What makes a Discworld witch?

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Tonyblack

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#1
Having just read all three of the Tiffany Aching books - as well as the whole series (I read them all in order), it occurred to me that Terry uses the Tiffany books to bring together all the ideas he's used in the other 'witch' books, and defined what it is to be a witch on the Discworld.

But what is it? o_O

Granny Aching seems to have been a witch even if she doesn't call herself one - she may not even have known that she was a witch.

The witches in the mountains are very openly witches and have a certain amount of respect for being so. But for the large part they seem to be midwives, nurses, social workers and they bring a certain amout of law to places that haven't got an organised system.

But what do you think of the Discworld witches? :laugh:
 

chris.ph

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#2
matriachs is i think a good way of describing them ,pretty much all encompassing on how i would have talked about them :laugh:
 

tubby167

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#3
Witches

Oh wow don't get me started!! Adore all the witches but Granny has got to be the ultimate..... I agree they are matriarchs and there is just a hint of arrogance; unshakeable belief that they know best (of course they are usually proved right but even so...). There is also the tiniest smidgeon of malice there too but always aimed in righteous indignation......sounds like me in an argument with my chap!
 

Jan Van Quirm

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#4
But the 'top' witch isn't and can't be a matriarch Chris :p Or not in it's literal sense.

Tonyblack said:
Granny Aching seems to have been a witch even if she doesn't call herself one - she may not even have known that she was a witch.

The witches in the mountains are very openly witches and have a certain amount of respect for being so. But for the large part they seem to be midwives, nurses, social workers and they bring a certain amout of law to places that haven't got an organised system.

But what do you think of the Discworld witches? :laugh:
blue text my highlighting

I haven't read the Tiffany books (I will I promise! Just not yet :oops: ) so I can't comment on those at all but I would say that your assessment Tony is what historical witches on planet earth and in the UK/Europe were really just that - professional 'wise woman' (or men even) who were the consultant medical practitioners and keepers of lore and naggy, knowledgeable old busy-bodies to paraphrase :laugh:

And that's not a really new idea for Terry particularly - Esk was complaining about the lack of your actual magical activity when she was apprenticed to Granny (who is after all the Discworlds finest practitioner of Headology and champion exponent of Cripple Mr. Onion...) Nanny is the top midwife and couple counselling guru and Magrat's not so shabby with herblore and alternative medicine/child-rearing? And Agnes can scare the willies out of grown men when she hits high, middle and low C all at once and breaks the china :p

So a precedent for core activities - but the DW witches are of course superior to our medieval and present day wiccan types 'cos they can do 'real' magic too - like Borrowing, and Fairy Godmothering and of course Staring... 8)
 

Tiffany

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Oct 13, 2008
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#5
Tiffany is a magic witch, she uses magic, but Granny Weatherwax & the others, though they can make spells work, teach to not use magic is better. However in the situations Tiffany got into she had to use it.
I would love to see how she matures.
I think on the whole Discworld witches are the old time wise women of a village. They did a lot of things mainly women did in those days.
As Tony said.
quote..The witches in the mountains are very openly witches and have a certain amount of respect for being so. But for the large part they seem to be midwives, nurses, social workers and they bring a certain amout of law to places that haven't got an organised system...unquote.

Tiffany hasn't got there yet, if she ever does. Perhaps she'll be the daring, magic wielding one.
 

silverstreak

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Aug 1, 2008
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#6
Jan's right,Nanny Ogg is the top banana[I think I stopped spelling that in
the right place] in midwifery and councilling.But you can't forget her expertise in drinking and cookery.
 

Ogg

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#7
I'm sure I read somewhere than Nanny Ogg (my personal favourite) could well be the most powerful of the witches. Was it in Maskerade when Granny Weatherwax commented upon Nanny's supernatural skill at getting people to open up to her, a skill she'd wished she learned herself?
Granny Weatherwax doing good while Nanny Ogg bandages the owunded...or something like that.
I'm aware that Sir Terry based the Nanny Ogg character on one woman (and a recognisable character at that) but I swear he's must've met my own dear departed Gran back in the day :)
 

Jan Van Quirm

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#8
silverstreak said:
Jan's right,Nanny Ogg is the top banana[I think I stopped spelling that in
the right place] in midwifery and councilling.But you can't forget her expertise in drinking and cookery.
To clarify ('cos I'm like that :laugh: ) when I said - But the 'top' witch isn't and can't be a matriarch - I was really thinking of Esme, who of course doesn't do families (or husbands although Ridcully may have worn her down if he'd stuck around...) so cannot be a matriarch... :p

Actually I think Granny & Nanny are a draw for top witch - the former's got more power and Nanny's got more influence! Just as well they could never co-run for president of the USA together as they're aliens - on the other hand they'd really kick ass and sort this sorry globe out! Perhaps its time to amend the Constitution again? :laugh:
 

Tonyblack

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#9
Ogg said:
I'm sure I read somewhere than Nanny Ogg (my personal favourite) could well be the most powerful of the witches. Was it in Maskerade when Granny Weatherwax commented upon Nanny's supernatural skill at getting people to open up to her, a skill she'd wished she learned herself?
Granny Weatherwax doing good while Nanny Ogg bandages the owunded...or something like that.
I'm aware that Sir Terry based the Nanny Ogg character on one woman (and a recognisable character at that) but I swear he's must've met my own dear departed Gran back in the day :)
I think that Granny admires some of Nanny skills and even admits that she's better at some things than her. Nanny is better with people (I still don't like her though :laugh: ).
 

bogieman

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#10
I think they all have there strong points which are directly related to where they live and where they develop there skills. We see this in the Tiffeny book where one witch is so good with pigs and one is no good untill she realises what she needs to do to fill a vacent place.

