The classic image of a wizard is an old man with a long white beard, flowing robes, and a pointy hat. This image is depicted in Harry Potter’s Dumbledore, Tolkien’s Gandalf, and most modern images in print and film. There are many different types of people who have historically said to practice magic. They also studied alchemy, astrology, herbology, occultism, and other arcane arts. Wizards are just one example. This page will include wizards, witches (not as practitioners of the Wiccan religion), sorcerers, mages, and occultists. Wizards are defined as males who are lore-masters of arcane and esoteric knowledge and practitioners of magic. Witches are female versions of the same. Sorcerors are similar but are usually associated with dark magic and call upon the powers of evil spirits to do their deeds. A mage is a person who is able to utilize the powers of nature to bring about transformations. Occultists are people who study and utilize occult or supernatural knowledge.
The practice of magic (not as in stage show illusionists) dates as far back as the African, South American, and Asian shamans and Greco-Roman times. It was also practiced widely in the Mediteranean basin and the Middle East in the first centuries BC. They became most popular in Medeival and Renaissance times as assistants to kings and researchers. Everyone has heard about Merlin the Magician from King Arthur legends. The Merlin we know today first appeared in 1135 AD as a synthesis of a British tale of the “wildman of the woods” and a fatherless baby named Ambrosious who made prophecies. He has morphed into a combination wizard and druid in modern cinema and books.
The most popular place to find wizards in present times is in fiction. Role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons are filled with magic spells, potions, and weaponry. Elminster was the wizard from Forgotten Realm’s many books. Similarly, there is much wizardry in the popular card game “Magic:The Gathering.” There are many books that tell tales of wizardry and magic. And of course, film is full of wizards as well. A personal favorite is “Wizards,” an animated tale by Ralph Bakshi. Emperor Palpatine , considered a sorceror, is balanced by Obiwan Kenobi’s white wizardry in the Star Wars movies.
People have believed in magic since the beginning of mankind. It is believed to be a strange force that drives the universe that only certain people could use, whether for good or bad.
“Waerloga” is the word from which the term “warlock” came from. When used in Christianity it refers to “he who strays from his oaths,” or “he who is a deceiver”, both of which make sense because, traditionally, warlocks are male witches that practice black magic, which is the term for “bad magic”. As implied by the translation, anyone who breaks their oaths to their religion would be considered a warlock, and likely punished for this crime.
The term “Wizard” however is synonymous with the two-word term “wise one”. Unlike warlocks, wizards are believed to practice white magic or good magic. In many, if not all legends and stories the wizard is usually helping the good guy.
Other names for those who practice magic include sorcerer and magician. More often than not the term sorcerer is incorrectly used to refer to someone who practices only black magic, when it is simply someone who practices magic In general. The term sorcerer comes from the word “sortarius” which means “he who casts fates” which implies the ability to see the future.