Theology and religion, as any Dragon Age player knows, play a large part in the Dragon Age series. Between the Andrastian religion, the Dalish pantheon, the Tevinter dragons, and the various cults that pop up here and there, Thedas is rife with gods, spirits, and holy relics. But where did these unseen beings come from?
From our world, of course. That’s why I’m here today.
Today we’re going to tackle the Andrastian religion, centered around the all-powerful Maker and his mortal bride, Andraste. Please note the Chant of Light and the general teachings of the Chantry are not going to be discussed here, unless you guys really want me to delve into those topics, in which case I will in a future post. Let me know in the comments. Here we go!
While the Chantry, the main religious organization on the continent of Thedas, is a thinly veiled reference to the Catholic Church and professes many similar teachings as Catholicism with a little bit of fundamental Christianity thrown in for good measure, the two primary figures of this religion appear to pull from many different religions, as well as secular figures.
Let’s start with the Maker, sometimes called “The Maker of the World” and “The Wellspring of All.”
He is the only deity of the Andrastian religion, the creator father-figure that humans (and some elves) worship. The Maker’s attributes generally stay within the Abrahamic religions, as his titles illustrate. The Judeo-Christian (yes, I am differentiating between Abrahamic and Judeo-Christian on purpose) god is also referred to as the Creator of the Universe, the one who made the world and everything in it. The Maker first created the Fade and the spirits, much like the Judeo-Christian god created the heavens and the angels. But, both of these gods were dissatisfied with their spirit creations and strove to create beings with the creative power of the divine Maker, or “…in His own image…” (Genesis 1:27).
So while the Maker’s history is that of the Judeo-Christian god, the Maker actually encompasses details of all the Abrahamic religions. As such, the Maker shares many attributes with Islam’s Allah.
A brief disclaimer: while I will refer to the Islamic interpretation of the Abrahamic god as “Allah” and the Judeo-Christian interpretation as “God” for clarity purposes, please note that the Hebrew, Christian, and Islamic god is one and the same from a theological perspective, even though each religion uses its own terminology/name.
Getting back to the Andrastian faith, the Chant of Light states that:
“There was no word/For heaven or for earth, for sea or sky./All that existed was silence./Then the Voice of the Maker rang out/The first Word/And His Word became all that might be.” (Threnodies 5:1-8)
The important part of this is the fifth and sixth lines, “the first Word/And His Word became all that might be.” In Genesis (if you’re following along with your Bible) or Bereishis (in the Torah), God goes through a very lengthy creation that takes six days, after which an entire day is used for rest and recovery. In the Qur’an, however, the creation is much simpler. When Allah decreed to create the world, he stated: “…’Be,” and it is.” (Qur’an 2:117)
And so it seems that the Maker has a similar creation style as Allah. Interestingly, unlike the Catholic Church (and other Christian faiths), the Chantry does not teach the existence of a trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). This is also in alignment with Islam, which (if I recall correctly) views the trinity as polytheism, and so does not accept that particular idea, just as the Chantry asserts there is only one god in existence.
So the Maker pulls a great deal from the Abrahamic religions, seamlessly encompassing attributes from all three religions. But what of Andraste, the Maker’s Holy Bride?
Most would immediately point to the similarities between Andraste and Jesus as theological figures. Both were prophets whose teachings resulted in the formation of a new, mainstream religion. Both claimed a special relationship with their respective gods. Both exalted the poor. Both were martyred because of their actions while doing their god’s work (i.e., rabble-rousing).
But Andraste also gleans characteristics from the French heroine Joan of Arc, even moreso than these surface similarities to Jesus of Nazareth. For instance, like Joan of Arc, Andraste is burned at the stake after becoming a powerful (female) military leader in a world still predominantly run by men. They both bucked the status quo after their respective holy figures spoke to them, and they both brought about extreme political change (by either resulting in the creation of the Chantry or by establishing Charles VII of France as king, instead of Henry V of England, following the death of Charles VI).
