WEIRD SISTERS AND WILD WOMEN
The Changing Depiction of Witches in Literature, from Shakespeare to Science Fiction
Daphne Antonia Lawless
submitted to the Victoria University of Wellington
in fulfilment of the
requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
in English Literature
Victoria University of Wellington
This thesis is both a summation of the origin and nature of the character of the Witch as she appears in popular literature from the 17th to the 20th century, and an examination of how that character has evolved in the works of recent science-fiction and fantasy authors. The first part of the thesis examines what are generally considered the two major sources of the modern popular tradition of the Witch - the Weird Sisters of Shakespeare's Macbeth, and the witches of popular fairytales. The Weird Sisters are examined in the first chapter, and analysed as a negotiation or compromise between several different traditions of the Witch, especially popular rural traditions and elite "demonological traditions". It is argued that their compromise nature leads to a radical indeterminacy in the Weird Sisters, an ambiguity which makes them especially powerful characters - they therefore become universal antagonists, composed of the hostilities and anxieties of all parts of society. The chapter on the witches in fairytales continues this analysis of the Witch as a compromise construction - here, Witches are examined as mediations between the popular rural folk tradition and the pedagogical project of the 19th century collectors/editors of folktale. Thus, the Witch as universal antagonist becomes a nursery antagonist as well - becoming the embodiment of both the teller's resentment of women who do not keep accustomed place in society, and the child's resentment of the punishing mother. She is a generalised Outsider figure, a combination of all conceptions of the "bad woman", who can be punished and scapegoated without sanction.
The second part of the thesis examines how the Witch has been reclaimed in modern speculative fiction. The third chapter, examining the Lancre Witches in Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels, reinterprets the popular strands of the literary tradition by depicting Witches who are accepted by though separate from their rural society, who combat all forms of tyranny over human freedom, and whose true power comes from complete self-assurance and self-control. Pratchett thus reinvents the popular Witch tradition to portray the Witch as an individualist hero free from society and yet necessary to it. The final chapter emphasises this reading in examining several science-fiction and fantasy novels which are based on the neo-Pagan conception of Witchcraft. The role of this new kind of Witch as "necessary outsider" and individualist hero is re-emphasised - we see how the Witches of these novels use the neo-Pagan conception of "magical training" as a means to strengthen the personality and thus their personal independence, and how their struggles in the novels are against all those who wish to circumscribe the freedom of the communities in which they live. Overall, then, it will be argued that the Witch tradition as it has evolved since Macbeth is of individualist outsiders antagonistic to the community; and that, in line with the general preference of speculative fiction for individualism, modern writers are positively reinventing the Witch as the individualistic outsider necessary, and helpful, to the community.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: WITHOUT WHOM...*
INTRODUCTION: Who is the Witch?*
The Weird Sisters of Macbeth: The Birth of a Literary Tradition*
Introduction: Why Start Here? And Which Witches, Anyway?*
The Social Environment: High Treason and Churn-Cursing in Early Jacobean Britain*
The Construction of the Weird Sisters: A Negotiation, An Exploitation, or a Muddle?*
A Deed Without A Name: The Weird Sisters, Macbeth, And Crimes Against Nature*
Conclusion: Why Do They Live On?*
Old Wives' Tales: Witchcraft in 19th Century Children's Literature*
Introduction: Folk Tales, Nursery Tales, and Fairy Tales*
The Fairytale Witch as Wicked (Step)Mother*
The Fairytale Witch as Hag of the Woods*
The Fairytale Witch and Behaviour Control over Women and Children*
Conclusion: The Fairytale Witch and the Self-Fashioning of Children*
"What's Real, What's Not, And What's The Difference": Witchcraft, Self-Fashioning and Freedom in Terry Pratchett's Discworld Novels*
Introduction: A Setting on the Edge of Reality*
Rebellion Against Narrative: The Sources of Discworld Witchcraft*
Lancre Witchcraft as Social Contract and Personal Discipline*
Plays, Mirrors and Fairy-Gold: Imposed Identity vs. Free Self-Fashioning*
Conclusion: Magic, Reality, Autonomy and Identity*
Necessary Outsiders: Neo-Pagan Witchcraft and Romantic Individualism in Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature*
Introduction: Neo-Pagan Witchcraft in Four Different Fictional Contexts*
"A Priestess of the Goddess Bows To No Man": Neo-Pagan Magic as a Path to Self-Fashioning And Personal Power*
"Between the Worlds, In All The Worlds": The Multiple-Reality Neo-Pagan World and the Witch as Necessary Outsider*
"Tyrants In Heaven And Earth": Neo-Pagan Ethics and the Construction of the Antagonists*
Conclusion: Witchcraft, Speculative Fiction and the "Romantic Intellectual"*
CONCLUSION: The Witch's Power of Transformation*
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: WITHOUT WHOM...
First and foremost thanks go, naturally, to my supervisors, Geoff Miles and Jane Stafford; for reassuring me that I was capable of doing this, for deftly steering my lines of inquiry into the right directions, for evaluations of my work which did my confidence no end of good, and for not questioning my prolonged absences while I went off and wrestled with the reality of thesis writing. I hope that I have repaid your trust.
Financial support from VUW's scholarship fund, from the J.L. Stewart scholarship and from my ever-helpful grandparents. My mother, Patricia Hobbs, read drafts of some chapters and assured me that my turgid academic prose was accessible to laypersons. Extra proofing help from the incomparable Ana-Thérèse Ward.
Considering the subject matter, it should come as no surprise that many thanks go to the Wiccan Association of New Zealand (WANZ), many of whose members are fans of Terry Pratchett. Invaluable emotional support came from, in the early days, the Little Witch Group (Samantha, Anoushka, John and Nigel); in the latter days, Bonsai Jungle (Jude, Evan, Tim and Jenny); throughout, from all the members of the Free Commonwealth of Penguinea, and from my various long suffering flatmates. All of the above have put up with far too many excesses of both enthusiasm and black despair as I slogged my way through. Consider this my apology, and heartfelt gratitude. Extra honorable mention to Samantha for the reading list, and Catherine for Carpe Jugulum. Speaking of Terry Pratchett, the Karori Dramatic Society's production of Wyrd Sisters was of invaluable help to me in understanding the dramatic significance of the play. My old friend, Catherine Corrigan, made a great Granny Weatherwax.
My deepest gratitude to Kate Bush, Happy Rhodes, Robert Fripp, the thirteen members of Yes, Peter Hammill, the New Model Army and the late great Frank Zappa, whose music kept me sane while I worked. "I thank you for your expressions; your music has set me free." Fictional inspiration came from all the authors I studied, and from The Craft, a movie at which I split my sides laughing; intellectual inspiration, from J. Michael Straczynski and Kate Bornstein, who came into my life at just the right moment; divine inspiration, from She Who Sings In The Heart, and from He Who Dances.
Last but quite the opposite of least, this thesis would never have come to fruition without the extra-special help, sustenance and perspective of Jude Fitzpatrick, Jenny Howard and Tara McIvor (Wellington), Dan Wardlow and Wendy Vig (San Francisco), Carolynne Robertson-Dunn (Canberra) and Evan Gallagher (Brisbane). I love you all. This work is dedicated to everyone who ever wanted to be a witch, and to anyone who might find this work useful in their own research. It is only a beginning, after all. Good luck!
Wellington, March 1999.
INTRODUCTION: Who is the Witch?
Everyone knows what a Witch is. My grandfather, when I explained to him the topic on which my thesis would be based, replied, "Witches? You mean, those jokers on broomsticks?". The image of the Witch is "the shrieking hag" which Diane Purkiss mentions - either the Weird Sisters of Macbeth, filthy hags brewing up diabolical potions from various entrails, or the Wicked Witch of the West, Margaret Hamilton in green blusher in the 1939 MGM film, cackling as she sends the Winged Monkeys after Dorothy and her friends. She wears a black pointy hat, rides a broomstick, has an evil black cat, warts, and a hooked nose, and often lures children into her gingerbread house. Good Witches, although they exist in literature, are in the minority - as Susan Wolstenhome notes (Baum, p. xxiii), fundamentalist Christians object to the depiction of such things in literature, taking the biblical injunction "Thou shalt not suffer a Witch to live" (KJV, Exodus 18:22) seriously. The Witch has become entirely a popular tradition - elite society has not seriously believed in witches for almost two hundred years, but her image continues in children's literature and the iconography of metaphor and festival custom. To obsessively seek scapegoats is called witchhunting, and the hag on the broomstick appears along with Dracula and the Wolfman as staples of the American Hallowe'en celebration. Even though the Witch is no longer taken seriously, she survives for children, for fun, and as the symbol of a credulous, superstitious past.
This image, however, has begun to come under threat in recent decades with certain literary reinventions of the character. To some extent, especially recently, this has been sparked by the neo-Pagan movement, seeking to establish their own brand of feminist Witchcraft as an accepted religion; but the Witch has begun to be reinvented by authors, especially in the fields of science fiction and fantasy, who bear no allegiance to that religion, although they may be aware of it. It is perhaps necessary to declare my interest at the beginning - as a neo-Pagan myself, who in my formative years was inspired by many of the fictional witches which I talk about in this thesis, the question of why and how the Witch has begun to become rehabilitated in the popular literature of the late 20th century is of special interest to me. Accordingly, this thesis is an attempt to ask why to two interlinked questions - why has the literary Witch survived in popular culture long since she disappeared from the demonology of "respectable" society? And why is this tradition being reinvented to make her a heroic figure?
This thesis is essentially divided into two parts, each part containing two chapters. The first part is designed to trace the growth and establishment of the conception of the Witch which was illustrated in the previous passage. In studying this idea of the Witch, which it would be tempting to call "archetypal" for its place in popular culture if it were not for the Jungian associations that term would raise, we need to trace two major questions. Firstly, we need to establish its origins - how the character came to be - and secondly, to establish the reason for its survival - why it has survived with such a strong grip on the popular imagination. In other words, the chapters on the Weird Sisters and on fairytale Witches seek to answer the twin questions: where did they come from? and why do they still exist? It should be noted here that it is not being proposed in this thesis that these two "streams" of the modern popular conception of Witchcraft are related at their source, or that one explicitly influenced the other; simply that these are the two recognized sources of our popular tradition, which is why they are considered in separate chapters.
I intend to argue firstly, in the chapter on Macbeth, that the Weird Sisters were a negotiation, or a compromise, between several different traditions of witchcraft - including both the popular rural tradition in which Witches cursed churns and children and otherwise disrupted the subsistence agricultural society, and the elite traditions in which they were considered agents of Satan upon earth, enemies of both God and King. It is this essential polyvalency, I will argue, which has led to the longevity of the Witch as a generalised symbol of threat to the prevailing Western social order. In the second chapter, I will demonstrate the parallel evolution of the Witch of fairystories - here, the rural folk traditions of her character were mediated with the pedagogical requirements of the 19th century collectors/editors of folktales, who wished the stories to impart good moral lessons to the children of the book-buying European middle class. Thus, I will argue, even after the Witch had ceased to be considered a threat in the elite discourse, and almost so in the popular discourse, she retained her power as a symbol of anarchy and disorder in the "civilising" discourse applied to children. I will focus my arguments mainly on the tales of the Brothers Grimm, two tales by Hans Christian Andersen and Baum's The Wizard of Oz.
The second part of this thesis documents an essential break with that tradition by the authors of science fiction and fantasy, who reclaim the Witch, that quintessential "outsider" figure, as part of a project of presenting the self-fashioned, self-reliant individualist as a role model for their "romantic intellectual" readership. The third chapter focusses on the "Lancre" trilogy of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels, which I suggest present "witchcraft" (small w) as a social function, a negotiation between witch and community, and "Witchcraft" (large W), as a process of radical personal independence - thus, I will suggest, they not only reclaim the early modern popular tradition of the Witch, but represent it as a means of self-fashioning for modern individuals. This aspect of reclaiming the past will be explored further in the final chapter, an examination of the use of neo-Pagan Witchcraft (Wicca) in a selection of science fiction and fantasy novels. Wicca as a belief system places the highest good upon individual self-expression, and presents "magical training" as a process of self-fashioning so as to attain agency over one's environment - I will show how this has been used, in novels of varying genres, to construct heroic figures who are both necessary to their community and outsiders to it. The modern literary Witch, I thus argue, is constructed as an individualist heroine - the outsider-figure, reclaimed from an earlier literary tradition where she is the enemy of society, transformed into the individualist whom society might distrust, but who is necessary to it.
Above all, it must be re-emphasised that this is an attempt to draw the outlines of a history of a popular cultural tradition. Macbeth began as popular entertainment before its academic canonisation; the fairytales of Grimm, Andersen and Baum still have their place in popular culture by their continued popularity as material to be read to children, and as successful films; and science fiction and fantasy definitely belong to the realms of popular literature. My aim in this thesis is, firstly, to trace where the traditional popular literary image of the Witch comes from, how it was synthesised from often quite diverse sources, and why it retains its power; secondly, to examine how the authors of speculative fiction have opened up a dialogue with it by reinventing the concept of the Witch as individualist hero, rather as enemy of the community. It is my contention that this represents an ideological change in the popular tradition, from an ethics of community solidarity to an ethics of libertarian self-fashioning. Further, I will link this with the evolution of the Witch from a sort of "antihousewife" for early modern rural society, to nursery bogey embodying all the wildness which 19th century pedagogy sought to exclude, to an image of the "necessary outsider" which appeals to those who feel excluded by the Western middle-class social consensus for which the Witch had become the prime symbol of disorder.
A brief note concerning terminology: in this thesis I often capitalise the term "Witch". As I mention several times in the body of the work, one of the major problems with studying witch-characters in literature is separating out the different and conflicting uses of the term, and I often use "witch" and "Witch" to convey importantly different meanings. In the first two chapters, then, when the term "witch" is uncapitalised it can be read as the broader use of the term, applicable to any of the many and conflicting definitions of the witch which come from popular culture, elite discourse or literature. The capitalised term, "Witch", on the other hand, refers to the specific character that we are tracing in this thesis - the character of the Witch which has become an archetype in popular culture, which I will argue has its origins in the Weird Sisters of Macbeth and in the witches of fairy-tales such as the Wicked Witch of the West. This character, I argue, has several features in common in the several tales in which she appears, but is greatly solidified from what I show to be the confusing and contradictory witch-beliefs of early modern times. In the same sense, the term "Stepmother" is capitalised when we are discussing the fairy-tale Wicked Stepmother who is indistinct from the Witch, as opposed to stepmothers in general. In the chapters concerning modern sci-fi and fantasy literature, the capitalised term takes on a different meaning again. In the Pratchett chapter it refers to the Witch constructed in the Lancre trilogy as a radically self-fashioned individual exampled by Granny Weatherwax, rather than the various images of the witch presented in literature and folk-tales and challenged in the novels. In the chapter on neo-Paganism in speculative fiction, accordingly, the capitalised term is used when referring to a neo-Pagan Witch, or member of the Wiccan religion, by the same convention by which the terms "Christian" or "Jew" are capitalised. Overall, then, the uncapitalised "witch" is a radically indistinct term which is capable of wide and differing application and meaning; the capitalised "Witch", however, is the name for a particular personality, of folklore, mythology or the rhetoric of personal empowerment.
The Weird Sisters of Macbeth: The Birth of a Literary Tradition
"All our witches are the daughters of the Weird Sisters, because all our witches, from the Witch of Atlas to Starhawk, are displays."- Diane Purkiss, The Witch in History
Introduction: Why Start Here? And Which Witches, Anyway?
In one way, beginning a history of the tradition of the Witch in English literature with the Weird Sisters of Shakespeare’s Macbeth might seem an odd, or even arbitrary, choice. Witches, as defined in the Oxford English Dictionary’s main sense of "a female magician or sorceress", or at least characters who fit the description even if they do not carry the name, appear in both Malory and Spenser, to name just two mediaeval or early Renaissance writers. The OED, moreover, records the word "witch" (and its Old English equivalents, wicca (m.) and wicce (f.)) as extending back all the way to AD 890. And of, course, the concept of female magic-users stretches back before then – to classical, biblical, tribal or even archetypal definitions of the term. So, why should we start with the Weird Sisters, characters who are sometimes denied to be witches at all and are actually only called witches once in the play itself?
Simply put, this thesis is not intended to become a sociological examination of witch beliefs throughout recorded history, nor even a history of what the word "witch" has meant in literature. Instead, this work is designed as a history of a specific character - that literary creation which, whether we wish it to or no, springs to mind when we use the word "witch", and which is still used as a figure in popular literature today. And, as Diane Purkiss points out in The Witch in History, that figure as we know her today has her genesis in Macbeth. "When we say witch,", says Purkiss (p. 180), "we can hardly help thinking of Macbeth’s witches". Thus, it can be argued that "the Scottish play" is the only place where our history could begin. Whatever we think of such a formulation’s political or aesthetic merits, the Witch as a literary character is established as a ragged, warty, ugly old woman, cackling with mischief and boiling up noisome potions in a cauldron, and it is to Macbeth that we owe this picture. For example, as Purkiss states, the modern association of Witches with cauldrons is due almost entirely to that play (p. 212). Thus, if we are to examine the Witch-character as she has changed over the last four hundred years, we must start by examining where she came from, and how she was constructed. In this chapter, therefore, I intend to lay the basis for the development of my argument by addressing three main questions about the Weird Sisters. Where do they come from? What is their function in the play? And why is it that they have become the foundation for a character tradition that is only now becoming challenged at the end of the twentieth century?
I shall begin by examining the differing ways in which the civilised, literate elite and the mainly illiterate peasant class of the late 16th and early 17th centuries conceptualised witchcraft. This will lead on to a discussion of the Weird Sisters as a "negotiation", or compromise, between these different elite and popular traditions. Subsequently, I will attempt an examination of the several different ways in which the Sisters can be intepreted – as women, as supernatural beings, as diabolical agents, as psychological projections and symbols – and connect this with the central role of concepts of "equivocation" in the play. I intend to show that the real power of the Sisters, both in the play and as characters, lies in their ability to transgress (or inhabit) boundaries and to confound interpretation with both their appearance and their speech. They tell Macbeth that they do "a deed without a name", and I will connect the breakdown of language in the face of such ambiguity with the Macbeths’ refusal to name either their desires or their crimes, which leads to their madness and downfall. I will conclude by arguing that this is what makes them such potent symbols of evil – they represent a revolt against not only the established orders of family, society, church and state, but against rational conceptions of language itself. In summary, I will argue that the Weird Sisters are constructed as figures marginalised in every conceivable way by the "natural order" of the time, but conversely acquire the power to wreck the foundations of that order by virtue of their very marginalisation and exclusion.
The Social Environment: High Treason and Churn-Cursing in Early Jacobean Britain
As Purkiss says, when we think of witches today it is hard not to think of Macbeth’s Weird Sisters – but what image of witches would the audience who went to see Macbeth when it was first performed in 1606 have had, to make the Weird Sisters such a popular creation? The most obvious distinction between the audiences of that time and those of the present era is that witchcraft (or, at least, beliefs about witchcraft) would have existed for the audiences of the Jacobean era not solely as a literary or artistic construction, but as a real phenomenon. Even for those skeptical about the actual existence of witches, the fact that a significant proportion of society believed in them would inform how they would interpret witches in stage presentation. I will begin by briefly examining the socio-cultural phenomenon of witch beliefs at the time, concentrating on how the educated elite had a very different idea of what witchcraft entailed from the rural peasantry.
"The term ‘witch’ was labile, sliding across a number of different and competing discourses," (Purkiss, p. 93), and it is generally accepted that these discourses can be broadly divided into "elite" and "popular" traditions. The former could also be described as a "scholarly-clerical" tradition, in that it was based upon both Church teachings and the speculations of learned men, and was circulated in written form. The latter could be called a "rural-peasant" tradition, and it is mainly known to us from the testimonials and depositions of witnesses and suspects in the witch-trials of the time. The great difference between the two can be described as a difference of scope – for, as I intend to show, the "popular" tradition saw the witch as a threat to domestic happiness and order, whereas the "elite" saw the witch as a threat to the authority of both King and God.
The elite ideas about witchcraft of the early Jacobean period could be divided again into sceptical and demonological discourses. The sceptical viewpoint, explaining witch-stories away as peasant superstition or mere trickery, was most ably expressed in Reginald Scot’s Discoverie of Witches (1587) and was widespread during the Elizabethan period. Another point of view spanning the two discourses, expressed by George Gifford in A Dialogue Concerning Witches and Witchcraftes (1593: see Willis, p. 95), did suggest that the crime of a witch was "dealings with the Devil" - however, Gifford opined, such a witch had no real power, the Devil only giving her the illusion of such power to mock her. The demonological discourses, on the other hand, were to a large extent imported, being highly influenced by Continental views on witchcraft (expressed most infamously in the Malleus Maleficarum), some of which came with the new King, James VI of Scotland and I of England. As Harris (p. 4) notes, the Scottish witch-beliefs were much closer to those of their continental neighbours in many ways – for example, the concept of the coven, which was mostly unknown in England, and James’ interest in demonology and the "discovery" of witches led to many of the more "flamboyant" Continental witch-beliefs gaining the greater currency around court (Harris, p. 5). Although scholarly argument of the time ranged widely over several different definitions of witchcraft, sorcery or other forms of magic, the generally accepted definition of witchcraft was "the gaining of occult powers through a formal pact with the devil" (Harris, p. 3), and therefore abrogating one’s baptismal vow of devotion to God . Among other things, this may explain why both Catholic and Protestant churches accused the other of being in league with witches - in addition, Protestants often associated Catholic belief in salvation by works and the special powers of saints with witchcraft (Willis, p. 119). This more traditional religious view of witchcraft was, however, reinforced with a very strong political association. In his time as King of Scotland, James had been subject to several assassination attempts, and many of these allegedly involved witchcraft in some way (Wills, p. 42). For example, a group of witches from North Berwick under the leadership of John Fian were tried in 1590 for attempting to sink the King’s ship on the way back from Norway (Harris, p. 40). The linkage between the religious and political was made stronger by James’ evolving belief in the divine nature of monarchical authority (Turner, p. 118). According to that theory of monarchy, the Bible states that earthly rulers are to be treated as gods in their domain, and since the monarchical order is a reflection of the divine order upon earth, a crime against the King is tantamount to a crime against God. In this way, treason and witchcraft were conflated. It can be said, then, that the elite conception of witchcraft in the Jacobean court was of treason against divine authority, and that the line between this and earthly authority was deliberately blurred why what Purkiss describes as James’ "crusading paranoia" (p. 207).
The English popular traditions of witchcraft, on the other hand, were concerned with a very different realm indeed from the realm of God and the King. This was reflected in the judicial system set up to punish it – in England, witchcraft was tried by the secular rather than the church courts, and it was a civil rather than a criminal offence, that is, an offence against the life and property of one's neighbours rather than against the state. (The exception was witchcraft concerned with assassinating the monarch or forecasting her death – Harris, p. 8). Further, in the popular imagination the Witch was not envisaged as simply a servant of Satan - the "imps" who she was accused of sending against her neighbours were not seen as creatures of Hell, but of a "third world" of the supernatural, the "fairy-realm" neither attached to heaven nor hell (Willis, p. 91). (This concept was severely frowned on by clerics of the Reformation, who insisted that all creatures must be of God or else of the Devil.) Purkiss thus argues that the only direct documentation of rural-peasant witch-beliefs, contained in the transcriptions of depositions at witch-trials, clearly indicates that that community saw witchcraft as a crime against the domestic sphere of society. In rural society, witches were mainly accused of crimes against the accepted female sphere of action and responsibility – of killing infants or domestic animals, or making it impossible to bake bread or churn butter. In a society based on subsistence agriculture, these were indeed crimes against survival itself, or at least against the female-gendered contribution towards it. The Witch, Purkiss argues, was thus constructed as an "antihousewife" or an "antimother […] a powerful fantasy which enabled women to negotiate the fears and anxieties of housekeeping and motherhood" (p. 93). Similarily, Deborah Willis describes the rural idea of the Witch as a "malevolent mother", who was imagined to feed her familiars on her own blood from an extraneous "witch's teat" (Willis, p. 9). These fantasies attached themselves to old women, the most marginalised figures of the peasant social system and thus convenient scapegoats, especially as their reliance on begging engendered guilt, which in turn engendered resentment (see esp. Willis, p. 239f). In the several stories where women have accused other women of cursing their children or their cooking utensils, extending into the mid-twentieth centuries, Purkiss claims that we can see a pattern where the Witch was seen as "usurping" the natural privileges of the housewife of control over her domestic sphere (p. 111) – that is, attempting to take what did not belong to them. Further, Willis associates the power of the Witch with fantasies of maternal omnipotence (p. 8) - the mother or nursemaid has absolute control over the surroundings of the child, in the same way that the Witch is seen to have over the natural world.
This can be seen as the source of the explicit female gendering of the Witch we have come to accept. Newer theories of biology from the 16th century put the full responsibility for succesful child-raising on the mother (Willis, p. 17) - this put her in a position of power over her children contradictory to her accepted role as domestic servant, and therefore engendered male suspicion. In the elite discourse, both men and women could be traitors to God and/or King and therefore witches, but the popular discourse placed witchcraft squarely in the domestic, and therefore female, area. How, then, did men of the peasant social order interpret witchcraft? Peter Stallybrass argues that by representing a challenge to the traditional function of woman as guardian of the domestic arena, the figure of the Witch was used as an instrument for patriarchal social control. He makes the point that the rebellious associations of witchcraft which dominated the elite discourses on the subject could also be applied to the popular tradition, in that a woman such as a Witch who abrogated her traditional responsibilities over housekeeping and children was herself in revolt against the natural order (Stallybrass, p. 206) – and, therefore, in revolt against patriarchal authority. Thus, in the same way as the elite discourse conflated rebellion against God and King, the popular discourse can be seen as a negotiation of women’s fear of failure and usurpation in their domestic realm and men’s fear of usurpation of their role of head of the family.
We can then see the ways in which the Witch was seen by both the elite and popular discourses in the early Jacobean period as variations upon a common theme – that of a threat to the natural order, a "disturbing of the peace" (Willis, p. 85), whether it be specifically the peace of religion, monarchy, patriarchy or domestic propriety. When the two discourses came together, the conflict was sometimes obvious - this happened increasingly in formal witchtrials, where magistrates took it upon themselves to intervene in such disturbances to the social order of the community (Willis, p. 83). As Purkiss states (pp. 145f), women of the lower social orders would often accept the identity of "witch", even voluntarily, to enable them to carve out an independent sphere of power within the belief systems of their society, but this "self-fashioning" was to an extent undermined by the elite’s insistence in either attempted debunking of witchcraft or interpreting it in terms of Satanic pacts. "Most JPs were either demonologists or sceptics," says Purkiss (p. 153), and she adds that the confessions of village witches in the trials of the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras can be interpreted as a "negotiation", between the desire of the accused to tell her own story according to her belief systems, and the need for the confession to be acceptable to the conception of witchcraft held by the examining authorities. Further, the most important difference between the elite and the popular conception, as Willis points out (p. 15) is that in the discourse of demonology, the Witch was nothing more than "a drudge of Satan", his tool on earth, whereas in the popular rural tradition she was credited with autonomy and power over imps and familiars of her own. The idea of the "mother gone bad", using her power for evil rather than good, thus intersects with the idea of the Devil's handmaiden to construct a composite figure wherein female autonomy and evil are identified, as with mediaeval speculations on all women's responsibility for the sin of Eve. It is my intent to show that the characters of Macbeth’s Weird Sisters can be interpreted as being a product of precisely this kind of negotiation between popular and elite conceptions of Witchcraft.
The Construction of the Weird Sisters: A Negotiation, An Exploitation, or a Muddle?
The purpose of this section is to examine the sources from which the Weird Sisters are constructed, and how they can be related to both elite and popular definitions of the term canvassed in the preceding section. I will contrast this with a description of what literary depictions of witchcraft existed prior to Macbeth and the other plays of the "Jacobean witch-vogue", and thus hope to show that the Weird Sisters owe more to the contemporary discourses about witchcraft than to any previous literary tradition. Willis suggests (p. 160) that the middle-class and mobile nature of playwrights of necessity put them at the intersection of both native and foreign, elite and popular discourses . Accordingly, I aim to point out how the Weird Sisters of Macbeth can be seen in all these ways - as betraying servants of God and King, and as malevolent nurturers.
