Before we begin ranking wizards according to how they relate to my gender fluidity and queerness, let us define The Wizard. For the purposes of this exercise, I’ve limited myself to a pretty stringent definition. There are a number of terms for magic users: magician, witch, warlock, enchantress(er), mage, magus, sorceress(er), necromancer — any number of specific cultural terms — but we are focusing here strictly on The Wizard. A wizard is first and foremost, by necessity, fictitious, or at least legendary. It’s not really a term that most people (of course you can find exceptions for anything) use to describe themselves in real life. Because a wizard is defined as being particularly skilled, though, someone who is especially adept at a certain skill set might be called a wizard, but in this case, it’s not synonymous with being a magic user (eg “Pinball Wizard”).
Nico’s Personal Taxonomy of Magic Users
Okay, so here’s my taxonomy, though yours may differ. A magician is the broadest of categories. Any magic user is a magician. This also has a corollary to real-life that I will get into more later.
A witch (here in the realm of fiction) also studies, but is distinct from a wizard and is NOT some kind of gendered variation of wizard. Wizards can be any gender, witches can be any gender, and for some reason warlocks are specifically “men,” so now we know what a warlock is, he’s a witch, but manly. Good for him.
The word witch, to me, comes with a great deal of history and cultural significance. There are relatively few real-life wizards, and their powers are often quite tied to the fantasy world they inhabit. Witches, on the other hand, when appearing in fiction, often are steeped in practices that intersect and draw from the natural world as well as regional cultural practices that go back quite far. It’s just a different flavor!
Enchantresses(ers) and Sorceresses(ers)
I’ve put enchanters and enchantresses into a group with sorcerers where I’m assuming, if they’re called this, then the root of wizard [from wys, or wise in Middle English] that implies study does not apply as strictly here. Often, in fantasy, a sorcerer type person is differentiated because their power is in some way inherited or achieved via utilizing an outside source. IE they’re either inherently magical and just know how to use their powers or they’ve obtained power by making a deal with a demon or somesuch. Elsa from Frozen is more of an enchantress, right? Because she is just blasting her ice powers every which way from childhood. Skeletor in He-Man is a sorcerer. He’s just a magic, muscley purple skull guy. I’ve never seen him read a book. Wizards have to read books.
A necromancer is a sub-type of any of the above and it refers specifically to being someone who works with the dead in any capacity.
A magus has a specific definition, and here’s why Prospero isn’t on this list — “In Renaissance culture a Magus is someone who understands the cosmos and man’s place within it.” We’re talking astrology, alchemy, tapping into “the divine” and also some “harder” sciences. Again, this is a specific situation here, and it is not quite a wizard one, as I do not believe there is a single wizard on this list who deals in Christian mysticism. In this way, a magus is a lot like a witch, but is, for historical reasons, specifically flavored with a real-world organized religion (and the name may vary from culture to culture; I’m just using magus as a header term here), but also is a person with an air of authority and social status that a witch may lack. For similar reasons, we exclude real-life historical figures like everyone’s favorite royal British necromancer John Dee (who also makes a lovely appearance in Derek Jarman’s Jubilee which is gay and streaming via The Criterion Collection). Therefore, I’m saying here that magi and other learned men dealing in specific real-life religious lore aren’t going to be wizards, who specifically study the texts and magical systems of whatever fantasy world they inhabit.
We get to mages — annoying category! I’m going to say, once again, that it’s a general magic user, like a magician. If we look at Tamora Pierce’s work, for example, there are often people in her books who are called mages. They typically have innate powers they learn to control and bring out through careful study and book learning — but not always, implying that their magic comes from some innate source.
The Authorial Intent Rule
FINALLY, if the author / creator / text / piece of media itself says that the character is a wizard, this supersedes any and all other criteria. If Diane Wynne Jones says someone’s a wizard, they are. If J.R.R. Tolkien wants to say that wizards are some kind of angel-like species, he used the word “wizard,” so it counts, and in fact, you might say he is one of the original fantasy authors to capture the vibe of a wizard because at the end of the day, it is also a vibe, which is why we are here.
I did not expect to write a mini-essay on what a wizard is and isn’t but you’re…welcome? Also, most of these wizards are masc and/or men (some of the men are not necessarily masc, just sayin’) and yes that is kinda why they feel like my gender, deal with it. Suffer. I don’t care.
Now, a short tale on my personal relationship to magic users. When I was about four years old, my parents took me to see a magician. We were in Canada. I now know that it was very clear he intentionally picked the youngest kids present to come up on stage, but at the time, I could not believe my luck. Someone in the crew helped me get up onto the stage, and I and someone I perceived at the time to be a little boy, followed the magician’s instructions to help him perform some tricks, mostly card tricks. At the end, he handed each of us a silverish coin. On the first side, was an image of him, bespectacled and wearing a bow-tie, with a devil standing on his shoulder and whispering into his ear. When I asked my grandma about the devils and what they were doing, she told me, “they’re telling him how to do magic.” Which is a straightforward and honest answer, but one which thrilled and terrified me from within my Catholic upbringing. The coin reads “The Conjurer” as well as 1909 for SOME UNKNOWN REASON. On the flipside, we have a bearded man, possibly with horns, in a skull cap. He glares mischievously and above him is a phrase I wouldn’t be able to translate for many years. It is “MUNDUS VULT DECIPI DECIPIATUR” and it translates to “The World Will Be Deceived.” Anyway, if anyone wanted me to feel NORMAL about masc magic users in bowties and glasses, they should not have given me this Devil Coin, but here we are today.
