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Author Topic: Witchcraft. How to spin a spell  (Read 16452 times)
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Shabakuk Zeborius Anfang
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« Reply #30 on: 17 September 2011, 00:57:47 »

Arti, I'm sorry - I just now re-discovered your suggestions concerning the weavers. I had read your post at the time, but then managed to forget it, which is entirely due to me being a scatter-brain, and not to the quality of your ideas, which are excellent.

Anyway, I like the direction of your suggestions. I'm wondering whether they need to be included in the Magic entry, though, or whether they wouldn't fit better into the People entry on Witches?



« Last Edit: 17 September 2011, 01:06:09 by Shabakuk Zeborius Anfang » Logged

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« Reply #31 on: 17 September 2011, 23:13:37 »

Ok, comments ahead, Shabakuk!

- The meaning of the word "witch" (= its Stýrash origins) should also be mentioned in the Overview.

- You write that we're dealing only with Santharian witches here. That's fine as the term probably derived from elves living in Southern Sarvonia. You only briefly refer to shamanism up North, which bears resemblances. I'd say you could see it much broader by putting it more that way (see also what you mention in History): In general all kinds of magical practices outside of Santharia and which thus are not under Ximaxian influence or can be attributed to a major school of magic (e.g. elven magic) are regarded as suspicious and therefore often simply labeled "witchcraft" by many people, simply because they don't have a proper word for it. So even if these kinds of magic are very different to witchcraft as we describe it here, they might be still seen as such - and this of course contributes to the not so brilliant image witchcraft often has. I guess that's quite an important thing to make a bit clearer.

- lol I love the changes you made in the Concept/Worldview part. Like the introductory sentences and the hobbit take on it, and furthermore the scholarly take on the hobbit answer...  cool

The spider references also work very well now, so I'm very pleased with these alterations! As you mention the "spider" and "illusions" I'd say it is also in order to throw in a reference to the Weavers as you've asked in your question. It could simply be put in a footnote after the second paragraph, where you can put what I've sketched in that last post dealing with it. If there are actual direct connections can be completely left open, but mentioning the similarities has its place right there, I'd say.

- Upon reading the Concept/Worldview part I noticed that the description of the witch's worldview is pretty much the one of an artist (and again the parallels with Nietzschean philosophy I mentioned elsewhere, the Übermensch is the creative artist that forms life). Unlike regular people who just live their life to maintain itself and see the uttermost goal in reproducing themselves, hoping that it is all part of a greater purpose, a witch however takes it in her hands, plays the role of creator. The witch combines and weaves threads, because she sees it in her capabilities to do so, and that's what she does, she's the elemental energy that creates existence. It's not by definition something negative, but the prometheian impetus of the witch is not to be underestimated. A creation of a Dr. Frankenstein in Santharia could have a witchy worldview. Anyway, in short: I'd say using the term "artist" here and there would further strengthen the idea behind the worldview.

- Yep, yep, very nice reading there, e.g. also in the Knots and Threads part, where even phenomenons like déjà vu are explained in a way, and that's great! It makes connections on the basic level between space and time, which is what it all comes down to as far as witchcraft is concerned. As everything is interconnected you could even say that e.g. "chemistry" between people all is based on thread-theory, and similar things like that. A whole wide world opens that way, it's an entirely unique look on things...

- I see you also have some hints at what one could call "superstition" here and there, like references to the number thirteen etc. This is something that should be expanded on a bit more in the People entry I'd say, along with familiars (black cats etc.), broomsticks etc. But I guess you have that in mind already. (Speaking about broomsticks,  here's a little something: In the Santhworld Hall of Fame - try walking a few times from your portrait into Grinch's room and watch the broomstick... ;))

- Also nice details on the Ximaxians dealing with witchcraft!  thumbup

- And finally: The History part is also very solid, detailing the genesis and progression of witches throughout the ages. There are also some ideas in there I haven't heard before if I remember correctly, like the Night of the Hand stuff, where the witches could be responsible. A nice idea at any rate, which adds to the complexity of this important historical date. Maybe you could still add captions at the beginning of the paragraphs in this section, so that it is easier for the reader to capture the whole historical progression by looking at these captions.

And right until the witchfinder everything is there on its place and written in a most entertaining way with a lot of creativity and fresh ideas all over the place. Didn't really find anything wrong, it's all there, thought through and presented perfectly! clap clap clap

- BTW: There's still that picture from Eratin we haven't used yet (here), could be added in this entry as well. It focuses on the dark sides of witches, however, but we also have the other one you wanted to have reserved, Shabakuk.

So of course you get another aura +1, Shabakuk! Brilliant work - looking forward to further entries in this context, like the one on the Witch Covens you mention!  thumbup
« Last Edit: 17 September 2011, 23:16:11 by Artimidor Federkiel » Logged



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« Reply #32 on: 18 September 2011, 04:23:47 »

Thanks (and aura) for the helpful suggestions, Arti! I agree with everything, and shall work on changes during the next few days.

Regarding the comment on the profundity of hobbit wisdom, I had the idea that I could maybe ascribe it to Athiost of Carmalad, unless you think that's unsuitable? I permitted myself to implement the suggested change in the "Concept" section.