Diane Purkiss makes the point that the high-point of prosecutions and convictions for witchtrials, the Elizabethan era, was simultaneously a low point for the depiction of witchcraft on stage (p. 181). "The Witch of the Elizabethan stage gradually emerges from a mass of supernatural figures: sorcerers and sorceresses, classical witches, wise women, prophetesses and fairies." (Purkiss, p. 183). To put it another way, the "solidification" of the concept of the fictional Witch only occurred with Macbeth and the other plays of the Jacobean witchcraft vogue. Prior to this, "witch" could be used with little precision to indicate almost any figure, human or nonhuman (although, even at this stage, usually female) identified with the supernatural or magic. The "classical" witches mentioned are the female magic-users of Greco-Roman myth, featured in the works of such authors as Ovid, Lucan, Seneca and Virgil, who had regained currency during the Renaissance (Harris, p. 21). Malory and Spenser make frequent use of Circe-like figures in their works (ibid.), and there were many popular ballads concerning witchcraft. However, it is only with the Elizabethan era that we start to find witches portrayed on the stage. John Lyly’s witch-plays, Endimion and Mother Bombie, are among the more interesting of these in that they work with two distinct witch-traditions, that of classical literature for the former and peasant witch-beliefs of the type canvassed above for the latter (Harris, p. 27). Dipsas, the witch in Endimion, works with the same associations and makes the same boasts of magical power as classical witches such as Circe and Medea (Purkiss, p. 188) – Mother Bombie, on the other hand, inherits the power of fortune-telling, rather than acquiring it via supernatural/Satanic pact, and thus would probably not have been considered a witch within the meaning of the elite discourse. However, both are constructed primarily as harmless, comic characters – there is no sense of the witches in the play as threatening in any real sense. Moreover, dealing with powerful women in a dramatic manner was made more problematic by the need to avoid offending the Queen (Purkiss, p. 189). However, as the general perception of witches among the English elite moved from the sceptical to the demonological with the arrival of King James in London, the tenor of dramatic treatments of witchcraft became far more serious and tragic – as M.C. Bradbrook puts it, "Macbeth was the first play to introduce to the stage in a serious manner the rites and practices of contemporary witchcraft" (quoted in Jorgenson, p. 116). Also, a male monarch made it easier to portray powerful women as evil, especially considering James' resentment of the interference of both his mother, Mary Queen of Scots, and of Elizabeth I in his reign in Scotland (Willis, p. 125). In the remainder of this section, I will analyse what can be discovered about the sources of the Weird Sisters, with reference to previous literary constructions and to the contemporary witch-beliefs already canvassed, and argue that they effectively supersede the "harmless" witches of the Elizabethan literary tradition, to become the exemplars of a new form of writing about witchcraft. Like Turner (p.22), I have chosen to refer to "the Weird Sisters" rather than "the Witches" – it has been the intent of this chapter to show that the meaning in our literary tradition of the second term is based on the first, rather than, as is commonly believed, vice versa.
The section from Holinshead’s Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland from which the inspiration for the Weird Sisters derives bears only a vague resemblance to the characters we recognize. Holinshead records that as Macbeth and Banquo
"journied towards Fores… there met them three women in strange and wild apparell, resembling creatures of the elder world […] Afterwards the common opinion was, that these women were either the weird sisters, that is (as ye would say) the goddesses of destinie, or else some nymphs or feiries, indued with knowledge of prophesie by their necromanticall science, bicause everie thing came to pass as they had spoken." (quoted in Harris, p. 34).
It can be seen, then, that the fundamentally equivocal nature of the Weird Sisters stems from their very origins. Holinshead can only speculate as to whether these women were flesh and blood creatures, the goddess known as the Fates (Norns to the Norse, Parcae to the Greeks), or remnants of "the fairy folk", who were sometimes seen as supernatural and sometimes as the remnants of an older civilisation (Harris, p. 2). The "elder world" can be perhaps be seen as the more diverse spiritual world postulated by the classical or Catholic theologies, rather than that of the Reformation which assigned all spiritual entities to either Heaven or Hell (Willis, p. 91). As I intend to show, this very indeterminacy of the characters, or "polyphony" as Turner and Rosenberg call it, can be seen as the most important part of their nature. The power of the Weird Sisters in the play stems from fundamental ambiguities about what they are – debate even exists over whether they can be called Witches (Turner, p. 14), and what their powers are.
Almost all critics recognize the Weird Sisters as constructed from several different sources, from classical/literary, scholarly and popular traditions of witchcraft. The most obvious sign of classical literary influence is Hecat, the leader of the witches who appears (in sections generally considered to be later, non-Shakespearian interpolations – Hunter, p. 167) in scenes III.5 and IV.1. Her name is a contraction of that of the Greek infernal goddess Hecate, who is the goddess of the witches of the classical writers. The title character in Ovid’s Medea calls upon her, especially, and scene IV.1 especially has many signs of classical influence - although, like Hecat's name itself, slightly distorted. For example, the cauldron scene is like a grotesque reconsideration of similar spells from that play (Harris, p. 36), and Macbeth’s "conjuring" speech (IV.1.49-57) is based on a speech of Medea from Ovid or Seneca (Wills, p. 63). Wills further opines (p. 65) that the significance of the mixture of these classical and popular traditions was a sign that witchcraft was considered a constant in human history – that is, the Weird Sisters are being explicitly linked with the likes of Circe and Medea. Harris (p. 35) also points out that the classical oracles were famed for giving out prophecies as ambiguous (sometimes deliberately so) as those that the Sisters hail Macbeth and Banquo with (scene I.3). The most important way in which the Sisters build on literary tradition, however, is not in what they are, but what they replace. Harris (p. 48) notes that they serve the same function as various ghosts, demons and oracles did in earlier dramatic tradition – intrusions from outside the order established at the beginning of the play to facilitate the plot, whose "supernatural soliciting" cannot be seen to be either good or evil until the plot has played out. The main differences, Harris argues, are that the Sisters are more dramatically interesting – less "one-dimensional" – and also that the entire supernatural element of the play can be connected back to them. So, the Weird Sisters have some connections to previous depictions of witchcraft, but they serve quite a different purpose dramatically. In this sense, as any many others, they represent a new literary tradition of character.
The popular traditional elements of the Weird Sisters come from a far larger range of sources. The distinction referred to in the first section between Scottish and English witch-beliefs, the former being more influenced by Continental ideas about "pact" witchcraft, is partially obscured in the Weird Sisters. As might befit Scottish witches, they are part of a coven – a concept hardly found in English witch-stories, according to Harris (p.3) – but, on the other hand, in scene I.1 they are generally considered to be responding to the call of their familiars, and the witch’s familiar was a concept peculiar to English tradition (Stallybrass, p. 195). Thus, even their national origins are more ambigious than the "traditional Scottish witches" which Hunter (p. 39) describes them as – it could be possible, in light of the cross-border nature of their portrayal, to describe them as British witches. In appearance, on the other hand, they conform broadly to both elite and popular tradition, which emphasised the ugliness and filthiness of Witches (Jorgenson, p. 118). In the popular tradition, this serves to connect them to the most marginalised members of the peasant community, the old and the deformed; in the elite tradition, to express their hideousness as agents for evil. Jorgenson quotes a demonological author as explaining that "the Devil, who is vile, chooses for servants filthy old hags whose age and poverty serve but to enhance their foulness" (ibid). Filth is a persistent element in the characterisation of the Sisters, from the "fog and filthy air" which features in their chant (scene I.1) to the contents of their cauldron, which seem chosen solely for their disgusting nature (IV.1) To complete the picture, one of the symptoms of old age in women is increased growth of facial hair, and the Weird Sisters possess this further grotesquerie. The Weird Sisters conform in appearance, then, to the image of what the popular tradition would claim a Witch to be – a filthy, ugly old woman.
In their behaviour in the "sabbat" scene which begins I.3, they draw much from the tales from the rural witch-trials. The Second Witch reports herself to have been "killing swine" (scene I.3) – murder of domestic animals was a common accusation against witches, tying in with Purkiss’ interpretation of peasant witchcraft as primarily crime against domesticity. The tale of the sailor’s wife which immediately follows (I.3) is an uneasy mixture of peasant tradition and topical allusion. Chestnuts, as Purkiss states (p. 208), were a staple of peasant diet, being ground for flour when wheat was unavailable, and Harris (p.12) notes that most accusations of witchcraft were occasioned as acts of revenge for real or imagined slights. Again this reflects back on the witch’s place among the most marginalised of a rural subsistence society – Rosenberg (p.4) describes those accused of witchcraft and their "helplessness against society except in any power they have – or imagine they have – to injure those who munch on food and give them nothing". So the First Witch is here behaving as a village witch would be expected to behave, with one major exception – her revenge is not directed against the sailor’s wife personally, but against her husband. Moreover, this revenge is couched in specifically sexual terms. "I’ll drain him dry as hay;/ sleep shall neither night nor day/ hang upon his penthouse lid" (I.3), she says, and it is possible also, as Jorgenson (p.120) does, to detect a sexual undercurrent to "Like a rat without a tail/I’ll do, I’ll do, and I’ll do". This is an irruption of the elite discourse of witchcraft into a peasant story. The witch of the demonological concept, having formed a pact with Satan, was often set to seduce men and deprive them of their precious bodily fluids (Rosenberg, p. 19), but this element was absent from the "women’s stories" on which Purkiss bases her account of popular witch-traditions. However, even in this context the true nature of the Weird Sister's craft is radically indeterminate - exactly what she will "do and do and do" remains the Deed without a Name (Willis, p. 214).
Also to be found in this small anecdote are very strong topical influences which might be expected to appeal to King James, who, as previously noted, had been the subject of several witchcraft-related assassination attempts. The Tiger, on which the husband has gone, was a ship recently returned to harbour in England after almost two years at sea (Hunter, p. 141) – it is also reminiscent of the North Berwick case, whose witches were accused of "raising storms" to sink the King’s ship (Harris, p. 40), and having sailed in sieves. This is further emphasised by their mode of speech – octosyllabic couplets such as Gillis Duncan, one of the North Berwick accused, was said to have used (Purkiss, p. 199). Similarly, the earl of Bothwell, who raised rebellion against James in the name of his mother, Mary Queen of Scots, was said to have consulted with witches as Macbeth does (Willis, p. 209), and Macduff, "from his mother's womb/ Untimely ripped" (V.8) might have appealed to James as a symbol of male power divorced from interfering maternal or quasi-maternal interference (Willis, ibid).We can see this particular episode, then, as a characterisation primarily based on peasant witch-beliefs, but with a significant leavening of learned and topical allusions to appeal to the beliefs of the courtly audiences of the time. As Purkiss explains (p. 207) the effect is of "slippage" between the various definitions of what a witch was supposed to be.
The objects associated with the magic of the Weird Sisters draw closer to the literary sources and to the notions of the scholarly than to rural tradition. The First Witch brandishes a pilot’s thumb from a shipwreck (I:3) - witches were supposed in the scholarly tradition to achieve necromantic powers by such acts of corpse-robbing, and such activities had been expressly prohibited by James’ 1604 anti-witchcraft statute (Harris, p. 40). The ingredients which enter the cauldron in IV.1 are, as we might have come to expect, "borrowed from all over the place" (Purkiss, p. 212); Roman dramatic representations of witchcraft and Continental accounts of sabbath-brews are seem to be the main sources. Willis suggests that the cauldron can be seen as a womb-symbol, another indication of the Sisters' maternal nature, especially in that two of the visions it brings forth are of children (Willis, p. 231). However, the ingredients appear to be chosen indiscrimnately from several different traditions, for sensational, grotesque effect rather than consistency with any recognizable witch-belief – a mockery of the trappings of peasant witchcraft for the amusement of their social betters. Purkiss, however, notes a connection with the domestic nature of popular witch-beliefs in the method in which the prophetic spell is put together – it is, she claims, a parodic recipe, with such instructions as "Cool it with a baboon’s blood/ Then the charm is firm and good" (Purkiss, p. 212). As previously stated, before its association with witchcraft via this play the cauldron was simply a peasant cooking vessel, and in its perversion to a loathsome use we catch here again an echo of the tradition of the witch as the enemy of domesticity.
In summary, then, the Weird Sisters of Macbeth are, in the words of Harris, "founded on, but transcend […], ancient and contemporary beliefs about witchcraft" (p. 44). I have shown how they are constructed from a sometimes uneasy mixtures of popular, scholarly and classical versions of witchcraft. In appearance and manner they resemble the old women who were mainly accused of witchcraft in the rural trials. In their speech and in their actions they mainly draw on the stories of what peasant society believed witches to do, but also appeal to the conceptions of witchcraft that were common in the Jacobean court – to use the distinction of the first section, they are mainly "churn-cursers", but have just enough allusion to the witches who were thought to have committed high treason in Scotland to pique the interest of the King's "crusading paranoia" concerning witchcraft. In addition, they bear some resemblance to earlier dramatic representation of witches in cosmetic detail, but are very different in both form and function from the earlier classically-based or comical figures, in that they are strongly influential over the plot even when not on stage. It is possible to argue, moreover, that their dramatic function is as overseers of the unfolding of the plot, a theme emphasised by the way in which they are referred to far more often than they appear, which has been pointed up in productions where the Sisters are a constant shadowy presence in the background of the play (Rosenberg, p. 15). This portrayal, which fits them into one of Holinshead’s suggested identities, that of "goddesses of destinie", is however at odds with their characterisation, which is by turns grotesque, topical and gnomic, but which tends to mark them as human, if human with supernatural power. It cannot be doubted, then, that the nature of the Weird Sisters is identical to the nature of their prophecies – defying interpretation – and it is my intent to argue in the conclusing section of this chapter that this is no accident. I aim to show that it is precisely because of their diverse, confusing characterisation, appealing to so many different and conflicting conceptions of what witchcraft is, that they are so succesful in their function as the abiding and controlling spirits of the plot of Macbeth, a play based on equivocation, confusion and deceit.
A Deed Without A Name: The Weird Sisters, Macbeth, And Crimes Against Nature
Rosenberg (passim) lists seven different ways that the Weird Sisters can be categorised: as women, witches, sorceresses, agents of the Devil, Fates, projections of Macbeth’s own unconscious, and as symbolic representations. Wills (passim) adds one other way – as representations of the Jesuit priests who were thought to have encouraged the Gunpowder plotters in their unsucessful attempted assassination of King and Parliament. Stallybrass describes them as depictions of the threat of female and peasant power to the patriarchal/monarchical order (p. 206), whereas Purkiss regards them as exploitative caricatures of the real stories and concerns of rural women. About the only thing, it seems, that we can truly describe the Weird Sisters as is polysemic – they can be interpreted in many different ways, all of them accurate in some ways and inaccurate in others. In this concluding section I will seek to explain the lasting appeal and success of the Weird Sisters, to the extent that a literary tradition has been founded upon them, by showing how their very equivocation can be interpreted as a fundamental challenge to the accepted order of the Universe as conceived by the ruling discourses of society. I shall focus on the dramatic effect of both the confusion that surrounds their identity and the ambiguity of their prophecies, and examine how this relates to the fatal trap of self-delusion that Macbeth finds himself caught up in.
Perhaps the most succinct description of the Weird Sisters that it is possible to produce is "liminal figures" (Harris, p. 38) – that is, they inhabit boundaries or grey areas, between the supernatural and the physical worlds, between the nobility and the peasantry, between human and non-human, between man and woman. This fundamental ambiguity even encompasses their name. The first word is consistently spelt "Weyard" in the first folio edition, which is thought to represent the pronunciation of Shakespeare’s time (Rosenberg, p. 12) – except in certain utterances by Banquo and Macbeth, where they are called "weyward". Thus, the very name of the characters is an equivocal pun – they are both "wayward", in the sense of capricious, self-willed and nonconforming, and "weird", in the older sense of the term, meaning involved with destiny. (Indeed, our modern use of the word "weird" to mean strange or uncanny derives from Macbeth - Harris, p. 33.) The Sisters are of such a fundamentally ambiguous construction that even the primary signifier of identity in a patriarchal culture – gender – is equivocal in them. "You should be women,/" says Banquo," and yet your beards forbid me to interpret/ That you are so" (scene I.3). Other sources of ambiguity include Rosenberg’s distinction between "witches" and "sorceresses", which is based on the fundamental question of how much power they have over the course of the play – are they merely foretelling Macbeth’s future, or are they causing it to come to pass? Do they hang, as Harris (p. 35) suggests, as "Furies" over the play, tormenting Macbeth on into damnation - malevolent, omnipotent mother-figures, in Willis' analysis (p. 218) - or are the supernatural elements of his descent such as the airdrawn dagger (I.7) figments of his own tortured psyche, for which the Sisters become the scapegoat? How much responsibility do the Sisters have for the events of the play, and can we accurately describe them as evil, in the diabolic sense of the term that the demonologists of the time would have used? Certainly, they appear to have a delight in confusion and mischief (Hunter, p. 39), and Macbeth definitely considers them to be so – he probably means the phrase "night’s black agents" (IV.1) to refer to them, and describes his second visit to them as arising from the need to "know/ by the worst means, the worst" (III.4). However, the Sisters, who state that "fair is foul, and foul is fair" (I.1), can be seen as indifferent to good or evil in general - the most radical example of their ambiguity. A modern psychological analysis might describe Macbeth as "projecting" his own faults onto those he wishes to make responsible. As Rosenberg (p. 16) points out, the Sisters’ delight in mischief is tempered by their apparently favourable interest in Macbeth himself. In short, much as the Sisters do "a deed without a name", they are themselves nameless – or rather, they have many names, none of which is correct. The reason why they provoke such consternation in the other characters, and subsequently in the audience, is that it is as impossible to decipher exactly what they are, or what they are doing.
Stallybrass interprets this radical ambiguity as the main reason why the Sisters are such potent figures of evil in the play – they evade, by their equivocation, the categorisation which is necessary for a patriarchal/monarchical social system, based on distinctions between nobility and peasantry and between man and woman. They do not even explicitly take sides in the battle in I.1 and seem indifferent as to whether Macbeth succeeds or not, as we might expect from members of the lowest class of society (Willis, p. 217). They are thus simultaneously antagonistic figures in both major discourses of Witchcraft – they are simultaneously bad subjects, plotting the downfall of the legitimate monarchy, and bad neighbours, who take violent revenge for petty slights and cook their spells out of everything that is considered foul. In addition, they are bad women, in that they dare to give advice leading to the overthrow of Duncan, the rightful patriarch. Accordingly, Macbeth's treason is gendered feminine in the play – Willis suggests that civil strife in Shakespeare's plays is often linked to a conflict between feminine and masculine values (p. 172), and Macbeth’s cowardice in murdering Duncan under trust is associated with Lady Macbeth’s "unnatural" influence over her husband. As well as being the enemy of everything that is "good" by the prevailing discourses of the time, they are simultaneously the most marginalised figures of society, old peasant women (Rosenberg, p. 4). Thus, as Turner (p. 21) says, their ambiguity becomes a universality – because they are neither one thing nor the other, because they are so diversely constructed as to be simultaneously the antitheses to all the conceptions of good order held by the various sections of society, they are universal symbols of "revolt against the natural order" (Stallybrass, p. 206). The natural order as presented in the play is the God-fearing, patriarchal monarchy of Duncan, which the Sisters are depicted as wishing to overthrow through sheer love of confusion and mischief – and as Turner (p. 18) states, any assertiveness or desire from women which conflicted with the customary demands of subservience and modesty was considered "unnatural". The Sisters are unnatural because they refuse to fit into the marginalised, powerless category defined for them by this natural order, they are "unnatural" – similarly, the thunder and lightening which heralds their entrances, and which they are generally assumed to have provoked, would have been "likely to be perceived by Shakespearean man as ‘unnatural’" (Rosenberg, p. 1). So, the conflation between witchcraft as revolt against God and revolt against the King implicit in the elite tradition is further extended in its negotiation with popular traditions in the person of the Weird Sisters – now, witchcraft is defined as revolt against the very nature of the universe. In this way, although the Weird Sisters never actually commit the crimes of the play, they become perhaps its ultimate villains.
If monarchy is conceived as being a reflection on Earth of God’s rule over the universe, then revolt against the monarchy is itself a crime against nature, and the Witches provoke Macbeth into unnatural acts. This unnaturalness has been pointed up in several productions in which men have played the Sisters, adding strength to Stallybrass’s point (p. 201) that the crime of the Sisters is a crime against patriarchy in particular. Another aspect of the Weird Sister’s crime against nature is their revolt against language. Renaissance thought did not consider language to be a neutral, contingent medium for the transmission of meaning – all things in the universe were considered to have "true names" in some universal language (often assumed to be Hebrew). "To give false names, to pervert language, was a sin against nature," (Wills, p. 95) and the Jesuit’s doctrine that it was permissible to equivocate under oath for Godly purposes was considered blasphemous by Protestants of the time. Therefore, the ambiguous nature of the Sisters’ prophesies, leading Macbeth to interpret them incorrectly and thus lead himself into treason and damnation, would have been considered among their worse crimes. The revolt of the Sisters against the natural order of language is encapsulated by their declaration to Macbeth that they do "a deed without a name" (IV.1) – that is, an action opposed to the natural sphere to which language pertains. Macbeth’s own treason and murder can be considered in itself a nameless deed – not only because of its "unnatural" nature, so that none might dare to name it, but in that the Macbeths themselves refuse to name it. We never get a clear picture of the events leading up to the murder of Duncan, since we only hear about them during the conversation of the Macbeths, and they consistently refuse to explicitly name their desires, their hopes, or the means by which they aim to achieve them. "They speak of it mutedly, obliquely, with euphemism, and with extensive reliance upon it and other pronouns without antecedents" (Jorgenson, p. 47). A modern psychological interpretation could even say that Macbeth is "in denial" – his better nature steadfastly refuses to name what he is thinking and doing, presumably in the belief that what is not named does not exist. Even if the Sisters are not causing Macbeth’s descent in reality, they must receive the blame if Macbeth is to be absolved of responsibility for his own actions. In such a way, the Sisters fulfil the function of scapegoats which witches consistently fulfilled in both elite and popular discourses throughout the Renaissance period (Turner, p. 16), and the ambiguity which the play relies on is enhanced – the inability to name the nature of the Weird Sisters is connected to the inability of Macbeth to face the reality of his crimes.
Purkiss suggests that the difficulty in interpreting what the Sisters "really are" is offered as an appeal to James I’s interest in hunting down and exposing witches (p. 207). She makes the point that unlike, say, Ben Jonson’s Masque of Queens, in which the witches are transparently ridiculous and fake, the Weird Sisters are constructed to as to require both the audience and the characters to interpret them correctly, which none of them succeed in doing. This shows up the inutility of attempting to use the word "witch" in terms of one uncontestable definition. This error, for example, leads Wills (p. 46) to attempt to interpret them solely by the scholarly definition of witchcraft as a pact with the forces of darkness, an approach which short-circuits their primary characteristic, and the feature that makes them so fundamentally important for the process of the play – that is, their ambiguity. "They arouse our horror; they tempt us to call them witches to relieve that horror; and then, because we cannot do so, our horror redoubles." (Turner, p. 20) However, this ironically shows up the fact that the modern literary definition of "witch" is based directly on the Weird Sisters. We can say that because they are such sui generis figures, and yet subsume such a variety of different stories and beliefs about witches into themselves, the literary tradition of the Witch had to redefine itself around them. Thus, the Weird Sisters cannot be unambiguously called "witches", because they are constructed from so many different sources with differening definitions of what a witch was, but ironically they consequently become the new definition of "witch" for literature in English.
Not all commentators agree in praising the ingenious ambiguity of the Weird Sisters and their role in the play, however. Purkiss, who previously describes the construction of the confessions in the witch-trials as a "negotiation", rejects the use of that term for the construction of the Weird Sisters, referring to them instead as "an awkwardly compressed mass of diverse stories… popular culture [buried] under a thick topdressing of exploitative sensationalism" (p. 207). In Purkiss’s account, the Weird Sisters are not so much constructed as jumbled together, and offensively so at that. She regards them as a purely sensationalist construction, "pandering shamelessly to the novelty-hungry news culture of Jacobean London" (ibid.) She takes the sexualisation of the story of the sailor’s wife and the garbled, grotesque nature of the cauldron scene as evidences of male appropriation and exploitation of women’s stories and fantasies, as well as elite mockery of the very real fears of peasant society. Macbeth’s use of witch-stories of the popular tradition, she says, "looks less appealing once the listener is conscious of the female voices silenced" (p. 207) – and presumably the voices of rural society as well. She makes the point that whereas Stallybrass praises Shakespeare for refusing to reduce the Sisters to old village women (Stallybrass, p. 195), this assumes that old village widows are less dramatically interesting than stereotypical evil hags (Purkiss, p. 208) – Purkiss rejects this assumption, and suggests that in that way a possible source of rich dramatic interest is lost for the cause of "cheap sensationalism".
While these complaints are no doubt justified, the question still remains of how such shallow, sensationalist stereotypes could have become the basis for an entire literary tradition of witchcraft. Purkiss, however, possibly answers her own point when she says that the use of stories of village witchcraft in Macbeth "depends on the stories and events half narrated in them remaining utterly unreadable and inscrutable" (p. 208). I believe that I have shown in this section that the abstraction of the Weird Sisters from the traditions from which they were constructed, while it may well have been for sensationalist or elitist reasons, is precisely why they have survived and formed the basis for our modern tradition – that as abstracted figures of revolt against all that is held to be natural, they achieve a dramatic power that transcends the social conditions of both their time, the time of the play and the time of modern readers. The silencing of women’s voices and their exploitation to express patriarchal anxieties that Purkiss complains of may be regrettable, but the Weird Sisters cooking up the destinies of kings in their cauldron on the blasted heath have survived far longer in literature to trouble the complacency of patriarchy than a faithful portrayal of rural women’s domestic anxieties of the time could have. Whether conversion into a new stereotype is an acceptable price to pay for these women’s stories to pay for literary longevity in a patriarchal tradition is a question that can only be decided by each reader for themselves.
Conclusion: Why Do They Live On?
My argument to this point can be encapsulated as follows: prior to Macbeth and the other plays of the Jacobean witch-vogue, the literary depiction of witches was either as stock figures from the classical tradition, or as harmless comical peasant figures. This contrasted with a social milieu in which the concept of witchcraft was taken very seriously indeed. Those cultured, literate elite who did not dismiss it out of hand as the ignorant fancies of peasants considered it the worst of crimes, not only a revolt against God but (by the doctrine of divine right of Kings) against the state. Among the peasantry, on the other hand, the witch was the enemy of good housekeeping and domesticity – Purkiss’ "powerful fantasy" for women to ease anxiety about their own sphere of responsibility by means of scapegoating. In both cases, it was the most marginalised members of the community – old women, ugly and deformed, incapable of making an independent living and thus forced to rely on begging – who were imagined by a resentful community to be the enemy of the very social order itself.
The Weird Sisters of Macbeth are, as Purkiss states, fundamentally a sensationalist creation – they have been thrown together from peasant tradition, the paranoid fantasies of the new Jacobean monarchy, and a few half-remembered pieces of classical witch-lore. Why, then, did they go on to become the image that most modern readers call to mind when the word "witch" is mentioned? I have argued in this chapter is that their diverse, inconsistent construction creates (perhaps accidentally) a fundamental ambiguity in their nature – because they are created out of pieces of the deepest fears of every section of society, they effectively become a symbol of universal rebellion against what was considered "the natural order of society". Whatever the politics of their construction, they would not have survived if they did not reflect a need to create a universal scapegoat – a rebel against God, King, house, child, social order and even the very language. Because they are women (if they are women) without names who commit deeds without names, they could have been the most frightening things of all for the literate readers of the time, who based their identity and social position on their ability to explain the universe with language and logic, without recourse to peasant superstition. The Weird Sisters’ influence over Macbeth, then, is a fantasy of what could happen if peasant superstition were to re-emerge from the margins and dethrone the learned, patriarchal, monarchical order of the universe. This anxiety about the power of peasant superstition, and the old women who embody it, will be explored in the fairy-tale analyses of the next chapter.
The Witch-character as exemplified by the Weird Sisters, therefore, shows two faces. To those privileged by the dominant paradigms, the "natural order" of society, she is everything bad condensed into one package – the bad mother, the anarchist saboteur, the agent of Satan, the dirty peasant, the total nihilist who threatens to unleash mindless chaos on all the spheres of human life. Conversely, to those excluded or marginalised by this "natural order", she encapsulates the sources of power available to those on the margins of society. These are the powers associated with dirt, with woman, with poverty, with irrationality, with anti-Christianity and with rebellion against authority - in short, all those forms of power that those in power try to not even name, let alone think about, and thus hope to wipe from existence. The literary Witch-character, therefore, became defined as the person capable of committing "a deed without a name". In future chapters I aim to show how those both sympathetic and unsympathetic to the idea of the Witch have given many different answers to what that deed might be.
Old Wives' Tales: Witchcraft in 19th Century Children's Literature
Introduction: Folk Tales, Nursery Tales, and Fairy Tales
In the previous chapter, we explored the way in which the Weird Sisters of Macbeth can be interpreted as a compromise or negotiation between the differing "elite" and "popular" discourses of Jacobean witch-beliefs. In the centuries following the Jacobean era, the conception of witchcraft as a pact with demonic powers, encouraged by the Church and held by a faction of the educated elite in early modern times, succumbed to the spread of Enlightenment ideas, and the "sceptical" discourse which considered the Witch nothing more than peasant superstition prevailed among the educated classes. Thus, by the nineteenth century the figure of the Witch was no longer taken seriously in elite circles, and the "demonological" discourse of Witchcraft became regarded, outside of the Church, as a superstition in itself. However, the other "superstitious" discourse of Witchcraft - that based on rural witch-beliefs - enjoyed something of an afterlife, becoming integrated into aristocratic and bourgeois circles via its transformation into the subject material for children's tales.
