoke, yet the arm was stronger than it had ever been.” ADWD, Victarion
The hand’s burnt appearance suggests a physical application of fire in place of the boiling wine usually employed to cleanse a wound – the priest did warn of intense pain. Having previously informed Vicatrion that he was under the influence of an evil entity, Moqorro probably also performed an exorcism as part of the healing ritual. He tells Vicatrion the following:
You come striding through the flames stern and fierce, your great axe dripping blood, blind to the tentacles that grasp you at wrist and neck and ankle, the black strings that make you dance.” ADWD, The Iron Suitor
I’m certain the priest did something about those ‘tentacles’. In fact, to perform the ritual, he asks for a knife of silver or iron, both metals of which have the power to control or banish spirits. Smoke rising from the fingers are ‘wisps’ (also a term for a ghost light). This smoke which continues to emerge is indicative of an inner spiritual purifying fire, still at work in his body and my guess is that this magical inner fire is the result of sex magic (to be explained further down).
The description of the hand above correlates with Dany’s dragon dream in many ways. She ‘feels her flesh sear and blacken and slough away’. She emerges from the dream feeling strong, new and fierce. Hers is a spiritual experience involving the cleansing power of inner fire. My feeling is these two forms of healing fire magic are tied to bringing about both physical and spiritual renewal.
The fire element acts as a physical cleanser during the process of healing.
There is more to the power of fire though: it is also a spiritual cleansing agent.
Fire as a spiritual cleansing agent
A good example of the role of fire in spiritually neutralizing poison is the scene in which Cressen attempts to poison Melisandre with ‘the strangler’. He dies, she lives.
He (Cressen) let the empty cup drop from his fingers to shatter on the floor. “He does have power here, my lord,” the woman said. “And fire cleanses.” At her throat, the ruby shimmered redly.
For once Mel is right. Her Red God does have power. Mel’s inner fire, bestowed on her by her faith in the Lord of Light, cleanses the poison, rendering it ineffective in her body.
Dany goes through a spiritual cleansing process in her dragon dream:
She could hear it singing to her. She opened her arms to the fire, embraced it, let it swallow her whole, let it cleanse her and temper her and scour her clean. She could feel her flesh sear and blacken and slough away, could feel her blood boil and turn to steam, and yet there was no pain. She felt strong and new and fierce.
One can debate on what exactly is being cleansed here. I propose that Dany is washed off the taint of madness, which she may have inherited from her father Aerys. That she experiences a complete spiritual renewal of the physical body, including her blood, which turns to steam, strongly suggests that any genetic defects (or poisonous spirits) she was born with were eliminated by the dragonfire. In another parallel to Moqorro’s healing ritual, here too, the dragon sings.
Melisandre experiences similar purification during one of her visions:
The red priestess shuddered. Blood trickled down her thigh, black and smoking. The fire was inside her, an agony, an ecstasy, filling her, searing her, transforming her. Shimmers of heat traced patterns on her skin, insistent as a lover’s hand.
An inner fire consumes Mel, causing her to physically shed smoking black menstrual blood. Since menstruation is itself a cleansing process, designed to rid the womb off its old ‘nest’ of blood in order to prepare for a new round of possible conception, I’m inclined to attribute this to another form of spiritual cleansing, which actually manifests itself physically (similar to Victarion’s case). Mel is purified off the taint (signified by the black blood) of having birthed shadows, possibly to prepare her for another round of conception. My reasoning: this happens while she’s having a vision. The flames show her ‘bodies locked together in lust, writhing and rolling and clawing’. That, and reference to ‘ecstasy and the shimmers of heat, insistent as a lover’s hand’ and the black, smoking blood emerging from her womb evoke strong sexual connotations and the birth of something dark and shadowy. There’s undoubtedly a spiritual element common to these instances of fire magic.
Fire liberates souls
Not only does fire function as a spiritual cleansing agent, it also serves the purpose of releasing the spirits/souls of
a] living men sacrificed to the fire
b] the cremated dead
c] enslaved undead wights
Varamyr’s tainted heart
When Orell’s eagle, now in Varamyr’s possession, is brought down by Mel’s fire, it burns, causing the skinchanger’s ninth death. The extraordinary thing it is the fire consumes both him and the bird. The flames devour him inside, turn his heart into a black cinder and at the same time, drive his spirit out of the eagle. (Note how his black heart in conjunction with the driven out spirit correlates with Victarion’s burnt hand, which emits wisps of smoke).
