A major subset of the Discworld novels of Terry Pratchett involves the witches of Lancre. They are closely based on witches in British folklore and a slightly tongue-in-cheek reinterpretation of the Triple Goddess.
Witch magic is very different from the wizard magic taught in the Unseen University, and consists largely of finding the right lever that makes everything else work. Witches rarely do any magic, in fact, relying more on common sense, hard work, and a peculiar brand of psychology known as headology. This can be taken very far - a witch's way of magically setting fire to a log of wood consists of staring at the log until it burns up from pure embarrassment. As a result it is less energy intensive, which means that a witch can do more than a technically equally powerful wizard. However, the same zen-like knowledge that gives them this ability generally discourages them from making a big deal about it, beyond refusing to take wizards seriously. Witches unironically acting with melodrama, of which cackling is an early sign, is often an indication of "going to the bad" and becoming a stereotypically wicked witch.
Another later addition to witch skills, established in Maskerade, but first named in the Aching books, are First Sight—seeing what's really there instead of what you hope to, expect to, or what others see—and Second Thoughts—thinking about the way you're thinking.
Unlike wizard magic, which is taught en masse, witch magic is taught on a one-to-one basis by older witches to apprentices. Although magical talent tends to run in families, witches do not teach their daughters, feeling that this would cause a sort of magical inbreeding.
Discworld Voodoo is considered to be an aspect of witch magic, combined with a sort of do-it-yourself religion, relying heavily on the power of belief described below. The most powerful Discworld voodoo-women can deliberately create moderately powerful gods for a specific purpose.
Generally speaking, witches are women and wizards are men. Despite the opinions of wizards and witches on this subject (that systemization comes easier to men and intuition comes easier to women), there appears to be no reason for this beyond cultural bias. There has only ever been one female wizard on the main Discworld continent, as described in the events of Equal Rites. The island of Krull on the very Rim of the Disc does not mind female wizards but no one from the Circle Sea would ever admit they exist.
The role of witches has been defined as "smoothing out life's humps and bumps," and "helping people when life's on the edge," and they take this obligation seriously. They also never ask for anything in return. There are, however, ways and ways of not asking for anything in return, (of course.) Nanny Ogg, for instance, insists that part of her job is to take the first pint of every brewing and the first cake of every baking, to prevent occult forces using them against people. Both she and Granny Weatherwax tend to emphasize at every possible opportunity that it is considered lucky to have a witch in your house, and that it would be especially lucky if the witch was well-provided for.
Many witches, especially in the Ramtops, have steadings; geographical areas and populations that they're responsible for. It is unclear how steadings are defined; Tiffany had the entire Chalk as a steading, while other witches have only two or three villages. Steadings are not necessarily passed on to the apprentice of the witch who previously watched over the steading. However, there does seem to be a particular geography to it; a discussion of the older witches dying off leads reluctantly to discussing a redrawing of territorial boundaries, which is getting more difficult to handle as there are fewer young girls becoming witches than there are older witches dying.
Witches tend to lead lonely lives; they are generally feared and respected rather than liked, and often perform their duties with little or no thanks from the populace at large. This leads some witches to become resentful of their charges, and to use their power against them. A witch who "goes to the bad" may initially not feel she is doing anything wrong, but will eventually build gingerbread houses and poison spinning wheels. Witches call this "cackling" and, to keep it at bay, they pay regular visits to one another to gossip and take tea, all the while watching for telltale signs.
At the climax of events in I Shall Wear Midnight, it is revealed that the local witch, as the Witch of that area, also have powers and authority not unlike a Justice of the peace; they are able to perform binding marriage ceremonies, as-well-as judge and deal-out punishment(s) onto the deserving.
The main witches in the books are the Lancre Coven: Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, Magrat Garlick and later Agnes Nitt. A sub-series of children's books has introduced a new witch character, Tiffany Aching, who has been gradually tied into the main Witch storyline as her series continues.
Other articles related to "witches":
... In the 1995 BBC Radio 4 adaptation of Wyrd Sisters the witcheswere played by Granny Weatherwax - Sheila Hancock Nanny Ogg - Lynda Baron Magrat Garlick - Deborah Berlin In the 1997 ...
Famous quotes containing the word witches:
“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)