Witches, as depicted in the Night World series, are a matriarchal society bearing a strong resemblance to the neopagan religion of Wicca and to the Goddess movement. They trace their descent to an ancient tribe ruled by Hecate Witch-Queen, and later by her daughter Hellewise Hearth-Woman. All witches are considered to be "daughters of Hellewise," although the Harman family are direct genetic descendants traced through the female line. Hellewise's sister, Maya, became the first vampire; thus all vampires are descended through Maya from Hecate Witch-Queen.
Witch society is composed of "Circles" to which all witches belong. Those who take to heart Hellewise's bidding to "harm none" (the Wiccan Rede) belong to Circle Twilight, while Circle Midnight is made up of witches who practice darker magic. The Inner Circle is a coven of the nine most magically talented witches, whom Thea Harman calls "the witch geniuses, the prodigies and the sages, the far-seers, the teachers, the policy-makers" in Spellbinder. The most important of these are the triad of the Maiden, Mother, and Crone, positions which during the events of the books are held respectively by Aradia, The Maiden; Cybele, The Mother; and Grandma Harman, The Crone. All witches are answerable to the Inner Circle before the Night World council, although an association probably exists between them, but this isn't specified.
A third renegade Circle also exists, known as Circle Daybreak, first mentioned in Spellbinder, which promotes the teaching of magic to humans and peace between the races. This circle used to exist alongside the other two but was banned due to the persecution of witches during the Burning Times. Circle Daybreak is kept secret from the rest of the Night World, although a few suspect its renewed existence. During the events leading up to the apocalypse, the witches opt to leave the Night World and join Circle Daybreak, as they want to help save the world, whereas the Night World council and most of the vampires want to take over and enslave the other races.
Witches practice magic with the aid of herbs, gemstones, effigies, and incantations, all of which may be used in a spell; they worship the Goddess in her many manifestations and celebrate Samhain and probably other festivals on the Wheel of the Year. Their magic is innate and does not always require external aids, although these can accentuate their power. Human psychics in the series are "lost witches" who are unaware of their true descent.
Identifying symbols for Night World witches are the black dahlia and the crescent moon with three stars. The symbol for "lost witches" is a black violet. Iron is mentioned in Daughters of Darkness as their poison.
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Famous quotes containing the word witches:
“They say this town is full of cozenage:
As nimble jugglers that deceive the eye,
Dark-working sorcerers that change the mind,
Soul-killing witches that deform the body,
Disguised cheaters, prating mountebanks,
And many such-like liberties of sin.”
—William Shakespeare (15641616)
“Like witches they flew along rows
Keeping creation at ease;
With a tendril for needle
They sewed up the air with a stem;”
—Theodore Roethke (19081963)
“I believe that men are generally still a little afraid of the dark, though the witches are all hung, and Christianity and candles have been introduced.”
—Henry David Thoreau (18171862)