… then the flames had turned his heart into a blackened cinder and sent his spirit screaming back into his own skin, and for a little while he’d gone mad.
In a previous essay, I show how he acquired his advanced skinchanging skills by committing
an abomination – eating of the flesh of man while inhabiting one of his wolves. The fire coursing through Orell’s eagle, inhabited by Varamyr, scours him clean, removing the blood taint he brought upon himself by eating his mentor Haggon’s heart. What he engaged in was bloodmagic.
At the same time, Varamyr’s spirit is driven out of the bird. Note the similarity to Dany’s cleansing – the consuming flames which burn his heart to a black cinder – and here we also get a reference to madness.
Breaker of Icy Chains and Liberator of the Soul
Fire drives Varamyr’s spirit out of the eagle. Similarly, fire will drive a man’s spirit out of his body. We see this with Drogo as well. His soul is released when the fire of the pyre consumes his mortal body.
Followers of the Red God also believe in the power of fire as a liberator of souls.
“R’hllor,” Ser Godry sang, “we give you now four evil men. With glad hearts and true, we give them to your cleansing fires, that the darkness in their souls might be burned away. Let their vile flesh be seared and blackened, that their spirits might rise free and pure to ascend into the light. Accept their blood, Oh lord, and melt the icy chains that bind your servants. Hear their pain, and grant strength to our swords that we might shed the blood of your enemies. Accept this sacrifice, and show us the way to Winterfell, that we might vanquish the unbelievers.”
“Lord of Light, accept this sacrifice,” a hundred voices echoed.
ADWD, The Sacrifice
The prayer to R’hllor sums up the power of fire nicely – all the elements of purification are listed: cleansing, flesh that is seared and blackened and the liberation of the soul. Interesting also is the choice of words – ‘melt the icy chains that bind your servants’. We know that fire kills wights; I have argued before that it destroys the bone which contain the spark of life via which they are raised. In addition to this, fire also destroys the magic that binds the souls of the undead to the will of their controllers. This is demonstrated in Sam’s chapter in ASOS; he overcomes wightified Small Paul by thrusting a hot coal into its mouth. The wight’s blue eyes extinguish on contact with the fire, severing the magical bond (icy chains) and killing it off. Once the soul-enslaving bond is destroyed, the spirits of the undead are free to leave the body.
One last piece of direct evidence confirming the role of fire in liberating souls comes from Jon’s experience with Othor:
Whatever demonic force moved Othor had been driven out by the flames; the twisted thing they had found in the ashes had been no more than cooked meat and charred bone. AGOT, Jon
Numerous passages describe the ruby at Mel’s throat as pulsing, or glowing – emitting light energy, indicating that the gemstone is a conduit for magic – fire magic. Glamoured Mance even feels the warmth of his slave ruby through its iron bracelet.
“The glamor, aye.” In the black iron fetter about his wrist, the ruby seemed to pulse. He tapped it with the edge of his blade. The steel made a faint click against the stone. “I feel it when I sleep. Warm against my skin, even through the iron.
When Melisandre speaks a word, ‘ruby on the wildling’s wrist darkened, and the wisps of light and shadow around him writhed and faded’. She tells us:
“Call it what you will. Glamor, seeming, illusion. R’hllor is Lord of Light, Jon Snow, and it is given to his servants to weave with it, as others weave with thread.”
The ruby has many uses in metaphysical healing and magic. In psychic work it is regarded
as a divination and dream tool. It is a source of courage, self-confidence and inner strength
and is the perfect aide to increasing passion. Physically, the ruby is associated with the heart, the circulatory system, body temperature and detoxification. It is the stone of the root chakra as well as being stimulating and balancing for the heart chakra.
Through its association with fire, the ruby is a stone of high vitality and power, capable of amplifying the spiritual energy of the wearer or of the energies flowing through it. As a priestess who controls the element of fire, Mel draws on the properties of the gem to increase and direct her magic, weaving light and shadow to cause her glamours.
While engaging in very potent magic, the gem becomes extremely hot and can pose a danger to the magician:
When the flames had licked at Rattleshirt, the ruby at her throat had grown so hot that she had feared her own flesh might start to smoke and blacken.