And yes, I noticed the sloppy discipline in the Hall of Fame. Now we've even come to the point where lowly broomsticks think they can fly around anywhere they like. It's an outrage.
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« Reply #33 on: 18 September 2011, 15:31:32 »

Yep, yep, Athiost is perfectly fine here, Shabakuk!  thumbup
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« Reply #34 on: 20 September 2011, 07:57:08 »

Thanks again for all your comments, Arti. I made the following edits (in whatever this colour is called):

(1) Mentioned ouidshán in the Overview.
(2) Added a paragraph to the Prevalence section, explaining the difference between the everyday use of the term 'witchcraft' by non-witches, and 'witchcraft proper'.
(3) Added a footnote on Weavers.
(4) Added sub-headings to the History.
(5) Changed the spelling in the title of Turya Firebane's book to "On Ouidch-craft”. I thought that looked like a nice old-fashioned spelling for a 1,500 year-old tome, and it also reflects the etymology of "witch" that Arti has so elegantly developed.

I have chosen (for now) not to reinforce the reading of witches as Nietzscheans. Despite being fascinated by his sharpness and irreverence, I am not a great fan of Nietzsche, and certainly not of his idea of "superhumans". But of course, everyone is free to interpret the text as they wish. cool

Anyway, if someone had time and inclination to do a uri-check, I would appreciate it!  

But of course I'd be open to further comments on the concept as well.
« Last Edit: 20 September 2011, 08:24:26 by Shabakuk Zeborius Anfang » Logged

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« Reply #35 on: 21 September 2011, 03:29:26 »

The additions/changes are very good, Shabakuk - the Prevalence now comprises the full range of how witchcraft us seen throughout Santharia and really leaves no questions open anymore. :) Also nice touch with the "Ouidch-craft", always good to make things sound more ancient and connect it that way at the same time to a view of another race, so this fits very well also. The weaver footnote also does its job, so I'd say it's just perfect as perfect as it can get from top to bottom if you ask me.

As for an Uri check: Personally I find it extremely tough to spot anything wrong grammatically or typing-wise in a Shabakuk entry, so I'd say even without an Uri and with that entry length chances are that there are less mistakes than in a lot of other entries we have up on site already... ;)

Ok, just a few things to fix:

Quote
Before we proceed to introduce the gentle reader to the philosophy and practice of Witchcraft, we feel that it is necessary to draw make a distinction.

Quote
As a scribe working in the Thane’s palace in Marcogg once told us... (Note: Titles like these are written with a capital letter usually as it's part of the proper name.)

At any rate: I guess I can mark this one already for integration next update, and for your dedicated work you get yet another aura +1 - an important entry finally makes in on site, wonderfully creative, embedded and bridging various gaps that existed before. With one word: Fantabulastic, Shabakuk!  thumbup A round of applause! clap clap clap
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« Reply #36 on: 23 September 2011, 01:21:18 »

I have been doing a Uri but I'll do it from the beginning after all the alteration. Coming up.
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« Reply #37 on: 23 September 2011, 01:58:26 »

We already have update weekend, Ath, so I hope you can make it until then...
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« Reply #38 on: 23 September 2011, 02:23:34 »

Update on Saturday/Sunday coming up? I can do it for then, I think.

Otherwise put it up as is.
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« Reply #39 on: 23 September 2011, 03:06:20 »

I'd appreciate it, Athviaro!

If you've already started your check, please be aware that I've just made some edits of my own - correcting the mistakes Arti pointed out, and some others that I found in my own check. (And I also changed a formulation here and there, where I didn't like the old one anymore.)

I hope I will have the time to integrate your comments before the update - but of course, if you find glaring mistakes, Arti can just correct them himself when he prepares the text.


For Arti, I have also got suggestions for picture captions:

Seeker's picture: "A cauldron witch in her kitchen. The ingredients on her shelf suggest that she is cooking no ordinary soup.

Pointy hat picture: "Among other things, witches know how to converse with ghosts. What the pompion has to do with this only a witch could tell you!"

If you don't like them, feel free to write something else!  :)
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« Reply #40 on: 23 September 2011, 03:11:18 »

Those are fine, Shabakuk! Make sure to put them in the first post, though, because I always grab the entry from there with all additional information that post contains. Otherwise I might miss/forget it!  thumbup
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« Reply #41 on: 23 September 2011, 03:17:17 »

D'accord, Sage. Done!
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« Reply #42 on: 24 September 2011, 19:07:16 »


A quick sweep for error and a bit of style, though I'm wary of interfering too much with the way you wrote it, Shaba.

Generally great. Love it, and hope I can do the idea justice with the skarls!

Ath.

PS: As always, comments are in orange and simple grammar corrections in red.



Have you ever been healed by a song? Have you ever felt that love is a madness, induced by some force outside I'd prefer no "of" here. It adds nothing. of yourself? Or have you ever found, after a seamstress mended a coat for you, that you were unable to take the dratted thing off? And did the seamstress smile? And did she promise that she would release her spell, if you would just do her a little favour? – Or maybe you once saw a man approach a wailwoman, and he withstood the ghost’s bone-melting cry, and with a curious dance and gesture lifted the curse that had detained the tortured soul within its spectral form?

