We were given our first glimpse of the witches in His Dark Materials in episode four, when we were introduced to the witch consul and Kaisa, the dæmon of clan queen Serafina Pekkala – and in episode five we went one better by meeting Serafina herself.
The witches are another extremely important group of characters in Pullman’s trilogy and they are likely to play an increasingly crucial role in aiding our heroes.
So, who are the witches in His Dark Materials?
Well, the witches are not actually one homogenous group – there are numerous clans of them who are often found warring with each other, with some even working for the magisterium. At the most basic level, though, witches are magical humanoid creatures who live in the far North of Lyra’s world, and are always female.
The witches have many abilities which mark them out as different to humans; they can fly using branches of cloud-pine, they have some control over the weather and they are able to heal faster than us.
They’re also renowned for their exceptional marksmanship, unrivalled sense of direction and ability to become almost completely invisible, and they stay young for their entire life-span – which tends to be much longer than that of a human.
On that evidence, being a witch doesn’t seem like such a bad deal…
What are witches’ dæmons like?
Just like human characters in Lyra’s world, every witch has a dæmon, but there are a couple of important distinctions. First of all, without exception the dæemon of a witch is always a bird. And secondly, a witches dæmon is able to travel quite far from the witch – something which can prove very handy indeed.
In addition to a dæmon, a witch clan queen also wears a crown that reflects her personality – which the queen has crafted herself.
What is the difference between witch clans?
This is something which will become much more apparent as the series progresses, but for now all you really need to know as that the different clans exist – and that they are not always on friendly terms.
His Dark Materials airs on BBC One on Sundays at 8pm