The Russian translator of Tender Morsels
and I have been in conference—hi, Nadia! She wanted to know what a mudwife is:
First I looked into every dictionary possible and searched the web all over, but then read half a dozen interviews with you as well as a number of articles on TM and other pieces ("The Goosle", in particular) and Muddy Annie's profile became quite clear. Still, I would like you to clarify this word a bit more. Could you please explain what's the difference between a mudwife and an ordinary witch? What is special about her? Must a mudwitch necessarily be old and muddy/dirty and her deeds (mudwifery) considered by folks dirty as well? I'm fussing over this term just for the purpose of right choice of word from the variety of Russian synonyms (witches are all-time favorites in the Russian folklore, you know :) )
The idea of the mudwife is a mispronunciation/corruption of 'midwife', as the two occupations have often been very closely aligned. Mudwives don't have to be muddy, no, but people are afraid of their power, and tend to be contemptuous of them when they're not actually making use of their powers (e.g. calling on them to help with a birth or a love affair), so unless they have strong personalities, luck and/or good training, like Miss Dance, they are likely to be poor, outcast and likely none too clean! The poorer witches also smell strange, from the herbs and substances they deal in, and the general lack of laundering.
Just in case anyone else was wondering.