What Does ‘Oblation’ Mean on ‘His Dark Materials’?


What does oblation mean? The term is used a lot on His Dark Materials‘ latest episode on HBO. Read on to learn more. This post will have major spoilers for Season 1 Episode 2, but does not contain book spoilers. 

Oblation Means a Sacrifice to a God

If you’re wondering what “oblation” means after watching His Dark Materials Season 1 Episode 2, you’re not alone. This phenomenal new series on HBO and BBC used the term a lot in the second episode, so it might have confused you a bit. In fact, “oblation” is a breakout Google search term for Americans as they’re watching the latest episode.

Oblation refers to a sacrifice or offering to a god. (A similar-sounding word, ablation, is a medical term meaning a type of surgical removal. Cardiac ablation, for example, means destroying tissue in the heart that’s creating incorrect electrical signals that lead to abnormal heart rhythm.) But in His Dark Materials, it’s made clear that the word they are referring to is oblation with an o, not ablation.

Technically, according to Merriam-Webster, oblation means: “the act of making a religious offering” (such as offering eucharistic elements to God) or “something offered in worship or devotion: a holy gift offered usually at an altar or shrine.”

We learn later on in the episode that Mrs. Coulter is part of the General Oblation Board (and may actually be the head of said board.) Lyra learns this from the journalist (Adele Starminster) who visits Mrs. Coulter’s cocktail party. She takes time to clue Lyra in about what’s going on, much to her own detriment.

In fact, Adele explains to Lyra that the General Oblation Board is nicknamed the Gobblers. In other words, the very group rumored to have kidnapped the children is the same name used to refer to the General Oblation Board.

We find out in this episode that Mrs. Coulter is, indeed, in charge of the group that’s kidnapping the children and has a plan for them that hasn’t quite been revealed. This plan is apparently hatched by the General Oblation Board, at least according to the clues we’ve been given so far.

So if “oblation” refers to a sacrifice to a god or a religious offering, then the General Oblation Board must be focused on religious offerings or sacrifices in general. And these children might be that sacrifice.

Lyra learned in Episode 1 that children aren’t affected by dust. Perhaps that ties into the GOB’s desire to kidnap these children. Mrs. Coulter’s daemon certainly seemed angry when Lyra was talking about dust, so perhaps they need the children for some purpose that they don’t want “dust” interfering with.

All we know for certain is that “oblation” refers to some kind of a sacrifice or offering to a deity. Either the Board is named satirically, or they intend to sacrifice these children for some greater purpose that is yet to be revealed.

His Dark Materials is the new fantasy epic that very well could be HBO’s new Game of Thrones. It’s based on the trilogy by Philip Pullman, also called His Dark Materials. The series is being co-developed by BBC and HBO International.

The first season is based on the first novel, called Northern Lights (or The Golden Compass in the United States.) It takes place on a parallel Earth and follows the story of Lyra, an orphan girl. Her uncle Lord Asriel is at odds with Magisterium, and she’s caught in the middle.

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