jugulum

Whenever I feel in a witchy rut, like I don’t know what to do next, or simply stalled in my practice, I go back and re-read the Witches Sequence of the Discworld books by Terry Pratchett.

Nothing will teach you more about witchcraft than Granny Weatherwax.

As Agnes turned round again she saw the three magpies. They were perched on a branch over the road.
“‘Three for a funeral–’“ she began.
A stone whirred up. There was an indignant squawk and a shower of feathers.
“Two for mirth,” said Nanny, in a self-satisfied voice.
“Nanny, that was cheating.”
“Witches always cheat,” said Nanny Ogg. She glanced back at the sleeping figure behind them. “Everyone knows that – who knows anything about witches.”

– on witches | Terry Pratchett, Carpe Jugulum

Granny Weatherwax on Sin

I’ve been seeing single lines of text from this exchange and I wanted to throw out a larger quotation from it. This is my favorite bit from all of Pratchett’s Discworld series. Ahem:

“There is a very interesting debate raging at the moment [among Omnians] about the nature of sin, for example,” [said Reverend Mightily Oats.]
“And what do they think? Against it, are they?” [said Granny Weatherwax, the witch of witches.]
“It’s not as simple as that. It’s not a black and white issue. There are so many shades of grey.”
“There’s no greys, only white that’s got grubby. I’m surprised you don’t know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.”
“It’s a lot more complicated than that-”
“No. It ain’t. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they’re getting worried that they won’t like the truth. People as things, that’s where it starts.”
“Oh, I’m sure there are worse crimes-”
“But they STARTS with thinking about people as things…”

Mightily Oats pushed himself up on his hands and knees. Hot flames roared around him, thundering like fiercely burning gas. His skin should have been blackening already, but against all reason the fire felt no more deadly than a hot desert wind. The air smelled of camphor and spices.

He looked up. The flames wrapped Granny Weatherwax, but they looked oddly transparent, not entirely real. Here and there little gold and green sparks glittered on her dress, and all the time the fire whipped and tore around her.

She looked down at him. ‘You’re in the wings of the phoenix now, Mister Oats,’ she shouted, above the noise, ‘and you ain’t burned!’

The bird flapping its wings on her wrist was incandescent.

‘How can-‘

‘You’re the scholar! But male birds are always ones for the big display, aren’t they.

‘Males? This is a male phoenix?’

‘Yes!’

It leapt. What flew … what flew, as far as Oats could see, was a great bird-shape of pale flame, with the little form of the real bird inside like the head of a comet. He added to himself: if that is indeed the real bird…

It swooped up into the tower.

‘It doesn’t burn itself?’ Oats said weakly.

‘Shouldn’t think so,’ said Granny, stepping over the wreckage. ‘Wouldn’t be much point.’

‘Then it must be magical fire…’

The phoenix above them flung back its head and screamed at the sky.

‘And to think I thought it was an allegorical creature,’ said the priest.

‘Well? Even allegories have to live,’ said Granny Weatherwax.

Terry Pratchett  -  "Carpe Jugulum"

“Well, there are two sides to every question…”
“What do you do when one of ‘em’s wrong?” The reply came back like an arrow.
“I meant that we are enjoined to see things from the other person’s point of view,” said Oats, patiently.
“You mean that from the point of view of a torturer, torture is all right?”

– on debates | Terry Pratchett, Carpe Jugulum

It’s not as simple as that. It’s not a black and white issue. There are so many shades of gray.”
  
“Nope.”
 
“Pardon?”
  
“There’s no grays, only white that’s got grubby. I’m surprised you don’t know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.”
  
“It’s a lot more complicated than that—”
  
“No. It ain’t. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they’re getting worried that they won’t like the truth. People as things, that’s where it starts.”
  
“Oh, I’m sure there are worse crimes—”
  
“But they starts with thinking about people as things…
—  Carpe Jugulum by Terry Pratchett

There is a very interesting debate raging at the moment about the nature of sin, for example,” said Oats.

