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From: m.driussi@genie.com
Subject: (urth) Witches, mainly
Date: Tue, 15 Apr 97 04:02:00 GMT

[Posted from URTH, a mailing list about Gene Wolfe's New Sun and other works]

Reply:  Item #5601061 from URTH@LISTS.BEST.COM@INET00#


Well, the witches' table artifact isn't in the Lexicon, so I'll tell
what I know and what others have said.  You remember it quite well.
The hairless critters seem crippled, though, I think.  Anyway, if it
ain't some hologrammic form of Pac Man (<g>), then it is very hard to
tell what it is.

Jeff Wilson and I tried to tackle this, using two analogies ("witches
really are witches" and "witches really are some technologically
advanced department of government, such as we might have in the US
today") and their shared origin with the torturers' guild.

First of all: since the Matachin is the tower of Severity, is the
Witches' Keep the tower of Mercy?  No. (That would be the healers'
tower, or the cathedral of the Claw and the pelerines.)

When the jailers' guild was broken up into two, the torturers were
given the task of strict obedience and were forbidden to interrogate
or judge in any way--theirs is only to do what they are told to do.
Granted, the women were said to be too sadistic, so the witches
presumably are forbidden to torture . . . but can they interrogate?
Well, not directly at least, and they don't have any clients . . .

Traditionally, witches are involved with information gathering.
Crystal balls, magic cauldrons; Macbeth and witches of Endor stuff.
Jeff thought that the Windows of the Whorl pointed to similar casual
high tech devices for the witches--I said maybe but look out, those
"mirrors" are teleport devices.  Basically we decided that the witches
were something like the NSA, monitoring ftl/psionic communications,
watching for big movements against the Commonwealth.

Which brings us back to that table.  I still don't know.  If like
real witches, then maybe it is a form of divination, like
fortune-telling by cockroach observation.  It seems somewhat like a
scientist watching mice run a maze.  Since the witches don't show any
biotech ability, it seems less likely that these are homunculi that
they have created, yet that is a possibility.  Or it could be a
sacred window showing life-in-progress on another world, or in
another dimension.

The Miracle of Apu-Punchau, OTOH, was likely created by the good ship
Tzadkiel.  Yes, the tunnel corridors of the Old Citadel seem linked to
the corridors of of Time (as the Last House is) since Valeria has lived
her life outside of Time as we know it.  The Green Man does not know of
the New Sun since the New Sun is all he and his kind have ever known.
Jonas & Miles . . . ah, that's a complicated one I'll save for later,
or for others . . . or for later others . . . the option you mention
is the most comforting one (well, it was for me at least), but I'm afraid
the evidence points to something a bit more disturbing . . .

Well, enough for now.


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