Ser Alliser and Sam Tarly at the funeral of Measter Aegon

I’ve now ploughed my way through Season 5 of Game of Thrones and encountered a further cremation funeral, again at Castle Black and performed to honour one of the Night’s Watch: Maester Aemon. By now viewers are well familiar with cremation as the disposal method for the Night’s Watch, conducted within the castle walls. See my previous discussions here and here and here. The brother of King Aegon V, the old man dies and his euology is spoken by Samwell Tarly.

Lighting the pyre

We see the ceremony from above, with the body lain out without possessions and without coverings, before being rapidly consumed by fire lit simultaneously by two torches at corners on the same side of the pyre. The ceremony is stark, perhaps reflecting the absence of Jon Snow and the austerity reflecting the tide turning against Snow and Tarly by Ser Alliser and his followers. We learn that he is recognised as of Targaryen blood (‘blood of the dragon’) and hence his cremation is afforded another level of noble significance through such naming.

Again, we see nothing of post-cremation ceremonies and the final disposal strategies (if any are adopted) for the ‘cremains’.

This final example shows (a) cremation established as a normative practice in the Game of Thrones universe at the Wall and (b) cremation as a single stage disposal method of conflagration, at odds with the widespread evidence of two or more key stages of disposal of the dead via cremation, sometimes discerned quite clearly in the archaeological record, and (c) we see how cremation can be polyvocal, simultaneously embodying Aemon’s identity as of the Night’s Watch and as Targaryen without conflict or distinction.

The burning pyre