This chapter will focus on works by three collectors and/or authors of such tales, whose works have continued in popularity up to the current era . Firstly, the Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Children's and Household Tales) were German folktales collected and edited by the brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm and first published in 1812 - Wilhelm released further editions of the tales up until 1857. This collection includes many of the best known children's tales of today, such as "Snow White", "Hansel and Gretel" and "Rapunzel". The latter two will be considered in some depth in this chapter, along with certain less well-known tales from the collection which are interesting for their portrayal of witches. The analysis for this chapter will be based on Ralph Mannheim's translation of the 1857 edition as Tales for Young and Old (1978) which was described by Maria Tatar as the first "reliable English version" (Tatar, p. xxii). Secondly, the stories of the Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen, written in the middle years of the nineteenth century, include both adaptations of folk material and works of Andersen's own design based on literary sources - we will investigate one tale from the first class ("The Tinderbox") and one from the second ("The Little Mermaid" - Conroy, p. 251, identifies the literary sources for this tale). The third author that will be considered is the American Lyman Frank Baum, who wrote a series of children's books concerning the Land of Oz, of which the first, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900) has become, via the MGM film of 1939 starring Judy Garland, a major cultural icon. Indeed, as Diane Purkiss notes, Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch of the West in the film is one of the two "dominant images of the Witch", along with the Weird Sisters of Macbeth (Purkiss, p. 276). Thus, to trace the image of the witch in popular culture through literature, the fairytale witches must be our second primary source.
This chapter accepts the definition of the "fairy tale" used by Bottigheimer (p.9): a tale based in a setting "isolated in time and place" from the setting in which it is told, which uses magic or magical beings among its major plot devices and without a religious "teleological focus on death with its heavenly or hellish consequences". We can therefore say that the characteristic of the fairytale is that it is based in an Otherworld, whether that of the past or that of "Never-Never Land" - consequently, there is a strong tendency to analyse the fairytale ahistorically, as embodying archetypal (from a Jungian point of view) or psychological (as Freudian commentators such as Bruno Bettelheim would have it) truths. However, commentators such as Zipes and Bottigheimer point out that this approach neglects the mediating effect of the different treatments in the retelling of the traditional material. As Tatar also explains (p. xix), ahistorical analyses of the tales often base their arguments on features that were added to the tales by their literary transcribers rather than those elements from the oral tradition, and thus confuse the two. This chapter, therefore, will examine the fairytales as mediated texts - text based on oral tradition, or drawing inspiration from that tradition, but mediated by their mainly male, middle-class transcribers/authors, in much the same way that we have argued that the Weird Sisters are the result of Shakespeare's mediation between popular and elite witch-beliefs.
For example, Bottigheimer mentions that these tales have been officially associated with female tellers (p. 10), a theme taken up in great detail in Warner's work which will be explored later, but here it is sufficient to note that these "fairy stories" or "Mother Goose tales" were in the 19th century almost always mediated through male transcribers, editors and publishers. So in this sense, the stories are a mediation through male interpreters of a tradition coded female - and they are also of mixed origin as to their class basis. Purkis (p. 277) notes that "folktales still speak to us in a female voice", and connects this female voice to the female voices of the early modern period whose "fantasies about witches" were explored in the previous chapter as one of the main sources of the Weird Sisters. However, this female voice is also a rural peasant voice, as previously explained, and the nature of the class mediation of the folktale material is also important. Purkiss also mentions (p. 277) "nurses and governesses bringing the concerns of a different social class into the castle" - the folktale thus becomes the nursery tale. Therefore, there must be a mediation to make the tales understandable, explicable or morally appropriate for children. The latter seems to have been the main thrust behind Wilhelm Grimm's progressive editing of the tales - Tatar notes (pp. 19-20) that one of the main aspects of the Märchen that disappeared between the 1812 and 1857 editions was virtually every reference to pregnancy, and speculates that this may have been in response to the slow sales of the first edition, associated with complaints about its suitability to be read to children.
The other important mediation that comes in the transformation to the literary fairy tale, in the hands of the male transcribers/editors, is the pedagogical slant which the tales were given. "Almost all critics", writes Zipes (p.3), "agree that educated writers [of literary fairy tales] purposely appropriated the oral folk tale and converted it into a type of literary discourse about mores, values and manners so that children would become civilised according to the social code of that time" - and further, (p. 9) "the purpose of the tale from the beginning was to instruct and amuse, that is, to make moral lessons and social strictures palatable". However, this often required an ideological adaptation on behalf of the literary transcribers, from concerns of the rural peasantry from whom the tales came to those of the bourgeois parents anxious to raise moral children. The prime example which Purkiss uses (p. 280) is of the Witch's house in "Hansel and Gretel", which was originally made from bread, rather than gingerbread - hence the tale shifts from rural anxiety on how to feed children during famine to middle-class concern about the "greediness" of children. Purkiss explains that as the tales moved from rural subsistence life to the urban bourgeoisie, the anxieties of the parents changed from how the children were to be fed to how they were to be brought up as moral, civilised beings - Zipes mentions (p. 23) that the imposition of strict behavioural controls on adults by the bourgeois code of civilities gave rise to an image of children as "corruptible innocents", and produced the pedagogical obsessions of fairytale collectors/authors such as the Grimms and Andersen. This aspect of the literary fairytale is enthusiastically supported by Bettelheim - the German title of his work translates to "Children Need Fairytales" (Kinder Bräuchen Märchen), and it is his contention (p. 4) that the tales contain valuable psychological lessons to help the child cope with its own subconscious impulses. However, as Zipes points out, the lessons taught by the literary tales are shaped by their adaptors - and as Purkiss notes, these change according to the differing anxieties of the adults who write and read fairytales of each different era. Zipes notes (p. 8) that the world of the older fairytales is "curiously amoral" - it may be possible to argue that morality is a luxury which can be afforded when the question of how to feed one's family is no longer pressing.
This process of adapting morality was consciously engaged in by the Grimm Brothers in particular - as Bottigheimer notes, "in their introduction the Grimms themselves called this cheaply printed little book a childrearing manual, an early hint that it offered paradigms for appropriate behaviour" (p. 4). In addition, the works by Tatar and Bottigheimer referenced track the effects of Wilhelm's progressive editing intensify his own particular moral preferences in the tales (see esp. Bottigheimer, ch.6). As for Hans Christian Andersen, Zipes in particular interprets his tales as strongly supporting the social and economic power structures of his day - in particular, "The Tinderbox" as extolling social Darwinism, and "The Little Mermaid" as warning against the dangers of upward social mobility. This, of course, may be seen a consequence of his strong social analysis of the tales - Bettelheim, for example, interprets royalty in fairytales as mainly representing the absolute power of parents over children (p. 205). However, the social analysis seems more fruitful for an understanding of the tales as historical artefacts. Baum, on the other hand, explicitly eschews this moralistic project - in his introduction to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, he presents that book as "a new kind of tale" which seeks to entertain only and eschews "all the horrible and blood-curdling incident devised… to point a fearsome moral to each tale" (p. 3). The difference apparent in Wizard by the removal of the "civilising" imperative will be explored in greater detail.
It is the task of this chapter to show how the mediation of the primarily female and rural sources of witch-stories through the Grimms, Andersen and Baum differs from that of Shakespeare, mainly as a function of the different social and ethical positions of the authors. These are all tales dealing with an Otherworld of some description, and of course the Otherworld, or more correctly its intersection with our own, is the traditional place of the Witch, the liminal sphere inhabited by the Weird Sisters. Likewise, this chapter will examine the intersection of the fairy-tale forests with the desires of 19th century middle-class male writers to "instruct and/or amuse" children. These works that this chapter will examine have continued to be commonly read to and by children up to the present day, and thus the depictions of witches therein can be seen to be formative influences on the figure of the Witch as envisaged in popular culture today. The Kinder- und Hausmärchen contain several tales featuring witches as primary antagonists, and construct a Witch character which, much like the character of the Weird Sisters, is made up from a negotiation between the various types of wicked female who would be recognized by the audience of the time - the wicked stepmother, the woodland hag in league with the dark forces of nature, and the diabolical tempress who offers forbidden knowledge (often sexual) at an insupportable price. Much the same kind of Witch is also presented in the tales of Andersen, particularly "The Little Mermaid", whose Sea Witch is nothing more than the "hag in the wood" transplanted to a submarine domain. This Witch as "omnibus wicked woman" also appears in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. This chapter, therefore, will be structured as an investigation of the three main traditions from which the antagonistic fairytale Witch can be said to be constructed. However, in connection with Wizard I also aim to show how Baum, uniquely among the authors studied, also constructs a positive inversion of this character - the Good Witches of North and South, thus creating a beneficient concept of female power which can also be applied to Dorothy, the book's protagonist. It is my contention that this reclaiming of the figure of the Witch that can also be detected in the revisionist Witches presented by recent works of science fiction and fantasy that will be explored in the second half of this thesis.
The Fairytale Witch as Wicked (Step)Mother
As mentioned in the previous chapter, Purkiss (p. 93) interprets the witch-beliefs of early modern rural women as constructing the Witch as "antihousewife or antimother" - an evil usurper of the woman's role in rural society. Therefore, it would not be surprising if this image of the Witch as the domestic usurper was not carried over into those fairytales based on rural folktales. However, the mediation required to make the tales conform to the needs of tales for the children of the 19th century urban bourgeoisie adds emphasis to the question of the Witch as the "bad mother" - which, as will be explored further, was often changed in the tales to "wicked stepmother". In this section I will avail myself of two different perspectives from which to analyse this facet of the fairytale witch - the ideas of rural women analysed by Purkiss and reported in the preceding chapter, and Bettelheim's Freudian attempt to explain why a child might need the concept of an evil mother.
Willis suggests (p. 37) that the accusations of cursing in the record of early modern witch trials can be seen as evidence of women's verbal violence towards each other - similarly, Purkiss's epilogue on the fairytale Witch emphasises those features of the character which can be traced to "the female voice whose fantasies about witches are visible in [witch] trial depositions" (p. 277). In a society where feeding the family was not only a female occupation, but one fraught with danger in a subsistence economy, the mother might well be expected to go without food herself if necessary for her children's sake - Purkiss suggests that the cannibalistic Witches of the tales can be seen as the embodiment of the guilt of mothers who put their own needs before those of their children (p. 279). In offering food the Witch also "symbolically assume[s] the role of the child-victim's mother" - in Purkiss' example, "Hansel and Gretel", the cannibal-Witch entices the starving titular children with a house made of "bread and cakes", luxury foods in subsistence rural society. The Witch thus seduces and destroys the children whose parents are unable (or unwilling) to feed them themselves, and thus punishing the "real" parents for their failure of parental care. Thus, we can see the witch as the locus of the mother's anxieties about her own fitness for childcare. Furthermore, this image of the Witch as "antimother" can be connected not only to women's anxieties, but back to children's fantasies connected with parental power, and desire for revenge (Willis, p. 48). Purkiss (p. 119) cites a mother who discovers that, according to her children, "after I put them to bed and kiss them goodnight, I go out of the room and remove my mask and clothes, and reveal myself to be a witch". Bettelheim further suggests that children must envisage the mother who loves them and the mother who punishes them as separate entities (a real mother and a false mother - p. 69) - and thus, the triumph of oppressed children over the Stepmother/Witch in the fairytales can be a "fantasy satisfaction" of children's resentment of their parents (p. 52). Accordingly, Tatar suggests that the witches of Grimms' tales are "so pitiless that they fail to elicit pity when the tables are turned" (p. 182) - they are deliberately constructed so that it is impossible to feel sympathy for them in their demise. In much the same way, Wolstenhome suggests that Dorothy's killing of the Wicked Witches in Wizard of Oz is specificially designed to relieve Dorothy of all blame - her house crushes the Witch of the East, and she is apparently ignorant of the effect that a bucket of water will have on the Witch of the West. Wolstenhome comments (Baum, p. xxxix) that in Oz, "the bad mother will not stay dead" - reappearing as Aunty Em as well as the two Witches - which further absolves Dorothy from guilt for abandonment and murder.
The aspect of the Witch as "bad mother" for children is also expressed in the way in which she often forces her child-victims into domestic servitude - this is the complaint of Little Brother and Sister about their wicked stepmother, it is what the witch in the woods forces Gretel into, and also what the Wicked Witch of the West inflicts upon Dorothy in Oz (Baum, p. 151) - the latter also punishes her slaves the Winkies by beating them with a leather strap (p. 142), a traditional instrument of domestic punishment. The wicked stepmother figure, then, enters the tales as an "evil substitute" for the real mother - just as Bettelheim reports (p. 134) about a girl who was convinced that her loving mother was occasionally replaced by a Martian impersonator who would punish the girl. As Warner points out (p. 206), the high rates of death in childbirth for rural early modern women, and the usual quick remarriage of their widowers, meant that the presence of the stepmother in the rural home was more a rule than an exception. It is important to note that the stepmother, as substitute and "usurper" mother, thus becomes a mother figure that it is safe for the child to hate. the Witch and the "wicked stepmother", in fact, tend to be conflated and are sometimes explicitly identified throughout the tales, and it is possible to argue that in one sense, the Witch is actually the Stepmother in her unmasked form.
The role of the idea of the Deep Woods in the depiction of fairytale witches will be explored in the next section, but some words can be said here concerning tales such as "Hansel and Gretel" or "Little Brother and Little Sister" (Grimms' Tales no. 11, Mannheim p. 41). In these tales, the wicked stepmother abuses the titular children within the home, either starving them or forcing them into domestic servitude - but when the children escape from her into the woods, she reveals her true power as a Witch. The wicked stepmother in the latter tale "had seen the children go away and had crept after them stealthily, as witches do, and had put a spell on all the springs in the forest", a spell which eventually succeeds in transforming Little Brother into a deer. The stepmother who turns Hansel and Gretel out is not explicitly identified with the witch who attempts to consume them, but after Gretel burns the witch in her own oven, the children return home to find that their stepmother has coincidentally also died (Mannheim, p. 62). The Witch in "Hansel and Gretel" is a different kind of bad mother than the callous stepmother - she appears to be a kind old woman, feeding the children and settling them down in clean, white beds, but this is nothing more than bait in a trap. The Witch is not only voraciously cannibalistic, but is able to dissemble and disguise her true nature to snare the unwary - this can be identified with the child's resentment of the stepmother as a stranger usurping the mother's place. The "family drama" aspect of the Stepmother/Witch stories is often intensified by the presence of the biological children of the stepmother, as in "Little Brother and Little Sister" and "White Bride and Black Bride (Grimms' Tales no. 135, Mannheim p. 461). In the first tale, when she learns that Little Sister has become a queen, "envy and jealousy" in the heart of the stepmother prompts her to set her own daughter, "ugly as the night" up in her place (p.44). The stepmother bent on revenge and putting her thoroughly undeserving biological daughter in the rightful place of her stepchildren is also the main plot device of the latter tale - and in both tales, mother and daughter are both severely punished for their crimes at the end. This may have been expected to appeal to the resentful children of remarried fathers.
The other main way that the fairytale witch operates as an "antimother" is that she fosters dependence, rather than independence. As previously mentioned, the fairytale Witch seduces to entrap, much like the classical Circe of the Odyssey. She encourages Hansel and Gretel to eat her house, thus leading to what Bettelheim's psychological reading views as "a regression to gorging dependence" (p. 161), and this dependence becomes literal in the children's transformation into meat animal and kitchen slave respectively. The cannibalistic nature of the Witch can conversely be seen as a trope for maternal possessiveness (Tatar, p. 140) - the "bad mother" will be prepared to cannibalise her own children for her own ends. The witch in "Rapunzel" (Grimms' Tales no. 12, Mannheim p. 46) is literally possessive of her titular de facto stepdaughter, keeping her under lock and key - it can also be argued that the stepmother in "Hansel and Gretel" is figuratively cannibalising her stepchildren by abandoning them, as the Witch literally attempts to consume them. In other situations, the Witch puts herself in a position of power over the protagonists by having something that they need or desire, but demanding it at an extortionate price - Bettleheim (p. 94) sees the Witch in this aspect as a "projection of wishes and anxieties", a synthesis of both all-good and all-bad mother-figures. Often, reflecting the rural-subsistence origin of the sources, the need is simply for food, as in "Hansel and Gretel", or as in "Rapunzel", where the witch demands the daughter as the price for the food the mother craves whilst pregnant. In "Six Swans" (Grimms' Tales no. 49, Mannheim p. 171), the King is forced to marry the daughter of a witch (of course, a witch herself), as the price of being shown the way out of the Deep Woods, thus leading to the typical "stepmother" drama later in the tale. This trope also occurs in the works of the other authors. The Sea Witch in "The Little Mermaid" demands the mermaid's most valued possession (her voice) in return for her heart's desire (human form); later, she demands the beautiful hair of all the Mermaid's sisters as the price for giving them the chance to rescue their sister. As previously mentioned, the Wicked Witch of the West enslaves Dorothy, and her main interest seems to be enslaving as many people as possible - she does not kill the Cowardly Lion precisely because she plans to "harness him like a horse, and make him work" (Baum, p. 148). As Bettelheim explains, the fairytale witch can be seen as a symbol of the "interfering older woman" who does not want her children to grow into adult life, including freedom from dependence and adult sexuality (p. 297) - Rapunzel's "stepmother" punishes her precisely for having begun her sexual life (Mannheim, p. 48). Warner, on the other hand, notes that old women were traditionally the sources of disapproved knowledge, especially in the realms of sexuality (p. 404) - in this, we can perhaps see the resentment of the rural society against a figure they despise, but is necessary to the community, as well as a child's resentment of the parent who, while loving, has absolute control over them and is necessary for their survival.
"[The villainous stepmother] takes on a single well-defined function in fairy tales - one that … magnifies and distorts all the perceived evils associated with mothers… [She] reemerges in the woods as a monster equipped with powers far more formidable than those she exercised at home," concludes Tatar (pp. 142, 146). Tatar also mentions that these are also sometimes not distinct from other types of monstrous women, such as ogresses (p. 137). This strong identification has continued in certain modern adaptations of some other fairytales which feature a wicked stepmother for example, in the Disney film of Snow White (1950), the evil Stepmother/Queen disguises herself as a beggarwoman/witch to deliver her stepdaughter the poisoned apple. The stepmother in the literal sense is, of course, literally a replacement for the "true mother" - but moreover, Warner points out that the French word for "stepmother" also means "mother-in-law" (p. 219). The mother-in-law is another figure which early modern women might have seen as their antagonist in the family home, seducing and alienating children's affection and perhaps attempting to exclude the wife altogether. This resentment can be seen in the story of the Tin Man's origin in Wizard (p. 60), where the jealous mother of his sweetheart pays the Wicked Witch of the East to enchant his axe so that it chops him into pieces - again, we have the identification of the Witch and the jealous older woman. We can see the fairytale witch, then, as a generalised "evil other woman" in a domestic drama - the scapegoat and embodiment of guilt of the rural mother, and also the "false" mother-figure whom it is safe for children to hate. However, as Warner notes (p. 239), in the process of mediation this trope for inter-female rivalry was often usurped by male editors/writers - the rivalry between women is often used in the tales to glorify the male figures, or to absolve them from blame. For example, in the earliest versions of "Hansel and Gretel" the decision to abandon the children is made by both parents together - by the 1857 text, however, it is at the stepmother's insistence, with the father agreeing only reluctantly (Mannheim, p. 56). In later sections we will explore further how the male mediators/authors of the tales constructed the Witch as the embodiment of all the qualities considered unacceptable for the women of 19th century European society.
The Fairytale Witch as Hag of the Woods
As mentioned above, the distinction made in the tales between the wicked Stepmother and the Witch tends to be the distinction between the domestic sphere and the Deep Woods. (Compare the MGM film of The Wizard of Oz, where the interfering old woman back in Kansas is identified with the Wicked Witch of the West.) The Witch can be therefore seen as a combination of personality and place, only attaining her full power in her appropriate place - hence, this section will explore how what we may call "the Deep Woods" are presented in the tales as the domain, and source of power, of the Witch. The relationship between the rural community and nature was far from idyllic - as Warner points out (p. 298f), it is only with the rise of industrialised society in the last few centuries that nature has become considered welcoming to people, or animals considered playmates. The intersection of human society with this unforgiving realm has always been of importance to rural pre-industrial societies - hence the shaman-priests of nomadic society, who take on the character of the "totem animal" of the tribe and act as an intermediary between the two worlds, attempting to ensure the success of the harvest or the hunt. The shaman is a liminal figure, neither belonging to one world or another - and, as mentioned in the previous chapter, the Witch has traditionally been considered another such liminal figure. "The transgressive has access to the unknown and ineffable", as Warner notes (p. 124), and liminal figures, belonging to neither one world nor the other, are certainly transgressive - indeed, Starhawk (1989: 236n.) suggests that the German word for "witch", hexe, and the English "hag" can be derived from common Germanic roots signifying "woman on the hedge", a boundary figure. I will argue in this section that the Witch as "hag of the woods" is considered a figure not entirely human, not entirely animal, but whose power consists in being able to move between the two worlds.
As will be explored in the next section, women's speech, or control thereof, is of vital importance in several of the tales, and one of the aspects of speech is conjuring - the ability to enforce one's will by properly phrased commands upon other people or natural forces. Bottigheimer notes that "the oldest German literature, the pre-Christian Merseburg Spells… bear witness to an early and perhaps continuous belief [in] a peculiarly female ability to control, direct or affect natural powers," - and further, that "the intimate link between women and natural powers may be viewed as part of a tacit pact between ancient Germanic society and women, that natural processes be understood to be under feminine control, while acts of aggression and governing fall to the male sphere" (Bottigheimer, p. 43). Hence, we have a tradition in German culture of the sphere of nature being coded female - Bottigheimer goes on to note that in contrast with male sorcerers, the female witches of the tales do not so much overpower other individuals with magic, but instead evoke the power of magical objects or forces. It is interesting to note, as Tatar does, that the Witches in the Grimms' tales are virtually never heard to cast verbal spells, or conjurations (p. 41). Purkiss points out that, according to records of early modern witch trials, this is exactly what we should expect - "mostly their acts of magic are silent and unseeable, detectable only by half-hidden signs" (p. 277). Thus, the stepmother in "Little Brother and Little Sister" enchants all the brooks in the forest to entrap her stepchildren, although her words are never reported (Mannheim, p. 44). Every example of overt magic cast by Witches throughout the tales is similarly intimately linked with the magical power of place, and of wildlife. The witch gains control of Rapunzel by means of her parents' theft of the herb of that name (Mannheim, p.46) - this principle of "identification" is a basic concept of magic, and the power of the ancient shamanic figures came from precisely their identification with animals and plants. The Witch in "Two Brothers" (Grimms' Tales no. 60, Mannheim, p. 215), in fact, can be seen as the very embodiment of the Deep Woods - when she is killed, the impenetrable forest miraculously opens to let the protagonists through (p. 239). Also, as mentioned previously, the wicked stepmothers of "Little Brother and Little Sister" and "Hansel and Gretel" become, either explicitly or implicitly, the Witch when their stepchildren enter the forest. The Witch as mediator with the powers of the Deep Woods is so strong that even in Andersen's "The Little Mermaid", a tale that takes place mostly on the bottom of the sea, the Witch figure actually lives in an accurate submarine replica of the standard Witch's Wood:
"[Her house lay] right in the middle of an eerie wood. All the trees and bushes were polyps - half animal and half plant. […] All the branches were long slimy arms with fingers like wriggling worms… Whatever they could grab in the sea they twined their arms about and never let go […] Now she came to a large slimy clearing in the woods where big fat water snakes gamboled… In the centre of the clearing was a house built of the white bones of shipwrecked humans. There sat the sea witch letting a toad eat from her mouth… She called the hideous fat water snakes her little chickens and let them writhe on her spongy breasts." (Conroy, pp. 46-7)
Here Andersen ingeniously substitutes semi-mobile polyps for the traditional animated trees of the Witch's forest (which turn up in The Wizard of Oz: Baum, p. 223); the Sea Witch has toads and snakes for familiars, just as we might expect of a witch on land, and is also a grotesque variation on a mother-figure. It appears necessary that the Witch must be in her wood to have her power - even if that wood must be on the bottom of the ocean. Again, the power of the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz is exercised through mainly through animals - her command of crows, bees, and finally the Winged Monkeys (Baum, pp. 146-50). As mentioned in the previous section, the hostility to the Witch can be seen as the resentment of the rural community of the "necessary outsider" figure who holds power over them - for example, the house of the Witch in "Hansel and Gretel" is full of gold, another way in which she is marked out as unnatural (Bottigheimer, p. 131). As the rise of industrial and urban society progressed through the 19th century, the strong connection of rural communities to the land faded and, accordingly, the need for shamanic figures - this can possibly be associated with the number of tales which seem to be taking revenge on the Witch.
It is important to note throughout that, much like the shamanic figures referenced, the Witches in their guise as "Hag of the Woods" are identified with wild nature to the extent that they are no longer entirely physically human. For example, the Wicked Witch of the West is "so wicked that all her blood had dried up" (Baum, p. 152). The witch who entraps Hansel and Gretel has "red eyes and a keen sense of smell like an animal" (Mannheim, p. 59); Little Brother and Sister complain that their stepmother treats the dog with greater kindliness than her human stepchildren (Mannheim, p. 41). In "Two Brothers", the old witch who petrifies one of the brothers and his animal companions perches in a tree throughout, and tricks the brother into enchanting his own animals with a stick that she throws down . The way in which the witch "dragged him and the animals to a ditch" amid "peals of laughter" (p. 229) further suggests that the petrification was done out of little but mischief. This suggests another source for the Witch in her aspect as wild woodlands sorceress - this love of mischief is similar to the elves and fairies of traditional European lore, who were also almost, but not entirely, human, had power over animals and loved mischief. Similarly, the titular character in "The Old Witch", a tale left out of the Kinder- und Hausmärchen but republished in Michaelis-Jena (p. 146), requires the protagonist to teach snails to dance - an "impossible task" of the type usually associated with more clearly non-human figures such as Rumpelstiltskin. Warner (p. 181), to emphasise the point, identifies "the forest-dwelling witch or crone" with the werewolf as "the kind of beings associated with marginal knowledge, who possess pagan secrets and are in turn possessed by them" - both being liminal figures between humanity and nature. The forest is the home of old secrets, identified with evil by the peasantry and with the superstition of the past by urbanites - the Witch is she who is in touch with them, and is therefore both outside normal society and dangerous to it.
Fairies or werewolves, however, are generally considered immortal or at least difficult to kill - the witches of the tales have been domesticated to the extent that they can generally be killed like any other human, although burning seems to be the preferred method. This domestication and control of the otherworldly, quasi-shamanic woman of power will be explored further in the next section, but it is sufficient to note here that the witch, being not entirely human or civilised, is generally not granted civilised considerations of mercy. In Andersen's "The Tinderbox", for example, a soldier meets a witch in the woods (as we would expect) who tells him how to get a vast quantity of magical goods from inside a hollow tree in return for him fetching her grandmother's tinderbox . When he emerges from the tree, however, he simply beheads her and takes everything (Conroy, p. 5). The Witch, not being civilised, is not entitled to the decencies of civilisation. In the next section, we will explore what this dehumanisation of the powerful woman figures in the tales, and justification of extreme measures against them, means in terms of the goals of social control set by the 19th century textual meditators who created the literary fairytale from the oral folktale.
The Fairytale Witch and Behaviour Control over Women and Children
The final sections of this chapter will examine the explicitly pedagogical content of the tales of Grimm and Andersen, and the (partial) rejection of such content in Baum. It will do so primarily by noting exactly what in the tales is coded evil, and to what extent that evil is coded feminine, and relate this to both the actions of the Witches involved and to the punishments that they receive. As mentioned before, the world of fairytales is "curiously amoral", in Zipes' words - or, perhaps more accurately, it has a childlike morality (Baum, p. xxxiii) in which the punishment for being a "bad person" is generally lethal. As Tatar observes (p. 97), in the tales characters are given not what they earn by their deeds, but what they deserve solely by virtue of who they are. Accordingly, the soldier who murders the witch in "The Tinderbox" is not punished - as Zipes puts it, "narrative voice and providence" are on the side of the soldier, and witches are "evil per se" and thus can be killed without sanction (pp. 81-2). This goes some way to explaining the disproportionate nature of the punishments meted out to witches throughout the tales. Usually this takes the traditional form of burning, as happens to the Witches of "Hansel and Gretel", "Little Brother and Little Sister", and "Two Brothers" - in the latter case, the Witch is burnt even though she has undone her petrifaction spell under threat of being burnt (p. 231). Bottigheimer (p. 25) notes that fire throughout the Grimms' tales is associated with male control, and thus "closely associated with gender antagonism". Further, even worse deaths are sometimes the fate of the Witch - the stepmother/Witch in "White Bride and Black Bride", for example, is put in a barrel studded with nails on the inside which is then dragged behind a horse. It is perhaps noteworthy that the witch herself unwittingly came up with this punishment (Mannheim, p. 464) - again, the Witch is being punished not merely for her overt deeds, but for the evil that is inside her. As will be mentioned further later on, The Wizard of Oz is an exception to this trend - the Wicked Witches die for being wicked, not for being witches - but in the other tales the Witch is clearly fair game because of her nature rather than her crimes. This total antipathy to the character of the powerful female character, as Bottigheimer, has explored, has strong implications for the gender content of the tales' pedagogical focus.
