With Netflix’s The Witcher currently streaming on Netflix, there are plenty of important terms that need to be explained. From the Law of Surprise to the Trial of the Grasses, we thought we’d put together a quick list of some common terms, all straight from the books the show is based on.Be sure to check out all of our Witcher Season 1 reviews and ending explained if you've finished your binge!Read on for all the Witcher terminology you'll need to know while you binge.
What Is the Law of Surprise?
If you've seen The Witcher episode 4, you might need this explained: The Law of Surprise is an ancient custom stating that, upon performing an important (often life-saving) task for another, the savior can make a vague, riddle-esque request for something the recipient possesses but doesn't know about. For example, "what you find at home yet don't expect," or "the first thing that comes to greet you when you return home."It’s speculated at one point that, as a child, Geralt himself was taken by the Witchers this way. The reward is frequently a child, and indeed, the same law is invoked by Geralt upon saving a young Emhyr var Emreis, father of Ciri. Hence, Ciri became Geralt’s ward.
“…the Law of Surprise, as old as humanity itself. Of the price a man who saves another can demand, of the granting of an impossible wish…” – The Last Wish
The Conjunction of the Spheres
Occurring around 1500 hundred years before the events of the novels, the Conjunction of
plot convenience the Spheres was a big ol’ cataclysm that smushed the multiverses together, resulting in magic, monsters, and most of the other unexplainable fantasy stuff in the Witcher’s setting.
“Do you know that other worlds, different from ours, exist, which the Conjunction of the Spheres cut off access to? Universes, called elemental and para-elemental planes. Inhabited by creatures called demons?” – Degerlund, Season of Storms
Watch The Witcher's Yennefer and Ciri react to creepy Witcher monsters above!
Elder Blood (“Aen Hen Ichaer” in elvish) refers to the elven sorceress Lara Dorren’s bloodline, of which Ciri is a descendant. Those who carry Elder Blood in their veins are thought to be special, as it carries with it a font of strong magical ability that’s believed by some to be gone from the world.
“The Elder Blood, the Icy Flame of the North, the Destroyer and Restorer, whose coming was prophesied centuries ago. Ciri of Cintra, the Queen of the North. And her blood, from which will be born the Queen of the World.” – Phillipa Eilhart, Baptism of Fire.
Trial of Grasses
Sorcerers created the trials that turned men into mutated Wichers like Geralt, though the ancient method has largely been lost over time. Called the Trial of Grasses, this is a painful and regularly fatal mutation process which gives Witchers their supernatural abilities through the infusion of herbs, chemicals and magic.
“The ash-blonde girl who, here in Kaer Morhen, they want to turn into a Witcher. A real Witcher. A mutant. A killing machine, like themselves” – Triss Merigold, The Blood of Elves
The most important… Witchers, of which our hero Geralt is one, are alchemically enhanced humans with incredible speed and strength, heightened senses, accelerated healing, and an extended lifespan. Witchers make their living as supernatural mercenaries and monster hunters. They also look great taking a bath. They’re basically like the Marvel mutants of this world. Think medieval Wolverine, but with swords instead of claws.
“What times,” signed the castellan. “What foul times! Twenty years ago who would have thought, even in a drunken stupor, that such a profession as witcher would exist?” – The Last Wish
A Source is an individual with a natural affinity for magics. As much a burden as a blessing, these powers can result in accidental catastrophe or manifest as mental illness if not properly harnessed. Although the time where wizards would hunt and abduct Sources is long gone, there is still fear surrounding those with magical abilities. Basically, in The Witcher magic is rare and dangerous.It’s worth noting that the magic originating from Sources is much more complicated than the “sign” magic used by Witchers. Signs, which are simple magic spells, require minimal power and can be used by anyone with the proper training.
“Ciri is a Source and has mediumistic powers. What is more, these powers are very, very worrying. And you, my dear witchers, are perfectly well aware of this.” – Triss to Vesemir, Blood of Elves
Watch our trailer breakdown for Netflix's The Witcher above.
A Witcher uses potions and elixirs to enhance and sharpen his abilities, allowing him to have clearer vision in the dark, hearing that’s “sharpened beyond measure,” and to become incredibly stealthy. This dramatically changes his appearance, making his eyes black and face sheet white, as you can see at the end of the trailer for the Netflix show.
“The mixture which helped the Witcher gain full control of his body was chiefly made up of veratrum, stramonium, hawthorn and spurge. The other ingredients had no name in any human language. For anyone who was not, like Geralt, inured to it from childhood, it would have been lethal poison.” – The Last Wish
In Slavic folklore, the Strzyga is a female, vampiric demon, sometimes believed to take the form of an owl in order to attack and eat travelers. In the short story “The Witcher” from The Last Wish collection, King Foltest’s daughter is cursed at birth, dies, is buried, and arises seven years later as a sharp-toothed beast who emerges at night to snack on various hapless folk. After a tussle which includes knocking out a lord from Novigrad to use as bait, Geralt eventually defeats the Striga and returns her to human form.
“The infant had grown in the coffin – and how! – grown to have incredible teeth! In a word, she became a striga.” – The Last Wish
A powerful female vampire with the ability to change into a giant bat, with screams so powerful they can break through Geralt’s sign magic. “Bruxa” is Portuguese for “Witch.”
“From behind the pale lips glistened white, spiky fangs. The vampire jumped up, arched her back like a leopard and screamed.” – The Last Wish
Watch Henry Cavill discuss playing The Witcher in the video above.
This is a goat-like devil (or “deoval”), based on pagan depictions of Pan, that Geralt meets in “The Edge of the World” from The Last Wish. These are generally not much of a threat, unless you happen to be livestock or fowl.
The Kikimora are nasty, spider-like creatures. Geralt tries to sell off a Kikimora’s corpse to the Alderman of Blaviken in “The Lesser Evil” from The Last Wish. There’s little interest in the corpse, as the Kikimora isn’t particularly useful for elixirs, but the events that start with the Witcher just trying to make an honest coin selling the beast end up with Geralt being dubbed “The Butcher of Blaviken.”
“Caldemeyn shifted from foot to foot, looking at the spidery shape with its dry black skin, the glassy eye with its vertical pupil, the needle-like fangs in the bloody jaws.” – The Last Wish
So there you have it: Some basic terms to get you started with Netflix’s Witcher. Did we miss any important ones? Let’s discuss in the comments!