The Witcher‘s second season was released on Netflix towards the end of the last year, providing fans with eight new episodes full of new and returning characters, monster fights, political intrigue, and lore tidbits. Now that some time has passed, we’ve decided to revisit two particularly important entities that have come to clash with Henry Cavill’s Geralt of Rivia. Who is Voleth Meir, the mysterious “Deathless Mother”, and what is her relationship with the skeletal riders of the Wild Hunt?
In this article, we’ll recap everything the show and its showrunner have told us of these supernatural beings, as well as their role in the novels and in the upcoming Netflix prequel show The Witcher: Blood Origin.
Voleth Meir was created specifically for the show
In 1999, Andrzej Sapkowski published a novel titled Lady of the Lake, and that was set to be the final book of the Witcher Saga (another prequel novel would release 14 years later). In that novel, Sapkowski explored many of the themes introduced throughout the series, and finally revealed the true nature of one of the most mysterious recurring threats, the Wild Hunt. He did not, however, mention or even allude to a character going by the name of Voleth Meir, a title which translates to “Deathless Mother” in Elder Speech.
This character and many of second season’s pivotal moments were conjured in the Netflix writers’ room, when showrunner Lauren Hissrich and her team had to wrestle one of the greatest challenges posed by the novel Blood of Elves (which the second season adapted): not much actually happens.
Showrunner Lauren Hissrich explained the choice to add the mysterious and powerful Voleth Meir during the Netflix Unlocked aftershow:
“Why did we create a new monster? I have to say, Blood of Elves was terrifying to me in terms of adaptation,” she started. “This was a lot harder for me than Season 1 – and certainly much harder than what I know is coming down the pike – because this book is so much about character relationships and character development, but there’s not much of forward-propelling action. And I think the fans of The Witcher expect an active roller coaster for eight episodes.”
She continued: “So we started talking about how to introduce a season-long villain, not just the monsters that Geralt is fighting in every episode. And furthermore, we started talking about how this villain could start to tie Yennefer’s stories, Geralt’s story, Ciri’s story, without them all being on-screen together yet. So obviously, Voleth Meir comes in and out of all of their worlds, and then it collides in the finale.”
To sum it up, Blood of Elves required a bit of a tooling-up in order to meet fans expectations and add more action and tension to Season 2, as well as bridging together Yennefer’s story with Geralt and Ciri’s. With that out of the way, we’re ready to dive deep into the Voleth Meir lore presented in Season 2.
Voleth Meir is The Witcher‘s take on Baba Yaga
Voleth Meir is first introduced in a hovering house that appears to stand on basilisk legs. Fans with knowledge of Slavic mythology and folktales are likely to recognize this as a reference to Baba Yaga – the supernatural being (or trio of sisters of the same name), that appears as a deformed old woman who lives in a hut standing on chicken legs.
The hut is one of many comparisons that can be made between Baba Yaga and Voleth Meir. In Slavic mythology, the mysterious figure is equally likely to help or hinder a story’s protagonist, committing deeds as evil as eating children, but also guiding lost souls to that which their hearts desire.
Showrunner Lauren Hissrich addressed this comparison during the aforementioned Unlocked aftershow: “Voleth Meir, or Deathless Mother, is based on the mythology of Baba Yaga. And one of the reasons we chose Baba Yaga is because we discovered that she is a monster whose version is present in virtually every culture. One of the things we love about Sapkowski is that when he creates his stories, finding monsters, he draws from folk tales from all over the world. He was a traveling salesman, so when he started writing these stories he had different inspirations to draw from. So we always think about it when we create new monsters.”
My father used to scare us with stories about a witch in the woods, her home perched on basilisk legs. She would lure the children in to be boiled and eaten.Fringilla Vigo
Fans of the video game trilogy will also find comparisons between Voleth Meir and the the demonic entity which calls itself Gaunter O’Dimm or “Master Mirror”. The character who was created by game developer CD Projekt RED was known to create pacts with people, offering them whatever their hearts desire in exchange for their souls.
Similarities can also be drawn between the Deathless Mother and the three deformed witches called the Crones of Crookback Bog, who were also inspired by Baba Yaga. Though the show often chooses to distance itself from the games, it’s possible that the choice to add Voleth Meir was somewhat inspired by these characters as well.
