Contradictory Human Nature

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In years to come, he would be a giver of bread, not a stealer—proof again of the contradictory human being. So much good, so much evil. Just add water.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Note: This book is narrated by Death. The plot occurs during WWII. It is a very good book, with both humorous and serious aspects.

Definition of a Witch

The word witch has many meanings in the United States, some good and some bad. The historic usage as a slur for people who practice earth-based religions or anyone practicing herbal medicine or midwifery, has resulted in unfortunate misunderstandings and excuses for senseless violence. For more information about the Pagan community and it’s use of the term ‘Witch’ see: Witches’ Vox, Starhawk, and History of Witch Burnings.

The following quote describes a very specific cultural perspective based on a definition that falls under the ‘bad witch’ category. It is not a reference to modern Paganism or the US history of witch burnings. It’s also a quote from a novel – only members of the Navajo nation could say, definitely, how accurate this information really is.

I went back and forth on these quotes and ultimately decided to post them because they are a wonderful example of the style used by this author and an excellent segment of descriptive color in a work of fiction. Also, I do not see anything racially or culturally offensive in the quote.

If there are problems in the presentation of the Navajo culture or additional issues surrounding the use of the word witch, then they are valid concerns and worthy of further discussion. If I am blind to a problem, I invite you to open my eyes. Feel free to add comments accordingly.

Quotes:

“And finally Chee had accumulated a general impression of Windy Tsossie. It was a negative impression. His kinsmen and his clansmen, when they admitted remembering him at all, remembered him without fondness or respect. They talked of him reluctantly, vaguely, uneasily. No one put it in words. Since Chee was Navajo, no one needed to. Windy Tsossie did not “go in beauty.” Windy Tsossie was not a good man. He did not follow those rules which Changing Woman had given the People. In a word, Windy Tsossie was believed by his kinsmen to be a witch.”

“To become a witch, to cross over from Navajo to Navajo Wolf, you have to break at least one of the most serious taboos. You have to commit incest, or you have to kill a close relative. But there’s another story, very old, pretty much lost, which explains how First Man became a witch. Because he was first, he didn’t have relatives to destroy. So he figured out a magic way to violate the strongest taboo of all. He destroyed himself and recreated himself, and that’s the way he got the powers of evil.”

People of Darkness (Navajo Mysteries Book 4) by Tony Hillerman

Appearance of Respectability

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“He looked like every Kiwanis member you’ve ever met: a big, doughy pillar of the community. A lot of those pillars are rotten inside, though. Believe me. I’ve seen “respectable” people do things that would shock Genghis Khan.”

The White Magic Five & Dime by Steve Hockensmith, Lisa Falco

Good and Bad Out There

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This quote is a good example of the creepy…not scary, but creepy…nature of this book. Some of these stories may stick with you in rather unsettling ways:

He had read books, newspapers, and magazines. He knew that if you ran away you sometimes met bad people who did bad things to you; but he had also read fairy tales, so he knew that there were kind people out there, side by side with the monsters.

M Is for Magic by Neil Gaiman

This collection of stories was inspired by children’s stories, fairy tales and the like. However, this is Neil Gaiman – the stories are excellent, but they are not for children.

Not Good, Not Nice, Just Right

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Last Midnight

“You’re so nice.
You’re not good, you’re not bad,
You’re just nice.
I’m not good, I’m not nice,
I’m just right.
I’m the witch.
You’re the world.
I’m the hitch, I’m what no one believes.
I’m the witch.”

Into The Woods, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine

True Sympathy

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One should sympathise with the entirety of life, not with life’s sores and maladies merely, but with life’s joy and beauty and energy and health and freedom.”

“Anybody can sympathise with the sufferings of a friend, but it requires a very fine nature—it requires, in fact, the nature of a true Individualist—to sympathise with a friend’s success.

“But it must be remembered that while sympathy with joy intensifies the sum of joy in the world, sympathy with pain does not really diminish the amount of pain.  It may make man better able to endure evil, but the evil remains.”

The Soul of Man Under Socialism by Oscar Wilde (Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wild)

Evil and Forgiveness

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I wonder if this is how it is with all evil men, that to someone, they look just like good men, talk like good men, are just as likable as good men.

Caleb told me that our mother said there was evil in everyone, and the first step to loving someone else is to recognize that evil in ourselves, so we can forgive them.

Allegiant (Divergent Trilogy, Book 3) by Veronica Roth