19 Wizards Ranked by How Well They Match My Gender Feelings

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

Magicians

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.

Witches

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.

Necromancer

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.

Magi

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.

Mages

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.

the coin described in the paragraph above with the magician on one side in glasses and a bowtie with a devil whispering in his ear, and on the other side is a magician type in a skullcap and horns.

A perfect gift for a four-year-old.


19. The Wizard of Oz, The Wizard of Oz

a screen cap of the wizard of oz himself as a giant floating green projected head with lots of smoke

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

a screen cap of gandalf the white fighting in the lord of the rings live action movies

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

an image of Orko who wears a red hat and robe and purple scarf. his blue hands and ears are the only body parts visible and his glowing yellow eyes peer out from darkness

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

the album cover of stargazer by rainbow. it shows a wizard standing on a mountain and some blasting business behind him as well as this giant monster

I mean, look at this. Metal as fuck.

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

a purple wizard wearing a studded red outfit and cap reaches out toward the viewer. he has sharp nails and evil orange eyes and sharp teeth

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

the cover of a wizard of earthsea showing a young, Black man in a robe fighting a shadow being

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

a screencap from the empire strikes back movie with yoda, a weird little green hairy alien thing, gripping onto luke skywalker's back and riding him around. luke looks sweaty and beleaguered.

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

an old white guy wizard in a white outfit gestures while lightning strikes behind him

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

the cover of the once and future king - it does not have a wizard on it but does have a sword

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

the cover of black sabbath's the wizard. it has a mysterious man standing in a rural field by a farmhouse looking creepy

“​​Never talking
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.

a photo of a piece of wizard art on my sister's wall that depicts a wizard in a brown robe with long white beard sitting in a city apartment kitchen holding a beer with chips spilled at the bottom of his feet

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

a still from the rankin bass animated hobbit with gandalf and bilbo sitting at table. gandalf has no hat and is holding a pipe

We are all about the hair here.

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

a screen shot of merlin in disney's the sword and the stone dancing around in his vacation outfit which is a red baseball cap, rainbow tee shirt, florida shorts, and converse sneakers. he is giddily dancing

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

pyat pree an evil wizard in game of thrones looks at the camera and has blue, sunken eyes and blue-stained lips

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

a shot of rasmodius from stardew valley who is a pixelated character. he has purple hair and a beard and pale skin and is wearing a black cowboy hat

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

a photo of the celestial seasonings mint magic box. it has a wizard in a red robe with giant white beard levitating a goblet on it. a unicorn cozies up next to him. there is a lush landscape in the background.

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

an image of gandalf with big ta-ta's photoshopped onto him

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.

a screencap of howl lying depressively on a brocade pillow. he is an anime guy with dark hair and an earring

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.

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Nico

Nico Hall is Autostraddle's and For Them's Membership Editorial and Ops Dude, and has been working in membership and the arts for over a decade. They write nonfiction both creative and the more straightforward variety, too, as well as fiction. They are currently at work on a secret project. Nico is also haunted. You can find them on Twitter and Instagram. Here's their website, too.

Nico has written 227 articles for us.

32 Comments

  1. The overall list is fantastic, but I was most delighted to see Rankin Bass animated Hobbit recognition! Really brings up the nostalgia, I need to rewatch. And it’s great that some form of Gandalf makes this list 3 times 😂

  2. Howl’s absolutely no. 1 on my personal list. Vacillates wildly and unpredictably between being calm, cool, collected and a total drama queen. Turns into a monster of darkness and slime when mildly inconvenienced. Intimidated by powerful, composed women with impressive posture. True form might be a giant bird demon. Likes fire and weird housing design. Lurks on the distant moors. Antisocial enough that rumors spread about being heartless. Makes pacts with demons. Takes long baths. Needs hair dyed a certain shade to function. Builds a tunnel lair of weird objects and toys. Makes and then regrets agreements. And if it doesn’t make sense how all those attributes are tied to the experience of gender, I’m sorry but that’s the best I can do.

  3. Ooh, good point! I think he’s technically just a goblin king, but as a wizard gender, I would characterize Jareth as a perfect Howl/Tim Curry blend. Plus, it’s Bowie! Bowie is nothing if not magical genderfuckery. So basically, I agree and will sign any and all petitions for his honorary inclusion

  4. This list is missing one of the most gender wizards of all time: Wizardmon from the Digimon series. That character has such sopping wet little guy energy and he tries so hard all the time.

  5. a related article: tamora pierce characters ranked by how well they match my gender feelings. you don’t give a baby butch the protector of the small books without a lasting impact !

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