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His Dark Materials: How can witches stay away from their daemons?

How are witches able to be so far away from their daemons? (Picture: BBC)

Warning: spoilers ahead for His Dark Materials season 2 episode 2.

In the second episode of season 2 of His Dark Materials, we discovered more about the exploration of separation between human beings and their daemons, and how witches are able to stay further away from their daemons without it causing them any pain.

In the world of protagonist Lyra Belacqua (Dafne Keen) in His Dark Materials, all human beings have an external daemon, a physical manifestation of a person’s inner self in the form of an animal, which remains close to them at all times.

When a human being is a child, the form of their daemon can constantly change. However, when they reach puberty, their daemon settles permanently in one animal form, providing a more solid indication as to the kind of person they are.

Servants, for example, often have daemons in the form of a dog, demonstrating their innate subservience, while the daemon of Lord Asriel (James McAvoy) is a snow leopard, which emphasises his powerful and commanding presence.

In the first season of His Dark Materials, we learnt about the General Oblation Board’s aim to separate children from their daemons before they reached the settling stage, through a process called intersicion.

While this act is viewed as utterly heinous by Lyra and countless others, as it means permanently separating humans from their daemons, it is not the only act of separation between people and their daemons that occurs in her world, as we came to learn in the latest episode of the BBC show.

Witches Serafina Pekkala (Ruta Gedmintas) and Ruta Skadi (Jade Anouka) in His Dark Materials

Witches Serafina Pekkala (Ruta Gedmintas) and Ruta Skadi (Jade Anouka) face off against each other in season 2 (Picture: BBC/© Bad Wolf/HBO)

In episode 2 of the new series, we witness Dr Martin Lanselius (Omid Djalili) speak to the Magisterium about the separation ritual all witches go through as young girls.

Dr Lanselius, the diplomatic consul of the witches of the North, explains that going through this ritual separation allows witches to remain further away from their daemons than human beings, while still remaining connected to their daemons.

Intersicion, on the other hand, means cutting away this connection completely.

Intersicion also puts human beings at risk of becoming shadows of their former selves. That is, if they survive the torturous procedure.

In the third book in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, The Amber Spyglass, it outlines that witches voluntarily take part in a separation ceremony with their daemons at a special location, described in the tale as a ‘desolate, abominable place’.

Once witches cross the region without their daemons as young girls, despite the suffering they endure from being separated from them, afterwards they are able to remain further away from their daemons than before, while maintaining their bond.

His Dark Materials returns on Sunday evening at 8.10pm on BBC One.

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