“And what do they think? Against it, are they?” said Granny Weatherwax.

“It’s not as simple as that. It’s not a black and white issue. There are so many shades of gray.”

“Nope.”

“Pardon?”

“There’s no grays, only white that’s got grubby. I’m surprised you don’t know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.“

“It’s a lot more complicated than that …”

“No. It ain’t. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they’re getting worried that they won’t like the truth. People as things, that’s where it starts.”

“Oh, I’m sure there are worse crimes …”

“But they starts with thinking about people as things …

—  Terry Pratchett,  Carpe Jugulum (1998)

There is a very interesting debate raging at the moment about the nature of sin, for example,” said Oats.


“And what do they think? Against it, are they?” said Granny Weatherwax.


“It’s not as simple as that. It’s not a black and white issue. There are so many shades of gray.”


“Nope.”


“Pardon?”


“There’s no grays, only white that’s got grubby. I’m surprised you don’t know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.”


“It’s a lot more complicated than that …”


“No. It ain’t. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they’re getting worried that they won’t like the truth. People as things, that’s where it starts.”


“Oh, I’m sure there are worse crimes …”


“But they starts with thinking about people as things …

—  Terry Pratchett Carpe Jugulum

Choices. It was always choices…
There’d been that man down in Spackle, the one that’d killed those little kids. The people’d sent for her and she’d looked at him and seen the guilt writhing in his head like a red worm, and then she’d taken them to his farm and showed them were to dig, and he’d thrown himself down and asked her for mercy, because he said he’d been drunk and it’d all been done in alcohol.
Her words came back to her. She’d said, in sobriety: end it in hemp.
And they’d dragged him off and hanged him in a hempen rope and she’d gone to watch because she owed him that much, and he’d cursed, which was unfair because hanging is a clean death, or at least cleaner than the one he’d have got if the villagers had dared defy her, and she’d seen the shadow of Death come for him, and then behind Death came the smaller, brighter figures, and then
In the darkness, the rocking chair creaked as it thundered back and forth.
The villagers had said justice had been done, and she’d lost patience and told them to go home, then, and pray to whatever gods they believed in that it was never done to them. The smug mask of virtue triumphant could be almost as horrible as the face of wickedness revealed.
She shuddered at the memory. Almost as horrible, but not quite.
The odd thing was, quite a lot of villagers had turned up to his funeral, and there had been mutterings from one or two people on the lines of, yes, well, but overall he wasn’t such a bad chap… and anyway, maybe she made him say it. And she’d got the dark looks.
Supposing there was justice for all, after all? For every unheeded beggar, every harsh word, every neglected duty, every slight… every choice… Because that was the point, wasn’t it? You had to choose. You might be right, you might be wrong, but you had to choose, knowing that the rightness or wrongness might never be clear or even that you were deciding between two sorts of wrong, that there was no right anywhere. And always, always, you did it by yourself. You were the one there, on the edge, watching and listening. Never any tears, never any apology, never any regrets.. You saved all that up in a way that could be used when needed.
She never discussed this with nanny Ogg or any of the other witches. That would be breaking the secret. Sometimes, late at night, when the conversation tip-toed around to that area, Nanny might just drop in some line like “old Scrivens went peacefully enough at the finish” and may or may not mean something by it. Nanny, as far as she could see, didn’t agonize very much. To her, some things obviously had to be done, and that was that. Any of the thoughts that hung around she kept locked up tight, even from herself. Granny envied her.
Who’d come to her funeral when she died?

– on choices, and Esme Weatherwax | Terry Pratchett, Carpe Jugulum

’…sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.’

‘It’s a lot more complicated than that…’

'No. It ain’t. When people say things are more complicated than that, they means they’re getting worried that they won’t like the truth. People as things, that’s where it starts.’

'Oh, I’m sure there are worse crimes–’

'But they STARTS with thinking about people as things…’

—  Terry Pratchett, ‘Carpe Jugulum’