The three faces of Voleth Meir
We first meet Voleth Meir in the second episode of Season 2, at an archaeological dig site uncovered by the elves in one of the Continent’s many ancient forests. The elves’ arrival at the dilapidated sanctum was no coincidence: they were, in fact, following their leader Francesca Findabair (Mecia Simson), who had recently been approached by “the White Robed One” in her dreams.
As they began excavating the ancient elven ruins, their scouts ran into a retreating unit of Nilfgaardians led by the sorceress Fringilla Vigo (Mimi M. Khayisa), as well as their prisoner Yennefer of Vengerberg (Anya Chalotra). Fringilla and Yennefer are then captured by the elves and brought before Francesca, who is ready to execute them.
Much like Francesca, Fringilla and Yennefer too were contacted by mysterious, robed beings in their dreams and it is that which saves them from certain death at the hand of the elves. In Fringilla’s dreams, she is contacted by a man in a black robe Yennefer, meanwhile, dreams of a woman in a red robe. These, and Francesca’s vision of the woman in the white robe, are the three faces of Voleth Meir – illusions cast by the demonic being to lure the sorceresses to her trap and, eventually, free her from her prison.
In my vision, I’m lost in a maze of dead bodies. Elves, stacked so high they shade the sun. Ithlinne guides me clear of the labyrinth, where I see the sun rise on a new elven kingdom.
“The White Robe hides their face,” Francesca tells Filavandrel and Gage before meeting Voleth Meir. “But I know it’s Ithlinne, our most sacred prophet, guiding us to safe-havens.” Francesca is convinced the entity that contacted her in her dreams is not a malignant presence, but a force of good intent, leading the elves out of an age of hunger, homelessness, infertility and discrimination and into a new age, where pure-blooded elves can once again be born. Voleth Meir contacts the elves during a grim and desperate time, quickly deceiving Francesca into believing that she will be their salvation. But, as Yennefer remarks during this episode: “Faith is a simple medicine for desperate souls.”
My guide’s not Ithlinne, it’s Emhyr. I can’t see him, he’s hooded. He just returned to Nilfgaard. He killed the Usurper. He saved me.
The path to true strength lies not in humble faith, but in believing in oneself and seizing one’s destiny.
Francesca isn’t the only one prone to Voleth Meir’s manipulations. Fringilla who is contacted by a man in a black robe believes him to be her enigmatic leader and savior-figure Emhyr, the Emperor of Nilfgaard. At the beginning of Season 2 and following her defeat at Sodden Hill, Fringilla is experiencing a momentary lapse of faith in her ability to serve her leader. It is then that Voleth Meir reaches out, offering Fringilla her leader’s forgiveness.
Last but not least is Yennefer, who has sensed that she is losing her control over Chaos, the force that drives magic in the Witcher Universe. In her early days a hunchback, Yennefer was powerless to the abuse of her family and fellow villagers, and it was only when she started to use magic that she took charge of her life and became the respectable, powerful sorceress that we’ve come to know.
After using up all her Chaos in a violent wave of fire that destroyed the Nilfgaardian army at Sodden Hill, Yennefer believes she had lost that which defines her and gives purpose to her life. And it is exactly that which Voleth Meir promises to grant her, should she choose to accept her terms.
Francesca, Fringilla and Yennefer are at the center of Voleth Meir’s machinations throughout Season 2. “We’ve dreamt of robed figures too,” Fringilla says, when she finally confronts Filavandrel. “Guiding us. Hers [Yennefer’s] is red, mine is black. If you free us, perhaps we can work together. Figure out their meaning.”
“You’ve been digging here for… how long?” Yennefer asks the elf. “Perhaps we’re the key.” And indeed, they are. Just as this conversation occurs, the elves unearth the shrine of the Deathless Mother in the ruins. Once the elves investigate, they bring Fringilla and Yennefer into the ruins, where the walls are etched with drawings of elves and Monoliths that Yennefer describes as runes of some sort, linked by Chaos.
Another etching depicts the arrival of monsters and the Conjunction of the Spheres. “The heavens roared and realms collided,” Fringilla says. “It’s survivors lost and forsaken in a new world.” This of course refers to the cataclysmic event many thousands of years before the series begins, where the worlds of elves, monsters, and men collided and birthed the Continent. The Monoliths played a role in this event, and so did Voleth Meir (more on that later).