If you have experienced any of these things, then you have likely received a better introduction to Witchcraft than letters on a piece of parchment will ever be able to impart. Witchcraft is the common name for the magical arts of Santharian witches. The term “witch” itself is derived from the Styrásh verb “ouidshán”, which means “to practice twisted magic” – and although witches themselves carry their name with pride, its origin tells a poignant tale about how they are perceived not only by the elves, but by all Santharian people. Generally, Witchcraft – or Black Magic, as it is known to its many detractors – is understood to be synonymous with dangerous, sinister, harmful sorcery. Witches have been treated with suspicion for as long as history records, since they often live outside of established orders, defy worldly and religious authority, and are loyal to none but fellow-witches (or so people think). After the calamitous War of the Chosen, the world was weary of both sword-fare and magic, witches were persecuted and suspected of being in cahoots with necromancers intent onof bringing forth creatures from the Netherworlds, and with them further deadly strife.

Yet on the other hand, fairy stories and sayings also betray a certain fascination with beautiful witches dancing on mountain tops, with the love potions that they brew, or with the idea that one might ask a witch to let a wart grow on one’s unloved neighbour’s nose. And indeed, the practice of Witchcraft would not flourish quite as well as it does if Santharians did not avail themselves of witches’ services rather more often than they would admit.

Prevalence

This entry is concerned with Santharian witches only. Some reports suggest that Santharian Witchcraft bears a resemblance to the practices of shamans in Northern Sarvonia, but at the present stage of research we are unable to make a confident statement to this effect.

In the Kingdom of Santharia, Witchcraft is practised by both men and women. Most witches are human, but we have personally met some gnomish practitioners of the art, and have even heard stories about hobbit witches. In fact, one of the best spell cooks currently alive is rumoured to live in a smial in the Helmondsshire. (And a spell cook, as you shall soon see, is a type of witch that specializes in enchantments achieved through cooking or brewing.)

Before we proceed to introduce the gentle reader to the philosophy and practice of Witchcraft, we feel that it is necessary to draw make draw or make? a distinction. For the focus of our article – the magical arts of the witches – is one thing. But what Santharians in their ignorance and superstition may choose to call  Witchcraft is quite another. In general, the terms “witchcraft” and “witch” are used to denote any kind of magic, and any kind of magic practitioner, that do not belong to one of the established and respected schools or systems of magic and that are therefore regarded with suspicion. As a scribe working in the Thane’s palace in Marcogg once told us: “If it ain’t Ximax, and if it ain’t Thalambath, and if it ain’t clerics, and if it ain’t elves, why, then for sure it’s foul, and for sure it’s witchery.” More sophisticated individuals might know that druidic magic, weaver magic, and life magic are also quite distinct schools of magical art – but even these knowledgeable ones might well fail to distinguish witches from mere gifted macanti, from shamans, or even from rogue mages. In short, Santharians tend to attach the label “Witchcraft” to any magic that they do not understand and do not have another name for – especially if they are afraid of it or repelled by it. That such confusion has done much harm to the reputation of witches in Santharia is beyond doubt, and it is the humble purpose of this article to try and dispel the ignorance that has clouded the perception of witches for far too long.

Concept/Worldview

Why is there a world, rather than nothing? Why does anything exist at all? – Because Avá the Beautiful dreams it, say the elves. – Because the Twelve Gods, praise be to them, are defending it against Coór the Shadow, say pious humans. – Because if the world didn’t exist, what would we eat, say the hobbits. (According to the philosopher Athiost of Carmalad, the hobbits’ answer is the most profound.)

Witches, for their part, have a different explanation again. The world exists, they say, because  Harash spins it. Harash – that is the Great Spider, the Spinner of the World Web. It is a being both male and female, beautiful and ugly, wise as a whale and dumb as a pebble. *Footnote 1* The witches believe that all the world we see, hear, smell and feel is made up of threads woven by Harash. The witches call these threads “dream threads”, because in our everyday lives, we are unable to see these threads themselves, but instead only illusions, “dreams” conjured up by them. This may be a bit complicated to understand, but a simile often used by witches to teach novice witchlings may help to make things clearer.

Consider what happens when you regard a tapestry. If you look from a distance, your eyes behold a picture: they see shapes and colours, and arrange them into objects and animals and people. Yes, if the weaver was skilled, you even believe that you see the figures moving. You think you see a boy running, a bird flying, a tree bending its branches in the wind. It is as if the tapestry were alive. But step closer, and you find that all these images are in fact composed out of thousands upon thousands of individual threads of different colours; and that the boy or the bird or the tree that you admired are, in fact, nothing but a deft assemblage of dyed wool. You begin to see beneath the picture; you begin to see how it was done.

And so, the witches say, it is with reality also. In our everyday life, we only see the images, the illusion: the boys, the birds, the trees. But the tapestry itself with its myriads of interwoven threads we do not see. If we want to see it, we first need to know how to “step closer” to it; only then can we see “how it was done”. If we managed to do this, we could even do a bit of weaving of our own. Not that we could spin new threads – that is Harash’s power alone. But we could rearrange the threads, make a new weft. In short, if we saw the fabric out of which the illusion of reality is constructed, we could make a new illusion, a new image, a new reality. And that is Witchcraft.

