In many of the Discworld books focusing on wizards, it is often mentioned that only wizards can see octarine, which is the color* of magic. However, I cannot recall it being mentioned in any of the books that focus on witches that witches can see octarine. I suppose this could be because witches tend to be less flashy than wizards and don't need to go about telling everyone they can see colors that others cannot. But, given that wizards and witches have other unique things in common (for example, they are both visited by Death himself when they die), I would expect that they can both see octarine.

Is there any mention that witches also have the gift of seeing octarine?

* Alternatively "colour", for my friends across the pond.

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    "Diamanda waved a hand. There was a brief flash of octarine light. The door jerked shut. Diamanda smiled in what Perdita thought of as her cool, knowing way."
    – Valorum
    Jan 24, 2021 at 21:36
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    "Granny Weatherwax extended one long arm and at the end of it unfolded one long finger and from the tip of its curving nail there was a brief flare of octarine fire."
    – Valorum
    Jan 24, 2021 at 21:38
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    Is there any actual difference between what witches and wizards can do, or is it just a matter of style and culture? We see that Tiffany Aching could turn someone into a frog, but that is a vulgar, un-witchlike way of doing things. At least the members of the Weatherwax school prefer subtle magic and "headology". The whole matter with the Hiver shows that without any restraints, a powerful witch might do things that on the Disc would seem more characteristic of the most flashy wizards.
    – Adamant
    Jan 24, 2021 at 21:39
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    It’s the magic,” said Granny. “It’s trying to find a way out. The witch magic and the wizard magic are, I don’t know, sort of feeding off each other. I think.” Esk bit her lip. “What can I do?” she asked. “I dream of all sorts of things!” “Well, for a start we’re going straight to the University,” decided Granny. “They must be used to apprentices not being able to control magic and having hot dreams, else the place would have burned down years ago.” - Esk is, of course, a borderline case because of her heritage.
    – Valorum
    Jan 24, 2021 at 21:48
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    @SethMMorton - Indeed, and hence why I've not posted them as an answer to the question (and would downvote for nitpicky reasons, anyone who uses them as evidence to state that they can).
    – Valorum
    Jan 24, 2021 at 21:59

2 Answers 2


Tiffany sees a flash of what is almost certainly octarine in ,The Shepherd's Crown, in chapter nine:

There was a pregnant pause as the two eyed each other up - and Tiffany could have sworn she saw a quick flash of fluorescent light, greenish-yellow-purple - and then all was suddenly calm, as if there had been an agreement signed and sealed.

This greenish-yellow-purple light matches the description of octarine exactly - in The Colour of Magic it says:

It is said to be a sort of fluorescent greenish-yellow purple.

So it certainly appears that Tiffany, a witch, can see octarine.


Witches can certainly perceive high magical fields. This is referred to as "octarine vision" and any mage (magic user) has it, regardless of gender.

The Discworld RPG, developed in consultation with (and with the express approval of) Terry Pratchett contains this segment about "Octarine vision".


Magery, at any level [note that a full witch would have Magery Level 2, a trainee witch would have Magery Level 1] grants the ability to perceive magical energies by sight. Wizards often talk about this as the ability to see octarine. They say that it is granted by the presence of octagons as well as rods and cones among the cells of the eye. It is certainly true that magical adepts can see octarine, while other humans usually cannot, but witches, who work with subtler and less luminescent effects, rarely mention the subject; they just know that they see things that other people don’t.

Some even claim it’s just a matter of common sense and concentration. Whatever it is called, the ability certainly enables the possessor to perceive all sorts of supernatural phenomena, including beings with Psychic Invisibility. This sensitivity does seem to require a little training to be useful.

It also sometimes seems to be genetically inherited (although Disc heredity is complicated and self-distorting, or at least determined by personal background and very basic character traits. Thus, the wizardly line about the octagons may be a metaphor - or perhaps they grow as the result of training.

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    That's one way of reading the line, but to me it sounds more like witches work with less flashy magic and tend to be reserved when they talk about it. The line about seeing things that other people do not, and the fact that they have magery levels that mechanically allow for seeing octarine, almost seem to explicitly state that they can see it. I mean "It is certainly true that magical adepts can see octarine" sounds like it explicitly includes anyone who does magic -- including witches -- but the latter just do not talk about it much.
    – Adamant
    Jan 24, 2021 at 22:53
  • Wizards are born though (8th son of an 8th son), and should be able to see octarine whether they've been trained or not.
    – OrangeDog
    Jan 26, 2021 at 22:40
  • @OrangeDog Isn't the 8th son of an 8th son is a Sourcerer, not a Wizard? Jan 26, 2021 at 22:50
  • @SethMMorton that's the 8th son of an 8th son of an 8th son, which is why wizards aren't allowed to marry.
    – OrangeDog
    Jan 26, 2021 at 22:51
  • @Adamant - I've gone back over the RPG rules and you're not wrong. it expressly states that anyone with magery Level 1 or above has "Octarine Vision".
    – Valorum
    Jan 27, 2021 at 0:51

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