The ruby is intensely hot, indicative of a great deal of magical power channelling through it – power that wouldn’t be available to her without the help of the gem. Even though Mel herself is possessed of inner fire, she has insufficient energy for keeping up the magical illusion while Rattleshirt is burning (fire also consumes). Her master ruby is probably drawing on an additional source to keep up the illusion – the magic in the Wall. She does admit outright that her powers have grown stronger in the presence of the Wall.
Note also that the fake Lightbringer has a square cut ruby in its hilt, no doubt intended to give the sword its fiery glow and magical properties in place of the real thing – the heart of a sacrificed woman (Nissa Nissa). There’s supporting evidence hinting at the relationship between hearts, rubies and swords in one of Sansa’s chapters:
Joffrey drew his sword. The pommel was a ruby cut in the shape of a heart, set between a lion’s jaws. Three fullers were deeply incised in the blade. “My new blade, Hearteater.”
While the latest version of Lightbringer is an improvement over the one Stannis originally pulls out of the Mother during the burning of the Seven, it still is not genuine. As Maester Aemon notes, the sword emits no warmth; the fiery glow is only an illusion mediated by the ruby.
Rubies and Shadowbinding
Mel doesn’t only birth shadows, she is also a shadowbinder. Shadowbinding is precisely what she does when she glamours Mance to look like the Lord of Bones. She draws a shadow from the bone armour of the Lord of Bones and binds that shadow to Mance to disguise him. Then she also binds Mance’s soul to herself with the help of the master and slave rubies:
“So long as he wears the gem he is bound to me, blood and soul,” the red priestess said.
Note also the use of black iron, to which the slave ruby is attached. Iron, we know, is employed to keep the spirits of the Kings of Winter in their tombs. Iron thus is an aid to ‘trapping’ spirits and is employed here to keep both both shadow and soul bound to Mel.
We can think of shadowbinding in terms of ‘spiritual handcuffing’. Glamouring with rubies is a form of soul binding mediated by fire magic. This is what a shadowbinder does.
The Shadows Come to Dance
Lots of things dance in ASOIAF. Dragons dance, bears dance, shadows dance, the dead dance. Dancing flames are also mentioned several times and together with what we know about shadows, should put us in mind of Patchface’s songs – ‘the shadows come to dance, my lord ….’ and ‘in the dark, the dead are dancing’.
Here’s one example of dancing flames:
Green flames leapt into the sky and whirled around each other. Tommen shied away, till Margaery took his hand and said, “Look, the flames are dancing. Just as we did, my love.”
“They are.” His voice was filled with wonder. “Mother, look, they’re dancing.”
Now that we know more about the role of fire in shadowbinding mediated by master/slave rubies, figuring out what dancing shadows are is not difficult. Additionally, not only do shadows dance, dead men also dance. Dead men (slaves) are dancing like puppets on a string, to the tune of the one controlling the master gem. The souls of wights are enslaved and controlled by a power similar to that of the master-slave ruby relationship. The only difference is that rubies are not involved in controlling wights. This is achieved by sapphires or more correctly, magic that relates to the controlling and channelling power of sapphires. The sapphire itself belongs to the same group of mineral as the ruby. The only difference between the two gems are the inclusions which give them their different colouring. The bright blue eyes of white walkers and wights are the clue to this soul-enslaving power. Just to be clear, the dancing dead are subject to ice-magic.
The Ruby as a Protective Shield
The ruby is also used in a protective capacity as a ‘shielding stone’, thought to protect the wearer from both physical and psychic attacks. As such, this ‘King of Precious Stones‘ often adorned the breast plates and shields of kings and knights of old. When Ned recalls Rhaegar’s participation during the Harrenhal tourney, he thinks: “… and it seemed no lance could touch him“. Perhaps protection was the purpose of the rubies on Rhaegar’s amour and perhaps they did play a role in his victory at the Tourney of Harrenhal.
Interestingly, Aegon wears a necklace of square-cut rubies, given to him by Illyrio.
At his throat he wore three huge square-cut rubies on a chain of black iron, a gift from Magister Illyrio. Red and black. Dragon colors. ADWD, The Lost Lord
Huge square-cut rubies on a chain of black iron. I doubt they are simply decorative. They sound like master rubies. One can speculate as to the purpose of these rubies. Are they part of a slave/master relationship, as suggested by the black iron chain or do they serve as protection? Perhaps both. Aegon is eager to play a leading role in forthcoming battles. Dying early in the game is not an option. It makes sense for his ruby necklace to act as a shield against attacks.