By reweaving the tapestry, the witches say, they make a little contribution to helping the dream that is the world to expand: this they do by helping to bring new beings into the world (for example, through fertility spells), by helping to bring new stories into the world (a love charm, say, leads to new and often complicated relationships, which make for good stories), or by helping to bring new emotions into the world (even if ordinary people may judge these emotions to be negative, such as wrath or lust for revenge). New beings, new stories, new feelings – all these are so many new snarls in the dream web, new pictures in the tapestry. And that, in the eyes of witches, justifies them. What grows is good, and what grows in a disorderly way is even better. The more confusing the dream, the more mazy its yarns, the more fun there is to be had.

It is not  the witches’ belief, by the way, that Harash the World Spider herself weaves the tapestry of the world. Harash merely spins the threads. The interweaving of them, which causes the world to be furnished with people, animals, plants and things, is an entirely chaotic process. Succinctly put, the world is a giant ball of tangled dream threads, and we are the knots in it. We have come about by chance, by the random muddled mess of Harash’s threads, and it is up to us to make something of this chance. Witchcraft, the witches say, is the best way to of doing so.

Sometimes young witchlings ask why Harash’s threads should assemble themselves to make a world such as ours, which features, despite its many unpredictabilities, a considerable amount of regularity. Oftentimes, the reply from older witches is but a shrug and an admonition to be careful only to ask questions that are answerable, lest your mind befuddle itself. Yet wiser witches respond that Caelereth, our world, actually is made up of but a tiny portion of the total number of Harash’s threads. In fact, they say, there is an infinite number of tangled balls of dream threads, and therefore there is also an infinite number of worlds, and no one is like the other. Some of these worlds, the witches say, are lifeless. Some consist only of swirling colours, like the winter sky in a Northern night. Others are inhabited solely by fluttersong moths. Then there are worlds that are so beautiful that on seeing one of them, our eyes would immediately go blind. Yet others are so ugly that if we saw them, our hearts would wither and refuse to beat another beat. We are lucky, say the witches, that we live in a world that is both beautiful and ugly, just like Harash herself, and that we can bear to see it. *Footnote 2*

Basic Principles: The craft

“Sing, and you shall hear; brew, and you shall smell; cook, and you shall taste; weave, and you shall see; dance, and you shall feel.”

Hildula Hauntwell: “The Arts of Warts, or: How to Take Revenge on the Infuriatingly Pretty” (New-Santhala, 1666 a. S.)

So how does Witchcraft actually work? How do witches contrive to see the dream threads? How do they “step closer” and inspect the weft of the world, and how are they able to change its structure? More competent authors than ourselves have failed in the task of making Witchcraft intelligible to the minds of non-witches. The single best introduction to the matter is still Archmage Turya Firebane’s “On Ouidch-craft”, written more than 1,500 years ago. Addressing her fellow Ximaxian sages, Turya explains:
“We know that magical effects can sometimes be achieved involuntarily, and even by untrained but magically gifted individuals, especially in situations of severe emotional distress or physical exhaustion. As you, venerated colleagues, are well aware, the principle of study that our Academy is proud to represent is that what the untrained individual can but achieve unconsciously, haphazardly, the trained mage can learn to achieve consciously, deliberately, by training his will to concentrate on the cár’áll, its configurations, and its manipulation. Witches, however, draw quite a different conclusion from the phenomenon of spontaneous, chaotic magic: they prefer to observe that these spontaneous effects occur when the person whom they originate from is, as it were, not herself – when fear or pain or hatred or love have thrown her out of her mind. The principle of Witchcraft is to lose oneself, or, as the witches would say: to surrender. They seek such experiences that bring about altered states of mind where the logic of dreams and nightmares rules, and where reason is silenced. So rather than striving for concentration and control, witches aim for ecstasy and trance; rather than avoiding everything that could disturb the calm execution of the will, they seek to renounce their will and use the forces that lurk beneath it; and rather than training the mind to control what it cannot directly perceive, they seek to subvert the mind in order to overcome its limits.”

(“On Ouidch-craft”, by Kar-ii Turya Firebane, Archmage of the Black Tower of Ximax, 1st century a.S.)

In the practice of Witchcraft, ordinary consciousness is suspended, and the witch experiences rapture, trance or ecstasy. The more spectacular variants of these states, such as wild dances and hypnotic chanting, have become predominant in popular perception, and exaggerated tales of naked rituals, orgies and licentiousness abound. Yet your average witch is far more likely to prefer quieter sorts of trance. The key to understanding this is the concept of “craft”.

Every witch knows a craft – an actual handicraft, or art – and it is through its execution that she *Footnote 3* accomplishes her magic. Thus, a witch trained in tapestry may “weave a spell”, a witch good at woodwork may “whittle a spell”, and a witch inclined to poetry may “rhyme a spell”. In this way, depending on the witch’s craft, her work may involve dancing a spell, singing a spell, baking a spell, cooking a spell, sewing a spell, spinning a spell, and so forth.

