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Robert Tamayo

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Common Wizard Characteristics

I was recently considering the ridiculousness of the wizard's wand while watching Harry Potter. It's not Rowling's interpretation of the wand I find odd - it's the use of a small stick for magic. Why? It got me thinking about the origins of common wizard characteristics. I know nothing of the actual origins of these tropes; these are just my guesses.

The Wand


The wand's only real-world application, assuming they lack the capacity for sorcery, would be to point something out. The wand would be used for purposes of instruction. I imagine they were used by professors to point out items on chalk board or in labs. It's curious how the appearance of the lightsaber in Star Wars - the "wand" of choice for the wizards of an advanced civilization - preceded the appearance of the laser pointer that is in use by professors today.

The Robes


Professors and school people really love robes. They are also seen on clergymen. Both academic and religious robes are associated with intelligence, as both groups of people were typically highly educated and knowledgeable in their domains.

The Beards


Wisdom comes with age, and with age comes the slackening of grooming habits and the graying of the facial hair. The beard is obvious. The beard is an easy way to convey age, and most wizards are old. They are men who have dwelled in seclusion and devoted themselves entirely to their studies for decades, if not centuries.

The Symbols


Wizards come decorated in weird symbols. This isn't true of all wizards - Gandalf is an obvious exception, and he's quite possibly the best wizard. But many other wizards are often decorated with stars, moons, and strange glyphs. I'm assuming this has its origin in alchemy; an outsider looking on the writings of an alchemist would find the symbols striking.

The Color Purple


Violet often accompanies wizardry. Purple is the most naturally mysterious color, and for a good reason: it lies exactly at the edge of the visible spectrum of light. Anything beyond it is ultraviolet. All things associated with the color purple are instinctively understood to be near the edge of human comprehension. As wizards deal in arts beyond the average person's mental capacity, they are easily connected with violet. Ideally, wizards would wear ultraviolet robes, since that is the best way to express the idea that their dealings are with the unknown and their meetings are in the beyond. It may in fact be the case that wizard robes are ultraviolet to other wizards - we just can't see them.


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