Friday, 3 April 2009

Words that I like: "Sorcerer"

I do love the word 'sorcerer'. Say it with me now. Roll it around in your mouth. 'Sorcerer'. A fun word to say, don't you think?

I was thinking about it today while I listened to Jacques, Marc Almond's very odd but oddly brilliant tribute to Jacques Brel. One of the lines on the English version of the song 'The Lockman' - about a man operating a lock on a canal - describes the main character as "half sorcerer, half drunkard," which I just love, and which got me thinking about the word 'sorcerer' itself. It has such different connotations to 'wizard', 'mage' or 'warlock', I think - a hint of mystery and darkness that those words don't conjur up as strongly.

This is confirmed by a brief search in my wife's electronic Oxford English Dictionary and a quick look at The Oxford Modern Usage describes 'Sorcery' as "magic that uses evil spirits"; Eston's Bible Dictionary describes a 'sorcerer' as "In Dan. 2:2, [a] rendering of the Hebrew mekhashphim, i.e., mutterers, men who professed to have power with evil spirits." Meanwhile, the American Heritage Dictionary tells us that the English root is sortiārius, or "one who casts lots".

I like this. Somebody who casts lots, then summons evil spirits to explain to him the meanings. Or, somebody who summons evil spirits to do his dirty work, and casts lots to make it appear that he is just a harmless seer. Don't you think the designers of 3rd edition D&D missed a trick in making a, a wizard who doesn't use a spellbook? Snore.

Yoon-suin is going to have proper sorcerers.


  1. I've found that having "proper sorcerers" is a lot easier if you don't use the D&D magic system.

  2. I ran a very dark game where all magic-users were sorcerers who had to have some relationship with dark powers. Very fun, if disturbing at times.

  3. Ah, the brilliant Jacques Brel. "L'Inaccessible Etoile" indeed :)

  4. The appeal, for me, of the word "wizard" is perfectly summed up in the intro to this track

  5. The 4e Sorceror is slightly better, not being one hundred percent in control of what his spells do.
    But I agree with you, WOTC's sorcs have never been quite as badass as they should.

    V-word: Recidine
    Definition: Having a chemical smell, for example that of Chloroform.

  6. Blizack: I'm sure it can be fiddled. I have faith in the power of D&D to be ruthlessly violated and turned into something else. Which isn't to say another system wouldn't be better, of course. What would you recommend?

    Trollsmyth: I suppose that gets into Carcosa territory, doesn't it?

    Red Cardinal: Indeed!

    Zak: I think that clip comes from Conan the Barbarian. I used to have a friend who was into Electric Wizard. That brings back memories.

    Rach: The 4e sorcerer sounds interesting, in that case.

  7. Trollsmyth: I suppose that gets into Carcosa territory, doesn't it?

    Yes. Kinda. It's hard to explain.

  8. Dragon Warriors - Sorcerers are the main magic users, are all left-handed and can't use magic on hallowed ground

    Reading through some old Gygax stuff too, and he did say (in an offhand manner) wizards have spellbooks and sorcerers summon demons.

    I really want to merge those two and have some poor tortured souls that have to pay a cost for their magic. And I don't use Vancian magic systems...

    What's a chedl?