The divisions between the good and evil in the tales are never ambiguous, and the evil are punished, and punished severely. Judging by Bottigheimer's analysis of the gender differences in punishments for transgressions in the tales, we can say that Zipes' "curiously amoral" fairytale world is only amoral for the male characters, but oppressively moral for the females. Bottigheimer's central thesis is that the moral and social vision throughout the Grimms' tales shows strong gender bias in its morality - women and girls are punished far more severely for transgressions than male characters. Bottigheimer (p. 88) notes that male characters, usually of the "trickster" kind, can "finesse" their way around moral prohibitions, even those imposed by God himself, and still get their reward - women, however, are punished for even involuntary transgressions. Bottigheimer (p. 171) relates this to the Christian concept that sin came into the world through the temptation of Eve - "the notion that all women share in Eve's sin may account for the necessity to punish female characters". Zipes himself notes (pp. 34-5) that "women had become equated with potential witchlike figures by the end of the seventeenth century so that control of their alleged sexual powers was linked by church and state to control of diabolical forces". We can, therefore, say that femininity itself is the sin which marks the witches out in the tales as deserving of cruel deaths without need of committing overt sins. "Within the 210 tales of the Grimms' collection, a witch-burning notion of eradicating (generally female) evil coexists with an indulgent tolerance of (generally male) malefaction." (Bottigheimer, p. 94). The Witch, then, is held up as a warning to the female auditors of the tales as to what may happen if they fail in strict obedience to the male heads of family. "The fairy tales memorialise the idea that women are subject to a summary despatch that can be justified by declaring them to be witches" (Bottigheimer, p. 102) - innocent women throughout the tales are almost burned as Witches, for example in the tale of "Mary's Child" (Grimms' Tales no. 3, Mannheim p. 8). The Witches in these overtly moral tales are occasionally agents of punishment, rather than its recipients. In one of the shortest of the Grimm tales, "Frau Trude" (Grimms' Tales no. 43, Mannheim p. 151), a disobedient girl refuses to listen to her parents' warnings, and runs off into the woods (always a mistake in the tales) to see Frau Trude for herself - Frau Trude is, of course, a witch and the devil in disguise, who turns the little girl into firewood. This particular mode of punishment is interesting, not solely because of the variation it offers on the theme of the child-consuming witch, but because the little girl is burned - the biblical injunction that "rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft" (KJV, 1 Samuel 15:23) can be seen in this identification of the fate of the Witch as the fate of all disobedient females.
The overt sins of the Witches in these tales are many - "envy and jealousy", as previously mentioned, are common to the wicked stepmothers, as is "unnatural" reluctance to nuture children. Another of the main areas in which women's freedom of action is circumscribed in the tales are speech. As mentioned in the previous section, Purkiss notes that traditional rural witches were rarely accused of using verbal spells. However, the question of cause and effect arises here - were the acts of magic non-verbal because it would be easier for the authorities to take action against verbal conjurations? Certainly there were laws on the statute books in England against cursing by the seventeenth century, whose targets Warner identifies as "not only men who swore, but women who could conjure… old folk who might use swearing and vituperation to retaliate… in default of other means of defence" (Warner, p. 39). Early modern writings by men emphasise women's speech, quite possibly the last power left to her in the patriarchal rural society, as especially dangerous - note the pejorative meanings that have become attached to "gossip" and "old wives' tales" (Warner. p. 13). The women who tended to pass on such transgressive speech were often "prostitutes, midwives and wetnurses [who] occupied no fixed point in the structure of society" (Warner, p. 35) - again, dangerous liminal figures. These anxieties were reinforced by religious speculation that Eve's "guilt in paradise disqualifies her sex from further speech" (Bottigheim, p. 170). Bottigheimer's analysis of Grimms' Tales (especially in chapter 5, pp. 51-56) suggests that the "good women" of the tales are characterised by refraining from speech, usually letting the narrative voice speak for them. When they do speak, it is usually in response to the male voice - Bottigheimer identifies "answered" as the verb most commonly applied to the direct speech of good female characters, whereas "said" or "spoke" is reserved for Witches and other wicked women (p. 54). Further, she shows that Wilhelm Grimm's progressive editing took more and more speech out of the mouths of good women and put it into the mouths of the evil ones. The same phenomenon can be seen in Andersen's tales - the Little Mermaid must give up her beautiful voice for her chance to become human (Conroy, p. 46). As she can only acquire a human soul through earning the love of the prince without her voice, this can be seen as another example of female submission being equated with silence.
. Warner further postulates that the anxiety about women's speech shown in the tales may be an anxiety of ownership - the anxiety of the male mediators attempting to assume ownership of what were, in rural society, quite literally "old wives' tales". Warner traces the image of the "old crone" as storyteller, back to the ancient Roman prophetesses such as the Sibyls (Warner, p. 3). "The immemorial storyteller Mother Goose [is] established, by the early eighteenth century, as a Sibyl-Nurse," writes Warner (p. 79), "who instils morality and knowledge of the world, and forsees the future of her charges and prepares them for it." In the progressive editing of Wilhelm Grimm which made the evils of female speech ever more clear, perhaps we can see an attempted revolution in ownership of the tales. The Old Woman who instils wisdom through tales was an uncomfortably pagan concept, and the mere fact that we refer to the Kinder- und Hausmärchen as "Grimms' Tales" shows how effectively ownership of the tales and the moral tutelage therein had been transferred to the male transcribers/editors - even while in English, at least, they were still often called "Mother Goose stories". So, the old woman as Sibyl-Nurse, imparting her wisdom through storytelling, becomes an image of transgression much like her counterpart, the Witch as shamanic intermediary between human and nature. Thus, the narrative voice of authority in the tales becomes more and more specifically male - and even the speech of females is converted into a crime tantamount to the crime of Witchcraft. The fate of the wicked witch becomes the threatened fate of all transgressive or vocal females.
Conclusion: The Fairytale Witch and the Self-Fashioning of Children
The fairytale Witch that we have explored is the Witch presented as a distinct character - this is distinct from many fairytales where she functions as little more than a plot device. Into this category come those tales where an unseen "wicked witch" changes a prince into a frog for no apparent reason - or the tale "The Old Witch", in which the titular character meets the good daughter of the story in the woods and, for reasons never adequately explained, explodes, setting in motion the plot of the story. (Interestingly enough, this is the only tale of the Grimm collection which mentions a witch in its title.) This thesis aims to trace the evolution of the Witch as a character, and so we have concentrated on those fairytale witches who have their own personalities. Through the preceding sections I have shown three main ways in which the fairytale Witch is presented as an antagonist to the sensibilities of both the rural society which was the source of such tales and the urban society who appropriated them. The Witch is the "antimother", the false mother who cannibalises rather than nurtures children; this concept is associated with both the anxieties of rural housewives and of their children, and the resentment that children felt towards both biological and step-mothers shapes the tales to such an extent that the Witch and Stepmother become identical. The Witch is also the woodlands hag, a figure on the border between animal and human, distantly related to the shamanic figures of pagan agricultural societies, but resented, feared and hunted throughout the tales. Finally, in the hands of the moralistic mediators of the tales, the Witch becomes the embodiment of the sin thought to be immanent in all women; she curses and uses other forms of forbidden speech, thus rejecting her "rightful" state of submission, and the cruel deaths to which she is put point a moral lesson as to accepted female behaviour.
All in all, then, the Witches throughout the tales told by Grimm and Andersen are the same sort of "omnibus Other" figure that we have identified in Shakespeare's Weird Sisters - as Purkiss (p. 283) notes, this is a figure of the witch formed by "clump[ing] together figures of otherness to make one big Other of disorder". Much as the Weird Sisters are a symbol of rebellion against God, King and Nature, thus the Fairytale witches offend against the principles of motherhood, the "civilised" notion of humanity as distinct from nature, and the general principles of acceptable female behaviour in 19th century society. This is why, contrary to Bettelheim's approach, a historical analysis of the tales is necessary, because we miss vital facets of the tales if we neglect "their essential historicity… the nineteenth-century origins and editing" (Bottigheimer, p. 15) In any case, it can be seen that in both Shakespearian and fairytale narrative, the Witch stands as a figure against which the protagonists of the stories, and through them, the readership, define themselves. However, there remains one important facet of the fairytales mentioned to be discussed in this chapter - the presence of Good Witches in The Wizard of Oz. It can be argued that the character of Dorothy is defined as much by identification with the Good Witches as her opposition to the Wicked Witches, and for this reason the tale is unique in the current context.
Dorothy's original transportation from Kansas to Oz can be seen as a rebellion against the lifeless, grey nature of Kansas life and her foster-family. Here again we have a stepmother figure - Aunt Em - against which the child must define herself; however, Em is not evil, but merely rendered joyless by the unforgiving nature of Kansas life. "The sun and wind had changed her too. They had taken the sparkle from her eyes and left them a sober gray… She was thin and gaunt, and never smiled, now… Dorothy's merry voice reached her ears; and she still looked at the little girl with wonder that she could find anything to laugh at." (Baum, p. 10). The identification of place and personality mentioned in previous sections also applies in Wizard - Aunt Em has been turned grey by the grey land of Kansas, and Dorothy's escape into the colourful land of Oz is symbolised by a switch from monochrome to colour both in the illustrations of the original edition and in the cinematography of the MGM film (Baum, p. 268n.) Further on this theme of identification, it can be argued that when Dorothy lands in Oz she becomes a sort of "de facto Witch". She is certainly taken as a witch by the Munchkins, because of her (unwitting) destruction of the Wicked Witch of the East and because of her white dress (p. 30); indeed, she literally "steps into the shoes" of the Wicked Witch of the East - that is, her magical silver shoes (ruby slippers in the film). This "mistaken identity" is similar to Oz himself, taken for a wizard himself upon his crash-landing in the country. However, Oz is entirely a "humbug" whose magic is illusion (p. 189) - all the Witches of the book, on the other hand, have real power to varying degrees, and so does Dorothy. It is important that Dorothy does not know of the power of the silver shoes throughout (p. 150), and thus defeats the Wicked Witch of the West without extraneous help - it can be said, then, that by dressing like a Witch and defeating the Wicked Witch, she becomes an "honorary Good Witch" herself through her achievements.
It is worth noting also that, in contrast with the traditional fairytale witch as "wicked stepmother", represented as has previously been mentioned in Wizard by the Wicked Witch of the West, and also in contrast to the "neutral stepmother" (Aunt Em), the Good Witches of North and South can be seen as types of the Good Mother - a figure who in most fairytales is dead or otherwise absent (see Warner, pp. 201f.) For example, the symbol of the Good Witch of the North's protection of Dorothy is a motherly kiss on the forehead (p. 24), and the eternally young Glinda (p. 254) can be seen as an initiatrix who reveals to Dorothy the power of her silver shoes (her newly assumed identity as a Witch), and allows her to return home. Dorothy, thus, attains another of the characteristics of the Witch - she becomes a liminal figure, belonging to both Kansas and Oz and being able to develop her own personality by virtue of this. It is also interesting to note that L. Frank Baum, his wife and mother-in-law were attracted to Theosophy, a nineteenth-century occult philosophy "which referred often to mother-goddess cults of the past" (p. xxiv) - this influence may explain the strong "socialist/matriarchal notions" (Zipes, p. 121) upon which the Land of Oz, "a feminine realm of justice and kindness" (Warner, p. 411), is based. Baum's novel is the only one of the tales studied which present a good model of female power and authority - as Bottigheimer complains (p. 77), "powerful female figures [in the other tales] have their power transformed into the godless potency of Witchcraft". But there are Good as well as Wicked Witches in Oz, and they can be distinguished by their deeds. Oz commands Dorothy to destroy the Witch of the West not for being a Witch, but for being "tremendously Wicked" (Baum, p. 131) - as mentioned in the preceding section, this is a wholly different conception from the idea in the other tales that all rebellious or vocal women are wicked, and potential witches. Baum's achievement in creating powerful female figures whom the protagonist gains power by emulating also offers us a paradigm by which to view the science fiction and fantasy works with which the remaining chapters are concerned. Theosophy was, moreover, an indirect ancestor of modern neo-Pagan Goddess religions such as Wicca - thus, we can perhaps see Baum's matriarchal leanings in the same light as the works to be examined in later chapters use Wicca as a philosophical underpinning; to legitimise female magical power and the right to self-fashioning.
Purkiss's epilogue is regretful about the "demotion" of the Witch from a figure of real fears about one's own livelihood to the "psychic symptoms" (p. 282) for which Bettelheim, among others, analyses her - she regrets how the "omnibus Other" type of witch "weaken[s] rather than strengthen[s] the specificity of the images and stories they deal with" (p. 283). However, as explained in the previous chapter, the divorcing of the character of the Weird Sisters from their historical roots in rural women's witch-beliefs gives the character a universality as it deprives its original referent of her voice. Warner quotes Walter Benjamin (p. 25) as saying "the storyteller is the figure in which the righteous man [sic] encounters himself" - similarly, Bettelheim (p 43) maintains that the fairytale is one of the most useful tools in the self-fashioning of the child, as its "everyman/woman" protagonists are easy to identify with as they defeat horrific adversaries, including the Witch. We have explored, then, the different ways in which the fairytale Witch became the "Other" against which her 19th century male mediators desired that their juvenile (and female) readers might learn proper modes of behaviour. But in Baum, we begin to see the way in which the Witch - in the personalities of the Good Witches, and Dorothy - can be a source of power for those who identify with, rather than against her. It will be the contention of the remaining chapters of this work that modern science fiction and fantasy writers have continued the tradition that started in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, in creating Witches who are recognizably related to the Witch tradition we have traced so far - but instead of resenting the "necessary outsider" figure, the free-thinking individual is encouraged to create an identity by identification with, rather than against, her. Thus, we enter the realm of fantasy which Zipes (p. 99) describes as "the literature of subversion" - subversion of traditional narrative in favour of individual self-determination.
"What's Real, What's Not, And What's The Difference": Witchcraft, Self-Fashioning and Freedom in Terry Pratchett's Discworld Novels
Introduction: A Setting on the Edge of Reality
The Discworld, the setting for a popular ongoing series of comic fantasy novels by the English author Terry Pratchett, is described in many of those books by the narrative voice as a "world, and mirror of worlds". The narrative thereby explicitly admits to what is generally only tacit in many fantasy works, and in some, for example Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, actively denied - that the situations and characters in the work are intended to be reflections of, or references to, recognisable events, situations or characters from our own reality. By thus renouncing the usual claim to be a self-contained reality, the Discworld can without embarrassment be the setting for quite explicit satire and commentary on not only historical and current events and personalities, but on other well-known narratives. This very self-consciousness of the narrative about its own invented and influenced nature makes it especially valuable for a study of the development of a literary character-type, such as the present thesis - especially since several of the Discworld novels have Witches as their main characters, and deal amongst other things with not only the nature of Witchcraft in both its historical and literary conceptions, but with the act of narrative itself. Six of Pratchett's books published to date, the most recent published in 1998, feature Esmerelda "Granny" Weatherwax and other witches of the rustic Kingdom of Lancre, and the present chapter will discuss three of them - Wyrd Sisters (1988), Witches Abroad (1991) and Lords and Ladies (1992). These three books form something of a trilogy within the broader Discworld series, interweaving questions about the nature of several fundamental questions - magic, power, freedom, agency and identity - with a construction of Witches and Witchcraft which simultaneously incorporates and challenges both literary, historical and modern conceptions of the terms.
It is possible to argue that the essential element of all Discworld stories is the creative tension existing in a world based on literary, mythical or fantastic themes, but populated with characters who behave in mainly realistic, modern ways. To take the most obvious example, the Discworld itself is a giant disc balanced on the back of four gargantuan elephants standing on the back of a gargantuan space-going turtle, an image familiar from Hindu and Bantu mythology. That is, the Discworld is a world which really is what pre-rational humanity imagined our own to be - thus, a "story-book" world in a quite literal sense - but it is populated with characters who for the most part behave in thoroughly modern ways. These characters often resemble stock figures of fantasy, literature or myth, but in a way rebel against their setting by failing to conform to the expectations of how a fantasy character in their situation is supposed to act and behave. For example, one sub-series of the Discworld novels (including the first novel, The Colour of Magic ) features the wizard Rincewind, who is characterised by exceptional cowardice and complete incompetence at magic - precisely the opposite of what one would expect out of a wizard in a fantasy novel. This rebellion against expectations is at the foundation of much of the comedy of the books, and may be related to the theme of "narrative causality", which forms the backbone of the plot for Witches Abroad, and is also an important theme in the other two novels of the trilogy:
"[A] story, once started, takes a shape. It picks up all the vibrations of all the other works of that story that have ever been. This is why history keeps on repeating all the time […] Stories don't care who takes part in them. All that matters is that the story gets told, that the story repeats. Or, if you prefer to think of it like this: stories are a parasitical life form, warping lives in the service only of the story itself. It takes a special kind of person to fight back[…]" (Pratchett 1991:9)
Accordingly, by rebelling against the expectations of familiar storylines - including those of fairytales as discussed in the previous chapter - the Discworld characters are enacting a drama of the freedom of the individual to fashion its own peculiar destiny - "agency", as Purkiss calls it (p. 145). This rebellion against narrative expectation, and any other force which undermines the free will of individuals, is a major theme in the novels featuring the Lancre Witches, as I aim to show, and further that the very definition of "witchcraft" which Pratchett creates in his trilogy concerning the Witches of Lancre is intimately bound with an advocacy of individualism, personal autonomy and responsibility for one's own reality.
Further, to understand the construction of Discworld witchcraft, it is also important to understand the nature of magic in this world. Magic, in a very real sense, is what holds the Discworld together - it is often repeated that the Discworld exists "right on the edge of unreality […] the least little things can break through to the other side" (Pratchett 1991:8). Magic exists as a literal force, occasionally manifesting itself in the traditional bolts of lightning from the fingertips (Pratchett 1988:170) - and the parallels with electromagnetism do not end there. "If you enchant a needle it points towards the Hub […] Elsewhere, on worlds designed with less imagination, the needle turns because of the love of iron" (Pratchett 1992:8). In other words, magic is the force by which the navigators of the Discworld use to orient themselves. Similarly, I hope to show that, by the way that the Witches of Lancre fashion their identities by their attitude towards, and use of, magic, it also becomes the pole about which the narratives of these books turn.
Rebellion Against Narrative: The Sources of Discworld Witchcraft
The sources of the depictions of the Witches of Lancre can be broadly divided into three or four categories. Firstly, and most obviously, we have the literary and folkloric sources. Wyrd Sisters, in particular, is quite obviously based on Macbeth - in parts a parody, in parts almost a rewriting - and the trilogy also deals not only with other Shakespeare plays, notably King Lear and A Midsummer Night's Dream, but with the fairy-tales familiar to many of us from childhood. However, as intimated above, the familiar stories in the Lancre Witch trilogy are something of an antagonistic force - an expectation of behaviour which all the characters rebel against. By this means, Pratchett's characters fashion themselves as autonomous agents rather than the stock figures of narrative expectation that the "stories" would have them be.
Wyrd Sisters deals primarily with one of the aspects of the Macbeth Witch tradition that was canvassed in the first part of this thesis, and specifically criticised by Diane Purkiss - the fact that the Weird Sisters, while no doubt a dramatically powerful image, are also a crude stereotype designed for shock value and an exploitation of the real lives of the village women who were accused of Witchcraft (Purkiss, p. 212). However, Wyrd Sisters reverses this very process, in that it critiques the very nature of the stereotype which began the literary tradition, and in the process attempts to recreate real women from the Weird Sisters. For example, Rosenberg mentions that in many stagings of Macbeth, the First and Second Witches are depicted as crones while the Third is a young woman (Rosenberg, p. 11) - thus, we have Granny Weatherwax, Gytha "Nanny" Ogg, and Magrat Garlick, the proto-coven of Lancre. However, almost as quickly as the reference to Macbeth is made - an eldritch voice, which we later learn to be Magrat, screeching "When shall we three meet again?" - the "far more ordinary" voice of Granny Weatherwax undercuts the familiar scene with the thoroughly domestic, "Well, I can do next Tuesday" (Pratchett 1988:5). The theme of practical domestic reality, undercutting the "eldritchness", or the inhuman nature, of the Witches of the Macbeth tradition, continues throughout the novel, emphasising the essential "realness", or humanity, of the Witches - precisely the opposite of Macbeth's deliberate confusion as to what the Weird Sisters really are. Much like the rest of their rural society, Weatherwax, Ogg and Garlick have to dig privies, make tea, and deal with physical discomfort and emotional turmoil. As will be explored later on, Esme Weatherwax's conception of what witchcraft is, far from being supernatural or eldritch, can be interpreted as actually entailing a closer relationship with reality than the average person takes for granted.
The simple textual references back to Macbeth are numerous and usually obvious - Felmet's repeated use of the phrase "Is this a dagger I see before me?", his wife's accusations of being "infirm of purpose", the Witches' hailing of Tomjon "who shall be King here, after" (Pratchett 1988: 214). However, they are almost always in an incongruous context - the first time Felmet utters the "dagger" phrase, for example, the Fool is actually handing him a handkerchief (Pratchett 1998: 85). In this sense, Wyrd Sisters acts as something of a straightforward parody. However, when we examine not only the depiction of the Witches but their function in the narrative, the novel shows signs of being a serious rewriting of Macbeth, in the sense that it questions some of the basic assumptions behind the original narrative. For instance, not only the process of "dehumanisation" of the Witches is reversed, but also their function in the plot of the novel. In simple terms of plot outline, Wyrd Sisters remains very close to the source of Macbeth - an evil nobleman and his controlling wife murder the rightful King, but later succumb to madness. However, the most important plot reversal is that in Wyrd Sisters, the Witches are on the side of the (relatively) rightful king. (Whether the original Weird Sisters can be said to be on Macbeth's "side", of course, is debatable.) Rather than amoral agents of chaos seeking to subvert the natural order, the Witches, especially Granny Weatherwax, actively seek to restore the natural order of Lancre - "a King who cares for the land" (Pratchett 1998: 120). In this very willingness to take direct action to further their goals,
moreover, the Lancre Witches again differ from the Weird Sisters, who work solely via influence over "mortals", if they can be said to work at all.
What makes Wyrd Sisters especially interesting as a rewriting is that it consciously recreates within itself the text that it is rewriting. Duke Felmet commissions a play mandating his version of reality - the evil king, working in the service of witches, overthrown by the noble duke - which quite obviously represents Macbeth itself. The speech of the stage witches that the Lancre coven object to so strongly (Pratchett, 1988: 280-4) obviously refers to the opening of Macbeth, I.3, as the real Witches loudly protest over the slander that they cause shipwrecks or "put babbies in a cauldron". Weatherwax's strong suspicions about the power of the theatre as "purveyor of untruth", foreshadowed earlier in the novel (Pratchett 1988:40), are proven to be founded. As this thesis has argued, our image of what Witches are can be traced directly back to the literary tradition founded by Macbeth - "warty old hags in green blusher", as Magrat complains (Pratchett, 1988:289) - who not only look inhuman but who commit inhuman acts. Ironically enough, the strong parallels to Macbeth prove to be the undoing of Wyrd Sisters' play-within-a-novel. Much like in many stagings of Macbeth (Rosenberg, p. 15), the Witches are made to appear silently around a cauldron during the second act, "symbolising occult forces at work" (Pratchett, 1988:291). This is the Lancre coven's window of opportunity. As mentioned in the first chapter, the Weird Sisters in Macbeth act as disruptive forces to the "natural order" of the Scotland of the play - so too, when the real Witches are allowed onstage in Felmet's play, they completely disrupt the "theatre magic" which threatens to destroy their identity and respect, firstly by forcibly dispelling the suspension of disbelief by rudely deconstructing the fake cauldron and fire, and eventually by Weatherwax forcibly dispelling the words of the play from the minds of the actors and making them speak the historical truth (Pratchett, 1988:293-6). In this way, then, we can argue that Wyrd Sisters functions as something of a reversal of Macbeth's appropriation of popular witch-beliefs; in a variation of "the return of the repressed", Pratchett's reinvention of early modern rural witchcraft in Lancre allows Purkiss's "dispossessed women's voices" to reclaim sovereignty over their own depiction. The fact that the Witches use their power to dispell untruth in favour of reality is a highly important theme in the trilogy, which will be treated in further depth in this chapter.
The trilogy also relies heavily on other works of Shakespeare. In Wyrd Sisters, the characterisation of the Fool as the King's wisest and trusted advisor, as well as his nigh-incomprehensibly "comic vocabulary" is borrowed from King Lear, and both Tomjon in Wyrd Sisters and Shawn Ogg in Lords and Ladies make, or attempt to make, stirring speeches along the lines of those from Henry V. Most obviously, though, the malicious Elves of Lords and Ladies are a nightmarish reconstruction of the playful fairies of A Midsummer Night's Dream - and this provides an opportunity for a recapitulation of one of the basic themes of the trilogy, that a literary theme or narrative can supersede historical reality in human consciousness. Esme Weatherwax promises the Queen of the Elves that what Felmet tried to do to the Witches will happen to her and her people - that they will be "reduced" in the imaginations of humanity, that her terrifying, cruel warriors will be reduced to quaint, harmless characters with names like "Fairy Peaseblossom" (Pratchett, 1992: 341). Similarly, the plot of Witches Abroad is straightforwardly based on resistance to against "narrative causality" in the shape of fairytales - having preserved their own power of self-fashioning from Felmet's attempted literary predestination, the Lancre coven must defeat Lily Weatherwax's attempt at instituting a tyranny of narrative causality over the entire city of Genua. Pratchett, through his comparison of the fairytales that Lily uses with the modern phenomenon of "urban legends" (Pratchett: 1991:8), thus makes it clear that "narrative causality" is a phenomenon not restricted the literary sources concentrated in Wyrd Sisters - he suggests that the very need to create narratives to make the world susceptible to human understanding results in a lessening of human agency and powers of self-fashioning, as events are made to fit into recognizable narrative patterns. In this sense, Pratchett is suggesting a gloss on the age-old observation that "history repeats", in suggesting that narrative can be seen as a parasitic lifeform moulding human behaviour to its patterns. This narrative theory can be compared to that suggested by Robert Irvin (quoted in Warner, p. xix), in which the fairytale is seen as a "selfish word-string".
The second major source for Discworld witchcraft is the neo-Pagan Witchcraft, or Wicca, of our own world. Modern neo-Paganism, as described in resources such as Margot Adler's Drawing Down the Moon, is in its various incarnations more or less self-conscious as a reconstruction, rather than a literal revival of earlier pagan beliefs and images of the Witch, and is increasingly transmitted via literature rather than the traditional method of personal initiation. As Lily Weatherwax points out, the three Lancre witches represent the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone - three aspects of the Great Goddess, "one of the oldest stories of all" (Pratchett 1991: 62-63) and the prime deity worshipped by modern Witches. Not surprisingly, however given the suspicion of narrative causality previously discussed, "witchcraft from books" is treated with the same suspicion as all the other narratives that seek to define identity and behaviour in the trilogy. Magrat Garlick, much like most modern Witches, has learned "the Craft" mainly from books on the subject, and, accordingly, her beliefs are quite an accurate and devastating caricature of those of modern Wiccans - or at least, "the kind of person that you often run into at Wiccan conventions". Many of Magrat's more "romantic notions" are indeed part and parcel of Wiccan belief and practice - "nature's wisdom… the healing power of colours, and the cycle of the seasons", (Pratchett 1988:31); performing rituals naked, "or skyclad, as it was rather delightfully known" (Pratchett, 1988: 128); consciousness raising, and songs in praise of the Full Moon (Pratchett, 1998: 178). In Lords and Ladies, as well, Diamanda Tockley's coven deal with cartomancy, candle magic, scrying and "raising the Cone of Power" (Pratchett, 1992: 78); all part of the repertoire of the well-versed Wiccan. (More of the relationship between Magrat and Diamanda will be explored in a later section.) Magrat's "Change spell" (Pratchett, 1988: 190) is a typical Wiccan spell, focussed far more on reorienting the magician's view of reality than attempting to alter objective reality itself. However, this trait is not peculiar to Magrat, since Granny Weatherwax's emphasis on "headology" rather than supernatural power as the basis for magic is also emphasised by modern Wiccans. Finally, it can also be argued that Magrat's extreme open-mindedness and eclectism as explored in Witches Abroad is a very Wiccan trait in itself. In further sections, I will explore Pratchett's use of the Wiccan stereotype as a "literary identity", which, like the parasitical stories already mentions, can entrap the individual who submits to it unquestioningly, and how it contrasts with the witchcraft exemplified by Granny Weatherwax - "true witchcraft, out of the blood and the bone and in the head" (Pratchett, 1992:140), that is, the witchcraft of identity rather than role-playing.