I just love that image by sofieoldberg!.
Sexual Magic is based on the natural polarity between man and woman and works on the premise that sexual energy is a potent force that can be harnessed to generate a desired result. The goal can be anything from promoting healing, to attracting money or achieving spiritual enlightenment.
In their book entitled Sexual Healing: The Shaman Method of Sex Magic, Baba Dez Nichols and Kamala Devi write the following:
… sex magic is a spiritual practice that uses sexual desire to manifest tangible effect in the physical world. One of the most powerful experiences that we have as human beings is orgasmic energy, and if we can pair it with intent, then we can direct the most powerful manifesting force available on earth.
Certain occult traditions such as the Ordo Templi Orientis taught the secrets of sex magic to initiates. According to the English occultist and writer, Aleister Crowley, himself a member of both the OTO and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, sex magic is the supreme magical power.
He defined three degrees of sex magic:
- masturbatory or autosexual magical techniques
- heterosexual magical techniques
- anal intercourse magical techniques
In Buddhism, some tantric methods also advocate sexual practices, which are thought to release amounts of energies large enough to aide in the process of activating the kundalini forces required for achieving enlightenment.
ASOIAF is rife with sexual themes including rape, prostitution, and vows of chastity. The TV-Series exploits these themes to an extent which smacks of sensationalism but I have come to the realisation that this is probably also a prerequisite to understanding underlying magical processes at a later date. When these themes arise in the books, they contain a hidden subtext related to magical rites and powers. In fact, sexual magic is probably a key method practiced by R’hllorists who keep temple prostitutes on the site of their religious houses.
The red temple buys them as children and makes them priests or temple prostitutes or warriors.
Melisandre herself is anything but prudish. She is a figure of fatal enchantment. As a former slave and now priestess of the Red God, she must have been initiated into prostitution during her education at the temple. She is probably proficient in the ‘way of the seven sighs’. She employs her powers of seduction to ensare Stannis, has visions of ‘bodies locked in lust’ and relates her flames to a lover’s kisses:
She would sooner sit bathed in the ruddy glow of her red lord’s blessed flames, her cheeks flushed by the wash of heat as if by a lover’s kisses.
An attractive woman with a ‘terrible’ beauty, she actively employs her charms to seduce. In this passage, we witness her attempt to seduce Ser Davos:
“Is the brave Ser Onions so frightened of a passing shadow? Take heart, then. Shadows only live when given birth by light, and the king’s fires burn so low I dare not draw off any more to make another son. It might well kill him.” Melisandre moved closer. “With another man, though … a man whose flames still burn hot and high … if you truly wish to serve your king’s cause, come to my chamber one night. I could give you pleasure such as you have never known, and with your life-fire I could make …”
She does not succeed with Davos but she does with Stannis. Mel is looking for a man whose fires burn ‘hot and high’, someone with a potent life force that she can draw on for her magic. Drawing on Stannis’ life-fires to birth shadows is sexual magic and sexual magic belongs in the realm of fire magic.
“Fire. The bright gift of the Lord of Light”
Isn’t it ironic that Mel makes this statement shortly before giving birth to a deadly shadow-assassin? Like Davos, we would associate the shadow with darkness but Mel is actually right. Shadows cannot exist without light.
“Shadow?” Davos felt his flesh prickling. “A shadow is a thing of darkness.”
“You are more ignorant than a child, ser knight. There are no shadows in the dark. Shadows are the servants of light, the children of fire. The brightest flame casts the darkest shadows.” ACOK, Davos II
Fire is a life giving force both in the material world and in a spiritual context. Perhaps it’s easier to visualize a fiery life-force becoming shadow when we consider the element in its role as a transformer. The short tale of the Night’s King reminds us that when he gave his corpse queen his seed, he gave her his soul as well. So when Mel draws on Stannis’ life-fire, she really collects two things – his sperm and a part of his soul. His sperm enables her to conceive in order to subsequently convert/transform this life-force into a semi-physical entity – a shadow. In line with the idea that fire consumes, her magic is depleting in nature. The life-force she takes from Stannis is no longer available to him; he is left gaunt, hollow-eyed with a haggard look about him.
Even in his bulky fur cloak and heavy armor, Stannis looked like a man with one foot in the grave. What little flesh he’d carried on his tall, spare frame at Deepwood Motte had melted away during the march. The shape of his skull could be seen under his skin, and his jaw was clenched so hard Asha feared his teeth might shatter.
