He calls her his “Moon.” She calls him her “Sun and Stars.”
He is Khal Drogo, the testosterone heavy, alpha male leader of the Dothraki warrior tribe – proud, fearless, and ruthless, at least in the beginning. Very Mars. She is Daenerys Targaryen, his wife – estrogen aplenty, beautiful, compassionate, and submissive, at least in the beginning. Very Venus. Theirs is an arranged marriage. These characters are from Game of Thrones, a television series on HBO based on the fantasy novels by George R.R. Martin. I’m a latecomer to the series. Watching season one last week, I was struck by the symbolism in the names Drogo and Daenerys have for each other and in what I see as a connection to the wedding ritual of “circling.”
In Judaism and some religions of Eastern Europe, the wedding ceremony includes the ritual of circling. The traditional method is for the bride to walk around the groom seven times. Research tells me the action symbolizes the bride’s acknowledgment that the groom is the new center of her universe. That patriarchal view is modified by some who say the action is to define the home space they the couple will share. In The New Jewish Wedding, Revised, author Anita Diamant says the bride circles the groom “to protect him from evil spirits, from the glances of other women and from the temptations of the world.” Adapting the tradition for the modern, egalitarian couple, the bride circles the groom three times, he circles her three times, then they walk in a circle together once.
I think the original meaning of the circling tradition is precisely what is reflected in the way Drogo and Daenerys address each other—that she acknowledges him as the center of her universe, but that original meaning is only half of the truth.
All early civilizations paid attention to the sky. Activity above the earth was believed to correlate with activity on the earth. As above, so below. The ritual of the bride circling the groom echoed the action of the moon circling the sun, as it was perceived from earth. Each of the seven visible orbs (Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn) was connected to a diety. The wise couple honored all seven.
The unacknowledged part of the circling tradition is that by virtue of the commitment the couple makes to each other, the sun cannot turn in any direction and not see the influence of the moon in his life. In Game of Thrones, Drogo learns he is not invincible and discovers his capacity for tenderness. Daenerys learns she can be ruthless and discovers her power. It is precisely this Mars-Venus exchange that the circling tradition is all about. It’s only in keeping half of the meaning hidden that the ritual appears patriarchal. In reality, circling acknowledges the gifts both bride and groom bring to the marriage.