Finally, the trilogy also uses for source material certain modern reconstructions of exactly what the women accused of witchcraft in the mediaeval period actually were, and what they did. These can be generally divided into two broad categories - the "social" reconstructions, which attempt to place the Witch back into the context of a pre-literate rural society, and the "psychological" reconstruction, which attempts to discover how "magic" can be explained without recourse to supernatural expectations. The mediaeval women accused of witchcraft in our world were usually peasant wise-women - similarly, the primary function of the Lancre witches as midwifes, herbalists, veterinarians and counsellors to the rural community in which they live is carefully portrayed. Confronting Diamanda in Lords and Ladies, Esme Weatherwax notes that the young pretender has "never picked cabbages with the ice on 'em, or dug a grave, or milked a cow or laid out a corpse" (Pratchett, 1992: 138) . She quickly adds that doing such is not necessary to be a Witch, presumably in the sense of being able to exercise magical power, but what she does not say is that she represents witchcraft as a social function, a place in the community, rather than a path to personal power. Being able to harness the Discworld's magical force-field is indeed important, but the Lancre witches gain their true power from the respect they gain for being useful to the community in which they live, as is born out by the outcome of the Weatherwax/Tockley battle in the town square (Pratchett, 1992: 101-2).
Further, it is carefully emphasised that most of the true power of the Lancre witches, and Esme Weatherwax in particular, comes from their mastery of "headology" - in other words, the psychology of themselves and others - as will be further explored in the section which discusses the dialectic between the Weatherwax and Garlick conceptions of witchcraft. Suffice to say at this point that although Magrat is highly skilled at magic-at-physical-force, as her opening of the dungeon door in Wyrd Sisters demonstrates (Pratchett, 1998:151), yet no-one would mistake her for as powerful a personality as Granny Weatherwax, who deliberately uses magic as little as possible. As mentioned before, this ties in with modern Wiccan conceptions of a strong, self-confident personality and a "trained will" as the most effective magical tool. The invocation of the demon in the washhouse works, despite the lack of the "proper" magical tools, precisely because Esme Weatherwax acts as if the washhouse utensils are those tools - and her force of will makes it so, to the extent that she can chop a trestle in half with a copper stick being used for a ceremonial sword (Pratchett 1988:95). This is completely in accordance with Wiccan conceptions of how magic works - Esme Weatherwax would be a formidable adversary even in a world without a standing magical force-field. Esme is able to dictate reality to suit her own convenience, for the most part, because she is absolutely sure of what her own reality is and of her own power to effect that reality. The
question of how magic, personal identity and personal autonomy are interrelated leads into the next section, where I will explore how Pratchett offers the Lancre witch, and Granny Weatherwax in particular, as a model for human liberty and personal fulfilment.
Lancre Witchcraft as Social Contract and Personal Discipline
Having in the previous section outlined the major literary, social and psychological conceptions which underly the construction of the Lancre witches, I will now go on to examine both the overall depiction of the nature of witchcraft in the trilogy, and the differing portrayals of the Witches as individuals which complicates the picture. That is, I will start by examining what all the Witches in the trilogy have in common - including the other Lancre witches, both old and young - and then deciphering what sets them apart from one another, and how these differences relate to the themes of identity and personal autonomy already mentioned.
As mentioned before, as in the mediaeval peasant societies of our world, "Witch" is a social identity rather than an individual one - that is, it is an identity which incorporates a specific place in the social structure. Paradoxically, that place is outside the social structure - as Esme Weatherwax explains to Verence II, Witches are "off to one side a bit" of the pyramid structure of feudal authority (Pratchett, 1992: 163). The Witches are simultaneously an essential part of Lancre society, and not exactly a member of that society. Thus, one of the major characteristics of the Witch in Lancre society is her autonomy, both on a personal and a social level. She pays no taxes (Pratchett 1988:44); she never curtseys, and bows under the rarest of circumstances (Pratchett 1988:132); she admits to no superior, or even to "less than absolute power" (Pratchett 1991: 184); and she follows neither the rules of physical nor supernatural reality. Witness, for example, the way in which Weatherwax gets information from the demon she invokes in Nanny Ogg's washtub (Pratchett 1988: 96) - instead of playing the "riddle game" traditional to those questioning demons, Weatherwax simply asks "What the hell's going on?" and threatens to boil the demon if it proves recalcitrant. Being a witch, in other words, is a position of total agency. The Witch is completely secure in her own identity and refuses to submit to any outside authority, to the point where the most powerful witch in Lancre, Granny Weatherwax is as "self-centred as a spinning top" (Pratchett 1988:164) - as Nanny Ogg mentions, "self-asserting is what witching is all about" (Pratchett 1991:23). This is why the Witches are the foremost opponents of "narrative causality" - any enforcement of expectations of how an individual will behave in a certain role in a story is an infringement on their personal agency, and a Witch is nothing without unfettered agency. Accordingly, the first half of Witches Abroad consists of the Lancre coven's journey across the continent to Genua, where they manage to disrupt almost every single narrative expectation from vampirism to the legend of Sleeping Beauty. As Lily Weatherwax correctly surmises, Esme is her opposite in that she is "poison to stories" - "she hated everything that predestined people, that made them less than human" (Pratchett 1991:239). Part of witchcraft, then, is asserting the absolute sovereignty of the witch - and by extension, other individuals - over their own destiny.
The ability of a Witch to utterly control her own life, combined with her usefulness to the community, combines to evoke the respect from that community that enables a Witch to live comfortably. The Witches' Look (Pratchett 1988:71) inspires the same terror in the weaker-minded as the female authority figures of childhood. A Lancre witch can expect that all traffic will get out of her way (Pratchett 1988:168), and Esme Weatherwax in particular lives virtually for free since none will dare to ask her for pay for anything. However, the price that has to be paid for this complete personal autonomy and inviolability is a greater or lesser isolation from society. The function of this implied "social contract" is most pronounced in the case of Granny Weatherwax. She is absolutely invaluable to Lancre society, striking terror into the hearts all all who might cross her, but at the price of never being truly part of the community she serves. "They call me [a mad old woman] already," she tells the Queen of the Elves (Pratchett 1992:344). "They think I can't hear". Her unwillingness to let her complete independence be compromised has led her to life-long celibacy (Pratchett 1992: 377) and the people of Lancre, whilst giving her the respect she demands, still gossip about her when they think she cannot hear (Pratchett 1992:182) - it is this uneasiness about the power of the witches which allows Duke Felmet's rumour campaign to gain traction in Wyrd Sisters. The freedom that outsider status grants can also be a loneliness, as both Weatherwax and Garlick, to varying degrees, must come to terms with. In contrast, however, Nanny Ogg circumvents this social isolation by being the matriarch and unquestioned despot of the Ogg clan. Her every domestic need is catered for by her vast numbers of descendants and family members - "no tyrant in the history of the world had achieved a domination so complete" (Pratchett 1988: 64). In other words, she compensates for her isolation from broader society by making herself absolutely central to her extended family structure. The place of a Witch in the society of Lancre, then, is that of necessary outsider . Whether this is a blessing or a curse depends on the strength of character of the individual Witch, and her ability to control her own reality to the degree that it becomes comfortable.
This brings us to the question which is at the very heart of the nature of Lancre witchcraft - the Witch's relationship to reality and appearance. As Esme Weatherwax hotly informs Magrat Garlick: "If you want to amount to anything as a witch, you have to know three things. What's real, what's not, and what's the difference." (Pratchett 1991:137). In other words, the total agency which constitutes the place of the Witch in Lancre society requires an absolute grounding in physical reality and a refusal to become entrapped by appearances or image - examples of "unreality" in the trilogy include not only narrative causality, but Magrat's infamous "romantic notions", and such unhelpful emotions as guilt, nostalgia and regret. In other words, a large part of the power of Lancre witches is that, with complete confidence of what is real, they are thereby able to manipulate image and appearance to suit their own purposes - and to unmask others attempting to do the same thing. Thus, Weatherwax does not usually bother to perform the traditional witches' curse of turning an adversary into a frog - she merely makes her adversary believe, for a short time, that he is a frog, which is "cheaper and more satisfying" (Pratchett 1991: 156). Conversely, sometimes their most succesful magic is a reassertion of reality - for example, they defeat Lily's plans for the Duc by calmly reasserting "But he's a frog" to all of her arguments. (Pratchett 1991: 242).
If one is to succesfully identify and manipulate unreality, one must be absolutely grounded in one's own identity, lest one suffer the fate of Lily Weatherwax and lost one's sense of independent identity. Thus, Esme Weatherwax jealously guards her right to her own identity. She is only an old woman "when it suits her purposes" (Pratchett 1991:99) - because of her thorough grounding in her own "true identity" as a witch, she is able to assume the guise of a simple old woman when necessary, as on the riverboat. Conversely, when one is unsure about one's self, one becomes susceptible to the images or "glamours" constructed by others. Unreality and abstraction are associated throughout the trilogy with deception and coercion - thus, for most of Lords and Ladies Granny Weatherwax's greatest struggle is not with the Queen of the Elves, but with the intrusion of memories of alternate lives, confusing her about exactly what she is. The only thing that could defeat Esme Weatherwax is to make her unsure about who and what she is.
The link between image, self-image and reality is not an unproblematic one, however. In line with the theme of self-fashioning recurrent in the trilogy, it is made clear that "true identity" is not a thing to be necessarily discovered, but which can be created by the sufficiently strong of will. For example, we have Magrat's frustration at her inability to change the shape of her body or her hair by magic (Pratchett 1988:65) contrasted with the successful (if temporary) transformation of Greebo into a human being. "A living thing already knows what shape it is - you only have to change its mind." (Pratchett 1991:209) . In other words, Pratchett is offering a variation on a common theme in "New Age" philosophy - that self-image, or succesful self-fashioning, is the defining factor in destiny. Magrat Garlick would not be able to pass under a created identity, the way Esme Weatherwax does, because of her insecurity in her basic identity as a Witch - witness the relative efficacy of the two's attempts to enter the castle as "harmless apple sellers" (Pratchett, 1988:139, 144). Thus, as the Witches' power derives from an ability to tell reality from image and being able to manipulate the latter, the identity of "witch", as contrasted with the reality of "being a witch", is simply another image, which is only useful to the extent that it attracts the autonomy and respect that the practitioners of witchcraft aspire to. As both Weatherwax and Ogg repeat at several points in the trilogy, a witch is nothing without an image, because it is that very image which provokes the "respect" that is required for a Witch's life to be comfortable. This explains why, although the Lancre witches are continually suspicious of one another and often descend to outright feuding (Pratchett, 1988: 164), they are remarkably collegial, in that "a slight to one witch is a slight to all" - this can be explained as an expression of their collective interest in maintaining respect for the image of "witch". Thus, even though Magrat Garlick evokes no terror in herself, the people of Lancre are deferential in case one of the more fearsome Witches considers them lacking in respect. Accordingly, as Magrat tells the Fool, "you're a witch when the other witches say you are" (Pratchett 1988:199) - presumably, this is when they are prepared to admit your right to be treated with the respect due to one.
However, as previously explained, the most important power of a Witch is to be able to exploit image, rather than succumbing to it - to be able to know what is real, in oneself as in one's environment, so that one can manipulate what is not. Witchcraft is, as previously mentioned, a social identity, and as the coven find to their horror in Genua, the respect it invokes is dependent on the specific social structure in which it means anything. Weatherwax is dumbfounded that the guards at Genua's gate treat the coven "as if we were ordinary people" (Pratchett 1991: 153) - her agency, her ability to get what she wants by virtue of her appearance as a "witch", no longer works in a place where people do not recognize what a "witch" is. Similarly, the reason Felmet's attempt at discrediting witchcraft causes so much consternation is that it threatens to turn the category of "witch" from an identity which can be freely adopted and freely discarded, and which is useful to those who use it, to not only a pejorative label but one which can be imposed upon an unwilling party - as the actors find out (Pratchett 1988: 288). Lancre witchcraft, in summary, is part social contract and part process of self-fashioning. In the first sense, witchcraft about "self-asserting" in its widest sense - the freedom to negotiate one's own relationship to the greater social entity, and to fashion one's own identity as circumstances demand. In the second sense, it involves defining the absolute, unchangeable nature of one's own psyche and of the world around one, so as to be able to manipulate image, abstraction and unreality. As will be explored further in the final section, their adversaries in the trilogy are those who would use the power of manipulating unreality to attempt to destroy personal freedom, rather than to facilitate it.
Finally, a word must be said about the relationship of witchcraft and power. It is very notable that might be called "classical magic" - the power based on manipulation of the Discworld's magical force, which enables their broomsticks to fly, or which Weatherwax uses to blast the wheels off the carriage that runs her off the road (Pratchett 1988:164) - is a relatively minor part of the craft of the Lancre witches. Whereas the wizards of the Discworld, who feature in many of the other novels as well as Lords and Ladies, have no compunction in using this kind of magic to further their own ends (for example, Pratchett 1992:159), Pratchett is at paints to depict the witches of Lancre as living lives of the utmost rural domesticity and normality (for example, Pratchett 1991:19), and Granny Weatherwax, in particular, seems loath to use this kind of magic except in extreme need. The reasoning behind this is succinctly expressed in her response to Magrat asking why she won't use "a bit of magic" to help people - "because it'd never stop at just a bit, you stupid girl!" (Pratchett 1991:137). The point which Weatherwax is making is a variant on the libertarian adage that "power corrupts" - as she explains elsewhere, "once you start [using magic to meddle in politics] you can't stop" (Pratchett 1988: 166), and again, "you can't make a better world for people" (Pratchett 1991: 250). Nanny Ogg supports her on these points, with comments such as "the hardest magic is the sort you don't use at all" (Pratchett 1988: 164), and again that "knowing when to use a shovel is what witching is all about" (Pratchett 1991:53). In other Discworld novels, especially Interesting Times (1996), Pratchett proposes a fundamentally libertarian political agenda, and the Lancre Witches trilogy is no exception - it is emphasised that the witches must eschew the temptation to use their power to put themselves in a superior social position. It is repeatedly shown in the course of the trilogy that magic, while powerful, is unreliable at best, and has a habit of turning on those who come to rely on it, like the infamous Black Aliss, who ended by becoming the Wicked Witch in a "Hansel and Gretel"-style story. For example, Esme Weatherwax's attempt at magically confounding Duchess Felmet is far less effective than Nanny Ogg's quick blow to the back of the head (Pratchett 1988: 245). Further, it is also repeatedly stated using it to interfere with the free wills of others will eventually lead to a situation of magical tyranny, which, as Lily Weatherwax learns to her cost, is as destructive to the tyrant as to the tyrannised.
When the Lancre witches use magic, it is usually to make their own lives and circumstances easier, rather than to attempt to solve other's problems without their consent. Thus, the personal autonomy of the Witch is upheld, but also the autonomy of those without magical power. As the Wiccan adage runs, "what you send returns three times over" - thus in the society of Lancre, autonomy and respect must be mutual for the place of the witch to be stable within the social order. Witchcraft is completely morally neutral, but it is precisely balanced on mutuality between the witch and the society she lives in (Pratchett 1992:206). Lancre witchcraft is fundamentally based on relationships - those between people, and between people and the land - and this mutuality must be maintained for the status of "witch" to retain its power. The Kingdom looks after the Witch and does not interfere with her, in other words, so thus the Witch must return the favour. Exercise of magical power for personal advantage, or even to "help", would destroy this mutuality, and thus destroy the network of mutuality on which the social institution of witchcraft relies. The Lancre witches follow the anarchist dictum of "neither slave nor master" by being "off to one side" of the feudal pyramid, but to maintain this position they must not attempt to dominate the society which grants them autonomy and respect.
Plays, Mirrors and Fairy-Gold: Imposed Identity vs. Free Self-Fashioning
The distinction between witchcraft as an image or social identity, that is, a recognized place in the institutions of society, and witchcraft as the practice of the fashioning of a true identity and the craft of manipulating image and identity itself, is the distinction between the witchcraft of Magrat Garlick and the witchcraft of Esme Weatherwax, and throughout the trilogy the author's sympathy is clearly for the latter - as Terry Pratchett himself has said, "Granny Weatherwax often speaks for me". To mark this distinction, I have used the capitalised term "Witch" in this chapter to refer to the practice and craft, rather than the identity or image - part of learning to become a Witch is knowing when it is not appropriate to be a witch, as Weatherwax might say herself. The absolute personal autonomy which the trilogy advocates not only for witches but as a general rule of society, is conversely reliant on personal integrity - a process of work to create the self as a completely self-consistent and self-assured entity, like what which Esme Weatherwax is depicted as having. Accordingly, the adversaries in all three books of the trilogy are presented as offering a "short cut" to the problem of personal identity - they can be said to be offering prefashioned identities, or narratives in which the individual is granted a role to play which can be used as a substitute for an authentic, self-fashioned identity. Throughout the trilogy, freedom and power are linked with the concept of a "true" - that is, freely and completely self-fashioned - personal identity, especially in Granny Weatherwax's assertions about what witchcraft is "all about". For example, she is scornful of Nanny Ogg for "encouraging [her daughters] to throw themselves at men, rather than work it out for themselves" (Pratchett 1988:122). This is another central theme of the trilogy, that the only personal identity which can serve as a gateway to fulfilment is an identity constructed by the individual from life experience and will, rather than one assumed, which can only subjugate the individual to the demands of that identity, or the demands of the creators of that identity. Throughout the trilogy, the antagonists' motivation is lust for power, the power to control the destinies of others - Pratchett is thus, in a sense, recreating the Faust legend, whose central point is that no reward is adequate compensation for the loss of personal autonomy and integrity. As I will explore below, Magrat Garlick's lack of personal power is directly linked to her preference for assuming rather than creating identity.
As previously mentioned, Magrat Garlick's practice of witchcraft is in large part a caricature of modern Wiccan belief, which can in turn be related to the way in which, after the death of Goodie Whemper, she learned most of her witchcraft from books. In this sense, it is possible to analyse her attempts at "being a witch" as a subservience of the same sort as the subservience to narrative causality that the coven spend the trilogy combatting - and, therefore, contradictory to the supreme personal autonomy necessary, as previously explored, to really "be a Witch" in the sense that Granny Weatherwax is. Thus, Magrat's practice of witchcraft, especially in the earlier part of the trilogy, is a caricature - that is, she tries to behave as she thinks a witch is supposed to behave, and becomes frustrated and upset when the older witches fail to live up to these expectations. In Wyrd Sisters, she dresses, behaves and presents herself according to her conception of how a witch is "supposed" to - she forms the coven because "she felt it was more, well, occult". (Pratchett, 1988:9). Throughout this first book in the trilogy, Magrat's miserable attempts at being what she thinks a witch ought to be are played for comedy - for example, her vast amounts of useless occult jewellery and ritual knives, or her continuing search for a familiar which does not "bite, get trodden on, or metamorphose" (Pratchett, 1988:65), and the delightful image of the bat-shaped scones she bakes for her first sabbat. We thus can say that Magrat has an image of what a witch should be, and is determined to adhere to that image correctly, to play her "proper role". Another, less attractive, aspect of her adherence to abstraction over reality is her intellectual arrogance, manifested in her determination to impose standards of "proper behaviour" on the unruly, organic nature of Lancre society . It is disturbingly inconsistent, for example, for someone who claims to believe in "Nature's wisdom" (Pratchett 1988: 21), to chide the women of Lancre for having babies "any old way" (Pratchett 1992: 32), rather than by her specifications of "natural childbirth". "Nature" is thus conceived as a state that has to be learnt and taught, rather than a spontaneous state of affairs. The irony is obvious - Magrat's conception of self-fashioning at this stage requires her to impose an abstract role, or prefabricated identity, not only on herself but on her surroundings. Esme Weatherwax describes the younger witch later in the novel as "nothing but a daft godmother" (Pratchett 1991: 250), and indeed Magrat's view of the world is dangerously close to that of Lily Weatherwax, with the same connotations of disrespect for human freedom. Not surprisingly, the older witches are impatient with her ideas of what "proper witchcraft" ought to be. As Granny Weatherwax puts it "headology is all that's important - everything else is just messing around" (Pratchett, 1991: 264) - in other words, the psychology of one's own personal identity and that of others is the path to true personal power. In Witches Abroad, particularly, it is repeatedly stated that Weatherwax is absolutely lacking in any self-doubt - she knows exactly what she is, and can therefore assume roles and discard them without any implied challenge to her personal identity. Nanny Ogg is typically even less tactful, "Bugger all that, let's curse somebody" (Pratchett 1988: 167).
From the beginning of Witches Abroad, however, Magrat shows increasing dissatisfaction with her role, seeking alternative methods of self-definition in addition to her role as "witch", including flirtations with what we would recognize as Eastern philosophy and feminism. She is therefore following the path common to many of our own world's practitioners of occultism, in that she becomes something of a dilettante in her quest to find a narrative of self-definition. This process is, of course, a further example of what Esme Weatherwax would mean by "messing around" - that is, the kind of "play-acting" of which she later accuses Diamanda's coven (Pratchett 1992: 86), and a distraction from the work of fashioning an authentic identity. Magrat's desire to be a "real witch" led her to hold Granny Weatherwax in awe at the beginning of the coven's formation (Pratchett 1988:8), but as her explorations continue, by the middle of the trilogy she is explicitly rebelling, if only verbally, against the authority of the older witches - even accusing them of not practising "real witchcraft". "Real witchcraft", as Magrat understands it, is about the use of magic in its classical sense as described above, rather than "glaring at people and tricking them. Taking advantage of their gullibility" (Pratchett 1991: 136). The irony about Magrat's position on this is that it is Magrat's own gullibility - that is, her willingness to adhere to the proper image of witchcraft - which has prevented her from asserting her power as a Witch. Even the formation of the coven, which was on her own initiative, institutionalises her role as "third witch" - "and definitely the last" (Pratchett 1992: 21). Thus, Magrat is paradoxically prevented from attaining the agency and autonomy that "real witchin'", as Granny Weatherwax would understand it, is based on. Accordingly, in Lords and Ladies, she finally rebels and renounces her identity as a witch. However, this flight is intially only a flight from one restrictive role to another, from "third witch" to "Queen", in which her power of agency is equally circumscribed. The final "happy ending" of the novel, where we leave Magrat happily married and with at least an appearance of self-confidence, can be seen as Magrat finally succeeding in fashioning an autonomous identity, one which combines both the authority of the role of "queen" and the autonomy of the role of "witch". We can say, then, that the fatal flaw in Magrat Garlick's character, as presented until the end of the trilogy, is that she is attempting to evade the discipline necessary to fashion her own identity, in favour of assuming a previously designed identity or role. As is explicitly said, her large collection of occult jewellery is "a sort of distraction from being Magrat" (Pratchett 1991: 161) - by the end of the trilogy, even if she has not quite succeeded in formulating an identity with complete integrity, at least she has fashioned a role which grants her a large measure of personal autonomy. As she herself says to Ella in Witches Abroad, "Doing what you don't want to do is a living death" (Pratchett, 1991: 238) - personal autonomy is everything.
As mentioned previously, the antagonists in the trilogy are presented as despotic, controlling forces who hide their real intentions behind image - they require the surrender of the individual's right to determine one's own destiny, in favour of a role in a narrative which is fashioned for them. The image between imposed image and a freely chosen real identity is pointed up succintly by the slanderous play in Wyrd Sisters. "It's art. […] It wossname, holds a mirror up to life", says Nanny Ogg, and Granny Weatherwax thinks in response, "That’s why everything is precisely the wrong way around" (Pratchett 1988:282-3). Felmet's strategy is to create an identity of "witch", through use of words and image, which will supplant the previous freely-chosen nature of that identity and transform it into a tool of oppression. In modern political terms, the use of bland or inoffensive words to disguise a dangerous reality, or the reverse, for political gain is called "spin-doctoring", and the narrative makes plain repeatedly the link between Felmet's self-legitimating propaganda and modern political techniques. For example, when challenged Felmet resorts to claiming that he is unable to remember - a strategy used in both the Watergate and Iran-Contra hearings Additionally, it is interesting to note the similarities between Felmet and James I, who also held concepts of the lascivious and treasonous nature of witchcraft which led Diane Purkiss to describe him as paranoid. Felmet is to James I as Hwel's play is to Macbeth - as in our reality the influence of the literary tradition of Macbeth has helped to fashion our perceptions of witchcraft (not to mention our perception of MacBeth the historical King of Scotland), so too is Felmet's campaign of propaganda devoted to making the witches of Lancre hated, feared and ridiculous. Eventually, Felmet's desire to impose his will upon history and reality leads to madness, and a confusion about what reality actually is which proves to be fatal.
Lily Weatherwax is the "mirror image" of her sister Esme in more ways than the obvious - and, in another way, the logical extension of Magrat's "romantic notions". Instead of naively expecting the world to conform to narrative preconceptions as Magrat does, however, Lily forces it to do so. The "Magic Kingdom" she establishes in Genua is a dictatorship of narrative expectation, and those who are incapable of "playing their parts" properly - that is, those who fail to fit into a character role appropriate for one of the stories which Lily weaves around herself - are pitilessly punished. Magrat brings up the point that Lily's desire for cleanliness and order, can be justified, but Esme quickly retorts that the ends cannot justify the means if the means involve usurpation of individual freedom. "Only people can build a better world for people," she says. "Otherwise, it's just a cage" (Pratchett, 1991:250). Esme further categorises what her sister does as "feeding people to stories" (Pratchett 1991:197) - that is, sacrificing freedom to narrative expectation. However, the tragedy of Lily Weatherwax is that she fails to realise that by imposing identity on others she loses her own identity. By absorbing herself totally into the role of "fairy godmother" (or wicked witch), she becomes as entrapped by narrative expectation as any of those subject to her - and thus becomes unable to defend herself, and is permanently lost, through not being able to maintain contact with the "true" identity that her sister Esme never steps out of. Her sister literally becomes her mirror image at the denouement of the novel, representing everything that Lily has had to reject to gain her power - Esme, as is repeated throughout the book, rejects "anything that predestines people" (Pratchett 1991: 239) and her anger against Lily is for the predestination she herself has suffered - "I had to be the good one," she complains (Pratchett 1991:276). Lily Weatherwax gains her power by forcing others to renounce their personal identities and to play parts in stories that she designs - and she is ultimately destroyed, like Felmet, because she has become herself dependent on the unreal narratives she has used to gain power over others.
Similarly, the Elves in Lords and Ladies also work by offering an apparently seductive image, to ensnare those unsure of their own identity. "Fairy gold", which appears solid at night but becomes dry leaves upon sunrise, is the appropriate metaphor for what the Elves offer - a "glamour", a beautiful image, which seeks to hide their blatant cruelty until they have gained control over the unwary. The young Esme is saved from the Queen's power by her own native suspiciousness about any outside force demanding her trust (Pratchett 1992: 13), but Diamanda Tockley, unfortunately, is not so lucky. It is interesting at this point to compare Diamanda and her coven with Magrat Garlick. Diamanda and the putative witches of her coven dress in a deliberate reference to the modern "Goth" style - which can be accurately caricatured as "floppy hats, black nails and education […] and black lace gloves with the fingers cut out" (Pratchett 1992: 66, 86). By their use of all the proper "occult" paraphernalia, Diamanda's coven are "playing at witches" - that is, playing up to the image of the witch, precisely what Magrat attempts (and mainly fails) to do throughout Wyrd Sisters. The
difference is the intrusion of Elvish influence - it is possible to believe that the Magrat of Wyrd Sisters would have been as willing an acolyte of the Fairy Queen as Diamanda turns out to be. Thus, Esme Weatherwax considers it necessary to provoke Magrat out of the coven, as a possible "weak link" in the struggle against the Elves. However, without Elvish influence, the only path to the true power of Witchcraft has had to come through the painful process of self-fashioning, under the influence of Weatherwax and Ogg, which Magrat finally completes in that novel.
Diamanda does have a far stronger will and self-confidence, even without her Elvish power, which enables her to keep her "coven" in check (Pratchett: 1992: 79). However, she is completely neglectful of the social dimension of Lancre witchcraft - like the Elves she serves, she has power without compassion, and cannot understand that Granny Weatherwax wins their battle in the town square precisely because of her display of compassion. Diamanda has had power given to her for nothing, rather than having to earn it via personal self-fashioning and the respect of her community - therefore, she has to pay the price in loss of what identity she has, as later in the novel when she becomes a tool of the Elvish invasion. As Weatherwax later tells her, the Elves offer "all the power you want. For free […] They always take more than they give. And what they give has less than no value. And they end up taking everything" (Pratchett 1992: 139). And as she tells the Queen of the Elves herself: "I had to learn. All my life. The hard way. And the hard way's pretty hard, but not as hard as the easy way" (Pratchett 1992: 343). In other words, attempting to evade the process of self-fashioning in favour of promises of identity and power without effort can only lead to servitude. The process of learning, of having to fashion one's own identity, is what makes Esme Weatherwax better than the Queen of the Elves; in the same way that her attachment to human freedom unfettered by narrative causality, and of a reality underlying appearances, enables her to defeat Duke Felmet and her sister. In summary, then: the trilogy concerning the Lancre Witches is constructed as a conflict between the linked conflicts of self-fashioning, freedom and reality, and the forces of plays, mirrors and fairy-gold; cheap alternatives to the hard work of self-fashioning, which are used as tools to manipulate the unwary into servitude to those who would construct their identities for them.