ADWD, The King’s Prize
The shadow itself appears to be an aspect of Stannis himself – both Davos and Catelyn recognise it – it is a clone of some part of his part of his consciousness, perhaps a darker aspect of his personality. Given that, I speculate that the shadow-assassins did not need to be controlled or ‘told’ what to do; rather, as an ethereal consciousness, they knew where to go and what to do.
The Highest form of Sex Magic
By viewing the forging of Lightbringer as a metaphor for an act of procreation, we also understand that the most powerful results of sex magic can only be achieved by a union of loving, consenting partners.
‘Nissa Nissa,’ he said to her, for that was her name, ‘bare your breast, and know that I love you best of all that is in this world.’ She did this thing, why I cannot say, and Azor Ahai thrust the smoking sword through her living heart.
Indeed, we don’t know why Nissa Nissa consented. Perhaps she genuinely did, or perhaps she was tricked into consenting. The point is that Azor Ahai loved her best and she did consent.
Sex magic has its rules, explained in this passage by a 19th century writer:
Paschal Beverly Randolph sums up the requirements for sex magic in his writings:
If a man has an intelligent and loving wife, with whom he is in complete accord, he can work out the problems [of how to achieve magical results] by her aid. They are a radical soul-sexive series of energies…The rite is a prayer in all cases, and the most powerful [that] earthly beings can employ…it is best for both man and wife to act together for the attainment of the mysterious objects sought.
Success in any case requires the adjuvancy of a superior woman. THIS IS THE LAW! A harlot or low woman is useless for all such lofty and holy purposes, and just so is a bad, impure, passion-driven apology for a man. The woman shall not be one who accepts rewards for compliance; nor a virgin; or under eighteen years of age; or another’s wife; yet must be one who hath known man and who has been and still is capable of intense mental, volitional and affectional energy, combined with perfect sexive and orgasmal ability; for it requires a double crisis to succeed… [Source]
The Power of a Kiss
The kiss, which ignites passions in a prelude to and during sex, is also a means by which the dead come back to life. Lord Beric rises when he receives ‘The Lord’s Kiss’ , a fiery kiss, from Thoros, a conclusive example of the role of fire-magic in reanimation. The ghost of High Heart who is aged beyond belief, demands a kiss for her dreams, pointing out how old she is in the process. Does she associate the kiss with rejuvenation? I think so. The ‘whispering heads’ are also revived with a woman’s kiss, as is the mysterious Shrouded Lord. The song Symeon Silver-Tongue tries to blackmail Tyrion with, surreptitiously informs us of the life-giving properties of a woman’s kiss:
For she was his secret treasure, she was his shame and his bliss.
And a chain and a keep are nothing, compared to a woman’s kiss.
Hands of gold are always cold, but a woman’s hands are warm.
Cleverly composed verses, with more than a hint at the ‘hands of gold’ that strangle Shae plus an additional nod at Coldhands, an undead wight. Both are contrasted with a woman’s kiss and the warmth of her hands.
Need I say more?
Kissed by Fire
Reading the above lines with this in mind then sheds a ton of light on the expression ‘kissed by fire’ and why these folks are lucky. Those kissed by fire are possessed of the intrinsic magical inner fire that contributes to the restoration of life and imbues a sword with magical power (Nissa Nissa). Ygritte, who was Jon’s ‘shame and his bliss’ shared her ‘luck’ willingly with him, going beyond a kiss. Their union in the caves was perfect, the highest form of sexual magic, fulfilling all the requirements stipulated by Paschal Beverly Randolph in his writings. And George beautifully incorporates a reference to R’hllor’s kiss at the end of their loving mutual experience:
“Would you …” She hesitated.
“What?” he prompted, as the torch began to gutter.
“Do it again?” Ygritte blurted. “With your mouth? The lord’s kiss? And I … I could see if you liked it any.”
By the time the torch burned out, Jon Snow no longer cared. His guilt came back afterward, but weaker than before. If this is so wrong, he wondered, why did the gods make it feel so good?
The Lord’s Kiss, guilt and bliss neatly wrapped up in one quote.