It is not necessarily the case that the witch, by her craft, produces a magical artefact (although this happens too, as witches may make magically enhanced brews, charms in the form of wooden figurines or embroidered clothes or amulets, or even magical sculptures of stone). But it is always through her craft that the witch “dives into the web of dream-threads”, as the witches put it. The crucial transition from everyday consciousness to trance is accomplished through the craft itself: through the hypnotic effect of repetitive movement (such as in dancing, or in loom weaving), through evocative chanting , or through the “surrender” of the mind to a tricky task.

Once she is in trance, the witch’s concentration is wholly on the invisible fabric of Harash’s tangled web. Witches believe that through losing themselves in this way, they can leave the illusion of reality behind, and can fiddle directly with the weft of the world tapestry: loosening a thread here, reweaving it there, cautiously making the picture yet more intricate, yet more interesting.

What makes witchcraft unique: knots and threads

“The spider that catches us liberates us. It is by being entangled in the web of life that we become free.”

Hildula Hauntwell: “An invitation to the spider’s web” (New-Santhala, 1456 a. S.)


So far, a reader educated in Ximaxian magic might think that the witches’ craft is just an alternative road to the goal that Ximaxian magic shares: the manipulation of the invisible energetic essence of the world. Furthermore, the reader might think that the witches’ notion of ‘tapestry’ and ‘threads’ are but simplified expressions of Ximaxian theory with its concepts of  the cár'áll, the oúnia, and their links. Yet there is more to Witchcraft, and this is why the Ximaxian mages’ efforts to integrate the witches’ arts into their conceptual system have so far failed.

The witches say: You are a knot. And so am I. We are all knots. We are knots in Harash’s tangled web, a web that is ever-moving, ever-changing. Each of us consists of thousands upon thousands of threads, some of which are thick and constant, while others are thin and fleeting. We are chaotic entanglements of dream threads, and so is everything else: the animals, the plants, the objects, and the materials. Wherever we go, we carry a long trail of loose threads with us. And that is good, because loose threads allow us to make connections.

Have you ever thought about why you can recall in your mind a place that you have not visited for many years? Why you can sometimes, in lucid moments, remember this place as clearly as if you were there? It is because you some of your dream threads are still tied to it. When you were in that place, one of your loose threads tied a knot around some rock or tree or doorpost there. And thus you became a part of the place, and the place became a part of you. This is how you remember: the thing you remember is still with you, because you are tied to it. And your memory of something is the richer, the more of your dream threads are entangled within it.

And have you ever thought about what love is? It is a form of intense entanglement of the dream threads of two people. That is why it hurts so much when someone you love dies. The soul of the deceased, travelling into Queprur’s realm, pulls on your dream threads, to which it is fastened; and thus it tears your dreams apart.

Another form of intense entanglement between two people, by the way, is hatred. Power is another. And fear, another.

Such entanglements – or connections – between people might be weak or strong, fleeting or durable, flimsy or robust. But they may persist over space and time. This is why love can endure even when the lovers have been separated for many years. It is why a bird that migrates hundreds of strals south in the winter always finds the way back to its home forest, and yes, even to the very tree on which it was born. And it is why Witchcraft works.

For witches, when they leave their everyday minds behind and dive into the web of dream-threads, can see these connections, and use them in their art. Say, for example, that a witch has obtained a lock of your hair. This hair, although apparently separated from you, is still connected to you through dream threads. For you cared for this hair once; you washed it and combed it, you looked at it in a mirror. It belonged to you; and because it once did, it still does. Its separation from you is only superficial. Never mind the scissors that cut it off – the connection persists. Now, the witch can use this connection. Taking hold of your lock of hair, she can pull on the threads that tie it to you, and thereby achieve effects that affect you. For example, she might weave this hair into a doll; and pricking this doll with a needle will cause you pain. Or the witch might spin your hair into a rope and tie the rope to a tree, and thereby draw you to that tree by a force as strong as if she held an actual rope in her hand that was tied to your waist. Or the witch might use your hair as an ingredient in a mixture she concocts, which will make someone into whose eyes it is dropped fall in love with you. Or she might enclose your hair in an amulet, and speak a charm, so that the amulet will become warm when you are near. In this way, someone wearing this amulet may find you and recognize you even if you are in disguise.

Abilities, Practice, Limitations, and Restrictions

“Thirteen needs has a man: food, drink, air; warmth, coolness, shelter; sleep, wakefulness, steadiness; embrace, beauty, wholeness; and silence. And thirteen desires he has: love; sex; friendship; respect; adoration; belief; solitude; invincibility, subservience, dominance; perfection; rules; immortality. These, my sisters, are the hooks. Like fish the men will swallow them and hang at the end of your line. But you must know the right bait.”Inconsistent semicolons and commas here - is that stylistic?

Hildula Hauntwell: “To Make Your Loved One Want You: Amorous Enchantment in Seven Times Seven Easy Steps” (Nyermersis, 945 a. S.)

