Growing up in a Roman Catholic family, I did everything I could post-catechism to push away religious learning. Funnily enough, here I am poring over the bible to write a comparison analysis.
Today we’re going to take a look into Ashara Dayne, the fair Lady who threw herself from the Palestone Sword tower in Starfall of Dorne. The blessed Ashara Dayne- desirous of sovereign contemplation.
This is going to be looked at pre resurrection, analyzing solely Mary of Magdalene and not her relation to Jesus, but her caricature. While there are many, many, many Ashara Dayne theories out there- and booooy, do I believe in a couple crazy ones- I am writing solely based on what we ‘know’ to be true *which, as I’ll go into, isn’t much!*.
““She turned the mass of her crimes to virtues, in order to serve God entirely in penance. “
Footwasher. Whore. Penitent. These are just several words that could describe Saint Mary of Magdala by a modern day Western Christian, but as all historians and readers know, history as we consume it is not always what truly happened. We all know that text and word gets twisted- it’s a classic game of telephone. Many accounts of Mary Magdalene (in Hebrew, of Midgal, meaning Tower ;]) canonically consider her to be virtuous (the four canonical gospels); some do not. Mary was a Jewish woman who traveled with Jesus as one of his most loyal followers. Mary witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, though we won’t be covering much of that today.
Beauty. Dishonored. Dead. Those are words that could describe the Lady Ashara Dayne by any Westerosi, but not every account is the same of Ashara, much like with Mary. Texts from different POVs in the ASOIAF narrative have told us little to nothing about Ashara, and barely anything canonical. One thing is certain among the characters we meet: the beautiful Dornish Lady Ashara Dayne, Lady-in-waiting to Elia Martell, was dishonored, and threw herself off of the Palestone Sword Tower into the summer sea.
And they told how afterward Ned had carried Ser Arthur’s sword back to the beautiful young sister who awaited him in a castle called Starfall on the shores of the Summer Sea. The Lady AsharaDayne, tall and fair, with haunting violet eyes.
Painting a Portrait
Mary Magdalene and Ashara Dayne are depicted as beauties in text by surrounding eyes. Most paintings and text of Mary tend to depict her with her long hair flowing around her shoulders, to cover her indecency while walking nude through the desert, and to dry the feet of those she washes.
Even after all these years, Ser Barristan could still recall Ashara’s smile, the sound of her laughter. He had only to close his eyes to see her, with her long dark hair tumbling about her shoulders and those haunting purple eyes.
The Women Who Walked the Desert
Mary Magdalene was present in some of the biggest plot points in the bible (see what I did there ;] ). Mary was present in Pilate’s Hall when Pontius Pilate pronounced Jesus’ death, witnessed and wept as He was led to Calvary’s fatal mount, and witnessed the resurrection of Christ. While Mary had accomplished and seen much, the ‘sexy’ parts of her story always seem to reign supreme; much like Ashara Dayne. Mary Magdalene’s story highlights the woman with the bad name, who had committed sins, her loose hair, her rubbing, washing and kissing of feet. These are the dramatic high points of her story- the sexualization of Jesus’ arguably most loyal companion, and the overtly erotic overtones of anointing Jesus with oils and loosened hair, something seen at that time in the intimacy of a bedroom only.
Past a certain point Ashara Dayne is someone only to speculate upon (due to limited text on Ashara in ASOIAF). She was present for some of the biggest plot points of the rebellion. (likely) during the wedding of Rhaegar and Elia, the Tourney at Harrenhal, and speculatively in a circle of “knowing” more than the rest of Westeros when it comes to what really happened at the Tower of Joy. Many (including me) infer and speculate Ashara may have told Ned Stark that Lyanna was being held at the Tower of Joy, due to Wylla being a Dayne Servant and Ashara’s brother, Arthur Dayne, guarding the tower and the savior being born inside of it.
While Ashara’s story ‘ends’ in tragedy in some accounts, though others (again, me) believe she may be in hiding, the dramatic high points of Ashara’s story- being the sought after dancing partner at the tourney of Harrenhal, producing a child out of wedlock, scorned with grief and shame and tossing herself off of the Palestone Sword tower- she is remembered for her scandalous events and the erotic overtones of a tourney, and blood running hot in the false spring.