Sexual magic will play a role in Jon’s resurrection. I imagine the reanimation process to involve all elemental forms of magic as well as two-fold fire-magic. We have seen that the kiss, which reanimated Beric and Lady Stoneheart was not powerful enough to restore them completely. Clearly, there is a double meaning to ‘the Lord’s Kiss’. Something more is required of fire magic. Sexual magic. The only question is who will perform this?
While we’re on the subject, consider also what Theon is ordered to do on Ramsay’s wedding night. Compare the two quotes and note the wording. Ramsay forces Theon into a perverted sexual ritual.
Ramsay rose, the firelight shining on his face.
“Reek, get over here. Get her ready for me.”
For a moment he did not understand. “I … do you mean … m’lord, I have no … I …”
“With your mouth,” Lord Ramsay said. “And be quick about it. If she’s not wet by the time I’m done disrobing, I will cut off that tongue of yours and nail it to the wall.”
ADWD, The Prince of Winterfell
Why does resurrective fire magic have two components?
Lord Beric was only partially restored by Thoros (and the weirwoods). Thoros’ kiss of life healed Beric’s wounds (as pointed out above) and also appeared to restore blood circulation. But that was not enough to restore him fully. There are some clues to the dual components of fire magic in resurrection in the narrative:
First, there is a distiction between the fires of the hearth and the heart, made in the oath sworn to Winterfell by Jojen and Meera. If you’ve read the first part of this series, you will know that that particular quote forms the basis of my entire investigation into elemental magic. The passage itself incorporates all clues pertaining to magic in general. The first part reads:
To Winterfell we pledge the faith of Greywater,” they said together. “Hearth and heart and harvest we yield up to you, my lord…
The hearth is central to every home. It provides warmth, which is the basis for feeling comfortable, for growth and for life. It symbolises the essential quality of fire, that which a human body requires to function and survive.
The heart on the other hand, is the seat of emotion, courage and passion. It beats, circulating blood to all regions. It symbolises our inner fire and many religions believe it to be one of the seats of the soul. We need both fires, the outer ‘hearth’ fire and the spiritual ‘inner’ fire of the heart to be complete and whole.
Secondly, George distinguishes hair ‘kissed by fire’ from hair which is blood and flame:
Ygritte had been kissed by fire; the red priestess was fire, and her hair was blood and flame.
Clearly, hearth and heart are distinct from each other and each plays a part in the resurrection process. Winterfell, with its access to flowing hot water, illustrates this duality as well. The castle profits from both kinds of heat – the external heat of the hearth as well as internal fire:
Of all the rooms in Winterfell’s Great Keep, Catelyn’s bedchambers were the hottest. She seldom had to light a fire. The castle had been built over natural hot springs, and the scalding waters rushed through its walls and chambers like blood through a man’s body, driving the chill from the stone halls, filling the glass gardens with a moist warmth, keeping the earth from freezing. Open pools smoked day and night in a dozen small courtyards. That was a little thing, in summer; in winter, it was the difference between life and death. AGOT, Catelyn
Winterfell’s chambers have hearth fires but they are also heated by internal hot springs, which are aptly described in terms of blood flowing through a man’s body. The hot springs are the heart of Winterfell and Catelyn points out that they are the difference between life and death. Internal fires, then, are the key to a ‘warm raising’; internal fire determines the vital feature of life missing in the ‘cold raising’ of the undead.
From what we know about the role of sexual magic in bringing forth shadows,
I propose that fire-related sex magic is central to reactivating this internal fire. It rebirths the actual heart-spirit part of the soul, necessary for the reanimated person to become a complete living entity (there’ll be more of this in a follow-up essay on resurrection).
Moqorro’s powers of healing revisited
Now that we’ve acquired an overview of fire magic, let’s have another look at Moqorro’s superior healing powers. The question is – did he sleep with the Dusky Woman to increase his magic and effect the healing?
Though this is not stated anywhere, there are a few hints that indicate this may be so. In the following quote, Vicatrion worries about his wound. The passage is reminiscent of some aspects of the Lightbringer legend – the cut was inflicted by a longsword, which he stresses.
It is wielded by a ghost, bringing to mind or the Others with their crystal swords. Then we get a mention of a hot heart, all clues together evoking the piercing of Nissa Nissa by Lightbringer. The ghost with a sword also reminds us of the sword-wielding shadow that killed Renly, birthed by Mel after employing sex to extract life-fire from Stannis.