Once Fringilla and Yennefer join Francesca at the main chamber of the ruins, they first see the three skeletons of Voleth Meir. Remember that Voleth Meir is inspired by Baba Yaga, who is sometimes depicted as three sisters. Voleth Meir reaches out to three powerful sorceresses in their moments of weakness, showing herself to each of them with a different robe. White, black, and red: these colors match those of the cloaks worn by the skeletons in Voleth Meir’s shrine. Of the three, only Yennefer is skeptical. She heads for the plaque underneath the skeletons and reads the engravings, written in a primitive form of Elder Speech.
Behold the mother of forests, the Deathless Mother nesting in dreams. Turn your back to the forest, hut, hut. Turn your front to me, hut, hut.
As they argue over the purpose of their dreams and the identity of the being that contacted them, the tomb unlocks and a passage is revealed, urging them forwards. After making their descent, they reach a misty forest where they find a hut with no doors. Francesca reads the incantation, and they lose consciousness, awakening in the hut and finally meeting Voleth Meir.
Each sorceress sees their version of Voleth Meir, an illusion chosen to manipulate them specifically. Yennefer and Fringilla are quite suspicious, and Voleth Meir teases them. In the process of the visions, Voleth Meir manages to convince Fringilla to make an alliance with Francesca and the elves, grants Francesca a child (the first pure-blood elf in many years), and plants the seed of Yennefer’s later decision to betray Geralt and Ciri. At the end of this confrontation, Voleth Meir reveals her true goal: to feed on her target host’s despair.
Yes, denial! A tasty garnish. I’m going to let you bake some more. I want your desperation crisp. You will beg me to take it from you. And I will.
Each of the three sorceresses is led astray by Voleth Meir’s promises, with all three of their journeys concluding in tragedy. Francesca’s child, the hope of the elves, is killed by a Nilfgaardian assassin. In her grief, and believing Redanian spies were behind the assassination, Francesca proceeds to murder human babies in Redania as an act of retaliation. Despair, suffering, and tragedy feeds Voleth Meir.
Fringilla, who believes she has redeemed herself over the loss at Sodden with her alliance with the elves, finds herself losing control. The elves aren’t what she hoped, and the Nilfgaardian generals attempt to oust her. In a moment of rage, she assassinates all the Nilfgaardian generals, believing she has secured her position butas she find out Emhyr has had his own spies among them all along. Fringilla’s and Cahir’s fall from grace is quick, and their fates remain uncertain. Despair, fear, and guilt feed Voleth Meir.
Yennefer, in her desperate pursuit to regain her lost powers, is manipulated into believing the only way forward is the sacrifice of her lovers most cherished possession, his adopted daughter Ciri. Yennefer’s betrayal blows up in her face, not a single step closer to regaining her powers, and having lost her only hope of having a real, loving family. Guilt, hatred, and desperation feed Voleth Meir.
By the season finale, the Deathless Mother has become so powerful that her doorless prison, the hut on basilisk legs, no longer binds her. She breaks free of her shackles and rushes towards the key to her salvation: Ciri.
Ciri and the witchers are at the center of Voleth Meir’s plans
Voleth Meir’s true plan becomes clear in the season finale after she takes possession of Ciri. For one, she seems to be quite vengeful towards the witchers, eager to slay as many of them as possible before leaving the Continent behind. This may not have been explained clearly in the finale, but one exchange between Ciri and Vesemir in the second episode seems to remove all doubt. The fight at Kaer Morhen was not the first time Voleth Meir has faced witchers.
In the second episode, as Ciri is examining a particularly interesting dagger with a bone-white hilt, Vesemir approaches. Pointing to the armor of a long-dead witcher stationed beside the dagger, Vesemir says. “Klef here was one of the first witchers, before my time.” When asked what happened to him, Vesemir tells an interesting story. “One of the oldest monsters, a demon long extinct, she wreaked havoc until the witchers bound her deep in the forest. That’s what she used to kill him. Some say she still calls to the unfortunate souls unlucky enough to cross her woods. Lures them in to devour them.”
One of the oldest monsters, a demon long extinct, she wreaked havoc until the witchers bound her deep in the forest.
Later in the season, it is the very same dagger that Voleth Meir uses to murder the witchers in their sleep. Voleth Meir’s massacre at Kaer Morhen was always part of the plan. It was the witchers who locked her in her hut for many centuries, and she would make them pay for it. But of course, Ciri’s role doesn’t end there.
Voleth Meir’s endgame has always been, from the very start, to escape the Continent. The hut was not her only prison: the entire Continent was her prison, one she was desperate to escape. This is why her story has been tied so closely to that of the Monoliths and the Conjunction of the Spheres. Voleth Meir wants to return to her people, who are lost in another sphere, another reality.
