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The Discworld runs on magic; without magic, it would fall apart. In some places, magic is leaking or has built up during the Mage Wars. Specially gifted people can see the colour of magic, Octarine.

Although all magic is technically the same, there are different ways to use it – and more importantly, not use it. Witches magic, particularly, avoids it in favour of of headology. On the other hand, Wizard's magic is more showy and has more special effects (one could consider this headology of the "I'm so powerful I can waste it on making it look impressive" type).

The final category of magic is "old magic". Some magic is so old, it's hardly magic anymore. Controlling people through teeth (or nails, or hair), as shown in Hogfather is an example of old magic.

Witches Magic


Wizards like to live in the same huge building (e.g. the Unseen University), eat big dinners together, and occupy positions in an intricate hierarchy. Almost entirely opposite, witches don't have "official" ranks, and don't gather except for a potluck during a necessary meeting to discuss boundaries. These are boundaries not of power but of duty, for a witch is generally the midwife, doctor, life adviser, and moral policeman of a village. These duties are more properly fulfilled using headology, which is a close relative of psychology, herbal medicine, chiropractic and other physical therapy techniques, and simple persuasion (or, in some cases, simple bossing.) Witches rarely do magic of the type that people usually think of when they hear that word: the fireball, transmutation, personal-gravity-upset sort of specific spells that wizards can do through their staffs.

"It's up to each individual witch to take on a girl to hand the area over to when she dies. Witches are not by nature gregarious, at least with other witches, and they certainly don't have leaders" (Wyrd Sisters).

"Your average witch is not, by nature, a social animal as far as other witches are concerned. There's a conflict of dominant personalities. There's a group of ringleaders without a ring. There's a basic unwritten rule of witchcraft which is 'Don't do what you will, do what I say'. The natural size of a coven is one. Witches only get together when they can't avoid it" (Witches Abroad).

A group of witches is normally referred to as an argument but some covens have stayed together such as the Lancre Coven and the Apprentices' Coven. Other witches do come together for other more specific events such as going away parties and the Witch Trials.

Many wizards and witches come from the Ramtops, because life is relatively difficult in the rural mountains and so people tend to be very practical before they think of doing anything fantastic, and a practical turn of mind is very necessary for the successful practice of magic. Most wizards stay in Unseen University or practice in towns wealthy enough to support their fees, whereas most witches get a position in a village in remote rural areas like the Ramtops. One can consider a witch's cottage as the permanent free hospital in a village, and the witch the doctor who's serving a term there (Though of course, the word "free" is used loosely in this context. Money may not change hands, but respect is a sort of social currency, and a debt of responsibility to take care of ones witch is also at least implied without being specified). Generally, a girl gets picked as a successor by a senior witch, gets training from that witch, and then inherits the cottage and the duties to the village.

Most witches wear long black dresses and a black pointy hat. The younger witches tend to wear shiny black while the more traditional witches tend to wear drab black, described by some as looking like a bedraggled crow. Traditional witches, being village witches, like to use ordinary household items for magic purposes for two reasons: they do not have the money to buy magical accessories nor anyone to buy them from, and once upon a time rulers and ignorant villagers attacked witches and it was not a good idea to advertise. So, a saucer of water with ink can be used to see the world, bits of random things can be used to construct a shamble, used to detect and focus magic, and a bread knife is much better than a knife with mystical runes. Some of the younger witches, including Magrat Garlick, tend to wear a lot of unmagical occult jewelry and buy a large collection of knives with mystical runes.

For magical witch's magic, see borrowing and fairy-godmothering. In both magical and non-magical ways, witches watch the edge between good and bad, right and wrong, and so on, and the boundaries between dimensions.

Styles of Witchcraft

Some different kinds of witch can be seen in Lancre and region.

An acknowledged danger for witches is 'going to the bad' which ends up in cackling. Down that road lies gingerbread cottages, ovens, etc. e.g. Black Alice

Witches are a recognized part of society in Lancre, where the hat counts for a lot.

Male witches?

Technically speaking, witches are female, as wizards are male, however, the events in Equal Rites have shown this to be not entirely true. There are female wizards and there are said to be male witches, however they are passed off as nothing more then funny old men calling themselves Warlocks. Male characters who possess magical abilities like witches, such as smiths and beekeepers are mentioned in Lords and Ladies. Their magic is like a witch's as it is based more on intuition, not ritual and geometry, and provides a service to the people of their village. Some of these are specialists who resemble those witch-like women who don't wear the hat or use conventional witchcraft or headology, like Granny Aching on the Chalk or Mrs. Cake in Ankh-Morpork.(The smith of Lancre is given the ability to shoe anything, in exchange he must shoe anything that is brought to him, from an ant to a unicorn).
The Shepherd's Crown introduces Geoffrey Swivel as an actual male witch.

Matrix Sagarum

Formula Incantatricarum et Catalogus Praecantricarum

Being a Directory of All the Witches of the Discworld

...of whatever manner or Tradition, be they Great or humble, as record is made of them in any Book.
If Anyone knows another Sister of their Calling, let him append here her Name and Place, in their proper order.