Both of these powerful women successfully commanded large armies, and devoutly followed their god, whom they both claimed spoke to them. They were martyred for their beliefs, both burned at the stake. Unlike Joan, Andraste was granted a quick death by a penitent man who had betrayed her, dying by the sword before the flames could consume her. And, like Joan but unlike Jesus, Andraste does not return from the dead. She goes to the Maker’s side and stays there.
Additionally, Andraste borrows features from the Greek goddess Nemesis and her Roman counterpart, named Adrastea.
Nemesis was originally known for the dispensing of fortunes and as being the bringer of justice, much like the Chantry’s Andraste fought for freedom from Tevinter. Nemesis also is associated with fire, and was often depicted as holding an ax or whip. Andraste, likewise, is often depicted as holding a bowl of flames, and some images show her with a sword. Later on, Nemesis became associated with vengeance or the anger of the gods, much like Andraste claimed her war against Tevinter was sanctioned by the Maker, going so far as to call it an Exalted March.
Adrastea, meanwhile, not only lends her name, but also her sense of fairness. The Roman Adrastea was the goddess of fortune, and the Romans believed that fortune was even-handed. In fact, her festival, held in June, even allowed slaves to participate in the festivities as equals, much like Andraste believed that the slaves should be free to live as equals to the magisters in Tevinter. In her eyes, the Maker loved all His creations equally.
I hope you enjoyed this brief foray into Thedosian theology and how it relates to our own world’s religions. While the game draws clear lines between the faiths within the game, the inspirations are a melting pot of people and beliefs.The pieces fit together, and work together, so well in the virtual world, creating a rich and diverse universe for us to experience and explore. And art imitates life, they say…
Did I miss anything? Is there more you’d like to discuss about theology, the Maker, or Andraste? Let me know in the comments!
For fairness’ sake, I plan on tackling the Dalish elf pantheon next week, so stay tuned!
Until then, thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you soon.
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Cool post. I’ve not played any of the Dragon Age series but this post has piqued my interest! Props for noting that Allah is simply the Arabic word for God and not something totally different. There’s a reason why Arab Christians use the term Allah, and it’s not because they’re secretly Muslims 😛
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Glad you liked the topic; I wasn’t sure this was going to be one people were interested in! If you look into Dragon Age, let me know what you think 🙂
And thank you for the props! I always want to be as accurate as possible when discussing another person’s religious beliefs!
The parallels between the Chantry and the real-world Judeo-Christian sects always felt rather appropriate to Dragon Age. Given how much it pulls from traditional European-stylized high fantasy, and how much faith and religion played a large part in the real life era that inspired most of that, it kind of feels like Dragon Age would have been lacking something if the Chantry wasn’t part of that world.
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I wholeheartedly agree. The Chanty felt very well-placed in the world of Thedas, filling the very large religious niche that existed in the real world during the Middle Ages and making the game feel that much more realistic in terms of culture, etc., especially in regard to the friction between religion and science (or in this case, religion and magic).
I can’t say I saw Andraste as a Joan of Arc-like figure, but that’s because I am dense as hell. I mean, she literally died in a pyre, for goodness’ sake.*
I always thought it interesting that Andraste’s status as the Maker’s chosen seems to make her both a Jesus and Virgin Mary figure. There is the obvious “Bride of the Maker/the Lord” aspect, but there’s also fact that Andraste was called upon at a relatively young age, just like Mary, whereas our boy Jesus was in his late 20s when God called him to action. On the other hand, she is the one martyred, and one could argue that being his favourite creation singles her out amongst his “children”. I also think there is something to ponder about the fact that, unlike Christianity’s God, the Maker really doesn’t want to give her up, and unlike Jesus (Biblical Jesus, anyways), Andraste is willing and decided.
