The Witchcraft of Game of Thrones

The Witchcraft of Game of Thrones April 9, 2019

Game of Thrones certainly has bewitched millions with its powerful mix of complex plots, breathtaking scenery, violence, sex, and magic. Witchcraft abounds in the television series, from shapeshifting to conjuring shadow spirit babies. Modern witchcraft shares many common practices with Game of Thrones, since George R.R. Martin drew heavily from some of the same sources who influenced modern witchcraft. From the nature of the spirits summoned to the symbols used, the witchery of Game of Thrones reflects the practices of witches today, and can provide inspiration for our own magic.

Natural magic abounds in Westeros, but it’s what the characters do with it in their witchery that’s truly fascinating, especially how it relates to witchcraft today. Below is a sampling of the witchery performed during the seven seasons of the hit HBO show to help set the mood for the final season.

The Transformative Power of Fire And Ice

Daenerys is reborn when she emerges unscathed from the funeral pyre of her beloved, becoming the Mother of Dragons. Fire, like blood, is everywhere in Game of Thrones, in both mundane and magical ways. Dragon fire is the combination of both. Ice is just as important in the series, especially in the threat of the massive army of ice-zombies led by the Night King. Fire and ice imprison, kill and liberate. Freezing spells using the image of your enemy are one way to practice Game of Thrones influenced witchery, perhaps add an appropriate symbol from the show.

The army of zombies, the White Walkers, represents the fear of the unknown, the stranger that’s an extension of the collective shadow self. It is our darkest side wrapped in ice. Winter is coming. Be prepared, witches.

The Night King, the most feared threat in Game of Thrones. Is he the shadow of the Stark family? HBO image.

Glamour Magic

Melisandre, often referred to as The Red Woman, definitely fits the image of the witch: dangerous, seductive and powerful. A priestess of the Lord of Light, she’s used so many types of witchery: blood magic using leeches, sex magic, birthing a shadow baby, necromancy and prophesy to name a few. Lord of Light is an epithet sometimes applied to Lucifer, who is seen as a Witch Father by some.

When it was revealed that Melisandre was using an enchanted amulet to make herself appear young and beautiful, nobody was surprised. While not as extreme as her magic, many modern witches cast glamour spells to magically enhance their appearance. There’s a darker side to this witchery in the shadowy meaning of making Melisandre really a hag: female power is ugly underneath all the glamour.

Melisandre without her glamour amulet on. HBO image.

Illusion

Danerys is imprisoned by the illusions of the vile Qartheen warlock Pyat Pree so he can feed off the power of her dragons to make his magic stronger. It doesn’t end well.

Qartheen warlock Pyat had ill gotten plans for Daenerys. HBO image.

Shapeshifting

Sometimes considered a type of glamour witchery or illusion, transforming one’s appearance to that of another creature is a spiritual practice that’s used by many modern witches to deepen their understanding of the mysteries. In Game of Thrones, Jaqen H’ghar, literally shapeshifts into others as one of the Faceless Men. However, he also transforms into many archetypes as well, including being Arya’s protector and teacher. Like many mythic shapeshifters, he brings transformation not only to himself, but to those around him. Explore the power of his character for insight on how to transform yourself.

Jaqen H’ghar, one of the Faceless Men and Arya’s mentor. HBO image.

Animal Spirits And Skinchangers

Animal spirit magic often includes blending energies with the goal of adapting the archetypal powers of the creature. This power has long been associated with the witch, such as the lore regarding the witch taking on the form of her companion rabbit to travel the night unseen. Compared to the books, the television series downplays the animal spirit magic, especially that of the Stark children’s direwolves who are sort of corporeal embodiments of guardian spirits for the siblings. The epic story of their father finding six orphaned pups, one for each of his children foreshadows the coming disasters.

Arya and Nymeria. HBO image.

Old Nan used to tell me stories about magical people who could live inside stags, birds, wolves…”―Bran Stark to Maester Luwin

Skinchangers in the HBO series posses this ability. One example is Orell, the Wildling scout who uses his bonded eagle to look out for danger. When he is killed by Jon Snow, Orell shifted his consciousness into his eagle.

Warging is the term used in Game of Thrones to describe possessing a wolf to travel through time and to distant locations. Bran, the disabled Stark son, is a skinchanger whose warging was unleashed after he was pushed out of a window. This is a reminder that true initiation into mystical powers often comes with a very high price. Bran also possesses his protector, Hodor, in order to minimize disaster. While not possession, taking the perspective of those who we seek to understand is a form of merging our energy with theirs. The practice of connecting to the higher self of another is another form of this blending.

Read more about The Forgotten Magic of Game of Thrones: Greenseers and Wargs 

Bran during one of his visions. HBO image.

Alchemy

Cersei, in her Walk of Atonement symbolizes the walk of shame enforced on many witches for speaking their truth, especially when they grow too powerful. She gets her revenge when she kills them all with wildfire, a deadly potion created by The Alchemists Guild. The use of poisons to gain power and other forms of baneful witchcraft are controversial parts of modern witchcraft. However, their allure as a symbolic claim of sovereignty can’t be denied.

Prophesy

Visions of the future abound in Game of Thrones, with various seers predicting diverse and dire outcomes for many of the characters. Cersei herself received a dismal future from Maggy, a woods witch, who predicted that all her children would die before her.

Maggy The Frog, a woods witch. HBO image.