For many centuries, the demonic being had no way to do this, but now, an opportunity presented itself to her in the form of Ciri: a Child of the Elder Blood, the last of her line, prophesied to save or destroy the world. With Ciri’s Elder Blood and with the power of the Monoliths (including the one secretly hidden within the tree at Kaer Morhen), Voleth Meir could finally leave the Continent.
In the end, her thirst for vengeance almost prevented her from achieving her goal. Geralt devises a plan to diminish Voleth Meir’s influence by refusing their hatred, and Yennefer is able to consume the demon by slitting her own wrists and pulling Voleth Meir into her body like a tragedy magnet. This allows them to cast Voleth Meir into a portal to another dimension. For a brief moment, Yennefer, Geralt and Ciri are pulled into this other Sphere of reality, and it is there that we are properly introduced to one of the series’ most iconic villains: the Wild Hunt.
Voleth Meir is revealed to be a member of the Wild Hunt
When Yennefer, Geralt, and Ciri arrive at the post-apocalyptic wasteland, it’s unclear why this is the place Voleth Meir was desperate to reach. Is this some tier of hell? Is this the demon’s real home? As our three main characters examine the ruined world around them, Voleth Meir escapes from Yennefer’s body (through her cut wrists). Shaped like a fiery pillar of smoke, Voleth Meir speeds past them and towards an incoming army of skeletal warriors riding armored horses. These are the Red Riders, the Wraiths of Wraiths of Mörhogg, the Wild Hunt.
Voleth Meir reaches them, her cloud of smoke converging above one horse without a rider. And then, a new member of the Wild Hunt begins to form, as if conjured up by that smoke. A rider with long hair, and a skull-shaped helmet. This is Voleth Meir, finally among her people, finally home. With Voleth Meir at his side, the leader of the Wild Hunt Eredin charges towards Ciri.
Child of the Elder Blood, starry-eyed daughter of Chaos – join our Hunt. Your place is among us, you are ours.
Luckily, Ciri is able to use her powers to portal all three of them back to Kaer Morhen. There, they contemplate the true reason Voleth Meir wanted to capture Ciri. “She’s been here since the Conjunction. We knew that. We’ve always assumed she was from another Sphere. Those monoliths that you shatter, the ones that pull new species of monsters through every time you scream, those could be gateways to other Spheres.”
“My scream woke Voleth Meir,” Ciri realizes. “That’s why she wanted me.” Geralt nods. “She wanted to go home. You were the key to her future.”
What we can glean from this is that Voleth Meir has always been a member of the Wild Hunt. Despite the desolate Sphere they call home, Voleth Meir was willing to do everything within her power to return to them.
During Netflix’s Unlocked aftershow, showrunner Lauren Hissrich explained the writers’ decision to introduce the Wild Hunt at the end of Season 2. “The Wild Hunt is notoriously not introduced in the books until Time of Contempt, which is honestly my favorite book in the saga and I cannot wait to adapt it. But because the Wild Hunt is so familiar to so many of our fans – video game fans, honestly, The Witcher III – we started to plant the lore of the Wild Hunt as early as the pilot.”
She continues: “Eist actually refers to them as the Wraiths of Mörhogg, and we get the sense that they are this omen of war. In season two, Nivellen talks about how they precede doom. ‘A portent of doom,’ he says. So we wanted to make sure that, by the time we met them, we were thoroughly scared of them.
“So we started to play with the idea of ‘what are they?’ We know from the books that they are spectral, but we also know that by the time they interact with Ciri more, there’s a bit more tangibility to them. So that’s what we wanted to start playing with this season, this idea of these ghosts in the sky. Some people believe in them, some people don’t. They’re this urban legend, if you will.
And when they tease that Ciri belongs to them, what we’re hopefully going to lead viewers to believe is that there is a lot more history of Ciri herself. Her lineage, her bloodline, things that we know now that Calanthe has hidden from her, perhaps some connection to Lara Dorren that we have teased this season as well. So all of that is going to come out in the wash next season.”
What we end up doing at the end is that we learn that Voleth Meir is actually not just a demon, but she is a dark elf, she’s part of The Wild Hunt. And the entire season she’s wanted to go back home.
