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'Game of Thrones' Season 8: What Does the White Walker Symbol Mean?

Winter has officially arrived on Game of Thrones. Although the Season 8 premiere on Sunday marked a reunion of sorts for several characters in Winterfell, the episode also chillingly revealed the evil currently ravishing the North.

The Night King and his growing army of White Walkers have advanced since the undead was last seen bringing down The Wall with the help of the Night King’s new pet dragon, Viserion, last season. In the final moments of Season 8’s first episode, titled, "Winterfell," Tormund Giantsbane, Beric Dondarrion, Eddison Tollett and a number of Night's Watch members arrived at Last Hearth—ruled by House Umber—where they find no sign of life remaining. However, young Lord Ned Umber, who was earlier commissioned to return home and bring his people to safety in Winterfell, was discovered dead, hanging on a wall with a spiral of human remains surrounding him.

Moments later the little Umber returned to life as a wight and tried to attack Tormund, causing Beric to set the undead boy ablaze with his fire sword. The fire engulfed the White Walker and the body parts circling him, bringing to light an interesting spiral symbol GOT fans have seen a number of times on the show.

However, the meaning behind the symbol is still fairly cryptic.

The first time the spiral pattern was spotted on the show was all the way back on the very first episode. In the beginning scene of the Season 1 opener, “Winter is Coming,” a trio of Night’s Watch rangers stumbled upon a spiral of chopped wildlings north of The Wall. They ignored it, only to later be killed by the wights when they came back to life.

Jon Snow encountered a similar pattern in Season 3, episode 3, titled “Walk of Punishment.” Jon is beyond The Wall, far out in wildling country when he stumbles upon a circular design of dead horse remains, during which wildling ruler Mance Raydar comments on the artistry of the White Walker token pattern, hinting at having seen it before.

The significance of the pattern is later revealed in Season 6 when Bran Stark wargs into the past and sees the very moment the first White Walker was created on episode 5, “The Door.” In the flashback, the man who comes to be the Night King is bound to a weirwood tree surrounded by henge-like stones in a spiral shape. The Children of the Forest had the Night King tied, and Bran watches as Leaf plunges a piece of dragonstone into the man’s chest, killing him before he resurrects with signature ice-blue White Walker eyes. Later Bran wargs back to the scene—now covered in snow—where the Night King stands around the spiral symbol with his newly developed White Walker army.

'Game of Thrones' Season 8: What Does the White Walker Symbol Mean? Kae Alexander and Vladimir Furdik appear in "Game of Thrones." Season 8 premiered on HBO on April 14, 2019. Helen Sloan/courtesy of HBO

Perhaps the last time the symbol was spotted was in Season 7 when Jon Snow showed Daenerys Targaryen prehistoric symbols believed to have been left by the Children of the Forest in a cave underneath the palace on Dragonstone, where Daenerys was born.

The loose ends surrounding the mysterious symbols has left room for a ton of speculation, like the belief among fans that the signs bear a resemblance to the Targaryen sigil, which features a circular symbol of a three-headed dragon.

There have long been theories of the Night King being connected to the Targaryens or the Starks, although his interest in dragons—one of which he possesses in Season 7—seems to be more of a Targaryen trait as the family was known to wrangle and ride dragons. Any other person to get near a dragon usually doesn’t make it to see another day, let alone ride it and give it orders to burn down The Wall as the Night King did.

It's also worth noting when Daenerys is reborn as the Mother of Dragons in the Season 1 finale, she carries her eggs into a fire vigil set for Khal Drogo (and the witch Mirri Maz Dur), which was also in a spiral pattern. Once the fire dies, Daenerys emerges naked and holding three baby dragons.

Although it’s unclear what specifically the symbols represent, it’s obvious they are largely connected to White Walkers and the creatures’ origin. More than anything though, the spiral patterns are mostly used as a way to let the living know the wights are near and so is winter.

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