Your image of a wizard and their associated headwear is that of a wide-brimmed cone, no? Like this:
or maybe something like this:
or, if you’re feeling fancy and ostentatious, this:
Well, you’ve just outed yourself as an ignorant yokel. This is the hat of the travelling hedge mage, local witch, or mercenary adventurer. People who work outdoors, toiling in sun or suffering in the rain.
Real wizards, from academy or court, wear hats like this:
Tall, formal, brimless. There isn’t a lot of room in ivory towers, and a huge brim is just going be a hinderance in crowded labs, libraries, and scriptoriums. However, they keep the vertical element for the sake of pride, and the ivory towers have the most unused space on the y-axis anyways.
Most places have laws requiring wizards to wear an obvious sign while out in the world, so they can easily be identified. When these laws were first written, the pointy hat was chosen to be both practical while being clearly visible and recognizable. Of course an unscrupulous or discrete wizard could just go without, as the laws were rarely ever enforced in any day, especially these ones. Many wizards wear the hat willingly anyway, as a point of pride, or just part of the uniform, or as a signal to not fuck with them.
Everyone who doesn’t live in a city with a university only ever sees the wizards that work for a living and usually at a distance. Thus, the silhouettes of their headwear are indelibly associated with the profession as a whole.
Those that do live in a city with a university (magical or otherwise) associate wizards (and most academics) with public drunkenness, crime, and plummeting property values.
On the Outer Orders
Magic for wizards isn’t some innate thing – the training always comes from somewhere. There is always some attached culture, methodology, and philosophy attached, accrued over generations of practice and transmission. Every wizard was trained by another wizard, and every wizard belongs to one tradition or another. Wizards organize the dizzying array of traditions. into two very broad classes:
- Academic Wizards. Trained at a university or as an apprentice of another academic wizard, in one of the eight schools of magic (Abjuration, Conjuration, Evocation, Animation, Enchantment, Transmutation, Illusion, Divination). The wizards that help kings and go to balls. Small variations, but fundamentally and philosophically the same and dedicated to seeing just how far magic can go. Called adherents of the ‘Inner Order.’ Usually the domain of rich or middle class men. Probably 50-80% of the wizards in a given area are academic.
- Everyone else. Hedge mages, witches, pyromancers, warlocks. Essentially every other tradition that separates itself from the ‘correct’ formulation of magic into eight schools. Called the ‘Outer Orders.’ Usually trained via apprenticeship. Infinitely varied, even within the same order. Anyone can enter, so a lot of women wizards belong to these orders.
In case you couldn’t tell, this formulation was made by the academic wizards, who would have you believe that the outer orders are bunch of malfeasant ignoramuses hunched over cauldrons, cursing wells and giving boils to farm girls. In reality, there are several powerful non-academic traditions that have managed to survive and propagate throughout the world through passed down traditions and practices. Some even had their own schools and universities, before the academics drove them out or replaced them.
The most important and widespread orders are designated by the colors they often wear: Black, White, and Blue. Yes, this is final fantasy type shit.
Black wizards are the witchy cursey types you might be familiar with. Offensively focused, deadly in combat. Dread reputation, but not necessarily evil or violent. Villages that have a black wizard settled nearby will sometimes go to them for help, and generally hold them in fondness. They keep the neighborhood safe and drive off brigands. What’s not to like? Black wizards are usually outlawed by kings, which is impossible to actually enforce since they live in the wilderness anyway. Tend to be anarchic/Heinleinian in outlook on violence/society. Covens are rare, and formed of less than ten people as a rule.
White wizards are healers and protectors. They are even more beloved than black wizards, and many just live in the villages they serve. On the outskirts, but still. Unlike the black wizards, they aren’t outlawed, and some courts may even employ them, to the chagrin of the university-sanctioned court wizards. They don’t believe magic should be used for violence, but that doesn’t mean they’re a pushover in a fight. Just because they don’t focus on offensive magic doesn’t mean they don’t have any. Covens are more common, and some have even gone kingdom-wide.
Blue wizards are utility focused and pride themselves in arcane flexibility. They are also known for their mastery of geas rituals. They are also the fewest in number, the most well-organized, and the most beloved of the small people. They have an actual executive authority called the Compact in Blue, which administers over less then two thousand wizards spread over the area of several continents. They believe that magic is a tool meant to bring justice to the underserved and strength to the weak, and to make the world a better place. As such, they have strict moral requirements and long training periods, leading to the paucity of their ranks. Their organization has remained mostly ideologically pure/consistent (if somewhat aloof and conservative) because their leadership hasn’t noticeably changed in several centuries – blue wizards are renowned for their longevity*
*Erroneously. Blue wizards are only slightly better at extending their lifetimes than the average wizard, and most of that comes down to dietary habits resulting from their vows. Their reputation is mostly the result of survivorship bias.
I also need to mention the Pyrurges/Pyromancers, the once great order centered on the university city of Pharox. These masters of fire magic have fallen far from their zenith as masters of fire magic and priesthood of a Dazna, goddess of fire and justice. Corruption, a major schism, and several wars wore the order down, but their university still stands, one of two non-academic universities left, the other being the Theurges of Stone Grove.