Conclusion: Magic, Reality, Autonomy and Identity
In this chapter, I have explored the institution of witchcraft in Lancre in the Discworld novels, and shown how it is constructed both as a social phenomenon of accepting a certain identity, and a process of self-fashioning, of work in constructing a personality that is strong enough to see through all illusion and image, and conversely able to manipulate illusion and image. It is worth mentioning again that, throughout the Discworld novels, Pratchett shows a strong adherence to a libertarian political philosophy - the idea that, as Granny Weatherwax says, to enable people to be truly happy and fulfilled, "you have to let them work it out for themselves" (Pratchett 1991:250). Thus, the ruler who is too stupid to interfere, like the first Verence, or is wise enough not to, like the second Verence, is preferable to the intelligent, cunning rulers like Felmet or Lily Weatherwax who attempt to change reality to suit their own interests, which necessarily means making their subjects into puppets of their own schemes and depriving them of their own personal autonomy. Those in power will always be thwarted by those people like Granny Weatherwax, who refuse to "play their parts properly". Thus, the right of the individual to fashion their own identity is the true path to happiness, and any political force which attempts to mandate identity is oppressive and evil.
With personal autonomy, on the other hand, comes personal responsibility. There is responsibility to the community - the free individual owes a duty of care to the society which enables her to function autonomously. There is responsibility for the use of power - the Witches of Lancre have a quasi-Taoist commitment to letting the natural order of things prevail, and only impose their will on reality via magical power with great reluctance. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there is responsibility for one's own personal identity. Witchcraft throughout the trilogy is presented only superficially as an identity, a series of behaviours, actions and beliefs that characterise an individual. True Witchcraft, of the kind which makes Granny Weatherwax such a fearsome character, lies in discovering or fashioning a "real" personality - an identity that lies beneath all image. Thus, the true Witch can adopt any identity - although she bears the identity of what most people would recognize as a "witch" to evoke respect, she can become anything else which might prove more useful in a given circumstance. In accordance with the magical principle that the microcosm is identical with the macrocosm, this extends to being absolutely convinced about the true nature of the reality of one's environment, and conversely able to manipulate illusion and image. Along with "what's real, what's not real and what's the difference", Granny Weatherwax might have added a fourth thing that a Witch has to learn - "how to change it".
Finally, we have the antagonism in the novel against the forces that attempt to deprive not only the Witches, but the "ordinary" people, of their autonomy, responsibility and the associated power. Felmet in Wyrd Sisters attempts to change not only history, but the definition of "witch", to suit his own power; Lily Weatherwax in Witches Abroad "feeds people to stories", forcing them to act out roles predetermined by herself so that she can wield power over them; and the Elves in Lords and Ladies fool the unwary with glamour into allowing them to rule their lives and their imaginations. The Witches, in the course of combatting these forces, also demonstrate the process of self-fashioning necessary to have a personality strong enough to withstand them. In a sense, the trilogy which I have discussed here can be seen as a drama of the evolution of the personality of Magrat Garlick, from her sad attempts to behave in an "occult" manner in the first novel, to her first attempts to find her own identity in the second, to her eventual renunciation of the image of the witch in the third, which enables her to assume the same power which the older Witches have had throughout. In line with the strong neo-pagan influence on the depiction of Lancre witchcraft, magic for the Lancre coven is far less about the manipulation of supernatural force than the manipulation of "headology" - the real magic of the Lancre witches is the forging of an autonomous identity, and the responsible use of the power that this self-fashioning gives them over their own lives, their environment, and the society in which they live. The science-fiction novels which I will examine in the last chapter construct similar images of Witchcraft as a path to individual freedom and a place in society - the difference being, that they attempt to depict this in the setting of our own world, using the neo-Pagan conception of Witchcraft as their prime tool.
Necessary Outsiders: Neo-Pagan Witchcraft and Romantic Individualism in Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature
"Could be also he knows something about Wicca. I know he reads SF and fantasy, and there's a lot of that stuff showing up in the literature these days."- Mercedes Lackey, Children of the Night
Introduction: Neo-Pagan Witchcraft in Four Different Fictional Contexts
The difficulty of coming to a settled definition of "witches" or "witchcraft", which I have argued is one of the properties that gives the archetype its dramatic power, conversely makes it very difficult to explore the subject of the literature of Witchcraft with any degree of succinctness. When dealing with the subject of how the Witch has been transformed into a heroic figure in many modern works of speculative (science fiction or fantasy) fiction, the problem arises of what exactly which definition of "witch" and "witchcraft" we will use to structure our study. To alleviate this difficulty, therefore, this chapter will focus on works set in a relatively "realistic" (modern, historical or quasi-historical) setting, and thus might have a more immediate relevance for the questions of self-fashioning raised in the previous chapter. Further, we will mainly be studying witchcraft as seen by one of the major sources which the previous chapter identified for Pratchett's Lancre Witches - modern neo-Pagan Witchcraft, known to its practitioners as Wicca - and how it has been used in modern speculative fiction. T.H. Luhrmann, in her anthropological study of neo-Paganism, Persuasions of the Witches' Craft, suggests that neo-Pagan Witchcraft is a religion for "romantic intellectuals" - this phrase could also function as a succinct description of the stereotypical reader of science fiction and fantasy literature. The purpose of this chapter, then, is to examine specifically how the worldview of neo-Pagan Witchcraft, and characters who profess it or beliefs similar to it, are used in speculative fiction, and to what end.
To achieve something of a broad overview, I have selected four texts (or series of texts) which combine neo-Paganism - usually explicitly citing their influences - with different fictional contexts, including various fantastic elements, as the basis for their fictional reality. Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon is a feminist and pagan retelling of the Arthurian cycle, which uses neo-Paganism as a reconstruction of pre-Christian British religion; its central characters are the (especially female) Pagan magic users, attempting to hold off the eclipse of their tradition at the hands of Christian orthodoxy. Katherine Kurtz's Lammas Night also features Pagan characters holding off a threat to the Britain they love - this time, it is 1940, and their adversaries are the secret occult societies working with and through the leadership of Nazi Germany. The "Diana Tregarde Investigations" by Mercedes Lackey feature a protagonist who is not only a practising Wiccan but also a private investigator, who uses both occult and mundane skills to solve crimes and defeat supernatural adversaries. Finally, we have a novel by one of the more famous neo-Pagan spokespersons and authors, Miriam Simos (who writes under her "magical name" Starhawk) - The Fifth Sacred Thing, a novel set in mid-21st century California where an anarcho-socialist, pacifist, ecologically balanced Pagan civilisation based around San Francisco fights for its life against a fascist state based around Los Angeles which embodies the worst aspects of capitalism, fundamentalist Christianity and militarism. Thus, each of these texts, by use of varying fantastic elements, put the neo-Pagan "monomyth" into four different contexts, and thus I intend to primarily examine how neo-Paganism interacts with the four different genres of the texts - a historical/fantasy novel, a war novel, a series of contemporary detective novels and a utopian/science fiction novel.
The discussion will be structured around what I identify as the three major ways in which the neo-Pagan worldview helps to structure the fictional reality of the texts. This discussion will be in part an expansion of Carrol Fry's investigation of the use of neo-Pagan themes in The Mists of Avalon and Lammas Night (referred to in the bibliography), but I aim to broaden Fry's approach by not only examining how the neo-Pagan monomyth is used, but to what effect this belief system is used, so that we can arrive at some understand of why it is attractive to the authors and readership of speculative fiction. The first section will explore the neo-Pagan conception of how magic works, and how this paradigm is used by the authors to make the creativity, autonomy and willpower of its central characters the defining force for good in the narrative. Secondly, I will examine how such other neo-Pagan concepts as co-existing multiple realities, the sacredness of nature and the primacy of fields of experience and
perception traditionally coded "feminine" are used as a vantage point from which we can see the basic assumptions of our reality as conditional, and to construct the individualist/Witch as "necessary outsider". Thirdly, there will be a discussion of how the antagonists in the various texts are constructed to fit in with a neo-Pagan worldview which generally avoids the concept of "evil", by opposing them to the two most important concepts for neo-pagans; the integrity of nature and individual freedom to self-fashion. Thereby, I hope to show that neo-Paganism is such an attractive framework for writers and readers of speculative fiction, because it creates a believable context in which to assert the primacy and power of the self-fashioned individual, and the evils of restriction on human freedom.
A full description of the theory and practice of neo-Paganism, or even of Wicca, that one branch of the movement whose adherents describe themselves as Witches, is far outside the scope of this chapter. Fry (1990) gives an adequate summation of the outlines of the belief system and the general attitudes of its practitioners, but this chapter will go into much greater detail on certain details and leave other details out entirely, so to include even a brief summation of "the neo-Pagan monomyth" (Fry, p.345) would serve to confuse the argument. The works by Adler and Starhawk noted in the references are generally considered the best introductions to neo-Paganism of today, The Spiral Dance being cited as the basis for the witchcraft of both The Mists of Avalon and The Fifth Sacred Thing. The novel by Kurtz also cites An ABC of Witchcraft Past and Present by Doreen Valiente - Valiente was one of the founders of the Gardnerian tradition of Wicca (see Adler, p. 62) and the rites of the Oakwood coven in Lammas Night are identifiable as standard Gardnerian rituals (eg Kurtz, p. 341).
"A Priestess of the Goddess Bows To No Man": Neo-Pagan Magic as a Path to Self-Fashioning And Personal Power
The question which is being examined in this section is not how and why magic is used in fantasy literature - a question which might well require a whole thesis in itself - but what is it about the neo-Pagan conception of nature in particular which has led the authors of these particular texts to use it as the basis for their depiction of magic. I intend to show that in the neo-Pagan conception, magic is seen less as a means to manipulate reality than a process of self-fashioning - a system of training which aims to heighten the individual's perception of the "deeper levels" of reality, and their individual connection to the Divine (usually referred to as "the Goddess" by Wiccans). This is coincidentally a process to dissolve negative emotional complexes, which warp the individual's perception and "occlude the flow of power". Further, I will argue that this conception of magic as the property of the self-fashioned individual is consistent with, and an important device to highlight, the libertarian, individualist and feminist viewpoints espoused by the texts, as well as putting the exercise of magic into a believable context.
The worldview of Wicca is based very strongly on the concept that physical reality is only the "outer layer" of the universe, the tangible manifestation of subtle energy flows, and that therefore a trained mind and will, used to sensing and manipulating the flow of these energies, can learn to affect physical reality - which is what Wiccans understand by magic. Starhawk, in her Wiccan instruction manual The Spiral Dance, explains thus:
"This view of the universe as an interplay of moving forces - which, incidentally, corresponds to an amazing degree with the views of modern physics - is a product of a very special mode of perception. Ordinary waking consciousness sees the world as fixed; it focuses on one thing at a time, isolating it from its surroundings […] Extraordinary consciousness, the other mode of perception that is broad, holistic and undifferentiated, sees patterns and relationships rather than fixed objects. […] The magical and psychic aspects of the Craft are concerned with awakening [this latter mode of perception] and training it to be a useful tool. Magic is not a supernatural affair; it is, in [English occultist] Dion Fortune's definition, 'the art of changing consciousness at will'." (Starhawk, 1989: 32)
By "not… supernatural", Starhawk emphasises the point that neo-Pagans see magic as working in accordance with the laws of nature, rather than subverting or overriding them - magic functions by a trained mind being able to shift the normal energy flows of the universe, rather than being able to summon power from some other realm. The other definition of magic commonly quoted by neo-Pagans, "the art of causing changes in conformity with will" (quoted in Fry, p. 336), was coined by the ceremonial magician Aleister Crowley, whose adherents are roundly satirised by Lackey (eg. Lackey, 1989:65) but whose works have a great influence upon many neo-Pagans (Adler, p.63). When the two definitions are combined, we have the concept that by learning to change one's consciousness, one may gain the ability to perceive and manipulate the flows of subtle energy which underlie reality and thus cause changes in reality through the power of will.
However, the ability to summon magical energy - to connect oneself with the powers of nature which the Wiccans call "Goddess" - is not presented as a simple matter of learning a mental skill. Rather, it is a process of reformation of the personality. Starhawk explains it thus:
"The practice of magic also demands the development of what is called the magical will. Will is very much akin to what Victorian schoolmasters called "character": honesty, self-discipline, commitment and conviction.
"Those who would practice magic must be scrupulously honest in their personal lives. In one sense, magic works on the principle that "it is so because I say it is so." A bag of herbs acquires the power to heal because I say it does. For my word to take on such force, I must be deeply and completely convinced that it is identified with truth as I know it. If I habitually lie to my lovers, steal from my boss, pilfer from supermarkets, or simply renege on my promises, I cannot have that conviction." (Starhawk, 1989:125).
Thus, the process of learning to perform effective magic is presented as a process of self-fashioning - of learning to trust one's own judgement and personal power to affect reality. As mentioned in the discussion of Pratchett's Lancre Witches (see previous chapter), the neo-Pagan paradigm relies on mastering one's own psychology to the point where no doubt remains about one's power to accurately perceive both visible and invisible reality or to be able to effect changes in that reality - which means that guilt, shame or other "emotional blocks" which hamper the individual from accurate perception of themselves and their reality prevent the assumption of full magical power. Thus, this method of self-fashioning can be seen as a process of corrective psychology, albeit with a spiritual goal.
The novels closely follow this neo-Pagan paradigm of how magic can work - the attainment by a trained mind of an altered state of consciousness where subtle energies become visible and tangible, and thus susceptible to direct manipulation. The fantastic element in the descriptions of the magic mainly consists of allowing for the fact that the fictional practictioners are able to achieve far more spectacular results than any authentic modern neo-Pagan would expect - but this is generally explained by the far superior training and resources that the characters have to the average neo-Pagan of our reality. There is also often an emphasis on the neo-Pagan principle that the purpose of magic is to bring one closer to the Divine, and accordingly, to one's particular destiny in this lifetime.
The most obvious way in which magic is used in The Mists of Avalon is as a dramatic device to aid the narrative - the many different instances of astral travel, or "scrying" (vision at a distance) in the novel form a device enabling the protagonists to be aware of distant events which are of importance to the narrative (eg Bradley, p. 223). However, the specifically neo-Pagan paradigm of magic adopted in Mists can be seen as an essential part of the novel's feminist project, in that it describes a path to personal power and agency in the political realm which is open to women, in parallel to the chivalric paradigm in which women feature only as inspiration and reward for male agents.
In the foreword to Mists, Marion Zimmer Bradley thanks "Starhawk, whose book The Spiral Dance proved invaluable to me in helping deduce much about the training of a priestess" (Bradley, p. viii). While there is little explicit quotation from Starhawk's work in Mists, the training and initiation of the priestesses of Avalon is immediately recognizable as a process of self-fashioning similar to that which Starhawk prescribes for the aspiring Witch.The main process of self-fashioning with which we are familiar in the Arthurian mythos works is the specifically male institution of chivalry, where the knight discovers his true virtue (or vertu) by devotion to his King, to God and to his own personal sense of what is right. As in many other respects, Mists attempts to put this path to self-fashioning into a context by providing an alternative path to self-fashioning, not exclusive to males - the "making" or initiation of a priestess of Avalon, or a Druid. Indeed, when Morgaine hears that Arthur has institutionalised a vigil at the Christian altar for the knights of his Round Table, she instantly recognizes it as a variation on his own pagan "kingmaking" (initiation) on Dragon Island, and hotly disputes Arthur's right to Christianize the process (Bradley, p. 558).
The neo-Pagan paradigm maintains that self-fashioning is the path to magical power, and the exercise of magic throughout the novel is presented as the way in which women, excluded from the military realm by Roman and later Christian custom, can be agents in the political drama of Britain's survival. For instance, Igraine's "astral travel" (p. 104) is the defining factor which saves Uther from Gorlois; similarly, Morgaine can ensure Avalloch's death on the boar hunt (p. 773). Another neo-Pagan influence which emphasises the idea of magic as a female path to power is its preference for what Starhawk calls "kitchen magic": the concept that "the Goddess is manifest in ordinary tasks as well as magic circles" (Starhawk, 1989: 76) and that "the mind works magic, and no elaborately forged knife or elegant wand can do any more than augment the power of a trained mind" (Starhawk, 1989: 75). The tools necessary to cast neo-Pagan magic, and the magic of Mists, need not be the magic swords or rare potions of legend, although both have their place in Bradley (for example, Excalibur itself) - they can be found in any kitchen or woodland grove, placing magic firmly in the domestic sphere, and therefore in what is the "woman's sphere" in the society of Mists. Any "simple, homekeeping woman", then, is able to avail herself of magical power with sufficient training and will - for example, the herbs and paraphernalia which Igraine requires for her "scrying" magic are to be found in Tintagel's kitchen and garden (p. 94). Also, throughout the novel, spinning and sewing, classical symbols of women's work, are presented as very effective ways to enter the trance state required for neo-Pagan magic - for example, in Morgaine's sewing of the magical scabbard for Excalibur (p. 227), her magic against Avalloch, or the several instances throughout the novel in which spinning puts her into an involuntary trance (eg. p. 352).
Much as Pratchett's trilogy about the Lancre Witches can be seen as a drama of the self-fashioning of Magrat Garlick, so Mists, even though it avails itself of multiple viewpoints, can be primarily seen as a drama of the evolution of the personality of Morgaine (Morgan le Fay). Morgaine herself goes through two major dramas of self-fashioning in the course of the novel - during her first initiation into Avalon (described pp. 157-8) and when she reclaims her role as priestess while Queen of North Wales. Starhawk describes learning magic as "neurological repatterning" (Starhawk, 1989: 123); accordingly, Morgaine speaks of her magical training as "forcing the mind first to walk in unaccustomed paths" (Bradley, p. 157). Her training, as self-fashioning, is less about learning to wield power, but how to know when not to wield power - a process of achieving wisdom through introspection, in other words (Bradley, p. 158). Accordingly, Viviane speaks of the "years of isolation for the making of a priestess" (p. 11) and Morgaine speaks of being "forced to look within myself" under the influence of psychoactive drugs (p. 158). Although part of the training of the priestesses is learning to submit to the will of the Lady of the Lake - a concept which is foreign to the mostly anti-hierarchical neo-Pagans of our time - it is also explicitly a process of refashioning, where the initiate learns to come to terms with her own fears and her own power, and to be able to "know the will of the Goddess" for herself. This neo-Pagan conception that wisdom and power is to be found through personal communion with the Divine - a position which is called "gnostic" in the Christian tradition - will be explored further in the next section.
The neo-Pagan self-fashioning process identifies guilt or self-hatred as blocks in the ability of the individual to move energy - thus, when Morgaine is consumed with guilt for having turned her back on Avalon, she loses her magical power. Morgaine's struggle to fashion her own identity leads to her having to reject Avalon and attempting to fashion an independent identity. However, cut off from what she recognizes as the Sacred - the Goddess as presented by Avalon - she quickly becomes assimilated into the life of Arthur's court. She acts in a way which causes her to lose her own self-respect - for example, "throwing herself" at Lancelet (p. 372), or giving Gwenhwyfar the breeding-charm after having previously turned up her nose at the prospect of "giving out love potions like a village wise-woman" (p. 383). Having lost her own confidence in her ability to "move between the worlds", she is unable to summon the power to return to Avalon (p. 463). It is only, ironically, after she is married against her will to Uriens of North Wales that she is inspired to reconnecting herself to the forces of nature - in effect, to repeat her training (p. 679), this time on her own, with only her own perceptions rather than the teachings of Avalon to guide her. In this regard, this second "initiation" can be seen as a more "authentic" self-fashioning exercise. Thus, even though the magic of Avalon is not sufficient to ensure Avalon's survival in a Christian world, it is still the process by which Morgaine comes to terms with herself, her destiny, and that which she holds sacred. Neo-Pagan magic, therefore, provides for the women of the novel a parallel path to power and self-realisation to the knightly initiation and military strength of which the men avail themselves. Particularly through its emphasis on the democracy of "kitchen magic" and its role as a path to "initiation" (i.e. self-fashioning), it is presented as a method by which every woman (or man) can learn to embody the Goddess and wield the divine power - and, thereby, the individual may achieve her destiny.
In Lammas Night, the drama of self-fashioning centres around Prince William, who takes up the burden of sacrificial King, embodiment of the seasonal neo-Pagan God. Here again, we have the neo-Pagan paradigm being used to describe a process by which an individual discovers his purpose in life. At the beginning of the novel, William is "drifting" (Kurtz, p. 37) - complaining about the lack of purpose in his life as a royal duke, prevented from taking any concrete action to help Britain's war effort. In fact, the inviolability of the royal family is presented in the novel as a relic of the days when the King's blood was safeguarded to be shed at times of dire national emergency - it is interesting to reintepret the quoted extract from Churchill's speech after the fall of France (p. 99), referring to "the long continuity of [Britain's] institutions" in this light. As William comes closer to the realisation of his destined place in the salvation of Britain, so too does his personality shift, from the rather petulant and jaded young man he is at the beginning of the novel to quite a noble and selfless figure ready to suffer death for his country. Sir John Graham acts as his "initiator", in much the same sense as Viviane acts for Morgaine in Mists, leading him gradually along the path to self-realisation - but in turn, Graham must unwillingly come to his own self-realisation, the knowledge that he is destined to act as his friend's slayer. As Ellis tells him, "If you persist in [refusing to officiate at William's initiation], thinking it will ease the hurt of what may later have to be, you'll regret it for all times to come" (p. 390) - part of the Witch's power is to recognize what has to be done, and to be able to withstand personal sorrow in the service of what one holds sacred. As in Bradley, one cannot avoid one's destiny, even through death.
In addition, William's self-realisation as the Sacred King is the device which convinces the suspicious occultists of Britain to unite for the working against Hitler - Conwy, who would not bow to any mortal, will accept William's authority as the embodied God of pagan Britain (p. 234). The King embodies the land (as the priestesses of Avalon embody the Goddess), and thus the initiation of the Sacred King into his power is reflected by the cohesion of his kingdom and its attainment of unity of purpose - the self-fashioning of a nation. The process of William's transformation into the Sacred King is accomplished mainly by reference to another common neo-Pagan belief - reincarnation and the possibility of past-life regression, a subject which will be explored more fully in a later section. Through a series of trance past-life regressions, William becomes aware of his previous existences as the King, embodying the God, sacrificed for Britain - and Graham of his duty as the slayer of the sacred King. This is a simple variation on the trance techniques mentioned before as an integral part of neo-Pagan magic - attaining an altered state of consciousness where the memories of previous incarnations are accessible. It is also interesting to note that Graham presents the trance techniques to William as more or less a simple variation on hypnosis (Kurtz, p. 50) - this ties in with the theme mentioned before of a very close relationship beween magic and psychology, which also helps the sceptical, rational reader suspend their disbelief. William and Graham's fulfilment of their mutual destiny, then, is accomplished by reference to what that destiny has been in previous existences, and making sure that he "gets things right" in this existence - their self-fashioning consists of magically/psychologically establishing a connection with their own history.
Diana Tregarde, the protagonist of a series of occult detective thrillers by Mercedes Lackey, has more spectacular magical abilities than the priestesses of Avalon or the Oakwood coven. For example, she is able to disable those of her adversaries who are psychically open, or supernatural, with "psi-bolts" and "levin-bolts" (eg. Lackey, 1989: 277), and when she conquers her panic attacks she is able to put so much energy into her protective aura that it actually glows visibly (Lackey, 1990: 187). However, Tregarde is hardly represented as a typical neo-Pagan - although she describes herself as a "practising Witch", she describes her magic as "a blend of witchcraft, sorcery and pure psionics" (Lackey, 1991: 176). Secondly, she is a Guardian, a member of a sort of informal "occult police force" dedicated to protecting the psychically open from predatory entities (Lackey, 1990: 12) and by virtue of this has access to levels of magic that her comrades (such as Lenny in Children of the Night or Larry in Jinx High) do not have. Since they are trained in much the same Wiccan tradition as she is, they are able to help her with their own energies within the context of the magic circle (eg Lackey 1991: 178), but Diana is by far the most powerful on a purely magical level. In addition, she is a strong empath - that is, she is able to sense and manipulate people's emotions in the same way as she is able to manipulate her own psychic energy - and this is an invaluable skill for a private detective, especially when she has to assume a character to throw an adversary off the scent (eg. Lackey 1990: 5). Thus, in many ways Diana Tregarde's magic is not as universally accessible as the magic of Bradley or Kurtz's conceptions.
However, the neo-Pagan conception of magic is still important to an understanding of Lackey's construction. Most importantly, the theme of the limits to magic in a neo-Pagan conception is important - Diana's magic, powerful as it is, is no more able to provide an effortless life than Tregarde's other main skill, karate. "I can't just wiggle my nose and make things happen!", she tells her friend Keith. "Magic doesn't work that way. Magic isn't easy in the first place; it takes more energy to do something magically than it does to just do it, always assuming you can do it mundanely" (Lackey, 1990:104-5). The limits to magic are continuously emphasised, one of those limits being the fact that "witchcraft, unlike other forms of magic works on balances" (Lackey, 1991:101) - all magical power has to come from somewhere, and thus Tregarde must pay for her power (see esp. Lackey, 1989: 157). The price for her Guardian magic is having to use that magic any time a person in need comes to her (Lackey, 1990: 12); the price for her wonderful apartment is having to maintain the spell of deception out of her own strength (Lackey, 1990: 31). This sense of balance is vital to such an ecologically oriented belief system as neo-Paganism.
The emphasis on training familiar from Starhawk also recurs here, and here it is even more specifically neo-pagan; "Witchcraft is about the only way I know of to train psychics," explains Tregarde to Mark Valdez, "at least they're the only folk around with a fully developed course of education" (Lackey, 1989:63); and later, "it's as easy to let the mental muscles go flabby as the physical ones". Magic is hence not an innate talent, but a craft which has to be practiced, and Diana Tregarde's practice is much the same as that followed by neo-Pagans. Hence, her magical procedures, if not quite the spectacular effects they evoke, are eminently recognizable to any neo-Pagan; her altar of sacred tools imbued with her personal energy (Lackey, 1990: 107), or the way that she "casts a circle" to protect her on both physical and non-physical levels before doing any significant magical work (eg Lackey, 1991:264). Further, the strong emphasis on the "kitchen magic" aspect of neo-Paganism that Bradley uses recurs in the Tregarde novels. For example, when protecting the house of Mark Valdez's aunt from the minions of Tezcatlipoca, Tregarde unceremoniously dumps kitchen salt in a jar of water and draws an effective protective circle with it (Lackey, 1989: 244). The emphasis on personal discipline and training as well as the "kitchen magic" aesthetic serves to present neo-Paganism as an essentially democratic occult path, and thus open to everyone with the stamina to pursue magical self-fashioning.
This theme of self-fashioning is also present here - the past-life regression that Mark Valdez goes through (Lackey, 1989: 282) is pretty much identical in form and outcome to those undertaken by William and Graham in Lammas Night, relying on the concept that past-life experiences can provide the seeker with the means to understand their situation and task in the current existence. It is perhaps most clearly expressed in the Tregarde novels, though, by the example of Diana's panic attacks. One of Starhawk's aphorisms is "where there's fear, there's power" (Starhawk, 1989: 8) - that is, when fear is confronted, the energy of fear can be redirected into personal power. Accordingly, the panic attacks to which Tregarde is subject in Children of the Night, due to memories of her encounters with a fearsome soul-eating beast, hamper her badly in her ability to combat the psychic vampires - these incapacitate her to the point where she has to get drunk even to think about her situation (Lackey, 1990: 84). This is, of course, the same sort of avoidance strategy as Graham's refusal to initiate William in Lammas Night, with the same moral that succesful self-fashioning and hence magical power is only achievable through suffering. Accordingly, Diana can only overcome her panic attacks by a process of repeated confrontation with her own fear, which can be interpreted both as a psychological process and a magical one - and when she has finally come to terms with that fear, the energy which was previously directed into panic is transferred to a defensive aura (personal energy field) so strong that it glowly like sunlight (Lackey, 1990: 187-91). Thus, while Diana Tregarde's magic is not precisely neo-Pagan, the neo-Pagan magical themes of conservation of energy and attainment of power through self-fashioning are very important to put the supernatural aspects of the novels in a believable context.
