Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Midweek cuckoos: modern witchcraft

Not a real update, this - just moving some stuff over from my Facebook profile.


I just want to say I've had it up to here with witches. Coming over here, cursing our livestock, tainting our wellsprings, and throwing boils about without a thought for the livelihoods of local disfigurement distributors. At first there were just a few around, and I've nothing against a bit of diversity in the preternatural arts. I shared a tower with a druid for a couple of years, and he was a decent fellow, though he covered the place with spittle when he was animating the spirits of the forest, and I got fed up with the wolves clawing the curtains. And that bloody raven, cawing away at all hours...

What I mean is that I've nothing against a bit of diversity, not at all. But that's the problem: there isn't any these days. Just witches, crones and hags as far as the eye can see, flogging potions for ha'pennies and taking jobs from perfectly good local soothsayers. You can barely walk to the village without passing a dozen of them, braying maniacally to the moon, licking toads and rolling their eyes. I know for a fact that Ambrosius the Florid has two whole families of them living in his dungeon with just a carpet of flayed human skin hanging between them.

As a warlock of considerable experience, I'm thoroughly fed up with the standing stones being full of naked cavorting and pagan ritual every bloody equinox. I wouldn't mind so much if there were a few sirens and succubi around, but no, just wrinkled harridans showing too much yellowing, leathery flesh. In my day they'd at least have covered up with a good robe. What's more, if you popped down the henge for a quiet hex, there was space for everybody to carry out their unholy rites as the spirits migrated across the ley lines. Nowadays the moment you manage to grab a spectre's attention with a nice blaze of brimstone it gets distracted by some cackling harpy flailing her arms like she's drowning. And that bint from cave thirteen will be drowning if she keeps picking all the poisoned mushrooms from my foetid swamp. I even sacrificed a perfectly good goat last week, and what did I get for it? Nothing. It was organic and everything – they don't come cheap these days now everyone's switching to sheep farming. Ever tried invoking a servant of the devil with a piebald lamb? There'll be limbs and entrails everywhere, and they won't all be from the sheep, let me tell you...

Where was I? Witches, that was it. Nothing but ruin for the dark arts, you mark my words. Just try making an appointment with a minor earl of pandaemonium. Go on, try – I'll bet you a two-headed chicken they're all out on call. Guess who to? Right. Witches. It's barely possible to hold a séance without getting an engaged tone on every half-decent historical figure. Some bugger even called up King Egbert the Partially Lit last week. Nobody's Oujied him since 1021, and even that was a wrong incantation. And as for incantations, I'm not kidding, some of these witches can barely rant in proper Latin. It's all gibberish chanting and possessed babbling and airy-fairy limb-waggling these days. Tell them to recite the Lord's prayer backwards and they'd probably ask which Lord you meant. Why would you even think of spellcasting around here if you can't read the grimoires properly?

Now, don't get me wrong - I'm not against witches full stop. Some of my best friends are witches. Mavis Hemlock from the tallest tree in the twisted forest can bubble up a mean cauldron of venom, and I've been to some quality ritual slayings round her way. But even so, they've got no sophistication, no sense of the culture and history of malignant sorcery. I tormented my apprentice with febrile dreams for three weeks while he weaved mystic symbols into the hem of my cloak, and for a while, it paid off. There were a few months when I cut quite a figure down the catacombs, even if I did keep getting my hat stuck in low archways. Now, though, with witches all over the bloody place, you can flash all the gold embroidery you like, but all anyone wants to talk about is the best way to get a good blood-stain into your torn rags.

All I want to say is that if that bunch of peasants from Splottenden hadn't burnt the ducking stool to get through last winter we'd be having none of these problems now. Oh, and don't get me started on the sodding peasants. First chance they get, it's burning, burning, burning. Assemble just one hideous and malignant creature from the corpses of their loved ones and before you know it some kid on the corner's making a mint selling pitchforks, and everyone's suddenly an expert on how to throw a flaming torch without the wind putting it out.

Sorry, what was it you wanted? Four newts and a mandrake root? That's be two groats, please.

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