Actually, let’s take a step back and explore that longevity thing some more. To be clear, the average wizard’s lifespan is actually shorter than an average persons, because why the hell wouldn’t it be? You’re dabbling with the unknown, tampering with underlying laws of the universe. It’s a pretty regular event for those ivory towers to suddenly and catastrophically turn light pink. And let’s not even get into the adventurer wizards.
Again, their reputation derives from the few wizards who do manage to extend their lifetime, because those wizards are going to be powerful and noteworthy. Not due to any abundance of talent or natural ability – talented wizards die even faster, if anything – but from having lived long enough to accumulate power and from possessing the rarest virtues of wizards: wisdom, patience, and an awareness of their own limits. There are too few of them and they don’t live long enough (sub five hundred years) to have a noticeable statistical effect the average lifespan.
The path of an academic wizarding apprentice is pretty much standard everywhere. From ages six to twelve, the fledgling wizard can be taken on as a page and educated in the basic sciences and letters necessary to continue magical studies. At around twelve to fourteen, the child goes through the Trials, first practicing their magic and learning of the esoteric natures of reality. Anywhere from sixteen to twenty, the wizard is sorted into their specialist school by a number of methods and begins their apprenticeship under a full-fledged wizard, usually with several other apprentices. When this apprenticeship ends, usually after four years, the apprentice graduates in a big formal ceremony and is recognized as a wizard. Many would-be wizards flunk out beforehand. The ones that do graduate are unceremoniously kicked out to fend for their themselves.
It wasn’t always like this. In the old days, and amongst the outer orders in present, apprenticeships were a far more personal bond. Wizards only took on one at a time, and the apprenticeship formed the foundation for a lifelong relationship. An apprentice in the old way never really ‘failed,’ since the relationship was usually a mutual, personal agreement, and they never ‘graduated,’ merely came to a point where the master and pupil both recognized each other as colleagues, with the pupil merely junior as opposed to subservient to their mentor. The education continued until they were equals or one of them died or left. While some apprentices eventually wandered off (black and blue wizards usually have rules requiring this), many remain with their mentor until one or the other dies. Even if the relationship cools, they maintained correspondence and networks to aid each other. You almost have to help them, even if you don’t like them. They’re like family but closer. Networks and friendships in magicademia exist but are pretty washed out. Deracinated, even. Close colleagues rarely invite each other over for birthdays and such. Exceptions exist, but the system is designed, consciously or otherwise, to prevent very close bonds.
Part of this divide was a cultural adaptation of the far more paranoid and power-hungry academic wizards. The repertoire of bards is filled with tragic and heartbreaking stories of the apprentice betraying the mentor, or vice versa, and the cultural trope of the traitorous apprentice is well ingrained in most of the world. Of course, and academic setting only enhances this. In the great wide world, the guy who trained you is basically your parent. In wizard academia, he is your competition. A lot of those famous traitorous apprentices were probably early academic wizards.
The university system itself isn’t helping. You could still have the wizards train under their masters for decades, but if you instead fix the term for four years (or two, or one), and have the wizard take on four apprentices (or six, or eight) then hey, you’ve trained more wizards. You’ve also quadrupled (or sextupled, or octupled) your tuition revenue for this class, and now your classes are coming in at regular intervals. Very convenient for your universities finances. Those ivory towers and tall brimless hats don’t come cheap, after all.
On the World of Wizards
It is the poorest kept secret of wizards (an impressive feat, believe me) that they have organized themselves into various supranational organizations consisting of networks of universities. Furthermore, these networks have divvied up the world into territories to prevent conflicts between them. In theory, the heads of these organizations (usually a much better kept secret) are responsible for regulating magic and wizardry in their area, while also getting dibs on any exciting archeological or arcane sites and finds. Court wizards of polities in the territory will be from one the universities in the network. If a king needs wizarding help, they will be gently directed or ignored as needed to get them to petition their local network. Wizard criminals will be apprehended by the local network, which will also try to handle magical crises. That sort of thing – not governance per se, but basically an agreement of who gets to do what and where. Most of them appear to be highly informal (if incredibly secretive) in management. The territories stretch across continents and covers vast tracts of wilderness in many cases, so governance (and consist enforcement of their own rules) isn’t really a possibility anyway.
Most of these networks are centered on one big university, with smaller ones theoretically subservient to them. Most universities have less than ten faculty members, a handful have between ten and fifty (and are very, very loyal to the university at the center of their network), and a few world-famous universities have hundreds of faculty and thousands of students. Those usually dominate their networks for obvious reasons. The independent mid-sized university is a relic of the past – times of anarchy in the wizarding world. Competition means the large central university is the most probable stable configuration. There are actually less universities in the mid-size class than in the huge world famous class.
Here’s a map of my homebrew world and the territories carved up for the wizards.
Magenta- Skaralide Pools
Yellow Green- Grand Zenith
Blue- Pearl Tower
Orange- Glassen Shore
Mint- Giant’s Step
Hot Pink- Masters of Heaven and Earth
Most of the names are taken from the flagship university.
Of course, the rules aren’t always followed, and wizarding wars still happen. Skaralide Pools broke off from Lacarides and have been at war since, and the Masters of Heaven and Earth were nearly destroyed by Grand Zenith before they teleported their school away. And everyone is spying on and stealing from each other anyway. Such is the way of wizards.