Purchase The Game of Thrones Tarot to practice divination with the spirits of Westeros.

Telepathy And Spirit Guides

Bran’s  relationship with the Three-Eyed Raven reflects that that some modern witches have with mentors, whether they be living or dead. Their connection travels across space and time, binding them together. Brynden often shapeshifts into a literal three-eyed raven when he visits Bran’s dreams and visions.

Brynden, the Three-Eyed Raven. HBO image.

Potions And Poisons

The use of lethal poisons has historically been associated with witchcraft, especially by women. This trope is on full display in several murders in Game of Thrones. Wildfire may be more in the domain of alchemy than traditional witchcraft, but the potion that killed Khal Drogo hearkens back to the feared potions of witches of old. Poisoning was historically associated with female aggression and witches. Game of Thrones has many poisoning victims,  including Olenna Tyrell’s murder of Joffrey.

The kiss of death bestowed on  Myrcella Baratheon is another example of women’s use of poisons, when she is given The Long Farewell by   Ellaria Sand.

Myrcella Baratheon’s dead body held by her true father, Jamie Lannister. HBO image.

Necromancy

All men must die, but some don’t stay dead. This is certainly true for some of the residents of Westeros. In Game of Thrones there are three ways that necromancy is practiced: resurrection by the Lord of Light; reanimation by the Night’s King, and Frankensteinism by ex-Maester Qyburn. Jon Snow’s reanimation by Melisandre is one example. Beric Dondarrion was resurrected by Thoros of Myr, who, like Melisandre, follows the Lord of Light. Qyburn brings The Mountain back to life as a potent weapon using a blend of science and alchemy, playing the show’s Dr. Frankenstein.

Beric Dondarrion. HBO image.

Blood Magic

Maggy predicted Cersei’s future by sucking on her blood after she had her prick her finger. Danerys is promised that blood magic can restore Khal Drogo.

Mirri Maz Durr, the godswife who was responsible for Khal Drogo’s death. Daenerys burned her alive. HBO image.

Melisandre uses those leeches to cast her death spell on the “Three Kings.” Blood in general is a red river running through the series, as is magic using the powers of the life force. Blood is used in modern witchcraft as an energetic representation of the practitioner or the target of the spell, but not typically in such nefarious ways as in Game of Thrones.

Sex Magic

No discussion of the witchcraft in Game of Thrones would be complete without writing about Melisandre’s use of sex as a weapon of witchcraft, including her leeching of Gendry discussed above. Melisandre’s coupling with Stannis in order to conceive the shadow spirit that kills his brother is a seminal moment, but the birth of the creature is truly unforgettable.

Melisandre gives birth to the murderous shadow. HBO image.

Practicing Witchery Using Game of Thrones

In addition to the previously mentioned Game of Thrones tarot, If you’re in possession of the books, bibliomancy with these tomes would be an excellent undertaking. The power of the written word is a dominant theme throughout both the books and the show, from magical texts to recording family lines. Honoring ancestors although not strictly witchcraft is a common practice for modern practitioners and was a huge part of the religions of Game of Thrones. The archetypes represented in the characters of practicing witchcraft in the series are powerful ways to explore ourselves and others. Finding inspiration for our own spells and spiritual development from Game of Thrones is indeed bewitching, as I’m sure watching the final season will be.

We’ll be discussing the witchcraft of Game of Thrones for the next several weeks in The Witches’ Realm.

All images HBO.

About Cyndi
Cyndi is a witch and spiritual teacher, a trained energetic healer, psychic and herbalist. Her teaching and writing extends from where she stands at the crossroads of personal development, spirituality and witchcraft. Keeping Her Keys: An Introduction to Hekate’s Modern Witchcraft explores Hekate from her ancient origins to modern understanding through magic and personal development is available now from Moon Books. True Magic: Unleashing Your Inner Witch uses the magic of the elements and the three realms to activate your true witch powers and will be available later in 2019 from Moon as well. Connect with her on Facebook or at keepingherkeys.com to learn more about her teaching and writing. Cyndi lives in rural coastal Nova Scotia with her two sons where she can often be found wandering the cliffs or wild foraging plants. She lives what she teaches: fierce love, emotional courage and true magic. You can read more about the author here.
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  • Pingback: The Forgotten Magic of Game of Thrones: Greenseers and Wargs – Living The Liminal: Modern Witchcraft Musings()

  • persephone

    I’ve read that the word translated as witch from Hebrew in the bible actually means poisoner. I haven’t researched it myself, though.

  • Miguel Cruz Cares

    Whose spending their time and negative energy reading something they don’t believe in? Your social calendar must be chock full

  • Dana W

    Bumped into it by random chance. Still does not invalidate my statement. If you think Game of Thrones is magic, or that magic is real, you need serious mental heal care.

  • Rowe Donna

    Yes, but do you insult people you bump into in real life? Why do it online? Besides, I’m certain they realize Game of Thrones isn’t real, (as you stated in you first comment).

    I don’t believe in magic, either, but I’m a fan of GoT, and I found the author’s analysis fascinating.

  • Nick White

    Ok Dana you have made a statement i would like to see your research and proof that magic does not exists? Just because you say it does not exist is not prove, so we all wait for your 100% proof that its hocus pocus.

  • Dana W

    You can’t prove a negative. Proof falls on the positive claimant. It’s not up to me to prove something does not exist. Its up to the person who makes the positive claim to prove something exists. Seriously? Did you even graduate high school?