To some extent, a witch’s skills are determined by her craft: the protection spells, magical banishments, and enchanted cloaks of a spell seamstress are a dream apart from the love soups, healing breads and pestilence pellets of the spell cook, or the spirit whispers and summoning rituals of the spell dancer. Also, it is clear that some “witch’s crafts” are more limiting than others. A witch who “embroiders” her spells must have access to a needle and fabric to work her magic, while a “rhyme-crafting” witch is limited only by her poetic imagination. However, the more experienced a witch grows, the less important those limitations become: a skilled spell seamstress may need no more than a few blinks to quickly stitch a pattern into her sleeve and thereby craft a charm.

Witches use five categories to describe the varying levels of ability among their kind. These categories are: the Gifted, the Witchlings, the Spell Crafters, the Dream Bringers, and the Handmaids of Harash. Outsiders that have encountered but one kind of witch, and have prematurely generalized from their experience, have therefore come to rather contradictory conclusions about witches: while some have said that witches are “wicked but weak”, others have called them “powerful and terrible as demons”. The following overview of the five stages of Witchcraft shall, we hope, help to dispel such confusion.

The Gifted. First, there are the Gifted. A Gifted One is a person who was born with a talent for magic, but has not learned to use it. As such, a Gifted One is not a witch, but may become one under the guidance of a teacher, who must herself be a witch. Of course, a Gifted One may instead train to be a different kind of magic practitioner, such as a mage, a druid, or a cleric. Furthermore, many Gifted Ones never develop their talents, but remain dilettantes, whose access to magic is sporadic and haphazard. Some even reject or deny their talent. Others, the so-called macanti, become charlatans who exaggerate their magical powers, and make a living from folk’s credulousness and superstition.

Witchlings (Apprentices). Second, there are the witchlings. A witchling is an apprentice, who is learning from an accomplished witch. Witchlings usually live with their teachers, and help them with everyday chores in exchange for instruction. Witchcraft is always taught this way: from witch to witch. According to the craft of their teacher, witchlings are referred to as “song witchlings”, “needle witchlings”, “cauldron witchlings”, and so on. The witches say that of every thirteen apprentices who start the path to Witchcraft, three will never pass beyond the skill level of a witchling – whether for lack of talent, lack of dedication, bad teaching, or bad luck (such as, say, the death of their teacher before the end of the apprenticeship).Bracketing not needed here - try 'bad luck - such as, say...'

Spell Crafters. Third, there are the Spell Crafters. These are ordinary witches, whose magic is limited to a small selection of specific spells that they have learned. Witches themselves rarely use the word “spell crafter”, by the way,Is 'by the way' really needed here? but refer to the individual witch’s craft instead, calling her a “spell singer”, “spell seamstress”, or “spell cook”, and so on. For nine out of every thirteen witches, spell crafting is the summit of their development. Spell crafters are therefore the most common of all witches, and the mediocrity of their skills has led some sages to conclude that Witchcraft in general is inferior to Ximaxian magic. May our readers make up their own minds about this point, but not before they have read on.

Dream Bringers. Fourth, there are the Dream Bringers, accomplished witches who are far more powerful than ordinary spell crafters. A dream bringer’s skills are no longer bound by the necessity to adhere to specific spells she has been taught. Instead, she is able to compose her magic freely. Rare is the witch who has the talent, the dedication, and the good fortune that are needed to become a dream bringer; and whoever rises to this level is highly respected among witches. The witches say that of every thirteen witchlings who begin an apprenticeship, only one will become a dream bringer. Like spell crafters, the dream bringers are commonly referred to by terms that are specific to their craft, such as “dream singer”, “dream seamstress”, “dream cook”, and so on.

Should these to be capitalised completely? It's currently a bit mixed.

Harash’s Handmaids. Last, we come to the most powerful witches of all, the terrifying Handmaids of Harash. They are the stuff of legend, and you are about as likely to meet one in your life on this disk as you are to meet a resonance dragon. Some witches say that a Handmaid of Harash appears only once every seven times seven years. Others say that the true number is closer to once every thirteen times thirteen years. In any case, a Handmaid of Harash is always an influential figure, and if one is around during your lifetime, you will either have heard of her, or have heard of events that she has caused, even if you don’t know that it is she who is at the roots of it all.

Witchcraft and Ximaxianism

The effects of Witchcraft continue to befuddle Ximaxian mages, as they defy the neat classifications and hierarchies that Ximaxianism prefers. For example, relatively undistinguished witches, who would fail at something simple such as conjuring a little wind to drive a fly off (an elementary Ximaxian wind spell), may nonetheless succeed in brewing a magically enhanced potion that temporarily change the appearance of anyone who drinks it (say, making their skin radiantly beautiful, or increasing the size of their teeth to give them the appearance of a donkey) – an effect that Ximaxians would consider to be an “enchantment” and a “Level 9-spell”, a level of skill that a Ximaxian can expect to attain only after decades of study.

Many Ximaxians have therefore concluded that witches must have supernatural help, and the theory that witches achieve their results through entering pacts with demons is rather popular even among archmages. Certainly, most mages are proud to distinguish their own profession from the “wild” magic of the witches, and would be greatly offended to be considered in the same category. Yet a few mages have shown interest and genuine curiosity. The archmage Kar-ii Turya Firebane’s treatise “On Ouidch-craft”, for example, presents a dispassionate account of what was known of witches at the time, and a valiant attempt at explaining both the witches’ world view, and the manner in which they achieve their magical effects.

