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Can A Wizard Be Female?

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Ruby, Jun 6, 2016.

  1. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    I would say 'redundant.' Unless you have a complex magical system, 'magician' and 'wizard' are different words for the same thing. You could probably also toss 'sorcerer' and 'mage' into the mix.
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  2. Creed

    Creed Sage

    I'm glad Devor brought up the etymology.

    Wizard: late Middle English (in the sense ‘philosopher, sage’): from wise + -ard.

    Warlock: Old English wǣrloga ‘traitor, scoundrel, monster,’ also ‘the Devil,’ from wǣr ‘covenant’ + an element related to lēogan ‘belie, deny.’ From its application to the Devil, the word was transferred in Middle English to a person in league with the devil, and hence a sorcerer. (Super cool etymology btw)

    Witch: Old English wicca (masculine), wicce (feminine), wiccian (verb); current senses of the verb are probably a shortening of bewitch.

    Completely different roots. I wouldn't mind 'wizard' at all, regardless, and it's not necessarily a bad thing if she breaks the wizard mold, in fact it could be a very good thing! Technically, the only requirement is that she be/come wise.
    S.T. Ockenner, WooHooMan and Devor like this.
  3. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    No. I'm not sure what is your distinction between the two words, but your original question was specific to wizard because that word tends to connote a male. "Magician" otoh, is pretty much gender neutral.

    But even if magicians in your world are usually male, my advice would still apply. Establish the character as female first, then let the reader know she is a wizard and a magician. After that, it's all about the reactions from other characters. They might be amazed, outraged, fearful, or they might merely shrug and move on. It depends on how you want to play it.

    But if you say "wizard" first and only later say AND she's a girl! -- that's when you make it a problem for your reader.
    S.T. Ockenner and Ruby like this.
  4. Russ

    Russ Istar

    I am not sure about that.

    To me a magician is someone who performs tricks through slight of hand etc, but all within the realm of what we know with the normal laws of our day to day lives.

    A wizard, to me, is someone who is actually causing effects that go beyond what we understand to be the laws of nature.

    I think you could use both terms, and be both things, if you think about them in that way.
    Ruby likes this.
  5. Miskatonic

    Miskatonic Auror

    Sorceress always had a nice ring to it.
  6. Laurence

    Laurence Inkling

    I think the witch/wizard route in Harry Potter worked really well for the purpose of having an extra range of descriptors.


    The female wizards went to one end of the corridor and the male wizards, the other.

    The witches went to one end of the corridor and the wizards, the other.
  7. TheKillerBs

    TheKillerBs Inkling

    You can use boys and girls, men and women, or guys and gals to the exact same effect without limiting the words wizard and witch to a given sex.
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  8. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

    In my world, I use "wizard" to mean a certain level of magical study, and "mage" to denote a higher achievement in the magical arts. So, both words are used for persons of either gender who achieve that "ranking" and there isn't a difference between how a person would apply that title. "Mary was a third-tier elemental mage, but John was only a wizard of the elemental sphere".

    Also, I use "witch" entirely differently. A witch in my world is in reference to the sort of earthy spell-casting that is similar to modern practicing pagans, but with more tangible results. So, they can brew potions and cast love spells and wards, but they can't shoot fire from their eyes or something.

    I guess I use words like wizard and mage as titles, like Dr. or whatever. It's a title bestowed by a mage council, and if a person has the ability to use magic, but they don't go to school and prove them self... well, they're nothing. Just a guy who can do some magic. No title for that. You gotta earn your little letters, like folks who earn a doctorate.
    S.T. Ockenner and Ruby like this.
  9. Alexius

    Alexius Acolyte

    They don't "have" to look like anything anyone would expect. The possibilities are endless.
    S.T. Ockenner and Ruby like this.
  10. Jinxed Joker

    Jinxed Joker Acolyte

    It sounds like everyone is basically saying the same thing here: it all depends on how you’ve built your magical system.