Andrastean religion is a very interesting “what if” regarding the Catholic church and, to a certain extent, other Christian denominations. As in: what if they hadn’t been so dickish to women? The entire structure of the dominant religion changes on account of the messiah being a woman, and in turn it changes how women are seen by Thedosian societies. That is not to say Thedas is free of sexism or gender-based power imbalances, but they are better off than us in that respect.
In the spirit of fairness, I am aware that early Christians weren’t so bothered by women being leaders and that there are feminist Christian scholars. Even so, for the most part Christianity is pretty awful to women.
*I did see the similarities between Joan of Arc and Leliana though, she had the visions, the heretic claims and she’s the Thedosian equivalent of French. All she is missing is martyrdom, and I think there is a case for that, what with Alexius experimenting on her and her sacrifice for the Inquisitor and Dorian (and that horrible thing that happens when you decide to desecrate Andraste’s ashes).
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I did enjoy the parallels (and perhaps perpendicularities – yes I just made up that word) between the Andrastian religion and the Catholic one. I didn’t want to nerd out *so* much, but maybe this post warrants a follow-up 😉
And I absolutely see the parallels between Joan of Arc and Leliana, although some of that (for me) is also because of a bit of a headcanon about Leliana being – in essence if not in actuality – a reincarnated Andraste. She believes the Maker loves all, has prophetic visions (sort of – did you read the article I wrote about Leliana predicting Inquisition?), and is, at the end of the day, a pretty selfless person who is willing to die for her cause or her faith.
I know other folks say Sera occupies the “reincarnated Andraste” place, or that Mythal and Andraste were/are the same person (which is another post that is sure to come up haha), but right now, I think Leliana and Andraste share more than cursory similarities.
Haha, well, if you do nerd out in a follow-up post I will be happy to read it. 😀
Wow, that’s an interesting headcanon! I definitely saw Leliana as someone who is much closer to Andraste’s thoughts and way of life than the Chantry is, but her being actually Andraste? It didn’t cross my mind. The prophetic visions are a big point in favour of your headcanon.
I read the article and it effectively blew my mind. I have some questions about it, too, but if it is all right with you, I’ll post them there. I thought her vision was about the Blight, or even the less physical darkness that surrounds her during her time as Left Hand. I totally missed the gigantic explosion and demon-spitting magical vortex from Inquisition (see what I told you about being dense as hell?).
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My mind is definitely a frightening place, so I think it’s less you “being dense” and me just having a wildly active imagination haha.
I think her dream is so vague, though, it’s easy to put a lot of different meanings behind it, like horoscopes. Is the dream symbolic? Literal? Personal? I look forward to your questions!
Also, I’ve never seen these theories about Sera or Mythal, but I am definitely interested in reading more on that. Sera is a great character and her relationship with her faith is very different than what we are used to see in DA, but her occupying a “reincarnated Andraste” place is not something I would have considered. It’s worth pondering, though.
Also, if Mythal were Andraste, then this means that Andraste could have been an elf (and a mage at that) or that Mythal was human. Either way, the Chantry and the Dalish would be in for a pretty big surprise. 😀 I wonder what that would mean in relation to Flemeth. It would be apt that a martyr burned in a pyre would go on to take residence within a witch.
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Ah, you’re making me want to write another theology post…
But yes, what I’ve found about Sera is based on a few observations about her and something Cole says. It’s something about how she has music in her body, but she “must NEVER sing.” (It’s part of the line where he comments about her not being able to draw but doing it anyway, and being able to dance but never dancing). Her discomfort with the Fade/all things Maker could also suggest that either a) Andraste is locked away in her body and the part of her that is Sera doesn’t want any part of that, or b) Andraste has an “it’s complicated” relationship with the Maker after being burned at the stake.
And Mythal…. yeah I think that’s going to be a post, because I could babble on and on about that one for days on end haha
Hah, pretend this is me egging you on then (minus the flying close to the sun thing): http://imgur.com/ARJ8M60
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