Not surprisingly, the aspect of magical self-fashioning concerned with confronting one's own negative emotions is very prominent in Starhawk's own novel, The Fifth Sacred Thing. The aphorism "Where there's fear, there's power" is quoted (Starhawk, 1993: 248); accordingly, Madrone's power is only restored to her when she allows herself to remember the trauma of her mother's death (Starhawk 1993: 538); and Bird's shame for having succumbed to torture leads to him losing his power to define his own reality. However, the drama of individual self-fashioning is somewhat of secondary importance to the self-fashioning of the society in which Bird, Madrone and their compañeros have been brought up. The inhabitants of "La Hierba Buena" (pagan San Francisco), who have been brought up from birth in a society based on the neo-Pagan worldview, have become highly skilled in what would be by usual neo-Pagan standards quite spectacular feats of magic, having been taught in the schools how to put the mind at the appropriate level of trance to be able to perceive and manipulate not only vital energy (called in the novel by the Chinese name "ch'i") or other more rarified energies, but electrical energy as well. This fits in with the monism of neo-Paganism - its rejection of a Cartesian division between the spiritual and the material, instead regarding psychic reality as an extension of the physical, which makes the individual's psychology of paramount importance. Accordingly, Madrone's medical practice is a seamless combination of orthodox Western medicine, alternative practices such as acupuncture which work with an understanding of the link between psychic energy and physical health, and Wiccan-style direct psychic manipulation of such energies (Starhawk, 1993: 4). Also, her lessons in basic energy work that she gives to the Web during her stay in the Southlands - especially the "tree" exercise - could almost be word-for-word quotations from The Spiral Dance (Starhawk, 1993:434; compare Starhawk, 1989:58). Electricity, in this conception, is just another energy field which can be manipulated by a magically trained mind - thus, Bird is able to escape from the work levee when he is able to disable the electronic alarm systems by effort of will, and Madrone accomplishes the same feat with the alarm systems at the hospital (Starhawk, 1993: 92, 562). In addition to this energy work, going into trance - that is, inducing oneself into the appropriate state of non-ordinary consciousness to be able to view and manipulate such energies - is used throughout the novel to create a credible setting for quite spectacular magical struggles and feats which would never be believable on the physical plane. Examples of this include Madrone's trance in which she directly struggles with the synthetic virus (Starhawk 1993: 113), or the lucid dreaming which is the Defence Council's main form of long-range intelligence gathering (Starhawk, 1993:247).
In our reality, of course, such a gift for sensing and being able to move energy is very rare, and most neo-Pagans of our time rely on the lesser forms of symbolic magic, such as Bird's charm improvised from semen and pubic hair (Starhawk, 1993:82; for examples see Starhawk, 1989: 136) - nothing much more than symbolism backed with a wish, this charm is still presented as effective in its own way. The Monsters, the community born with genetic defects who Bird encounters on his way back to his home in the North, practice magic precisely as the neo-Pagans of our time do - a lot of symbolism but very rarely the kind of spectacular energy manipulation that the Witches of the North are capable of in the novel. Starhawk allows herself an ironic comment on this gap between theory and current practice, as Bird participates in the Monsters' ritual, which is virtually identical to any Wiccan ritual of today (compare Starhawk, 1989: 69):
"The words sounded oddly familiar to Bird, but it took him a while to place them. With a shock, he realised what they were - an exercise out of one of Maya's early books, the one they used to amuse themselves with as children, giggling over what they considered to be simple-minded instructions, teasing Maya until she would finally turn and chase them out.
"'You brats don't know how lucky you are,' she'd yell at them. 'Do you know what it's like to be raised your whole life not to feel, not to trust your intuition, not to notice if you see an aura or feel the energy move? And then try to turn around as an adult and try and learn it all? You put that book down!'" (Starhawk, 1993: 138.)
The point being made is that in our existing culture, we are not brought up being taught to trust either our own perception of the invisible reality that the neo-Pagan conception of magic relies upon, or our own ability to effect changes in either reality.
The Fifth Sacred Thing, as a utopian novel, is concerned with formulating a vision of the future which is wonderful enough to be inspiring as a vision, yet realistic enough to make working towards it feasible - thus, it allows itself to imagine a society where the skills of "relaxation, visualisation, concentration and projection", which The Spiral Dance lists as being the basic tools of magic (Starhawk 1989:62), are part of the normal curriculum of every schoolchild. The use of magic in The Fifth Sacred Thing, then, is common neo-Pagan practice extended to create the basis for a society based on magical self-fashioning. The underlying theme is that such spectacular magic could indeed be possible in our reality, with sufficient commitment to training a community of individuals who trust their perception and can focus their own power enough to perform such feats of magic.
Of course, another important way in which the neo-Pagan conception of magic is useful in the fantasy context is to make magic quasi-realistic. This works both ways - the neo-Pagan conception makes the use of magic feasible, but relying as it does on working through nature rather than overriding it, comes with built-in limits to prevent boring omnipotence in its practitioners. Hence, even the magically fearsome Lady of Avalon in Bradley must walk through muddy swamps and "lose her best shoes in the mire" (Bradley, p. 143) and the Oakwood coven are discouraged from attempting a direct assassination of Hitler because of the inevitable psychic backlash it would provoke (Kurtz, p. 99). Diana Tregarde's "psi-bolts" are supremely effective against an entity with magical power, as in her duel with the corpse animated by Tezcatlipoca (Lackey, 1989: 277), but they are useless against anything which functions entirely on the mundane level - which is why Tregarde's karate skills and her insistence on carrying a handgun are also vital for her survival. Accordingly, her occult skills are of little use when confronted by a cocaine-intoxicated gunman (Lackey 1989: 133), and mundane weapons such as knives are necessary to confront the mainly-human psychic vampires (Lackey 1990: 275). Finally, there is very little that is magical about the way in which the San Franciscans resist the Stewards' army in The Fifth Sacred Thing, except for perhaps the ultimate magical ability - the ability to envision a different reality, choices not restricted to the binaries of force, which the next section will argue is one of the most important ways that the neo-Pagan worldview is used in all four texts.
The use of a neo-Pagan conception of magic in the texts, therefore, can be seen as serving two main functions within the texts. Firstly, it serves make magic acceptable to a skeptical mind - the neo-Pagan conception of magic is balanced on conservation of energy and thus does not create the dramatic problem of omnipotent characters. Perhaps more importantly, though, the training to be able to cast neo-Pagan magic is a process of self-fashioning, which ties the struggle of the characters to realise their own potential and destiny with their success in magical power. In Bradley and Kurtz, magical self-fashioning is a struggle to find one's own path to tread through life; in the Lackey novels, it is a process of "exercise" to keep the "spiritual muscles" in check and prevent the growth of crippling neuroses. In Starhawk, it serves to make the utopian/libertarian vision of the novel more impressively attractive, with the free citizens of pagan San Francisco able to accomplish astounding feats as long as they can trust their own perception and connection to the Sacred.
"Between the Worlds, In All The Worlds": The Multiple-Reality Neo-Pagan World and the Witch as Necessary Outsider
In Carroll Fry's summary of the neo-Pagan belief system (1990), he at several points expresses perplexity at the bewildering variety of spiritual traditions within neo-Paganism, making it impossible to describe more than general outlines of its religious practice. In fact, as I aim to show, that very diversity and resistance to strict definitions, categorisation and orthodoxy which makes neo-Pagan Witchcraft "as insubstantial as moonbeams and morning mist… almost too amorphous to define" for Fry (p. 334) is what makes the neo-Pagan worldview so interesting for writers of speculative fiction wishing to create alternative realities. The virtue of speculative fiction lies in it not being confined to realistic situations - it is a genre based around themes of "what if", around being able to construct an alternative reality through which to test our major assumptions about reality. Thus, the use of the neo-Pagan paradigm, unfamiliar to the broad majority of readers, enables the writers to present alternative views of reality to the common perceptions of the fantasy, war or detective novel - and, in the case of the utopian Fifth Sacred Thing, the presentation of an alternative view, a vision of a possible reality, is the primary purpose of the novel. As Starhawk puts it: "The essence of Witchcraft, and of political feminism, is acrostic vision; we look at our culture and our conditioning from another angle, and read an entirely different message" (Starhawk, 1989: 199). In other words, the recognition of multiple ways of viewing reality implicit in the neo-Pagan view of magic, mentioned in the preceding section, also implicitly validates a world view in which different worldviews are not only compatible but complementary. As in the works of Pratchett, it also enables a construction of the Witch as "necessary outsider" as well as self-fashioned individual - a liminal figure, existing on the fringes of all the different realities described, being able to comment on them and influence them but never truly belonging to any.
Using Starhawk's definition of magic as the ability to shift between different modes of perception of reality, we can see the writing of The Mists of Avalon as a magical act in itself - that is, by taking the viewpoint of the previously marginalised and/or demonised characters, our perception of the Matter of Britain is changed utterly, and we can interpret previously familiar characters and situations in ways never previously thought of. The magical philosophy which this relies on is summed up by Morgaine herself in the book's prologue as follows:
"For this is the thing the priests do not know, with their One God and One Truth: that there is no such thing as a true tale. Truth has many faces and the truth is like the old road to Avalon: it depends on your own will, and your own thoughts, whither the road will take you, and whether, at the end, you arrive in the Holy Isle of Eternity, or among the priests with their bells and their death and their Satan and Hell and damnation…" (Bradley, pp. x-xi)
This in itself is an important statement of neo-Pagan "thealogy", which repeatedly states that it does not regard itself as the one true way of viewing the world - that it is but one of many different yet valid ways of interpreting physical and non-physical reality - and that one's mode of perception will determine how one experiences reality. Of course, the extract quoted above hardly presents the alternatives in a neutral way - but Morgaine immediately goes on to correct herself by recalling Viviane's insistence that "all Gods are one" (Bradley, p. xi). Morgaine's bias against Christianity is thus exposed, marking her viewpoint out as only one among many -accordingly, the narrative of Mists comes through many viewpoints, including those as diametrically opposed as those of Viviane and Gwenhwyfar. However, the fact that all the viewpoints are those of women affects the kind of shift in perception which the neo-Pagan tradition values. Additionally, the perspective of the pagan characters allows us to see the Arthurian tradition through a vision opposite to the Christian, patriarchal and militaristic perspective that we are used to - for example, the simple fact that the pagan establishment offers women a path to power is quite a major shift from the traditional portrayals of the Arthurian romance. It is the familiar narrative seen from a hitherto neglected perspective, giving us a broader view of reality.
It is the struggle to keep the concept of alternative ways of viewing reality alive - the concept of magic, as neo-Pagans would understand it - that occupies the pagan characters in Mists. The first chapter uses quite a disorienting strategy to place the narrative in a pagan context from the outset. Instead of explaining the pagan ideology of the characters to us, we are placed in the pagan context from the outset as we listen as the joint leaders of British paganism, Viviane and Taliesin, explain Christianity to Igraine. We are struck by Igraine's bemusement and horror that not only does Christianity code the feminine as evil, but that it claims to be the only true faith - this insistence on Christianity as the only reality not only denies the pagan theology, but denies the possibility of magic, that is, of alternative realities and modes of worship, which is what disturbs Igraine so badly (Bradley, p. 13) and what has led Avalon to withdraw itself partially from the world for its own safety. Throughout the novel, the worldview of the novel's fanatical Christians, which must construct the feminine and the non-Christian as aligned with Satan, is presented as limited and unhealthy, particularly through the guilt and shame with which Gwenhwyfar tortures herself. Further, the other viewpoint characters, especially Morgaine, keep up something of a running commentary on the presumptions of such a worldview. Igraine wonders how the Christian god of love can be said to be "bigoted and vengeful" (Bradley, p. 48) and is later bemused by Gwenhwyfar's asking whether her sister Viviane is a "witch" (p. 306); and every time Morgaine attends a Christian service, we hear her silent cynical analysis of and argument with the text. This also serves to specifically put the neo-Pagan point of view; for example, Morgaine's silent comments on the story of Pentecost repeat the point that neo-Pagans consider the gifts of prophecy and magic to be open to all with the stamina for magical self-fashioning (Bradley, p. 543). Of course, we also have Gwenhwyfar herself, constructed as an almost entirely unsympathetic, though perhaps pitiable, character. Through her perceptions, we are able to see firsthand the painful, paranoid life of a person who seriously believes in the narrow, mean-spirited version of Christianity to which Avalon is opposed throughout the novel. It is left up to the reader to decide which mode of perception leads to greater personal fulfilment and appreciation of life.
The magical nature of the Mists narrative, then, is to give centrality to previously marginalised viewpoints to give us a new way of seeing the Arthurian cycle and its characters. However, this is only possible because the pagan establishment of Avalon are distrusted outsiders to the mainly Christian establishment of Camelot. The necessarily liminal position of the magician is admitted in neo-Pagan magic - the "casting of the circle" is said to create a space "between the worlds" (Starhawk, 1989: 35), a self-defined space from which the magician can manipulate physical and non-physical reality. Avalon is in itself "between the worlds" - no longer part of the main physical reality, but at the beginning of the novel not as far removed from it as the fairy country, its priestesses must work in both realities without becoming entrapped by either. The various Ladies of the Lake attempt to act as a bridge between Avalon and the mainstream of British society, in an effort to knit them back together. This means that, unlike priestess such as Raven who can give themselves totally to the mysteries of the Otherworld, Viviane, and Morgaine after her, never precisely belong to either world, and suffer accordingly. Although Morgaine, for example, longs to remain in the tranquility of Avalon, she must venture back into the world to retrieve the Sacred Chalice (p. 870). Morgaine flees Avalon in the first place because she wishes to define herself free of the meddling of Avalon's hierarchy, but she cannot fit into the world of Arthur's court either, being feared and distrusted as one of the "witch-women of that accursed isle". In North Wales, she is respected for what she pretends to be - a traditional housekeeping wife of a petty king - and only Accolon knows of her re-initiation as priestess of the Goddess. Eventually her attempt to live in two realities at once ends in disaster, and she is forced to return to Avalon, the only place where she truly belongs. However, by virtue of her marginal position in all realities she becomes the most important character in the novel, as her position as "wise woman" on the fringes of all the realities touched on in the novel allows her to be a viewpoint character for all of them.
The "daughters of Avalon" as well as the allied Druids, although feared and distrusted by Britain's Christian courtly establishment, are nevertheless necessary to it as well. For example, Arthur dare not demote Taliesin from his council, even at the insistence of his confessor Patricius, because of his great wisdom (Bradley, p. 303). His successor as Merlin, Kevin, is despised not only for his religion but for his lameness and deformity, and yet his skill on the harp gains him entry to the highest Christian courts in the land. Further, even though Gwenhwyfar considers Avalon the epitome of evil, she still begs Morgaine to use its magic to help her conceive an heir to the throne (Bradley, p. 510). Paradoxically, it is the skills that they have learned through the "fiendish" initiations of the pagan priesthoods which make them indispensible to Christian society. Further, the Christian establishment needs Avalon for one major purpose, previously mentioned as a traditional function of the literary Witch - scapegoating. In a belief structure which encodes all dissension from orthodoxy as evil, outsiders can attract the blame for disasters, thus absolving the all-loving God from responsibility. Gwenhwyfar, for example, finds the pagan characters such as Morgaine and Kevin helpful to explain her lack of success in bearing children (Bradley, p. 484). We therefore have a situation in which a change in the social structure of Britain leads to the necessary liminal figures - the magicians - becoming more and more shunned, until they either learn to assimilate themselves to the new monotheistic culture (Kevin) or retreat altogether to the Otherworld (Morgaine). The outsiders are persecuted, and thus withdraw forever.
The Mists of Avalon, then, offers the neo-Pagan paradigm firstly as a way in which the Arthurian mythos can be interpreted from previously marginalised viewpoints, especially the feminine. Its central characters are all marginal to the establishment of Camelot as we have come to know it, and its pagan characters especially so - therefore, they are able to offer fresh and challenging perspectives. Further, by virtue of this "centrality of the margins", it also serves cautionary tale as to the spiritual poverty of a world where only one perspective of reality is tolerated. The threat is that the perspectives constructed as those of "outsiders" by traditional Western ideology - the feminine, the pagan, the non-rational - will finally disappear from a world which does not value them, leaving it far poorer as a consequence. Avalon sinks into the mists, becoming indistinguishable from the fairy country, because its position between the worlds is not appreciated.
Like The Mists of Avalon, The Fifth Sacred Thing, as utopian novel, can be interpreted as embodying an act of magic by virtue of creating an alternative view of reality - this time, in its attempt to clarify a vision of a future civilisation based on neo-Pagan principles of freedom, community and ecology. According to magical theory, the first important step in altering reality is to visualise in detail the end result desired for the process (Starhawk, 1989: 128) so that energy may be concentrated into it in an attempt to manifest it. Alternatively, according to Maya, magic is an attempt to remain in "the Good Reality" - "create the Good Reality in your mind, cling to it with the same tenacity with which you hold to life, and leap into it" (Starhawk, 1993: 580). The Fifth Sacred Thing can be seen as an enactment, on the scale of an entire city, of the first step in this magical act - its description of pagan San Francisco, in this conception, is a depiction of the best possible Good Reality, a utopia all the more enticing for being described as achievable, practical and able to defend itself. It remains from there for those committed to the vision to take the steps necessary to bring it into reality.
As the Southern resistance leader Hijohn says, "without a vision, human beings are nasty creatures" (Starhawk, 1993: 474), and throughout the novel the main way in which the pagan anarchists of La Hierba Buena function is as embodiments of the vision of their society. Throughout their sojourn in the Southlands, they are continually obliged to explain to the thirsty, impoverished and skeptical resistance fighters that a city where hunger, thirst and oppression no longer exist is indeed achievable. The struggle in The Fifth Sacred Thing is thus, as Lily Fong explains, "a battle for the imagination" (Starhawk, 1993: 410). The central problem that the City faces - how to resist coercion without resorting to coercion - is a problem of imagination, and the difficulty which the South and the North have in understanding one another is continually re-emphasised throughout the novel. After only twenty years of separate existence, to Southerners, "La Hierba Buena" looks like a confusing and unrealistic utopia; to the Northerners, "Angel City" is intolerable hell. For example, Littlejohn doesn't believe that Bird's friends and lovers could possibly accept "some faggot you picked up in the Pit" (Starhawk 1993: 125); Hijohn and Katie are similarly bemused by Madrone's description of the lack of sexual jealousy in her community. In turn, Katie's statement that "men are all the same when it comes to sex… we women have to stick together" confuses Madrone, with its "lifetime of assumptions I don't share and can't identify" (Starhawk 1993: 514) - she comes from a place where sex is a sacrament rather than a dirty secret. Madrone is similarly befuddled when Sarah's group ask her whether it is unusual for "people of your colour" to be doctors - race is simply not an issue in the North. Moreover, the confusion which the sympathetic Web experiences when the City is explained to them is minor compared to the bafflement which the invading soldiers of the Stewardship experience in a city where water runs freely through the streets. The struggle which the inhabitants of free San Francisco pursue, then, is the liberation of the imagination of both their friends and enemies in the South - to present an alternative vision of how the way the world can work, in the hope that all of good will will support it.
The Witches are thus, for their friends in the South, outsiders, because they come from a place they can barely conceive - but they are necessary outsiders because their existence makes the conception possible, and their struggle meaningful. As Katy explains to Madrone:
"Talk about the North, Madrone. Tell us about the streams and the fruit trees and how you organize […] Because we've got to know that things can be different, that they are different somewhere. That's the only thing that sets us apart from the street gangs - the vision." (Starhawk, 1993: 441)
Further, it is their very existence which proves the reality of La Hierba Buena. As Katy explains further, Madrone "moves like someone who has never questioned their right to exist" - that is, as a confident, self-fashioned individual, sure of her own place and purpose in life. The magical function of The Fifth Sacred Thing, then, is to bring to us that vision, in the same way that Bird and Madrone bring it to the Southlands.
In their adventures in the Southlands, Bird and Madrone thus "walk between the worlds" to carry their vision, and throughout the novel this liminal position between two different realities is presented as the place to create great changes. When Bird "goes over to the enemy", he becomes an outsider to his own community - however, by becoming part of the enemy for a brief period he is able to inspire his unit to revolt and thus save the City, as Lily recognizes at the end of the novel (Starhawk 1993: 692). Similarly, Madrone's partial initiation into the Bee People (Starhawk 1993: 328) leads to her being partly disassociated from her human reality, but allows her to summon the swarm to defend the City in its darkest hour. In addition, however, The Fifth Sacred Thing is unique among the texts studied in that it shows a situation in which the Witch need no longer be an outsider - a situation where the modes of perception which are brought in from the margins both in this novel and in The Mists of Avalon are actually the dominant paradigm of a society. The power of La Hierba Buena is that it achieves the elusive combination of an egalitarian society with full freedom of the individual - a free individual in a free community. Free San Francisco is a society based on voluntary communities - associations of compañeros, to use the term used in the novels - made up of free individuals who support one another and help one another to carry their burdens. La Hierba Buena is so based on community that, although the city is the epitome of sexual freedom, Bird and Madrone are physically disturbed by the prospect of sex with a stranger (Starhawk 1993: 54). Accordingly, Bird's main problem when he returns from the Southlands is that he has become disconnected from his community, and does not feel able to allow them to give him the love and support that they have traditionally given (Starhawk 1993: 208, 250). The novel, then, is presenting a vision of a community which values those who walk between the worlds, which is accepting of an explosive multiplicity of visions of the world. La Hierba Buena is presented as a society where the self-fashioned individual need no longer be an outsider.
The San Francisco of The Fifth Sacred Thing is thus an attempt to create a vision of a reality based on neo-Pagan principles - and, in accordance with magical principles, the articulation of the vision is a necessary step in its manifestation. Its main characters are Witches who present a vision of an alternative society, and thus function as "necessary outsiders" for the resistance in the South. However, they are also part of a community in the North which cherishes and values them for their ability to "walk between the worlds". It is possible to say, then, that The Fifth Sacred Thing acts as something of a "mirror image" to The Mists of Avalon. If Bradley's novel shows us a vision of a Pagan civilisation disappearing into the Otherworld in the face of intolerance and lack of imagination, Starhawk's novel gives us the other possible end to the story, the vision of a society where the battle for the freedom of the individual imagination has been won.
The other two novels make less obvious use of the neo-Pagan paradigm to provide alternative means of interpreting reality, but explore the concept of the Witch as necessary outsider further. Lammas Night also uses the neo-Pagan paradigm to take an alternative look at a familiar narrative - this time, the narrative of Britain's seemingly hopeless defence against Hitler's armies in 1940, and by extension, the whole sweep of British history. Willis notes (p. 126) that the North Berwick Witches were said to have met on Lammas Night (August 1st) 1590 to raise the storm that was to sink the ship of the "rightful" King of Scotland, James VI - this is in line with the early modern tradition of the Witch as traitor to God and country. However, Kurtz presents Witches and other occultists gathering to save Britain and its rightful monarchy on Lammas Night 1940 - in common with the other works discussed in this chapter, the outsider is presented as hero rather than villain. To emphasise this, through the medium of the Oakwood coven, the novel offers a full-fledged Pagan reinterpretation of English history. Starting from a recorded tradition that Sir Francis Drake, who defended England from the Spanish Armada in 1588, was "a member of the witch-cult" (Kurtz, p. 437), Kurtz goes on to interpret the tradition of the English monarchy and its defence of its kingdom in light of the Pagan tradition of the King, or sacred substitute, embodying the land and being prepared to die for it in extremis. Hence, many mysterious or shadowy deaths of monarchs or those close to them (William Rufus, Thomas a' Becket, King John) are reinterpreted as sacrifices, with numerological calculations designed to make them fit into the traditional seven-year cycle (Kurtz, p. 107); and the Order of the Garter is reinterpreted as "the King's private coven" (Kurtz, p. 136), mainly on the strength of the fact that a garter is a sign of rank in many Wiccan traditions. The story of the occultists of Britain "sending the cone of power" against Hitler on Lammas night 1940 is also a traditional one among neo-Pagans, although not a tradition that any common co-ordinating effort took place; and this also gives us an alternative interpretation of how the defence of Britain was accomplished.
Lammas Night, then, gives us the idea of a "secret history" or a "secret war" - a struggle being waged behind the scenes, complementary to the struggle we know, in this case between the occultists of Britain and the Thulist adjuncts of the Nazi Party. The Diana Tregarde Investigations give us a similar concept - the concept of the Guardians, individuals who work to defend psychics, Romany and other such groups marginalised by society from predatory entities which mainstream society would not even recognize as existing. In both cases, then, the dimension of the non-physical gives us a different vantage-point to interpret the quite traditional detective and war narratives. However, both texts explore the concept of the Witch as "necessary outsider" in interesting ways. The protagonists in both texts are doubly outsiders, set apart from society by their mundane lives as well as their pagan activities. The Oakwood coven in Lammas Night are possibly the best recognizable "necessary outsiders" in a modern setting - intelligence agents. The spy, like the Witch, can be said to "walk between the worlds" - they perform a necessary function for their community, but must continually dissemble and hide their identity to be effective. The parallels are many - for example, the Gardnerian tradition on which the witchcraft in the novel is based binds its initiates to oaths of secrecy, as does MI6 (Kurtz, p. 96). Also, the spy can never reveal his true identity for fear of capture and compromise; Lammas Night is set in 1940, when the archaic Witchcraft Laws were still on the book, and anyone who was known in public as an occultist was not only in danger of social disapproval but of arrest. Thus, Graham's extreme tentativeness in sounding out William's interest in joining the coven is very similar to the cautious way in which new intelligence agents are recruited (Kurtz, p. 55). Graham and his cohorts defend Britain both on the mundane and esoteric planes, and indeed, use their magical techniques to help their espionage work - for example, they are able to save Michael and his precious information by being able to track him down via clairvoyance (Kurtz, p. 38).
Diana Tregarde, as a Guardian, is an "outsider's outsider" - she must keep her preternatural psychic talent hidden even from other Witches (Lackey, 1990: 40), partly because to let the existence of her kind be known would encourage recklessness among magicians (Lackey, 1990: 30). She must keep her religion secret from wider society, since most of them would have the same panicked reaction as Monica has in Jinx High (Lackey, 1991: 110), and must also keep her true power secret from other Witches. Consequently, it is little wonder that she has so few true friends (Lackey, 1990: 193), and that her compatible long-term lover is possibly the only kind of person even more of an outsider - a vampire. Tregarde does not choose this life of isolation - it is forced on her by virtue of her power, which will attract all manner of parasitic entities if she does not seek and destroy them first, and helping others is the only way she can prevent becoming completely isolated (Lackey, 1990: 309). In this sense, she is a necessary outsider, as she is as "occult adviser" to the Dallas police (Lackey, 1989: 78) or as "special guest teacher" at Jenks High - she is "called in to deal with things", rather than being free to create a life on her terms. In both these texts, then, the privilege of being an outsider, of "walking between the worlds", is freedom - the ability to go anywhere, to put on other guises, to not be restricted to one reality. The price is never being able to fit into one reality. Spies and detectives, as well magicians in the neo-Pagan tradition, must accept this. As Diana Tregarde herself puts it: "your true home is where people need what you can do" (Lackey, 1990: 29).
To summarise, then: neo-Pagans consider reality to be multifaceted and open to many different but complementary interpretations, and consider the role of the Witch to be "walking between the worlds", to live in a liminal position so as to gain many different perspectives on reality, and thus be able to understand and manipulate it better. The neo-Pagan principles of the novels studied thus each serve to create an alternative viewpoint by which we can glean a better understanding of the genre they are written in. In The Mists of Avalon, it is a radical re-reading of the traditional Arthurian myth; in The Fifth Sacred Thing, a vision of a utopian future; in Lammas Night an occult reinterpretation of the history of British monarchy and the Battle of Britain. Conversely, the texts also present a picture of the Witch, armed with this perspective, as a necessary outsider, paying the price for her freedom by never belonging to any one reality - in Lammas Night this is compared to the similar predicament of the spy, while in the Diana Tregarde Investigations the protagonist as Guardian is an outsider even among other Witches. There is also the question of whether the power of the Witch can survive in a world which fears and distrusts, and yet relies upon it. In Mists of Avalon the pagans-as-outsiders are increasingly feared and shunned, and end up disappearing altogether; whereas in The Fifth Sacred Thing, they are able to create a community of their own and to against the forces of coercion by means of their power to imagine an alternative reality. The question of how the enemies of the neo-Pagan ethic - free self-fashioning and multiplicity of reality - are constructed in the text is the topic of the next section.
"Tyrants In Heaven And Earth": Neo-Pagan Ethics and the Construction of the Antagonists
The ethical basis common to almost all neo-Pagan traditions is very simple, embodied in the catchphrase which Fry quotes (p. 337): "harm none, and do what you will". Fry appears surprised in the article by the lack of explicit commandments or rules for behaviour in the neo-Pagan ethical system. This is a common reaction from those used to the Judaeo-Christian ethical code, and Starhawk addresses this in The Spiral Dance:
"If there is… no covenant or commandments against which one can sin, how can people be ethical? […] Love for life in all its forms is the basic ethic of witchcraft. Witches are bound to honor and respect all living things, and to serve the life force. The world is the manifestation of the Goddess […] The Craft does not foster guilt, the stern, admonishing, self-hating inner voice that cripples action. Instead, it demands responsibility. "What you send returns three times over" is the saying […] Witchcraft strongly imbues the view that all things are interdependent and interrelated and therefore mutually responsible. An act that harms anyone harms us all." (Starhawk, 1989: 26-7).