“Lady Ashara Dayne. It’s an old tale, that one. I heard it once at Winterfell, when I was no older than you are now. I doubt there’s any truth to it. But if there is, what of it? When Ned met this Dornish lady, his brother Brandon was still alive, and it was him betrothed to Lady Catelyn, so there’s no stain on your father’s honor. There’s nought like a tourney to make the blood run hot, so maybe some words were whispered in a tent of a night, who can say? Words or kisses, maybe more, but where’s the harm in that? Spring had come, or so they thought, and neither one of them was pledged”
Eastern Orthodox maintains that Mary Magdalen was virtuous, by their canon, even before her conversion to Christianity, and does not celebrate her as penitent. Roman Catholic traditions via Gregory of Tours (6th Century) support the Eastern belief that she retired to Ephesus in the end of her days, but the Western Church believes Mary traveled south of France and died there.
The Lady Ashara Dayne’s tragic end story is similarly viewed: most agree she jumped from the largest tower in Starfall, but no body washed ashore, and no body was ever found. Again: perspective in Westeros gives us this ‘canon’ information, however we all know that George RR Martin does not entirely tell us the truth all of the time.
In Regards to the Mother Mary vs Mary Magdalene, and Lyanna Stark vs Ashara Dayne
Before we move forward, as that was an extremely spicy title, let me preface with: I am not pitting Lyanna Stark and Ashara Dayne against each other, merely analyzing from a literary standpoint the foil-like qualities they bear on each other.
From a normal Westerosi standpoint, the narrative is as follows: Lyanna Stark was plucked from the Storm Lord by the Dragon Prince, raped, and died in a tower.
From what we as the reader are aware of, we know that Lyanna conceived a child more than likely in part due to prophecy (not immaculately, but the idea stands and resonates with the prophecy/immaculate conception idea) to bring forward the savior of the world.
We are told in the bible that Mary, mother of the King of Kings, immaculately conceived Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. Siddiqah, she who confirms the truth, was visited by the angel Gabriel, and bestowed this blessing. Now, do I believe this young girl got knocked up by the lord’s thoughts? No, I don’t believe that. Not at all. While I won’t bear into that, I think yet again we are reminded of perspective and what we are being told- the young virgin Mary may not have been a virgin, who knows how the conception occurred, but I digress.
“I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done unto me according your word.”
Both Mother Mary and Lyanna Stark are esteemed and held in mind as holy, maternal, pure creatures, looked upon in their death and their legacy as the Queens of Heaven, the God-Bearers, the Ever-Virgins.
Comparatively, we have both Ashara Dayne and Mary Magdalene. Both are considered by perspective dishonored, broken women. Neither are associated with purity or with a maternal eye (though Mary’s maternal side showed with caring for Jesus, washing his feet, being kind to him through his pain and torture, and Ashara’s through bearing a child), and both have been given hideous reputations with no pure truth behind them.
While the parallels aren’t perfect, I feel a lot of information in ASOIAF and in the bible tends to be pulled from perspective only- which we see, hear and consume. Each character that tells their version of the story has a different mind and eye, and it’s interesting to look at the big picture.
Where in the World is Ashara Dayne?
What do I believe?
I truly believe that Ashara Dayne is out there, whether we have met her in the text or in passing we do not know. Many of the various theories and speculation surrounding Ashara.
I don’t particularly agree with Ashara as Septa Lemore, although textually it would fit as a great comparison to biblical text for her to loyally be championing Christ’s Son (Aegon), as Mary of Magdalene loyally championed Jesus.
Further exploring the ideas in the text, I don’t believe that Ashara’s Daughter was stillborn- I think that Ned Stark ‘dishonored’ her at Harrenhal, when he was unpromised, and that the Dayne family passed Ashara’s daughter off as their own child once Ned had to fulfill his duty to the Tullys. I believe the Tower of Joy conspiracy goes deeper than we know, and that deaths were faked, (appropriately, Ashara’s) in order to keep the secret of the prince that was promised, the chosen one, the ‘King of Kings’. I do believe we’ll learn the truth of Ashara Dayne eventually, whatever it may just be.
She turned the mass of her crimes to virtues, in order to serve God entirely in penance
to close on a quote I threw in earlier, Ashara and Mary both made mistakes in their lifes, and the sacrifices Ashara made in the rebellion ring true. ——————–
Anyway, thanks for reading! I had a lot of fun looking into this and pulling some comparisons out. Thanks to Lady of Spears from TPOMF for listening to me rattle all day about this, and look out for others in the series- Leah and Rachel, Sisters and Wives to Jacob v. Catelyn, Lysa and Littlefinger, Blessed Virgin Mary, Jesus and Lyanna Stark and Jon Snow, and possibly some other fun writeups!