Locations

Witches can work magic anywhere they can perform their craft. Obviously, if you want a spell cook to make a healing potion, you had best provide her with a kitchen, a large fireplace, and two dozen shelves full of ingredients suitable for her receipts. At a pinch, however, the spell cook might be able to make do with a campfire, a few herbs, and a drop of saliva that she scrapes off your tongue.

More intriguingly, groups of witches sometimes assemble in remote locations, such as high in the mountains or in forests, in order to combine their magical powers for particularly difficult or demanding spells that one witch on her own could not accomplish. Spell singers and spell dancers, in particular, are known for holding such congregations from time to time. Needless to say, witches are very wary of persecution, and many have withstood torture without revealing their sisters’ and brothers’ secret meeting-places.

History

Witchcraft has been practised for so long that no tale tells of its beginnings. Historians have speculated that Witchcraft provided some of the many magic weapons that came close to destroying the world during the War of the Chosen (9500-9000 b.S.). Yet even halfway reliable records only begin to appear in the subsequent Era of Consolidation (8500-3400 b.S.).

Ostracism and Persecution: The Era of Consolidation. At this time, the world was weary of magic, and its use was banned almost everywhere. The term “witchcraft” seems to have originated during that time. In Styrásh, the elven tongue, a “ouídsh” is a charlatan, or someone who practices twisted magic. And it is clear that from the beginning, Witchcraft was thought to be a sinister art practiced by malevolent sorcerers.

Punishments for the crime of Witchcraft were severe. The scant records from the Era of Consolidation available to us suggest that every year thousands of people throughout the continent of Sarvonia were burned, drowned, or otherwise executed for using magic. Since at that time no legitimate magical schools for humans existed, it is possible that the words “witch” and “witchcraft” may have been applied to any magic practitioner and any practice of magic, rather than specifically to what we today understand the terms to mean. In general, magic practitioners at that time were always suspected of intending to bring harm, even if (and indeed, especially if) they were apparently using their powers for harmless or even benevolent ends.

Thus, we know of a woman in Serpheloria who in the year 4523 b.S. was drowned for using a charm made from wizardleaf to bring a child back to life from the Black Death. And a document from what in 5511 b.S. was called “Hobbitshire” (today’s Helmondsshire), tells of a gardener who was burned at the stake for “enchanting his vegetables to have unnatural shapes and colours, and for growing corpseberries as big as pompions”.

Witchcraft and Ximaxian Magic. Around the year 2000 b.S., the institutionalization of magic began with the building of what came to be known as the Magical Academy of Ximax. At the time, mages were working hard to gain the trust of kings and common folk, who nonetheless remained suspicious. One way in which the early Ximaxians sought to gain respectability was to distance their own “controlled”, “virtuous”, and “scholarly” magic from the alleged “wild magic” of other magic users. Indeed, it was at this time that mages invented the term “black magic” to draw a firm line between the allegedly evil Witchcraft on the one hand, and their own “white, clean” magic on the other.

The First Sarvonian War. In the first millennium b.S., the Ximaxians gained prestige as their art supported the human armies in the three Sarvonian wars against the elves, and also helped to alleviate the suffering brought about by the war. Witches, on the other hand, who by now had a firm place in the public imagination as evildoers, were routinely blamed for undermining the human war efforts. During the first Sarvonian War (806-729 b.S.), witches were suspected of having dealings with the elves, because they did not participate in the battles. Spontaneous witch-hunts against the supposed “enemy spies in human lands” are said to have cost the lives of thousands of actual or suspected witches.

The Second Sarvonian War and The Night of the Hand. The Second Sarvonian War was even more disastrous for the reputation of witches. This conflict began on the infamous “Night of the Hand” (7th Singing Bird, 550 b.S.), when elven artifacts from the “Grave of the Leaders” of the First Sarvonian War were stolen by unknown thieves, while artifacts of the human heroes remained untouched. Suspicion fell on the elves, and the humans declared war. In 501 b.S., after almost fifty years of bloodshed, the humans surrendered to the elven forces, but were surprised by the elves’ magnanimity in victory, as they demanded no payment of reparations. This spurned rumours that the elves might not have been responsible for the war after all, and people began to put the blame on witches instead. Witches, it was said, wanted to provoke a new war to distract human rulers from persecuting their own misdeeds. This version of events is still widely believed to this day.

Indeed, the night after the seventh day in the month of Singing Bird, the date of the “Night of the Hand”, now has a firm place in the Santharian calendar. Superstitious folk believe that every year during this night, witches perform rituals that enhance their magical powers, and that they roam towns and villages to look for victims for their malicious machinations. So when night falls on the 7th Singing Bird, Santharians lock their doors, close their window shutters, and won't leave their houses until the morning. Many put blossoming branches outside their homes in the belief that the sign of the Tree of Life will fend off witches. The witches themselves, by the way, also tend to stay at home during that night, for they say that on no other day in the year have so many witches been hunted, caught, and slaughtered than at the anniversary of the Night of the Hand.

