If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, or if you haven’t been living under a rock for the last eight years, then you know that people die A LOT in the series.
But have you ever noticed how the dead are cared for in the GoT universe? Just like how there are many customs throughout the world when it comes to honoring the dead, there also are many customs in GoT.
Let’s take a look at a few in honor of the series finale.
This article looks at Game of Thrones funeral traditions and is part of a series that highlights how different cultures care for their dead. Previous parts of the series are about Swazi funeral traditions and Myanmarese funeral traditions, among others.
You Win or You Die
One of the first funerals we see in the Game of Thrones series is one in the Great Sept of Baelor, a center for worship of the Faith of the Seven in King’s Landing. Many funerals for those faithful to The Seven take place in this sept, and the funerals of this faith are often more complicated than many of the other funeral traditions in the series.
These funerals involve an open casket type of visitation, with the deceased laid upon an altar. Stones with painted eyes are placed on their closed eyelids, which represent the opening of the eyes in the afterlife. Men have swords placed in their clasped hands.
These funerals also involve embalming, with organs on display in seven urns near the body, similar to the mummification process of ancient Egyptian funerals. The body is cared for by Silent Sisters, who are the Game of Thrones equivalent of modern-day funeral directors.
The North Remembers
In the North, families typically say goodbye to their loved ones and then bury them. One of the most well-known examples of this is the extensive crypts beneath Winterfell, which are home to many of the Stark family’s dead relatives.
And Now His Watch Is Ended
When it comes to the Night’s Watch, the sworn protectors of the Wall, cremation is the preferred method of disposition. Members of the Night’s Watch are burned on a funeral pyre, with a eulogy given that ends in the traditional line “and now his watch is ended.”
There is one notable exception to this rule — those who commit treason are hanged and receive no eulogy. They can, however, say their last words if they so wish.
Winter Is Coming
When it comes to the free folk, or the wildlings, north of the Wall — cremation is the way to go. Though this is not actually due to their religion or traditions, but rather out of necessity. Without burning them, bodies can turn into wights that fight for the army of the dead.
What Is Dead May Never Die
The Ironborn, who are native to the Iron Islands, practice burials at sea. This seems appropriate given their seafaring ways and their worship of the Drowned God.
During these funerals, there is a common eulogy: “Lord, take your servant back beneath the waves. Feed the creatures of your kingdom on their flesh. Pull their bones down to your depths to rest beside their ancestors. What is dead may never die.”
The House of Black and White
Servants of the Many-Faced God care for those who end up at the House of Black and White, a temple in Braavos, upon their death. Their bodies are washed and dressed, and their faces kept for use by the assassins known as the Faceless Men.
The Night Lands
The Dothraki hordes are similar to many others in that they burn their dead on funeral pyres. One notable difference is their belief in the afterlife, which they refer to as the Night Lands. To make it to the Night Lands, the deceased must be burnt whole — desecrating a corpse is considered the same as killing their very soul.
When it comes to the deaths of khals, or kings, their queens also have a unique tradition. All widows must join the dosh khaleen, a group of women who serve the Dothraki as spiritual guides.
The Dance of Dragons
When it comes to the deaths of Targaryens and their ancient Valyrian ancestors, cremation is the preferred method of disposition — especially by dragon fire.
Kissed by Fire
Members of House Tully in the North are different from many northern houses when it comes to their funerals. Because of their position in the Riverlands, they incorporate the waters of the Trident in their funerals. And although they belong to the North, they are one of the most southern kingdoms of the North, so some of their funeral traditions reflect southern traditions.
Members of House Tully are placed in a boat, on display in a similar fashion to members of the Faith of the Seven. Stones are placed over their eyes, and they are accompanied within their ship by urns of their organs from embalming.
After giving the eulogy, an archer lights an arrow and shoots, setting the boat ablaze in a similar fashion to ancient Viking funerals.
Valar morghulis is a High Valyrian phrase in the series that translates to “all men must die.” As you can see, there is a lot of thought that goes into both death and funeral planning in Game of Thrones! The customs depend on a variety of factors; such as your house, your religion, and your region.
We hope you enjoyed this look into the funeral rites of Game of Thrones!