Salé Gadula! ...Miché Gabula! ...Bibi Te! ...Bobi Te! ...Bu!


Aspiring Witches, apprentices, uncommitted:

1 As of I Shall Wear Midnight the apprentice Witches of the Tiffany series are grown and mistresses of their own precincts, but most of their stories are of their childhood.




This list is incomplete. Please add to it.


Wizard's Magic

Illustration by Fearghal Breathnach

About wizard's magic

Wizard's magic is one way to practise magic on Discworld. It is practised scientifically and is therefore almost the opposite of Witches' magic. Wizards study magic for many years at a university (e.g. Unseen University or Bugarup University). They learn magic the hard way. Reading an uncountable number of books, passing hard tests, getting one (or several) of the many degrees available and practicing all day long makes a great wizard. Oh yes, and growing a beard and wearing a pointed hat also helps.

For wizards magic is science. All magic follows certain rules and if one knows the rules then one can master magic. On example is the conservation of energy (referred to as conservation of reality). Simply speaking, things have to level out at the end. If something goes up, something else has to go down. An example of this was seen in The Light Fantastic where a wizard propels himself up the the Tower of Art by causing a stone to drop from the tower's roof. It is not too hard to turn a cat into a dog, because this is simply turning one existing thing into another one. But to create things out of nothing is totally different thing and almost impossible to do for a wizard. Wizards don't seem to have figured out that they could transform air into stuff yet either.

Wizards like to use instruments specially made for the purposes of practicing magic. The wizard's staff is a familiar and intuitive example; it stores magic that wizard can use all at once. For seeing the world or even all possible times and spaces of the multiverse, the wizards have used the crystal ball and have now advanced to the omniscope which is, sadly, very expensive monetarily to produce and very expensive magically to operate. The thaumometer is an instrument to measure the amount of magic in the vicinity. They also always have a stuffed alligator, the existence of which has always been a bit of a mystery, as no-one, especially the wizards themselves, know why this seemingly random piece of occult junk always turns up in a wizard's study.

The more interested wizards (usually the younger ones) try to analyse and understand magic itself. In the High Energy Magic Building at Unseen University students together with Ponder Stibbons try to split the Thaum, the smallest magic particle known so far. Wizards just love to tamper with reality and to babble about different possible dimensions. One of the newer projects is the creation of Hex, a magical supercomputer.

The most general form of wizard's magic is encountered in form of illusions, fireballs and occasional calling of ghastly things from the Dungeon Dimensions. Wizards can store magic in their wizard's staff, which is about 6 feet long and has a knob at the end (hua, hua, hua, hmm...).

Wizardly Interactions

Wizards have a great disrespect for witches, because they perform magic without really knowing the science. They also think that priests and gods in general should not be taken too seriously.

In the old days wizards frequently killed each other to move up the career ladder (known in arcane circles as "Dead Man's Pointy Shoes"). At least for the wizards at Unseen University this has come to a complete stop with the new Archchancellor Mustrum Ridcully, because he likes to sneak up on people while holding a crossbow and shouting "buh", and is quite frankly deemed to be unkillable by wizardly standards. Today, wizards spend their time eating great meals at least five times a day and sleeping in between (see Reaper Man).

Sourcerers are extremely powerful wizards who can create and channel magic at will. There is almost no barrier to their power.

How to Identify a Wizard

Unlike the witches, wizards had never been discriminated against, only feared in the bad old days when there were no civic arrangements and wizards warred amongst themselves and killed whichever non-magical civilians who got in their way. Nowadays, wizards tell themselves not to attack civilians (because that would be an unsporting act); wizards don't use magic to fight amongst themselves, so there is no stray magic hitting innocent bystanders; and wizards in Ankh-Morpork even pay a voluntary contribution to the city, coincidentally equal in amount to the city tax. Nowadays, wizards are respected or looked at with slight suspicion and bewilderment, but not fear. The more famous faculty members of Unseen University are city dignitaries. The UU Archchancellor attends meetings with the Patrician just as the guild leaders and important priests do. So, wizards find it very advantageous to advertise the fact that they are wizards. Wizards like to wear pointy hats, boots with curled points, and velvet robes with a lot of mystic sigil embroidery, sequins, and ankhstone (like rhinestone but from the river Ankh, which is presumably much easier to mine). Most wizards like huge meals and become quite round-shaped by middle-age. A beard is often expected of wizards, and the lack thereof is one of the stumbling blocks for Ponder Stibbons, the youngest top faculty in Unseen University.

To summarize: When you see what appears to be a small hill with velvet pointy hat and velvet robe with too many shiny bits, you are encountering a wizard.

Orders and Levels of Wizardry

Wizards are organized into 8 "orders", and all high-level wizards belong to one of these orders. Each order has 1 8th-level wizard (the head of the order), 8 7th-level wizards, and 64 6th-level wizards.