His left hand still throbbed—a dull pain, but persistent. When he closed his hand into a fist it sharpened, as if a knife were stabbing up his arm. Not a knife, a longsword. A longsword in the hand of a ghost. Serry, that had been his name. A knight, and heir to Southshield. I killed him, but he stabs at me from beyond the grave. From the hot heart of whatever hell I sent him to, he thrusts his steel into my hand and twists.
ADWD, The Iron Suitor
Victarion enters his cabin with the priest, where the dusky woman is waiting:
As he opened the door to the captain’s cabin, the dusky woman turned toward him, silent and smiling … but when she saw the red priest at his side her lips drew back from her teeth, and she hisssssed in sudden fury, like a snake.
ADWD, The Iron Suitor
Her reaction is really odd. Does she know Moqorro personally or has she had dealings with this kind of priest before? If so, the experience couldn’t have been positive for her because her mood changes drastically at the sight of him.
Prior to all this, Victarion’s wound is treated by his maester, a man he has nothing but contempt for. Kerwin has effeminate looks and complains of being raped by members of the crew.
Maesters had their uses, but Victarion had nothing but contempt for this Kerwin. With his smooth pink cheeks, soft hands, and brown curls, he looked more girlish than most girls […].
[…] Not long after that Kerwin had come creeping to the captain to complain that four of the crew had dragged him belowdecks and used him as a woman.
ADWD, The Iron Suitor
Circumstantial evidence, but I can’t get over the feeling that this is another clue to what eventually transpires in Victarion’s cabin.
But the ritual may have been even more sinister than this: it would not surprise me if someone else was sacrificed in order to obtain a heart as well. The clues to this are dispersed throughout ADWD, beginning with Varamyr who admits to eating Haggon’s heart. By doing
this, he engages in a blood ritual which gives him the power to skinchange animals other than wolves (argued here). Later, the warg’s heart is burnt to a black cinder by the internal fire that drives his spirit out of the eagle’s body, an event suggesting a spiritual cleansing process.
In one of Daenery’s chapters, Daario apparently jokingly makes the following statement:
As Daario Naharis took a knee before her, Dany’s heart gave a lurch. His hair was matted with dried blood, and on his temple a deep cut glistened red and raw. His right sleeve was bloody almost to the elbow. “You’re hurt,” she gasped.
“This?” Daario touched his temple. “A crossbowman tried to put a quarrel through my eye, but I outrode it. I was hurrying home to my queen, to bask in the warmth of her smile.” He shook his sleeve, spattering red droplets. “This blood is not mine. One of my serjeants said we should go over to the Yunkai’i, so I reached down his throat and pulled his heart out.
In explaining his bloody sleeve, Daario claims to have reached down a man’s throat to pull his heart out. When Vicatrion emerges from his cabin, his hand is charred and his left arm is bloody to the elbow:
He was naked from the waist up, his left arm blood to the elbow.
Connecting the dots between the above quotes, we can infer that Moqorro’s healing ritual
may have included a blood sacrifice, the use of fire and metal to heal and to contain evil spirits and sexual magic to create internal cleansing spiritual fire. We’ve seen Mel’s internal fire cause agony and ecstasy with a decidedly sexual note in the background. She oozes blood, black smoking. Victarion’s healed hand is black and smoking. My guess is ritual sex with the dusky woman conferred inner spiritual fire upon Victarion, with the express purpose of driving out the ‘tentacles’ or evil spirits accompanying him.
That flames act as a kind of crystal ball to initiated priests of the Lord of Light is well known.
Well, it’s kind of logical that fire should be associated with clairvoyance or ‘second sight’. Without light, sight is not possible and where darkness is an aide to developing psychic powers, it is the fire principle that makes the prophetic visions possible.
In the narrative, many characters have dreams accompanying fevers. Dany’s fever-dream leads to her ‘waking the dragon’. Jamie tries to suppress his fever dreams with dreamwine but has a very disturbing one anyway. Brienne has strange fever dreams after her encounter with Biter as well.
Maester Luwin associates fever with dreams and queer thoughts:
“I agree that it is odd that both you boys dreamed the same dream, yet when you stop to consider it, it’s only natural. You miss your lord father, and you know that he is a captive. Fear can fever a man’s mind and give him queer thoughts.
Tyrion drinks Myrish fire wine and hopes to dream of dragons:
He drained it down, and yawned, and filled it once again. If I drink enough fire wine, he told himself, perhaps I’ll dream of dragons.
