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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. It is sometimes translated into English as wonderworking. A practitioner of thaumaturgy is a thaumaturge, thaumaturgist or miracle-worker.
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.
In Sunni, Shia, and Sufi Islam, a Tay al-Ard (literally "folding up of the earth") is a saint miraculously teleporting, or "moving by the earth being displaced under one's feet." In translations, these miracles have been described as thaumaturgical.
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.
(By building such mechanical devices, Dee earned a reputation as a conjurer "dreaded" by neighborhood children. 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?")
For example, 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. His reading is based on a deconstruction of the origin of the concepts of responsibility, faith, and gift.
In popular culture
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The term thaumaturgy is used in various novels and games as a synonym for magic, or a particular sub-school (often mechanical) of magic.
- In Patrick O'Brian's The Surgeon's Mate, Kimber, a character who swindles Jack Aubrey with a vast mining and canal digging scheme, is referred to as a thaumaturge.
- Thaumaturgy is often used as a name for the magic in Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels.
- In K.E Mills' Rogue Agent trilogy, wizards are considered to practice thaumaturgy.
- Magic is almost always referred to as thaumaturgy in China Miéville's Bas-Lag books.
- In The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson, Kasreyn of the Gyre is called a thaumatugist
- 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.
- 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 XIII, thaumaturgy refers to a battle paradigm consisting of two magic-casters and one healer.
- In Final Fantasy XIV, thaumaturge is the title of a playable character class.
- In Dissidia Duodecim, Golbez's title is 'Thaumaturge'
- In the online multiplayer game Wizard101, thaumaturge is a title used for ice wizards.
- In Dominions 3: The Awakening, thaumaturgy is one of the paths of magic that can be researched.
- In Rex Stout's novel The Doorbell Rang, Nero Wolfe states: "Madam, I am neither a thaumaturge nor a dunce."
- In World of Warcraft, a thaumaturge is the NPC you speak to in order to change 40% of a certain stat on a piece of gear into another stat, which is the action of "reforging" as it is called in-game.
- In Touhou, Sanae Kochiya uses the term "Thaumaturgy" on various of her attacks, and her special ability is the "Power to work miracles".
- In Lynn Flewelling's The Nightrunner Series, the particular type of magic done by Wizards is referred to as "Thaumaturgy".
- In Marissa Meyer's The Lunar Chronicles, Sybil Mira is the head 'Thaumaturge' of Luna.
- In Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, the term "thaumaturgy" and variations of it, such as "thaumatomains", are used to refer to magic and magicians by several of the upper class.
- In the MMO The Secret World, a thaumaturge is one of the decks available to collect. The thaumaturge here is a combination of a blood magician and a fierce fist weapon fighter.
- In the works by Kinoko Nasu for Type-Moon, Thaumaturgy is the official name for magecraft. Most evident in Fate/Stay Night
- In the popular game, Minecraft, a variation (or mod) of the game is called Thaumcraft 4. In this modification, one makes devices with mystical powers by researching various magical aspects. As they progress, they will learn more about thaumaturgy. They can transmute, make powerful foci that enable blocks to become non-solid and attack with fire, and perform various tasks, such as automating mining for resources.
- 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 the Roguelike game Nethack, "thaumaturge" is a rank for characters of the Wizard class.
- In Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl's