Sunday, March 28, 2010

Magic R Us

Wizards, Sorcerers, Magicians, Warlocks: These are the males of the species Homo Spellcasterus. Please comment on how you use these terms in your own writing. If you’re not a fiction writer, feel free to give your opinions as well.

A magician, wizard, sorcerer or a person known under one of many other possible terms in fiction is someone who uses or practices magic that derives from supernatural or occult sources. Warlocks, who are normally the male counterpart of witches, tend to be portrayed as evil, perhaps because ‘war’ is part of their title, and who doesn’t hate ‘locks’?

Wizard: In medieval chivalric romance, the wizard often appears as a wise old man and acts as a mentor. Long, white beards and robes seem to be required for most wizards.

Wizard of Oz
Dumbledore and Harry Potter
Discworld has a plethora of wizards, many inept
Gandalf in Tolkien’s Middle Earth
DC Comics and Marvel Comics both have wizards
Dungeons and Dragons and similar role-playing games
and Mr. Wizard, the science guy before Bill Nye the Science Guy

Sorcerer: Often an alternate term for Wizard. Many of the above mentioned wizards are sometimes referred to as sorcerers (except Mr. Wizard), but there doesn’t seem to be much consistency in doing so.

Magician: This seems to be the catchall phrase for spellcasters, but also includes stage performers with sleight-of-hand tricks, showgirl sawing, and disappearing and reappearing showgirls and white tigers.

Warlock: In Medieval tradition, warlocks are male counterparts to witches. However, modern Wiccans consider the term pejorative.

In some role-playing games, warlocks are demon summoners. After obtaining said demon, they can control them, make them pets, change their litterbox, etc. This usage may stem from the derivation from the Old Norse varĂ°-lokkur meaning caller of spirits. However, the Oxford English Dictionary (the definitive source for all things magic) does not concur. The Oxford suggests the term warlock comes from warloke meaning to secure (a horse) as with a fetterlock. How this translates into a spellcaster, I have no idea.*

My Mashing Isn’t Very Up

I tend to use the standard definitions, although the Witches of Galdorheim series refers to male witches as warlocks. I see nothing pejorative about it. My apologies to any offended Wiccans.

* An excellent article "What is a Warlock?" gives an interesting take on warlocks


  1. I would also add Shaman to the list, a more ethnic style wizard/warlock!

  2. You're absolutely right, Horse Games. I did stick to the Euro-centric magic folks.

    I will look into a followup for other magic traditions, including shamans. I do have a shaman in Witches of Galdorheim's first book. Alas, he was an evil one.

  3. Hmmm. I wonder which game that could be.

    The warlocks fascinate me. Need to read more on them (when I have the time haha).