The Ghost of High Heart has eyes like hot coals – her dreams are prophetic and though sometimes cloaked in metaphor, they are really accurate. Bloodraven, with his remaining red eye (also described as a glowing ember) is certainly into prophetic dreaming and he also has the power to appear in other’s dreams in the form of the three-eyed crow. Let’s not forget that Melisandre also has red eyes and that the weirwood’s carved eyes are red with sap. We can thus infer that the red-eyed children of the forest have prophetic dreaming abilities related to fire magic.
Daenys the Dreamer, a Targaryen and ‘fire person’ accurately prophesized the Doom of Valyria and is said to have written a whole book filled with her prophetic dreams.
George associates Ghost’s eyes, which glow like fire with a psychic link – Jon can taste the hot blood of Ghost’s kill.
… when Ghost appeared beside him, his warm breath steaming in the cold. In the moonlight, his red eyes glowed like pools of fire. The taste of hot blood filled Jon’s mouth, and he knew that Ghost had killed that night. ASOS, Jon
There are too many such associations to list here but one thing appears to stand out: red-eyed seers who are associated with weirwoods appear to have the upper hand in terms of accurately predicting events. Jon actually makes a distinction between Ghost’s eyes and Melisandre’s eyes that suggests as much:
Red eyes, Jon realized, but not like Melisandre’s. He had a weirwood’s eyes. Red eyes, red mouth, white fur. Blood and bone, like a heart tree. He belongs to the old gods, this one.
Mel reads the flames, which are fuelled by wood. One could hypothesize that the wood releases its secrets to the fire, the essence of which Mel sees in her flames in the form of visions. Without a direct psychic link to the wood (living trees), she is unable to interpret the visual messages received conclusively. The secrets she sees are ‘half-revealed and half-concealed within the sacred flames’.
She can perceive danger to herself though; her ability to do this is related to the idea that a person’s future can be tasted in a drop of blood. Note that both Jon and Bran taste a victim’s blood via a psychic link, that Bran’s weirwood paste contains blood and that weirwoods require blood sacrifice from time to time.
Jon ‘knows’ that his wolf has killed without seeing the incident while Bran tastes blood and sees the sacrifice take place. Tasting blood is thus related to discovering past, present or future knowledge and in Martin’s universe; it seems one’s entire life story is bound up in the blood itself. Mel doesn’t have to taste her own blood. The psychic link to her own blood already exists and she has direct access to its secrets. In this case, the flames are simply the medium via which the visions of her own personal future come to life before her eyes.
The author hints at the relationship between blood and Mel’s ability to see her own future in the flames in this passage:
“If some crow wants to slip a knife between my ribs whilst I’m spooning up some supper, he’s welcome to try. Hobb’s gruel would taste better with a drop of blood to spice it.”
Melisandre paid the naked steel no mind. If the wildling had meant her harm, she would have seen it in her flames. Danger to her own person was the first thing she had learned to see, back when she was still half a child, a slave girl bound for life to the great red temple. It was still the first thing she looked for whenever she gazed into a fire. “It is their eyes that should concern you, not their knives,” she warned him. ADWD, Melisandre I
Three-Finger-Hobb is a subtle reference to the CotF, who are also three-fingered, and from whom Bran receives his daily ration of blood-spiced weirwood paste, designed to awaken his psychic gifts. Slipping a knife between ribs evokes the notion of blood and sacrifice.
Right after Mance mentions Hobb’s gruel we get the quote about Mel’s ability to see danger to herself and an additional reference to eyes that in this case, might see through Mance’s disguise.
- Fire promotes the healing of grevious wounds.
- It neutralizes poisons in the blood
- It drives out or releases souls from the body
- It breaks the bonds of spiritual enslavement
- Rubies amplify and direct fire-magic to shield, cause illusions and to bind the soul of one person to another.
- Fire magic is involved in prophetic dreams and visions
- Fire magic is a component in resurrection
- Sexual magic is a form of fire magic used to generate internal spiritual fire, to birth shadows or to restore that part of soul associated with the heart in resurrection.
So, that’s it for now. Thanks for reading!
- Back to Top
- Healing Power of Fire
- Fire and Spiritual Cleansing
- Rubies and Glamours
- Sexual Magic
Read Part One of Elements and Magic in ASOIAF, covering magic in general and – Earth Magic
Thanks for reaching the finishing line and feel free to comment!