AskDefine | Define thaumaturge

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performer of thaumaturgy
  • French: thaumaturge
  • Portuguese: taumaturgo
  • Russian: волшебник

Extensive Definition

Thaumaturgy (from the Greek words θαῦμα thaûma, stem thaumat-, meaning "miracle" or "marvel" and ἔργον érgon, meaning "work") is the capability of a saint or magician to work miracles. It is sometimes translated into English as Wonderworker.

Christian Thaumaturge

The English name for a practitioner, thaumaturge, implied in the adjective thaumaturgical (recorded in 1621), derives from thaumaturgus, the Latinized form of the Greek word thaumatourgos, meaning wonder-worker.
In its original Greek form, the name was ascribed to a number of Christian saints. In that sense, it carries no associations with magic, and is usually translated into English as "wonder-worker". Famous ancient Christian thaumaturges include Saint Gregory of Neocaesarea, also known as Saint Gregory Thaumaturgus, Saint Nicholas of Myra, Saint Seraphim of Sarov and Saint Ambrose of Optina. The Carmelite Bishop of Fiesole Saint Andrew Corsini (1302-1373) was also considered a thaumaturge during his lifetime.


In medieval times, miraculous powers such as healing were ascribed to persons (as well as things) on account of various superstitions.
The word was first anglicized and used in the magical sense in John Dee's book Mathematicall Praeface to Euclid's Elements (1570), about an "art mathematical" called "thaumaturgy... which giveth certain order to make strange works, of the sense to be perceived and of men greatly to be wondered at."


While thaumaturgy is generally distinguished from theurgy, the branch which concerns itself with purely spiritual matters, this is not always the case. Thaumaturgy is aimed at producing a desired effect within the material world, but it is not necessarily opposed to, or distinct from, theurgy in that the material effect produced may simply be a theurgical result caused to emanate downward from the more subtle, ethereal realm into the dense, material sphere. In this way, thaumaturgy ('the wondrous') may simply be considered the manifested outcome of theurgy (the ritual).


In contexts of magic, this term can be used in conjunction with such emanationist systems as the Kabbalah in order to explain how changes can be wrought in the created, material realm by making subtle changes in the higher, more subtle realms that produce the physical expression. For instance, if a Magician made slight changes in the world of formation (Olam Yetzirah), such as within the Sefirah of Yesod upon which Malkuth (the material realm) is based and within which all former Sephiroth are brought together, then these alterations would appear in the world of action (Olam Assiah). This idea is explained in the Hermetic Qabalah and not the traditional Jewish Kabbalistic concepts as expressed within Chassidut.

In fiction and popular culture

  • 'Thaumaturgist' is the class title of a 5th level magic user in the original, 1st ed. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 'Player's Handbook'.
  • Thaumaturgy is often used as a name for the magic in Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels.
  • Magic is almost always referred to as thaumaturgy in China Miéville's Bas-Lag books, set in a fictional world that contains the city of New Crobuzon, the setting of Perdido Street Station.
  • Thaumaturgy is also a magical discipline in White Wolf's role-playing game, Vampire: The Masquerade.
  • In the roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons the Thaumaturgist is a prestige class which specifically summons outsiders.
  • In the roleplaying game GURPS and Isaac Bonewits' roleplaying aid Authentic Thaumaturgy Thaumaturgy is defined as the physics of magic.
  • In EverQuest, Thaumaturge is a title granted to a magician who has completed his epic weapon, proving the mage's mastery of the elements.
  • In the Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher, thaumaturgy leverages small power to create larger effects. The 'voodoo doll' of the werewolf and 'Little Chicago' are two examples of using a small representation to produce changes on a larger scale by leveraging force.
  • Tay al-Ard is the name for thaumaturgical teleportation in the Islamic religious and philosophical tradition.
  • In Type-Moon's games and visual novels, Thaumaturgy is used to describe lesser forms of magic, which performs miracles possible within science with sufficient time and resources, as opposed to "true" magic, which performs miracles beyond the capabilities of scientific knowledge.
  • In The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever, written by Stephen R. Donaldson, Kasreyn of the Gyre is a thaumatugist with insidious plans for the main character.
  • In Magic: The Gathering there are creatures named "Dwarven Thaumaturgist" and "Merfolk Thaumaturgist" who can temporarily flip other creatures' power and toughness values.
  • In the Elder Scrolls games Daggerfall and Battlespire, thaumaturgy is a character skill, which is loosely defined as "focus[ing] on manipulating known forces and objects within their natural laws." Increased character skill in thaumaturgy enhances a character's abilities to buy, learn and cast spells.
  • In Lyndon Hardy's Magics trilogy, thaumaturgy is one of the five disciplines of magic. It figures most prominently in the first book, Master of the Five Magics.
  • In Ultima VIII: Pagan, thaumaturgy is one of four magics that can be learned.
  • In Melusine, The Virtu and The Mirador by Sarah Monette, thaumaturgical architecture and architectural thaumaturgy are two distinct classes of magic.

Sources and references

Additional note: In his writing, The Gift of Death, Derrida refers to Philosophy as thaumaturgy. (P. 15) His reading is based on a deconstruction of the origination of the concepts of responsibility, faith, and gift.
thaumaturge in Catalan: Taumaturgia
thaumaturge in Czech: Thaumaturg
thaumaturge in German: Thaumaturgie
thaumaturge in French: Thaumaturgie
thaumaturge in Italian: Taumaturgia
thaumaturge in Dutch: Thaumaturg
thaumaturge in Russian: Тавматургия
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