19. The Wizard of Oz, The Wizard of Oz
I mean, the world was deceived, but I just don’t see myself in this carpetbagger type. He’s deceptive, and my gender feelings might be as convoluted and layered as a ceremonial magic ritual, but it is not grounded in a long-running lie, you know? Would be at zero points if not for the fact that most of the time he presents as Just a Head. I also appreciate how literal he is and his commitment to the color green.
18. Gandalf the White, Tolkien
Really not my vibe, too elevated and sure of himself. The memory issues are definitely something that feel close to some of my issues stemming from trauma (now I’m like…did Tolkien do that on purpose? Does Gandalf the White have PTSD while simultaneously being a high functioning wizard?). HOWEVER, we aren’t here to talk about trauma, we’re here to talk about something approaching a gender, so he’s ranking lower.
17. Orko, He-Man
This little guy seems fun but is so incompetent I would try to BANISH him from my soul if I felt like I had any of this thing within me. Orko is the worst part of He-Man. Orko does, however, get queer points for simply refusing to have their body perceived.
16. Wizard from “Stargazer” by Rainbow
I don’t know, things are dark in this world. Literally. As Dio sings, “There’s no sun in the shadow of the wizard.” Peoples’ eyes are bleeding, we’re dehydrated, there seems to be some kind of exploitation going on here which is not very aligned with my queer personal politic. This is just not what I’m feeling, except for the fact that this wizard just has So Much Flare.
15. Evil Red Wizard, Flight of Dragons
I really, truly cannot remember what is happening in this movie, but this guy is GRUMPY and part demon or rhino or something. They feel like they belong right about here.
14. Ged, A Wizard of Earthsea
Having a big evil-shadow-unleashing oopsie because I was too ambitious seems like something akin to what is going on here inside of my mind-soul. Also can relate to running across the world, constantly fleeing from something that is attached to me.
13. Yoda, Star Wars
Technically a space wizard, Yoda is also grumpy, solitary, exacting, and gremlin-esque. We’re getting warmer (and swampier, more moist).
12. Ulrich of Cragganmore, Dragonslayer
Having your apprentice kill you and resurrect you later because you didn’t want to travel is a power move.
11. Merlyn, The Once and Future King
A serious yet almost psychedelic interpretation of a wizard, from what I can remember. There are definitely psychedelic elements to my gender.
10. “The Wizard” by Black Sabbath
Just keeps walking
Spreading his magic”
You will often find me going for long walks, sometimes for hours. These are great times to think and to feel and to get to the bottom of, well, you. I agree with this wizard and their methods.
9. This Wizard drawn by the illustrator of the Animorph’s series but for another book that I also got my sister art of that she immediately hung in her apartment.
I’ve never read this fantasy book, but the way this Wizard is just sitting around eating chips in my sister’s kitchen is reminiscent of me, also, sitting around eating chips in her kitchen.
8. Gandalf the Grey, Tolkien
Unlike Gandalf after he got a promotion, Gandalf the Grey has a little lightness in his wrists, a sashay in his stride, and a fondness for found family that make sense to me. I grew up with Gandalf, especially via the Rankin Bass animated Hobbit where he really was more beard than dude.
7. Merlin, The Sword in the Stone
This. Outfit. I regularly wear things that are VERY CLOSE to this outfit. Also, this captures my vibe after totally, absolutely destroying a sugar-free Monster (pun, confusion intended).
6. Pyat Pree, Game of Thrones
They’ve got pouty blue mouths, are generally antagonistic, live in a city but don’t want to go outside, are fey yet androgynous, and have a “Kill everyone now! Condone first degree murder! Advocate cannibalism! Eat shit! Filth is my politics! Filth is my life!” kind of queer sensibility that feels like home.
5. M. Rasmodius, Stardew Valley
Hear me out: this person is a wizard in a cowboy hat who lives in an absolutely ideal setting (this cozy farming sim) AND is someone who personally supported me in my gender journey at the point where I was trying out a new name — I feel like Magnus here and I might have more in common than not.
4. The Celestial Seasonings Mint Tea Wizard
This is NOT a drill. This wizard is minty fresh AND has a unicorn AND associations with a cult. This wizard seems at peace in who they are, in their place in the magical world, and with their choices to associate with a cult.
3. Gandalf Big Naturals, The Internet
Like Gandalf, but boobier and also created by an awesome queer artist. We’re approaching something closer to a conclusion, but a conclusion that will be as open ended as the most haunting short story endings.
2. Howl, Howl’s Moving Castle
You HAD TO KNOW it was coming. Come on. Howl is a maximalist when it comes to interior decor. I am a gender maximalist AND an interior decoration maximalist. This is perfect.
1. The Grand Wizard, The Worst Witch
Lots of queers, when they think of Tim Curry characters, are like “oh yeah Frankenfurter was highly influential,” but before I saw Frankenfurter, I saw Tim Curry as the Grand Wizard in The Worst Witch. You know, Howl’s all elegant and shit (when he’s not being an adult baby), but this is much more my [low-budget camp] speed. Unfortunately for everyone who isn’t me (I’m having a great time), this song and performance really capture my essence, especially and foremostly when I first wake up.
This video somehow distills the mood and production value of my early-stage art films as well as queer public access TV while being even more wizardly than should be possible.