The neo-Pagan ethical principles, then are based on two major things that it holds sacred - the autonomy of the individual will, and the mutuality relationship that prevails in nature. If all individual wills are autonomous, this makes exploitative relationships opposed to the natural order, thus mandating a society based on mutual aid. This leads to politically libertarian conclusions, and is similar to the Taoist position that the natural order is preferable in all things, and that interference will lead by its very nature to sorrow. There is thus no need for divine intervention and judgement to enforce ethics in such a framework. "Evil" in a neo-Pagan connection can only mean coercive, cruel or exploitative behaviour, which will ultimately destroy those who behave in such a way since they are acting contrary to the natural order.
The will of the freely self-fashioned individual must therefore be seen as the final authority in their own life, and any attempt to interfere with another's freedom of action is thus contrary to the natural order and the source of all misery. This leads to an interesting variation on the question on whether "the ends can justify the means". A neo-Pagan would say that the question of justification is moot - one cannot evade the consequences of one's actions either way, either good or bad. For example, murder is wrong, but a necessary death at loving hands can be a high act of love and therefore sanctified - for example, the gift of euthanasia that Viviane gives to Priscilla (Bradley, p. 392), or the role which Graham must fulfil for William in Lammas Night. It is therefore the duty of the individual to make their own judgement about whether they can "afford to pay the price" of their actions - thus, the necessity of self-fashioning to gain an accurate perception of the world and a connection to the Divine is necessary to live a responsible life as a neo-Pagan.
In the texts studied in this chapter, then, the moral antagonists to the neo-Pagan characters are those who use coercion and violence to establish their power, who seek to otherwise limit the ability of the free individual, or attempt to live by exploitation rather than a mutual relationship. In The Mists of Avalon, it is the narrow, bigoted Christian establishment who seek to eradicate any alternative way to view the world than their own in Britain; the adversaries in The Fifth Sacred Thing are similar, except that they also embody the worst principles of racism, sexism, homophobia, militarism and contempt for nature. In Lammas Night, it is the Thule Society, the occultists aligned with Hitler who gain power through torture and death; in the Diana Tregarde Investigations, a series of magically powerful entities who gain power by exploitation of human energy. It is interesting to note that, in Bradley and Starhawk, the antagonists both follow unpleasant variations on fundamentalist Christianity which are intent on destroying all religious opposition . In both, however, liberal Christians are shown to be on the Pagans' side. Conversely, in Kurtz and Lackey, the antagonists are occult forces who do not subscribe to the neo-Pagan ethical code which stresses mutuality and consent, being sadistic and/or parasitical.
The previous section made mention of the resistance of the Christian establishment in The Mists of Avalon to the concept of individual autonomy and freedom to decide one's own view of the universe, on which the neo-Pagan concept of magical self-fashioning relies. It is emphasised often within the novel that it is not Christianity itself which is being presented as evil - a stance which would be contrary to the neo-Pagan belief in tolerance for opposing viewpoints - but the particular narrow brand of it, embodied by Gwenhwyfar and Bishop Patricius, which refuses to countenance any variations from its orthodoxy as anything but satanic, and thus inevitably leads to persecuting its own (Bradley, p. 872). Such a point of view leads to politically authoritarian conclusions - as Morgause says "A land ruled by priests is full of tyrants both in heaven and on earth" (p. 245). The brand of Christianity proposed by Patricius leads to the institution of the Christian church becoming effectively the supreme temporal authority, able to command even the conscience of the King - the institution thus becomes more important than the message.
The Christian establishment also preaches contempt for nature. The insistence on the authority of a transcendent God (and his priests) over nature leads to ignorance and superstition - for example, the woman at Ambrosius's court who regards a Mass book in the crib as a better defence against rickets than adequate nutrition (p. 49). This is yet another rehabilitating reversal of early modern Witch beliefs - in this case, the reversal of Gifford's condemnation of witchcraft as merely "idolatry and superstition" as compared to the firm knowledge of the Scriptures (Willis, p. 114). Morgaine finds Christian superstition, based on separation from and contempt for nature, accordingly horrifying. Contempt for nature also expresses itself in misogyny, seeing women as embodying the sinful nature of the world, and laying great emphasis on the particular Bible passages which blame women for the Fall of Man [sic] and those which call for female submission. The authoritarian misogyny which Patricius's priests preach results in self-hating women such as Gwenhwyfar, who tortures herself continuously over what pagans would consider her Goddess-given sexual desires. It is this fate which Viviane acts to save Morgaine from (p. 129) and similarly Morgaine acts to save Nimue from (p. 728). As Igraine puts it, it was imperative that her daughter not be left in "the hands of the black priests who would teach her to think she was evil because she was a woman" (p. 401).
Avalon, as a place based around female power and self-fashioning, thus must diametrically oppose itself to this narrow brand of Christanity - as do the more liberal Christians themselves, who are themselves persecuted by Patricius (p. 932). Paradoxically, however, it is not only the Christian establishment which is the enemy of free individuality, but also the pagan establishment of Avalon and the Druids itself. Neo-Pagans make great emphasis on individual self-fashioning, and yet Avalon, whose theology is to all intents and purposes neo-Pagan, requires that its priestesses submit themselves to its grand schemes to re-establish its power in Britain. The neo-Pagan ethical model, based on the autonomy of the individual will, precludes the use of magic to gain power over others - as Morgaine tells herself, "it is forbidden to use magic to bind the universe to your will" (p. 336). However, throughout the novel, the hierarchy of Avalon does not heistate to manipulate the fate of Britain by mandating the personal choices of its priestesses. Viviane commands Igraine both to marry and to leave her husband, and organises the ritual in which Morgaine becomes pregnant by her own brother - Morgaine, in her turn, commits murder and adultery in North Wales and sends Nimue to seduce and betray Kevin. Add to this the terrible consequences of Morgause's meddling in sorcery for her own personal aims, and the message is clear - attempting to use magic to manipulate others has no great success, and leads to tragic personal results for all concerned. This is entirely to be expected in a neo-Pagan ethical framework - attempting to interfere with the free will of others only causes misery.
As Morgaine herself notes, if she had been free to lose her virginity with Lancelet rather than "saving herself" for the God in the form of her half-brother, the misery caused to Britain by the scandalous affair between Lancelet and Gwenhwyfar could have been avoided. Morgaine's own personal struggle to fashion her own identity seriously begins when she leaves Avalon in disgust at how Viviane has used her to create a "hold" for Avalon on Arthur's conscience. Viviane tells her that "the fate of Britain is more important than your feelings" (p. 222), but Morgaine is aware of the central paradox of hierarchical organisations. "Viviane is so sure that she knows the Goddess's will", she thinks (p. 169) - the point is in the neo-Pagan conception, the individual conscience and its relationship with the Sacred is the final authority, and attempting to influence the free will of others is definitely not "as the Goddess wills". Thus, Avalon's attempts at political manipulation are not only hypocritical but self-defeating. As Morgaine finds out too late, "queencraft" (politics) requires amoral manipulation quite at odds with the professed ethics of Avalon (p. 840). Accordingly, although the main antagonists to neo-Pagan ethics in The Mists of Avalon are the narrow Christians who follow Patricius, who preach contempt for nature and women and the eradication of opposing viewpoints, Avalon itself makes the mistake of attempting to resort to manipulation to further its political ends. This inevitably backfires, working against the principle of freedom which it professes, and thus contributes to its own demise. The ends do not absolve Avalon from the consequences of its means.
The tension between means and ends is also a major theme in Lammas Night. Both the Oakwood coven and the Thule Group use sacrifice to attain their aims, and they are each pledged to a man (William and Hitler, respectively) whom they believe embodies the destiny of their nation (Kurtz, p. 411). The fundamental difference, as Graham realises (p. 412), is the issue of consent. Prince William offers himself freely as a sacrifice for Britain, against the protests of his friends who would prefer any other solution - the Thulists, on the other hand, base their power on "depraved tortures and murder" of unwilling victims (p. 65). The difference is between exploitation of another's suffering for one's own ends, and a willing sacrifice stemming from an individual's free understanding of their own destiny. This is the way in which Starhawk describes the seasonal sacrifice of the God in Wiccan tradition (Starhawk, 1989: 44), and William is the embodiment of the God for Britain. Killing is otherwise almost entirely eschewed by the Oakwood group. For example, when the coven is forced to kill the Thulist spy Wells, they make sure it is as painless as possible, and Brigadier Wesley expresses a hope that "maybe he'll get things right in the next life" (Kurtz, p. 262). The Brigadier goes on to explain that "no-one should enjoy being an executioner, even when the cause is just" (p. 264) - a person's life is their own, and one must be prepared to take the responsibility for ending it, no matter the justification. Perhaps the major drama of ends and means in Lammas Night is the case of Dieter, the ally of the Oakwood coven who infiltrates the Thule Group. To gain their confidence, he must participate in their torture rituals. Even though it is in the best of causes, he does not gain absolution for his crimes - he loses the trust of his friends, and only regains it when he willingly sacrifices himself to abort the Thulists' Lammas ritual (p. 357). Thus, the neo-Pagan ethical basis of Lammas Night maintains that, quite contrary to the ends justifying the means, it is clear that means and ends are identical. The only real difference between the British and German occultists is that the former are willing to suffer to accomplish their magic, while the latter are only willing to make others suffer.
Similarly, in the Diana Tregarde Investigations the antagonists are distinguished from the protagonists by their exploitative or coercive methods of gaining power, as distinguished from the self-sacrifice of the protagonist. Natural magic, in the neo-Pagan conception, relies on exchange and balance, the kind of mutual relationship that exists in nature - the antagonists of Diana Tregarde, on the other hand, are parasitical entities which take without giving. The rock band who turn psychic vampire in Children of the Night drain their prey without compensation, as opposed to the "classical" vampire André, who pays for the sustenance he requires with rather intense sexual pleasure (Lackey, 1990: 167). Again, the ends are shown not to justify the means - Dave at first attempts to be selective in his prey, only hunting rapists and addicts (Lackey, 1990: 255), but he eventually realises that slaking the hunger in this way is only feeding his addiction. When he realises he cannot even prevent himself from seeking to drain his beloved Diana, the only solution is a dignified suicide (Lackey, 1990: 305). Exploitation is exploitation, the point is made, and could never be restricted only to "the guilty" - in fact, a common theme in the Investigations is that cruelty is never justified, even if they "deserve it". In Burning Water, for example, the killings committed by the servants of Tezcatlipoca are often of thoroughly unpleasant individuals, but cannot be considered justified for that reason. They are, in fact, profoundly indiscriminate and cruel, killing innocent children as well as gang leaders.
The sorceror Fay Harper in Jinx High is also a quintessential parasite. As Diana explains, witchcraft (neo-Pagan magic) is based upon balance, or mutuality, whereas sorcery (or ceremonial magic) is based on pure force of magical will. Accordingly, Harper is entirely amoral, completely indifferent as to whether she absorbs power from her unwitting classmates through manipulating their behaviour to provoke sex, violence or fear. The distinction between her magic and that which neo-Pagans attempt to invoke is most clearly shown in her use of the Maypole festival (Lackey 1991:200). Whereas the authentic neo-Pagan fertility festivals are an exchange of energy between the participants and the earth (see Bradley, p. 777), Harper uses it purely as a means to gather energy for herself. This "unnatural" exploitative magic is emphasised by the way in which Harper's psychic constructions are seen by Tregarde as "crystalline" rather than the organic structures associated with Witchcraft - that is, not in accordance with the nature flow. Harper's addiction to this extorted power is linked throughout the novel with her growing cocaine addiction - the energy released by human torment acts as something of a narcotic (Lackey, 1991: 151), and it similarly becomes an addiction which clouds her judgement. Again, in the Diana Tregarde Investigations, the distinction is made between Good Magic, natural, relying on balance and mutuality, and Bad Magic, based on violence, exploitation and coercion. The latter is consistently shown to be self-defeating, however, in that exploitation becomes an addiction which eventually cannot be slaked. One cannot avoid the consequences of one's own actions indefinitely.
The antagonists in The Fifth Sacred Thing, the Stewards and their Millenialist allies, are the summation of everything that is considered unethical in a neo-Pagan framework. Like the Christians of Mists, they are sworn to eradicate all alternatives to their view of the universe - even going as far as to attempt to abolish the Spanish language, giving all the Californian cities of their domain ugly Anglicised names (for example, "Angel City" for Los Angeles). This coincidentally leads to thoroughly racist, sexist and homophobic conclusions, which appear ridiculous to the Northerners who are not used to classifying and separating people - the racial apartheid in the South, for example, is apparently completely arbitrary (Starhawk, 1993: 44). Much like the antagonists of Diana Tregarde, the ruling class of the South are parasites - in this case, parasites on human labour and the environment rather than magical power, but the two are considered identical in the monist neo-Pagan conception. Occasionally in Bradley, the emphasis that the antagonists are a particular brand of Christian is lost, despite the author's best intentions, and it sometimes seems that Christianity as a whole is being cast as the antagonist, especially when Morgaine is speaking. Starhawk avoids this problem by developing Millenialism, a variation on Christianity so vicious and unattractive that very few actual Christians could have any sympathy for it - this enables liberal Christians to stand beside the Witches in defending La Hierba Buena, such as Sister Marie, and thus emphasises the tolerant, inclusive ethic of neo-Paganism. In fact, it is stated that when the Stewards took control in the south, their first task was to liquidate the liberal branches of Christianity - "anyone who preached God's love and mercy and compassion" was declared to be an agent of Satan (Starhawk, 1991: 431). The point is being made that the struggle of La Hierba Buena is not against any particular faith, but against the threat of intolerance and bigotry itself.
Millenialist theology is based on the concept of Christ's repudiation of the physical creation - it thus emphasises the tendencies towards contempt for nature in Christianity criticised in Bradley. Like Bradley's bigoted Christians, as well, the Millienialists are pathetically superstitious - thus, Bird is able to use their own paranoia against them and convince them that a demonic spirit is defending San Francisco (Starhawk, 1993: 500), and scare his unit with dire threats of "what happens if you rape a Witch" (Starhawk, 1993: 550). The Millenialists' insistence on demonising their enemies thus works against them - if the Witches are considered to be in league with the Devil, there is logically no end to the depths of evil power to which they have access. Their own fear blinds them to reality and leads to their destruction. More importantly, though, the anti-nature bias of Steward/Millenialist thinking makes it easier for them to exploit their own people. The logical next step from their belief that only the discarnate soul is holy and the material creation has been repudiated is to deny their political enemies the dignity of having a "soul". If all matter is lowly and worthless, then the earth can be exploited for the Stewards' own ends as they see fit - as can those individuals who have transgressed against the Millenialist creed and have thus "lost their immortal souls", or those who have been selectively bred like animals and thus never had souls in the first place (Starhawk, 1993: 427). These "soulless" can only redeem themselves by service to the "ensouled", thus creating a religious rationale for class exploitation. Contrast this with the Witches of the North, whose society is based on "permaculture" (long-term sustainable ecology) - because they work with nature, nature works with them, and accordingly Madrone is able to summon the bees to their side for the final conflict with the army of the Stewardship.
The Witches of the North are able to reach out to those such as River, who have been brought up to believe that their own worth lies in following orders, by offering them a vision where all of nature, and all people, are sacred. They embody a culture of self-reliance, rather than the chemical and emotional dependency on authority that the Stewardship encourages in its servants. Neo-Paganism, with its belief in the immanency of the divine in all, offers a belief system in which the free will of the individual is in itself sacred, and one must accept final responsibility for all of one's actions - and it is the enemies of free choice and the nature order that the free citizens of La Hierba Buena are pitted against.
To summarise, then: the antagonists in the texts studied are constructed as opponents of the fundamental principles of individual autonomy, mutuality and trust in the natural order which neo-Paganism is based on. The bigoted Christians of Bradley and the Millenialists in Starhawk are both obsessed with wiping out all other worldviews than their own; the Thulist magicians of Kurtz and the various supernatural antagonists in Bradley are parasites who gain power from human pain and suffering. We thus have an ethical framework consistent with the idolisation of the self-fashioned individual that neo-Paganism proposes. Mutual respect and tolerance are necessary for a society based on individualism, and a deep connection to nature is necessary in a religion which locates the divine firmly in the physical - the struggle, then, must be against tyranny and parasitism, both among humans and against nature.
Conclusion: Witchcraft, Speculative Fiction and the "Romantic Intellectual"
Carrol Fry's article on the uses of the neo-Pagan belief system in the works by Bradley and Kurtz that have been discussed is an excellent description of how the worldview of the "Old Religion" is used to provide a framework for a fantasy novel which makes use of magic, but unfortunately neglects to answer the question of why this frame in particular - why, in a genre where the rules of reality in a text are only limited by the imagination of the author, does the neo-Pagan belief system of our world hold such an appeal? I believe that I have shown in the course of this chapter that the neo-Pagan "thealogy" is based on the power of the self-fashioned, self-defined individual, and mutuality between such individuals and the wider ecosystem - and that all the novels are presented as struggles between such individuals, and their virtues of creativity and imagination, and the forces of intolerance and parasitism. It is possible to argue, further, that the readers of speculative fiction are precisely the audience who would be receptive to such a basis for reality.
Diana Tregarde, in Mercedes Lackey's Burning Water, responds to her partner Mark Valdez's comment that many of the neo-Pagans they have met seem to be "flaky", that this is an inevitable consequence of a society which tends to label those with psychic gifts, or alternative views of reality, as "looneys":
"'When kids get a rep for being looney, frequently they decide subconsciously that it's easier to give in to the rep," she said sadly. "Then, if they're lucky… some of these so-called "looneys" find the neo-Pagan movement. And they find out they really aren't crazed. Only - by now they are, just a little, as a result of living to that stereotype they were stuck with as kids." (Lackey, 1989: 161).
She expands on the concept that neo-Paganism functions as a structure for the creative, imaginative or psychic to find validation for their experiences later:
"Established religion gets stodgy, mired in laws and bureaucracy, and repressive. The 'new' religion attracts the free thinkers, the ones who aren't afraid to ask questions and challenge the so-called holy writ […] Established religion is like established anything else. It's easy." (Lackey, 1989: 182)
Lackey is thus presenting neo-Paganism, as a religious structure which is specifically designed to appeal to idiosyncratic characters and free thinkers. This, I believe, is why the neo-Pagan belief system, and its corresponding championing of the figure of the Witch, has become so popular with science fiction and fantasy authors. Firstly, there is the point noted by Fry that it is essential for writers who wish to use magic in their works to come up with a believable framework for magical powers which does not lead to boringly omnipotent characters, and the defiantly non-supernatural nature of neo-Pagan magic is ideal for this. But more importantly for the writers of speculative fiction, the neo-Pagan idea of a magician is a self-fashioned individual, who is able to switch between realities (or change their perception of this reality). Science fiction and fantasy appeal to the "bookish types" (Fry, p. 337) who may well be seeking a spiritual justification for their imaginative leanings - and, coincidentally, those imaginative types who Lackey describes as being described as "looneys". Neo-Paganism, as a belief system which sees imagination and independence as the paths to magical power, will obviously appeal to those who value imagination and independence as the highest good - and the concept of the Witch, the traditional outsider, being reconstructed as the ultimate self-fashioned individual, will accordingly appeal to those who feel themselves to be outsiders.
The drama of self-fashioning that the protagonists of all the novels go through will also, no doubt strike a chord with the readership of speculative fiction. They will be able to identify with Morgaine's quest to attain power without having to submit to the control of either Avalon or the Church; with Prince William, finally finding a purpose to his idle aristocratic existence, even one which requires his death; with Diana Tregarde shining with the power she gained from conquering her fears; and Bird, Madrone and the other Witches of La Hierba Buena, who suffer through unbelievable torment, and still manage to emerge with their self-respect intact, having never forsaken that which they consider sacred. Indeed, it is this question to find something sacred - that is, something that "becomes the standard by which our actions are judged" (Starhawk, 1993: prologue) - which can be seen as the major reason for the explosive growth of neo-Paganism over the last thirty years.
To conclude, I hope to have shown that science fiction and fantasy novels which base their reality upon neo-Pagan principles are mainly concerned with privileging the concepts of free individuality, creativity and tolerance, and expanding the possibilities of reality. Thus, they will appeal to the readership who value precisely those principles within themselves. Within the fictional contexts of Bradley, Kurtz, Lackey and Starhawk, neo-Pagan beliefs have been used to form the background for dramas of self-fashioning, liberty and community, and to glorify the concept of the ethical individualist. The Witch as "necessary outsider" thus becomes the model for the "romantic intellectuals" of our world to base their own personal quest for self-fashioning upon.
CONCLUSION: The Witch's Power of Transformation
Much as I have argued that Pratchett's Lancre trilogy and The Mists of Avalon can be seen as a drama of the evolution of the personalities of Magrat Garlick and Morgaine respectively, so I believe this thesis can be seen as a narrative of the evolution of the personality of the Witch in popular literature. The traditional power of the Witch is transformation - so, I have argued, the image of the Witch herself has transformed in accordance with what society needs of her. For it is indisputable that society does still need her, simply because stories about witches, from Terry Pratchett's novels to The Craft to The Witches of Eastwick, are as popular as ever.
I have traced the evolution of the modern literary Witch from what I see as her origin - the Weird Sisters of Macbeth, and the various witches of traditional children's fairytales. The rural society of that time needed the Witch as an outlet for their anxieties about their subsistence lifestyle - as Purkiss argues, women of that social order expecially needed her as an outlet for their fears about being able to feed their family and look after the domestic sphere over which they had been given governance, and for their resentment at interfering older women, either the intrusive older generation of the family or the indigent old hags who relied on begging and cursed when they did not receive sufficient alms. For the males of that order, however, the Witch was a symbol of the woman in revolt against her natural place in society - and for the male-dominated discourse of the elite social order, the Witch was not only the woman but the lower classes of society in general in revolt against the natural authority of God in Heaven and the King on earth. The first two chapters of this thesis have traced how the literary Witch came into being from a compromise between these two divergent traditions, forged by middle-class authors/editors such as Shakespeare and the Brothers Grimm, designed for maximum popular appeal. In Macbeth, the Weird Sisters are a threat because they are so radically ambiguous, to the point of anxiety about their gender or even their humanity. They often clearly act and behave like the cursing crones of the popular imagination, but in their meddling in the affairs of state they present the same threat to Duncan's rightful monarchy that the North Berwick witches, among others, were believed to have done to that of James VI and I. By being neither one thing nor the other, they thwart the very language - they not only commit "a deed without a name", but they are themselves creatures without proper names. It is in this that lies their true power as characters, their ability to inspire the terror that comes from not being able to name one's fears.
In the fairytales that I have examined, on the other hand, the transcribers/authors were writing not to instill terror in the hearts of adults, but good moral values in the minds of children. Like the Weird Sisters, the fairytale Witches are recognizably derived from the popular traditions of witchcraft - they are, as monstrous mothers, threats to domestic order and propriety, and as the "hag of the woods" disturbingly ambiguous between humanity and savage nature. However, they also encode the anxieties of both the male transcribers and child audience, by being the "bad woman" or "wicked stepmother" in revolt against proper female codes of conduct as wife, daughter or mother. Their ambiguity must be controlled in a way that that of the Weird Sisters is not, to allow them to be defeated so the moral lesson is to be taught and justice satisfied. In all the tales, they are punished for their transgressions - even when, like the witch in "The Tinderbox" they commit no crime, by their revolt against proper standards of female behaviour, they act as scapegoats who can be safely punished without sanction. So, we have a literary tradition of witchcraft based primarily on European popular tradition, but mediated through varying influences from the literate higher orders of society - even though the Weird Sisters and the fairytale Witches are not directly related, it is remarkable that they emerge as recognizably the same character type - a monstrous woman who violates all the codes of decent, civilised, Christian society. By identifying with the protagonists of the tales who oppose the Witch, the child-readers are expected to fashion themselves similarly as defenders of their community.
The radical paradigm shift that I have traced in this thesis comes when the need to point moral lessons against the enemies of good society is no longer pressing for the authors of witch-stories. L. Frank Baum explicitly states that his Oz books have no stake in imparting moral lessons - therefore, he need not reinforce the standards of his society in his characters. Thus, in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, although we still have the Wicked Witch as unnatural, interfering old woman who must be destroyed, we also have Good Witches - still not "normal women", but powerful, beautiful and kindly, by emulating whom Dorothy attains her own power. Baum thus points a way in which the Witch, while still constructed as an outsider to society, can be seen as a good, or at least necessary, outsider - an individual whose liminal position is not a threat to the order of the community, but necessary to defend it. In such a way we may catch a glimpse of the return of the honoured place that the liminal figure of the shaman holds in nomadic society - and it has been my contention that the transformation of the Witch is aligned with the triumph, in some sections of society, of individualism over social conformity.
The readership of science fiction and fantasy tend to be intelligent and non-conformist, and thus these especially might be seen as readerships who would welcome the reinvention of the Witch as necessary outsider - a powerful, slightly dangerous individual whom one can gain power by identifying with rather than opposing. This indicates a project of rehabilitating the Witch of the popular tradition from the "civilising" mediations of both Shakespeare and the fairytale authors, and this is precisely what happens in Terry Pratchett's novels about Lancre witchcraft. The Lancre witches are flawed human beings, but worthy of respect - they are "off to one side" of Lancre society, but earn their living by being necessary to it, as modern reconstructions suggest that peasant wise-women and herbalists would have been. In Wyrd Sisters, accordingly, the Lancre witches fight an attempt to turn them into the "black and midnight hags" of Macbeth - in Witches Abroad, they battle an attempt to entrap them in "narrative causality" as fairytale Wicked Witches. Thus, the first step in Pratchett's reclamation of the literary Witch is to reclaim her place in rural society from the mediations previously discussed which have structured her as the enemy of civilised decency. But this is only the first step, since the popular tradition is in itself a narrative which limits the capacity for full individual expression. Pratchett thus goes on to construct Witchcraft as a process of self-fashioning, attaining full agency over one's self and environment. Granny Weatherwax is fully developed as a Witch of both sorts - Magrat Garlick begins the trilogy as only the first kind of witch, but as the novel goes on she begins to rebel against her own narrative expectations, and by the end of Lords and Ladies has carved out for herself at least some sphere of autonomous action.
Privileging the free individual as protagonist leads inescapably to libertarian political conclusions, and throughout the Pratchett works studied the antagonists of the Witches are those who would impose "narrative causality" or other forms of tyranny upon the Witches and their communities. The other science fiction and fantasy novels studied do much the same thing - however, they mostly leave the folk tradition behind, relying on the neo-Pagan conception of Witchcraft to create individualist protagonists who must work alone to save their communities. Neo-Paganism constructs magic as a process by which the individual can gain accurate perception of one's own reality and psychology, and thus constructs "evil" as the attempt to limit the individual's free choice of lifestyle and way of understanding. Thus, in The Mists of Avalon we have the priests and priestess of Avalon struggling to defeat the bigotry of Patricius' Christian establishment; in Lammas Night, the Oakwood coven defending Britain against the Nazi occultists whose power is based on torture; in the "Diana Tregarde Investigations", a Wiccan private detective who fights parasitical supernatural entities and their human pawns. In all these books, the construction of Witch as necessary outsider is maintain; the characters strive, with greater or lesser success, to defend communities that by their very position they can never truly be a part of. Perhaps the most radical refashioning of the Witch comes from the only explicitly neo-Pagan author, Starhawk, who goes as far as to create a community especially for the Witch. The Fifth Sacred Thing, thus, is a utopian novel concerning the defence of free, tolerant, ecologically sound San Francisco against an enemy who is the distillation of everything a liberal neo-Pagan would detest. In this latter work, the Witches are accepted, valued members of their community, and when isolated from their community they lose their power. In this reformulation of the Witch we have the concept of the ideal society for the romantic individualist - a free community composed of equally free, powerful individuals.
The Witch began by embodying the anxieties of early modern rural women about their own control over the domestic sphere. The literary tradition, however, by mediation with elite anxiety about the revolt of the repressed lower orders (including women), expanded this to a general anxiety about the stability of society as a whole. Macbeth is led to his downfall by "juggling fiends" who refuse to recognize the natural boundaries of the civilised discourse of the time. Similarly, by opposing the Wicked Witch, the protagonists of fairytales serve as examples of appropriate behaviour for members of the community, with which the child-reader is expected to identify itself. However, by identification with and emulation of the Good Witch as protagonist, the readers of speculative fiction have a process by which to create themselves as free agents and self-fashioned individuals.
The Witch, however, is still recognizably the same figure in many respects - a liminal figure, who "walks between the worlds" as a neo-Pagan would have it, whose power comes from being indeterminate, from being able to deal with several different realities. This is perhaps why the radical shift that I have documented has been able to take place. Diane Purkiss says that the Witch has historically been a combination of everything the community fears, and regrets the fact that her origins in the popular rural domestic tradition have been lost. The past's loss, however, is the future's gain - in her current reinvention, she becomes everything which the intellectual, literate non-conformist wishes to be. The Witch will always be a symbol of fear for those who fear disorder, challenge, what society excludes - but she has also become a symbol of the autonomous subject, freely self-fashioned, taking power from pursuing her own vision. In this way, she is as potent a symbol now as she was in the time of Shakespeare, although now she symbolises something very different.
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