December 21, 2011

Religious Coexistence in America and Westeros

Posted in Interfaith, Judaism, Pop Culture at 4:19 am by chavalah

I remember once in Hebrew School, we were asked to think up our own religions. Perhaps, as a largely interfaith congregation, this was meant to be easy for us, since our families often “created” out of two or more traditions. At the time, I drew a blank. I was completely baffled, slightly by the assignment, but more out of my inability, as a “mixie” child and a creative writer, to think of anything.

Now, I find myself thinking of fake religions all the time, meaning sci-fi and fantasy, not anyone who happens to follow a different path than Judaism. 😛 Since last spring’s premiere of Game of Thrones on HBO, I’ve become more and more hooked. Although season two is still months away, buzz remains high as the show has been nominated for several prestigious awards and loyal fans follow the crew around the world during production. One of the latest teases comes from HBO marketing and—a short, academic video on the two major religions of Westeros. The narrators are GoT actors Michelle Fairley and Isaac Hempstead-Wright, who play two of my absolute favorite characters in this sprawling series, Lady Catelyn Stark and her son, Bran. An added, geeky note is that these two characters can be stand-ins for the two religions. As I blogged in April, the Starks are “interfaith,” with Catelyn hailing from the Riverlands where The Seven are worshipped. In contrast, and not to get into too many book spoilers here, there are arguments that can be made linking Bran strongly with the Old Gods. I’ve embedded the video below:

Tonight marks the first night of Chanukah 5772. I may be biased in trying to find a parallel between Jews and the North of Westeros, home of the Starks, but there is a similarity between these two stories; one where “The Andals” attack from across the seas, the other where the Ancient Greeks attack Jerusalem. For one of the rare times in Jewish history, we’re actually able to defeat our attackers and stay true to our beliefs, thus creating Chanukah, or “dedication.”

But the days of the Ancient Greeks are long over. In this day and age Chanukah is seen as a very minor holiday, only bolstered up because of its proximity to Christmas. Instead of being about victory, it’s more about coexistence with other religions, especially when it comes to interfaith families like mine. Night five of Chanukah will be occurring when little reindeer fly overhead this year.

It’s something I can live with. Like with the Old Gods in Westeros, Jews are the minority in most parts of the world; peaceful diversity is a worthy goal. And for those of us in mixed families, we have our own paths to take with creating new rituals while remaining dedicated to Judaism. But life is multi-faceted that way. Perhaps that’s why fiction is, too.


1 Comment »

  1. […] On this day, in the middle of Pesach 5772 when Jews continue to celebrate their freedom, “Game of Thrones” fans hear news that the epic television show will be renewed for a third season. (Apparently I think the unwritten eleventh commandment was Thou Shalt Watch Quality Television.) Shortly prior to this announcement, HBO released two new behind the scenes videos, including one that talks about the religious makeup in the fantasy land of Westeros this season. I’m embedding it here, as a follow-up to my last post about religion in this series. […]

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