In any case, by the second half of the first millennium b.S., the term “witchcraft” had been all but synonymous with “evil magic” in most people’s imagination. Thus it comes that an elven sorcerer such as Saban Blackcloack (110-60 b.S.), who brought much destruction over humans, dwarves, and other elves, has come to be known as the “Witchking” in popular parlance, even though there is no evidence to suggest that witches were ever among his followers.

Witchcraft in the Santharian Kingdom. Even in more recent history, and specifically in the Santharian Kingdom, whose founding marks the Year Zero of our calendar, witches have continued to suffer persecution by authorities, as well as pogroms from enraged mobs. Although no Santhran has ever sanctioned a witch-hunt, provincial rulers and town patricians have often found it expedient to blame the witches for all kinds of ill befalling their grand or petty realms. Droughts, plagues, floods, deadly hailstorms, troll attacks, wars, and even holes in a duchy’s treasure chest have been ascribed to the witches’ machinations.

The witches’ situation is not helped by the existence of the so-called witchfinders: men and women who claim expertise in the art of finding and identifying the secretive witches, as well as to Not quite clear here. Perhaps try "as well as that of" here? extracting confessions from those suspected of witchery. Most witchfinders are solitary individuals, who travel the land and offer their services to anyone who will pay. Yet some dukes and lesser nobles have raised this occupation to a regular office, and keep a witchfinder at their court, in order to protect their family and their retinue from witches’ interference.

The Moundgraven of Cinnabark Ridge in southern Manthria is said to demand any family who wants to join his own by marriage to undergo a thorough examination by his witchfinder. The skill of this remarkable individual in detecting witches is said to be so great that none of the Moundgraven’s three daughters has yet been able to find a husband, even though the extraordinary beauty of the young gravionesses is beyond doubt, as is their father’s considerable wealth. The witchfinder in question has no wife of his own, by the way, but considers it his professional duty to carry out daily inspections of his protégés’ private chambers lest a witch may have placed an enchantment therein. By virtue of his office, he is therefore the only man, other than their father, who is permitted to spend time in the company of the gravionesses without the presence of a chaperone. We have heard rumours that the pleasures which this privilege affords on the one hand, and the witchfinder’s exactitude in judging the families of the gravionesses’ many suitors on the other, stand in causal relation to one another. Yet the witchfinder assures us that any such insinuations are entirely without foundation, and can only have been circulated by witches, who forever aim to thwart him in his noble work of exposing their foul schemes.

In short, being a witch in Santharia today remains a precarious occupation. In response to the persecution they encounter, witches have become rather secretive – which, while understandable, is liable to reinforcing"liable to reinforce", I think. the mistrust against them. The humble author can only hope that the present article, in conjunction with his report on the witches and their covens, Cut the comma which he intends to submit to the august Compendium soon, will serve to disperse the poison of mutual suspicion, and foster understanding between witches and non-witches in Santharia.


Footnotes

1: Harash’s name derives from the Styrásh word “háh'rásh” (“Utmost Spinner”), which has given rise to speculations that in an age long gone, the earliest witches learned their magic from elves. By the way, the Tharian word “hag” also derives from the same elvish root, and is of course an insult that few female witches who live long enough fail to encounter.

2: In her seminal work “On Ouidch-craft”  (Ximax, 1st century a.S.), the Archmage Turya Firebane has speculated that the witches’ idea of other worlds besides our own may have been influenced by the beliefs of those most mysterious of magicians, the Old Weavers. These Old Weavers, it is said, collectively left Caelereth around 800 years before Santhros, to enter what they called “The Web”, a world woven entirely of magic. Indeed, when witches gather in their covens and sit around their fire by night, they like to tell one another stories of how their most powerful sisters, the “Handmaid’sHandmaids of Harash”, are able to travel to other worlds, just like the Old Weavers did. We have even heard it claim that these dauntless witches visit the Old Weavers in their magic cities, and converse with them, and learn their secrets. Yes, some witches say that the real power of a Harash’s Handmaid lies in the fact that she has overcome death, and that when she leaves this world, it is only to continue her life in another. Since the author of this article has not been lucky enough to meet a Harash’s Handmaid, however, he has not been able to verify these assertions.

3: As we have said, Witchcraft is practised by both males and females. However, since among the witches women outnumber men by a ratio of about three to one, we have decided to use feminine pronouns in this compendium entry whenever we refer to a “generic” witch.
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"Well, I did nothing as a girl, so there goes my childhood." - Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, The Gay Divorcee, 1934.
The Life and Works of Athviaro Shyu-eck-Silfayr
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« Reply #43 on: 24 September 2011, 19:22:46 »

Thanks and aura, Ath!

I've corrected the mistakes, and taken up almost all your suggestions. Sorry for lack of colour - I'm in a bit of a rush this morning.

Thanks to your thoroughness, I have now realized that I had used the construction "liable to do something" wrongly for many years!
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« Reply #44 on: 24 September 2011, 20:18:28 »

Okeydokey, I'll take over from here then and get it up on the site!  thumbup
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