We do not know:

  • If the geometric progression above continues below level 6 (it probably doesn't continue to level 1, since this would mean each order has 2,097,152 wizards for a total of 16,777,216 1st-level wizards, a bit high given the total population of the Disc)
  • If all lower-level wizards belong to an order (for example, Rincewind, a level 0 (or, arguably, level -1) wizard, does not appear to belong to an order). The parallel might be the fraternity system at American universities: not all students are frat members, and, especially in the case of the socially prestigious or desirably "cool" frats, membership is by invitation only - the onus is on the potential new member to demonstrate what they could bring to the frat. This also reflects the organisational principle of secret societies in general: you do not contact them. They will approach you.
  • How broadly the levels/orders system is used outside of the Sto Plains. For example, "wizards" in Klatch call themselves "enchanters", and Greicha the First the late head of Wyrmberg refers to himself as a wizard of the 15th "rank" (not level).
  • How wizards (such as Mr. Floribunda in Unseen Academicals) can be promoted a level by the Archchancellor without any (known) demotion

Orders, like their leaders and Archchancellors, rise and disappear over the years, sometimes in a natural flow, sometimes suddenly and violently. Despite their "Ancient" and "Venerable" names, most are quite recent institutions. The exception is Mrs. Widgery's Lodgers, which dates from the foundation of the University when internal dormitory space was limited (these days the magic that has accumulated over the years has made the University's internal space as complicated as an Escher drawing).

The current eight orders (mostly from The Light Fantastic):

Order NameHead(s) of OrderKnown Members & Comments
Ancient and Truly Original Brothers of the Silver Star a.k.a. Order of the Silver StarSkrelt Changebasket (founder), Archchancellor Galder Weatherwax, Ymper Trymon, Archchancellor Cutangle, Skarmer Billias Vice Chancellor Treatle was a member during the events of Equal Rites. Cutangle is referred to as 'Archmage of the Silver Star' which could be the title for the head of this order.  
Sages of the Unknown ShadowHector Tugelbend, Gravie Derment  
Ancient and Truly Original Sages of the Unbroken Circle a.k.a. Illuminated Mages of the Unbroken CircleGreyhald Spold, Rhunlet Vardthe unbroken circle is apparently quite important: there are two orders named after it (either that or the members of the Unbroken Circle refer to themselves in two different ways?)
Brothers of the Order of MidnightLumuel Panter 
Venerable Council of SeersGanmack Treehallet Spelter was a member of the order  
Brotherhood of the Hoodwink a.k.a. the HoodwinkersJiglad Wert, Marmaric Carding 
Mrs Widgery's LodgersRansak Boggett the oldest of the current orders dating back to the founding of the university when living space was at a premium
The Last Order a.k.a. the Other OrderEliaz Churn  

It could be added here that the massive magical war that took place in Sourcery seriously depleted the ranks of Wizardry and the original Eight Orders. Afterward, in the hangover that followed the passing of the Sourcerer, and an awareness that it might not be wise for Wizards to shout about it too much - not to mention the accession of Mustrum Ridcully as Archchancellor - the Eight Orders seem to have declined in relative importance and influence - we hear less about the individual Orders and more about the collegiate integrity of the University as a whole. Perhaps their importance as hotbeds of plotting and mutual hatred made sense in the old, more fluid, University politics, but today, with one relatively unkillable Archchancellor, they are something of an anachronism.


Equal Rites tells us that people who can't make it as wizards may end up as (in descending order):

There are also dismissive references to enchantresses (witches with a nice set of legs) and warlocks (male witches).


Wizards appear in various supporting or leading roles in the following books in several capacities:

as people who try to take advantage of Rincewind.
as people who investigate anomalies in reality.
as people who advance hypotheses about the space-time continuum.
as tinkerers of reality.

Holy Wood Magic

Holy Wood magic features in Moving Pictures, and it's power can be harnessed through a different way of thinking. Regular magic requires a tremendous amount of energy to sustain something, so when it fizzles out of existence after a fraction of a second, Wizards see it as failure. Victor Tugelbend realizes that Holy Wood magic does not have to work for long, just long enough. Things fashioned from Holy Wood magic are destroyed and created several times a second (funnily enough, this is how the universe works according to Thief of Time). This causes the apparition to flicker, but it is solid and can be interacted with, and this method takes much less magic to keep going.

As long as the "caster" concentrates on believing it, then it shall be. The magic also has to stick to moving pictures convention, as shown by the wizards crashing through a barn in a shower of chickens, despite the barn containing nothing but cabbages. Victor took advantage of this to arrive in the nick of time (as heroes generally do in the clicks), but realised that he still had to play fair - he couldn't sit down and have a snooze for 20 minutes, then get up and arrive in the nick of time.

The magic comes from the power of dreams, and it builds up if there is no-one to worship the guardian who usually keeps it under control. An excessive build-up can cause parodies and a weakening of reality. Things from the Dungeon Dimensions used this last point to get a foothold in the universe and climb through. The abhorrations also had to obey the rules of moving pictures - while they could see and interact with things, they couldn't hear (as 'soundies' had not been invented), and were afraid of fire (as Octo-cellulose is highly inflammable).