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Thaumaturgy (from the Greek words θαῦμα thaûma, meaning "miracle" or "marvel" and ἔργον érgon, meaning "work") is the capability of a magician or a saint to work magic or miracles. Isaac Bonewits defined thaumaturgy as "The use of magic for nonreligious purposes; the art and science of 'wonder working;' using magic to actually change things in the physical world."[1] It is sometimes translated into English as wonderworking.[2] A practitioner of thaumaturgy is a thaumaturge, thaumaturgist or miracle-worker.

Religious views


In original Greek writings, the term thaumaturge referred to several Christian saints. This is usually translated into English as "wonderworker", a saint through whom God works miracles, not just occasionally, but as a matter of course. It was even said that God raises up not more than one every century. Famous ancient Christian thaumaturges include Saint Gregory of Neocaesarea, also known as Saint Gregory Thaumaturgus, Saint Menas of Egypt, Saint Nicholas of Myra, Saint Seraphim of Sarov, Saint Anthony of Padua, Saint Ambrose of Optina, Saint Gerard Majella and Saint John of Kronstadt. The Carmelite Bishop of Fiesole, Saint Andrew Corsini (1302–1373), was also called a thaumaturge during his lifetime.

Kings of France and England were also called thaumaturge as they were traditionally considered able to heal scrofula.


Miracle in the Qur'an can be defined as a supernatural intervention in the life of human beings.[3] According to this definition, miracles are present "in a threefold sense: in sacred history, in connection with the Islamic prophet Muhammad himself and in relation to revelation."[3] The Qur'an does not use the technical Arabic word for miracle (Muʿd̲j̲iza) literally meaning "that by means of which [the Prophet] confounds, overwhelms, his opponents". It rather uses the term Ayah (literally meaning sign).[4] The term Ayah is used in the Qur'an in the above mentioned threefold sense: it refers to the "verses" of the Qur'an (believed to be the divine speech in human language; presented by Muhammad as his chief miracle); as well as to miracles of it and the signs (particularly those of creation).[3][4]



In the 16th century, the word thaumaturgy entered the English language meaning miraculous or magical powers.

The word was first anglicized and used in the magical sense in John Dee's book Mathematicall Praeface to Euclid's Elements (1570). He mentions 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."

In Dee's time, "the Mathematicks" referred not merely to the abstract computations associated with the term today, but to physical mechanical devices which employed mathematical principles in their design. These devices, operated by means of compressed air, springs, strings, pulleys or levers, were seen by unsophisticated people (who did not understand their working principles) as magical devices which could only have been made with the aid of demons and devils.[5]

By building such mechanical devices, Dee earned a reputation as a conjurer "dreaded" by neighborhood children.[5] He complained of this assessment in his "Mathematicall Praeface": "And for these, and such like marvellous Actes and Feates, Naturally, and Mechanically, wrought and contrived: ought any honest Student and Modest Christian Philosopher, be counted, & called a Conjurer? Shall the folly of Idiotes, and the Malice of the Scornfull, so much prevaille ... Shall that man, be (in hugger mugger) condemned, as a Companion of the hellhoundes, and a Caller, and Conjurer of wicked and damned Spirites?"[5]

Hermetic Qabalah

In the Hermetic Qabalah mystical tradition, a person titled a magician has the power to make subtle changes in higher realms, which in turn produce physical results. 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).


In his book, The Gift of Death, deconstructionist philosopher Jacques Derrida refers to philosophy as thaumaturgy. The idea is taken from the fifth essay of Jan Patočka's work, Heretical Essays in the History of Philosophy [6] Derrida's reading is based on a deconstruction of the origin of the concepts of responsibility, faith, and gift.[7]

In popular culture

The term thaumaturgy is used in various novels and games as a synonym for magic, a particular sub-school (often mechanical) of magic, or as the "science" of magic

  • Thaumaturgy is often used as a name for the magic in Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels.
  • Thaumaturgy is defined as the "science" or "physics" of magic in RPGs such as GURPS,[8][9][10] novels such as China Miéville's Perdido Street Station, and real world works such as Marcus Cordey's Magical Theory and Tradition and Isaac Bonewits' 1971 Real Magic and his 2005 Authentic Thaumaturgy
  • 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 the roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons the thaumaturgist (sic) is a prestige class which specifically summons outsiders.
  • In the MMO Dark Age of Camelot, thaumaturgist is a playable mage class.
  • Thaumaturgy is a magical discipline in White Wolf Publishing's role-playing game, Vampire: The Masquerade
  • 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."
  • In Final Fantasy XIV, thaumaturge is the title of a playable character class.
  • In Dominions 3: The Awakening, thaumaturgy is one of the paths of magic that can be researched.
  • In Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files, thaumaturgy is the creation of a magical link between an object and a person (as when using voodoo dolls).
  • In Magic: The Gathering, many cards in the plane of Theros feature Thaumaturges, most notably the Battle Thaumaturge. In the planeswalker's guide to the setting, they are flavoured more akin to theurgists, having their magic stem from the gods.
  • In Minecraft, the player Azanor is the developer of the popular modification Thaumcraft, which brings many extensions to the game based around Thaumaturgy.
  • In Path of Exile, the witch makes mention of thaumaturgy in several places along the storyline and in various dungeons.
  • In Patrick Rothfuss' trilogy, The Kingkiller Chronicle, a "Thaum" is the unit used to describe heat energy at the University.
  • In Wizard101, Thaumaturges are wizards who specialize in ice magic.
  • In Ultima VIII : Pagan, Thaumaturgy is one of the five schools of magic along with Sorcery, Necromancy, Theurgy and Tempestry. Thaumaturgy contains miscellenaous spells of usually non-elemental nature. Its practice is not tied to one of the titans.
  • In Beautiful Creatures, the book by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl, Ryan, a cousin of the main character's love interest, Lena, is discovered as being a Thaumaturge when she heals the main character after an accident. When asked "I'm guessing that's a fancy Caster name for healer?" Lena replies, "Something like that."

See also


  1. Bonewits, Isaac (2005) Authentic Thaumaturgy second edition ISBN 1-55634-360-4 pg 138
  2. Harper, Douglas (November 2001). ""Thaumaturge" etymology". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2008-07-03.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Denis Gril, Miracles, Encyclopedia of the Qur'an
  4. 4.0 4.1 A.J. Wensinck, Muʿd̲j̲iza, Encyclopedia of Islam
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 The Mistaking of 'the Mathematicks' for Magic in Tudor and Stuart England by J. Peter Zetterberg. "Sixteenth Century Journal," II.1, Spring, 1980
  6. Heretical Essays in the History of Philosophy by Jan Patočka, page=105.
  7. The Gift of Death by Jacques Derrida, page=15.
  8. (1986) GURPS Basic Set 1st edition
  9. (2004) GURPS Basic Set 4th edition pg 225
  10. (2004) GURPS Thaumaturgy 1st edition pg 9

External sources