I am not sure I have described what I am trying to say very well here but I don't want to put in spoilers o_O
 

Tonyblack

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#11
I think I know what you mean. Just like with any group of people, certain people will always be better at some things than others. That's why Miss Tick is a great witch finder and Petulia is good with pigs. Nanny Ogg is good with people and midwifery and Tiffany's grandmother was an expert at sheep.

I think that aspect of it is really quite realistic. In Wintersmith a young witch who has been trained by another witch to behave a certain way finds that that way won't work when she's being a village witch.

One of the things that is pointed out in the Tiffany books and is alluded to in some of the other books, is the fact that young witches don't just train under one person - they learn the craft from several and then they ultimately learn their own way of doing things.

Here's a bit from Wintersmith that doesn't have any spoilers. Granny has just done something that Tiffany wants to learn:

"'Can I learn that?'
'I dare say. It's not hard, if you get your mind right'
'Can you teach me?'
'I just have. I showed you.'
'No, Granny, you just showed me how to do it, not . . . how to do it!'
'Can't tell you that. I know how I do it. How you do it will be different. You've just got to get your mind right.'
'How do I do that?'
'How should I know? It's your mind,' snapped Granny."
 

feanor

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May 24, 2009
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#12
Ayup All...

It was Esk who said, and i agree, that Granny was a Witch because she wore the Hat... And, because she had the Hat, she was a Witch. And that she knew stuff that other people didn't. But obviously OTHER STUFF that an ordinary person couldn't or wouldn't ever know. (Or she was Ignorant of a BETTER class of stuff than an ordinary Villager ever would be... Oh, and that she just sorted things so that the ordinary rules just didn't apply to her at all...
 

Trish

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#13
Granny Weatherwax has said it again & again: "Witches decides."

Most people don't, you know. They take whatever comes and either cry or rejoice.
But they do not make firm decisions, nor own up to the consequences of them.
 
Jul 25, 2008
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#15
Lots of good points made here, but I think I can add some things. Witches, in the Discworld, occur only in Lancre (apparently)--although Hilta Goatfounder seems to have moved down to the plains, but she's from Lancre. Mrs. Gogol is not technically a witch--rather a Voodoo Priestess, although there seems to be little difference in their ideas and powers.

Witches have to have a trade at which they make some of their "living"-- though they never take money for "witchcraft". On the other hand, they are given practically everything they need by their grateful patients or those whom they've helped in some way. But they have a way to make some "coin". Granny and Nanny have some Fourteen Dollars in coin (which Nanny loses to the Riverboat Gamblers) and Granny wins back. And they apparently have enough to pay for lodging, etc. Just how they acquire money is never explained.

All witches have acquired some basic knowledge in the areas of medicine (both human and animal), and they are part social workers/part judges in making sure that the right things are done. In Wee Free Men, Granny gives, I think, the best definition of what witches really do--

"We look to . . . the edges," said Mistress Weatherwax. "There's a lot of edges, more than people know. Between life and death, this world and the next, night and day, right and wrong . . . an' they need watchin'. We watch'em, we guard the sum of things. And we never ask for any reward. That's important."
Witches do lots of practical things--but what they really do is look to the edges and guard the sum of things.
 

Dotsie

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#16
swreader said:
Lots of good points made here, but I think I can add some things. Witches, in the Discworld, occur only in Lancre (apparently)--although Hilta Goatfounder seems to have moved down to the plains, but she's from Lancre. Mrs. Gogol is not technically a witch--rather a Voodoo Priestess, although there seems to be little difference in their ideas and powers.
And of course Granny Aching, who Granny W says is a witch who made the sky her hat.

All witches have acquired some basic knowledge in the areas of medicine (both human and animal), and they are part social workers/part judges in making sure that the right things are done.
Which is exactly why Granny Aching is also a witch. The only difference is she didn't learn witching from anyone else, & her powers were strictly of the headology variety
 
Jul 25, 2008
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#17
Dotsie- you're absolutely right about Granny Aching. She is definitely a witch.
However I have to disagree very slightly, with this statement--
Which is exactly why Granny Aching is also a witch. The only difference is she didn't learn witching from anyone else, & her powers were strictly of the headology variety.
Both Granny Aching and the Feegle keldas are witches (the Keldas are witches of a special kind). And that is why Granny A & the Kelda of Wee Free Men have been working together. They have been protecting the world against intrusions by those such as the Fairy Queen. And certainly Jeannie (Rob's wife) uses witchly magic when she performs the ritual which allows her to tap into all keldas.

And Granny Aching is an expert on doctoring sheep (and perhaps humans) mainly with turpentine. But we don't know where she learned her witch skills. Perhaps, as you said, she is self-taught, but I think more likely she learned from her Mother or her predecessor as Hag o' the Hills.

As Tiffany finds, trying to use witchcraft without proper training, can be very dangerous. And even Granny W went through a period of training before she knew more than her teachers.
 

Dotsie

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#18
swreader said:
As Tiffany finds, trying to use witchcraft without proper training, can be very dangerous. And even Granny W went through a period of training before she knew more than her teachers.
True, but both of these are exceptionally talented witches. I don't think Granny A could have done any powerful magic by accident (or design).

I had forgotten about the keldas. Witches are coming out of the woodwork!
 
Aug 3, 2009
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#19
Lots of interesting stuff on this thread!

I can't remember which book- it might be Carpe Jugulum- gave me the idea that witches have to make the choices noone else dares to make. (or would admit wanting to make)
Witches are there for all the tricky bits- birth, death, judgement, danger. I wish there was a witch living near me!
 

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