Diana and Aunty

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Although a figure whose primary function appears to be bringing death is an unlikely candidate for a fertility goddess, several of Aunty's characteristics make her similar to the type of goddess James Frazer describes most frequently by the name Diana, to the point of having as a mortal lover no one else than Eusa (not literally, but read on... EB). Although there are few customs in Riddley Walker that directly support this thesis, and some characters in the novel believe that Eusa and Aunty actually represent opposing forces, the evidence that is present, combined with the thematic element of the unification of opposed halves, provides reasonable grounds for this interpretation.

The biggest difference between Aunty and Diana is that the former has little or nothing to do with fertility, and is in fact hostile, whereas Diana is both fertile and beneficent. Aunty is so far from fertile that intercourse with her is a common metaphor for death in Riddley's society. Despite this formidable obstacle, she can still be reconciled with Diana. First, it must be noted that Diana was not associated only with fertility; she was also, as Frazer puts it, "a patroness of wild beasts, a mistress of woods and hills, of lonely glades and sounding rivers" and was "conceived as the moon, and especially, it would seem, as the yellow harvest moon"; in other words, a "goddess of nature in general" (Frazer, p. 163). In Riddley's society, nature is primarily hostile; pigs and cattle have been domesticated but dogs, the animal most often associated with Diana, are still hostile and viewed with great suspicion and fear. The story of "Why the Dog Wont Show Its Eyes" tells that after the "1 Big 1" was detonated "day beartht crookit out of crookit nite and sickness in them boath." It is not surprising that a "crookit nite" and hostile nature would cause a goddess strongly associated with night and the natural world to be imagined as hostile.

The fact that the Big 2 officers of the Mincery always have the same names suggests a pattern of sacred kingship; clearly, a raisable objection is that this would create two kings, which does not make very much sense if they both impersonate the same person. One response to this objection is that they impersonate the mythological pair, even though they are both male. The resulting system has the Pry Mincer representing Eusa, and the Wes Mincer (or "shadder mincer") merely serving Aunty. Orfing, explaining his role in the removal and death of Goodparley, says "theres hoap of a tree if its cut down yet itwl sprout agen .... it ben past down 1 shadder mincer to the nex". This suggests that, as the Pry Mincer embodies Eusa, the Wes Mincer, if not embodying Aunty, at least serves the nature goddess in the Big 2 pairing. BW

(There are two passages—Lorna's digression in "Why the Dog Wont Show Its Eyes," and Riddley's epiphany at Cambry in Chapter 15—where the same "she" is described in terms of birth, death, and night. But neither Lorna nor Riddley mentions the name "Aunty" at those times. Aunty is never spoken of with reverence, only as a sort of dirty joke about the necessity of death. EB)