    World building is really most important here, as the “rules” that govern your world also govern your titles. As long as the reader understands your magical hierarchy - you can use virtually any title you chose! The freedom of fantasy is that it is OUTSIDE the rules we struggle with on earth!

    So - manage your concepts, flesh out your hierarchy of title holders and engage inside your world! Helping your readers break the boundaries of their own understanding of words is your true challenge here. Give your reader the concrete rule for your hierarchy and -voila- Webster no longer limits you!

    Be bold! Be brave! Be Fantastic!
    S.T. Ockenner and Ruby like this.
  11. writeshiek33

    writeshiek33 Sage

    For me i think both male and female can be wizards depending on the world you creating. creed mention the old english definitions so it can be depending how the world sees the term.
  12. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    I agree that the term can be applied to either males or females. Can't think of a good reason why not--the average fantasy reader will go along with the usage without batting an eye, in my view.
    Ruby and S.T. Ockenner like this.
  13. pmmg

    pmmg Auror

    I don't see a reader being phased by either term as well. Though all of those words, Wizard, Magi, Sorcerer all kind of flow from the same root to mean wise man or some such. I think if I was a female type and a spell user, I would like Wizardess ;) I think witch kind of covers all things female in spell casting circles.

    This is an old thread though, I would hope they are not still on this question.
  14. Miles Lacey

    Miles Lacey Inkling

    As long as the writer is consistent on such matters it doesn't matter if they portray a wizard as male or female.
    Ruby and S.T. Ockenner like this.
  15. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

    I'm going to approach this different since it seems like everyone in this thread is on the same page.

    Wizard can be a character archetype that is, by default, male. Not just male but an elderly man (often with a beard). We kind of just have to accept that many stock characters have a gender attached to them. Wise sages, evil clowns and hard-broiled detectives are usually male (unless it's an intentional subversion) while valley girls, cat ladies and femme fatales are nearly always female (subversions aside).

    When you use the word "wizard", you automatically set an expectation to the reader. Whether or not you follow their expectation is up to you. There's no inherent value or merit to subverting or following an expectation.

    Sorcerer and Sorceress both sound really cool.
    Warlock and witch have some edge to it as well.
    Mage, magician, wizards...those sound like nerds by comparison.
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  16. Miles Lacey

    Miles Lacey Inkling

    Most fantasy writing is based on conventions established by Dungeons & Dragons and the writings of J R R Tolkien. They both largely ignored women except as objects of veneration, large breasted sword wielding butt kickers or (usually evil) witches. Thus, is it any wonder that the notion that only men can be wizards has become almost holy writ in fantasy?

    Female wizards may go against what many readers expect when they read fantasy but fantasy writers need to stop allowing themselves to be led by the nose by what they perceive to be the readers' expectations. A lot of readers stop reading fantasy because it has become so predictable and formulaic thanks to the puritans of fantasy who think that fantasy must conform to certain arbitrarily dictated conventions of the genre.

    As an aside, a femme fatale is a description of a particular type of woman. Translated from the French it means "fatal wife". That's why only a woman can be a femme fatale. The term "wizard" is a hereditary or job title conferred upon certain practitioners of magic. Thus, there is no reason why a woman can't be a wizard.
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  17. S.T. Ockenner

    S.T. Ockenner Auror

    Nope- wizards don't have genders, silly. They're too magical for gender.
    Ruby likes this.
  18. Ruby

    Ruby Auror

    Btw I’m still writing this book. There are female wizards and magicians in it, depending on their seniority and degree of magical ability. Thanks for all your input!
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  19. yes.
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  20. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    This is a necroed thread and all. But I figured I'd follow up on this old comment of mine just enough to say that wizardess is also a word. Again, none of it would faze me. I think most readers go into a story with the mind of, "So how does this fantasy system work?" I think very few people would get caught up on these terms, unless perhaps you're story is extra-heavy on the magic types (which only works when you use a lot of the familiar to avoid overloading readers).
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.

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