In Season 2’s behind-the-scenes featurette (available now on Netflix), Hissrich explains further. “What we end up doing at the end is that we learn that Voleth Meir is actually not just a demon, but she is a dark elf, she’s part of The Wild Hunt. And the entire season she’s wanted to go back home.”
Executive producer Tomek Baginski and the showrunner also discussed Voleth Meir and the Wild Hunt: “In Witcher lore, she’s an elven sorceress who was trapped between worlds. Almost 1500 years ago when the Conjunction of the Spheres happened other witchers trapped her in her hut with magic.
He continues: “The Wild Hunt, they are just elven warriors, who are trapped between times, trapped between worlds. They are traveling in the circle of time through the thousands of years, going back and forth trying to get out of this endless entrapment.” Book readers will know that the Wild Hunt believe Ciri is the key to breaking this cycle, and that’s why they need her.
With everything Hissrich and Baginski discussed, there’s a lot of show-specific lore surrounding these characters that was not revealed in season two and will be explored in future entries in Netflix’s Witcher Cinematic Universe. More specifically, we will see Eredin and almost certainly Voleth Meir as well in the upcoming prequel series: The Witcher: Blood Origin.
Voleth Meir and the Wild Hunt’s origin story will be explored in the upcoming prequel
The Witcher: Blood Origin is a six-part limited series set on the Continent thousands of years before Geralt, Yennefer and Ciri are born. The series will explore the state of the Continent before monsters and men arrived, as well as the events leading up to the Conjuction of the Spheres and the creation of the first proto-witcher. At first, it seems like the connective tissue between Blood Origin and the main series is slim, but there’s actually much more to it than some may realize.
As we reported many months ago, the prequel has cast Jacob Collins-Levy in the role of Eredin Bréacc Glas. Yes, this is the same Eredin who thousands of years later is seen leading the Wild Hunt and charging towards Ciri, but we will meet a much younger version of the character in Blood Origin. In fact, it is very likely that the prequel show will (among other things) serve as an origin story for the Wild Hunt.
Those who have read the books will know that the Wild Hunt, or as they call themselves the Red Riders, are in fact a group of estranged elves with the ability to briefly cross over to different Spheres. When they travel to another reality, a spectral aura follows them. This along with their skeletal armor makes them appear as undead, when in fact they are regular (if very ancient) elves.
In the books, all elves are descendants of one of two major factions: the Aen Elle and the Aen Seidhe. Both used to live in a world that was on the brink of destruction, and both escaped it, but they each arrived at a different destination. The Aen Seidhe arrived on the Continent and their descendants are the elves we see in the main Witcher series. The Aen Elle, however, arrived in another sphere populated by unicorns (yes, you heard that right) and humans.
Mirroring the fate that would late befall the Aen Seidhe on the Continent, the Aen Elle proceeeded to wipe out the humans in the new dimension. From the Unicorns, they gained access to powerful reality-bending magic, which their mages would later repurpose to empower the Red Riders. Over the centuries, these riders would travel to other realities to kidnap and enslave humans, which is how the legend of the Wild Hunt came to pass.
That’s what happens in the books, but we wouldn’t be surprised if the Wild Hunt’s origins are completely different in the show (even if their role in the main series is more or less the same). For one, the character of Voleth Meir is likely to be involved.
In the above tweet, showrunner Lauren Hissrich confirms two things we suspected: Firstly, Voleth Meir is one of the members of the Wild Hunt who was separated from her “family” when they were “sent away against their will”. This is likely related to the Conjunction of the Spheres. Secondly, the showrunner also confirms that this storyline will be further explored in The Witcher: Blood Origin. This makes it all but certain that Voleth Meir specifically will play a role in the prequel, and not just Eredin.
So with that in mind, is it possible that we have already seen her in the prequel’s teaser trailer? The answer is yes, it is definitely possible! We suspect that Voleth Meir is actually Zacaré (played by Lizzie Annis). A character code-named “Character Z” who was described as follows in her casting breakdown.
A mystical and earthly conduit with cerebral palsy. This incredibly powerful female becomes part of a motley crew on a quest for vengeance”.
As we see it, this description could certainly fit a young Voleth Meir. It’s also interesting to note that Zacare’s hair appears to be very similar to Voleth Meir’s (as seen above). With the prequel series slated for release later this year, we’re undoubtedly going to learn more about Zacaré in the coming months, so stay tuned.
If you enjoyed this article, make sure to read the Witcher Lore we’ve written after season one’s release, where we explored the show’s quasi-religious interpretation of Nilfgaard.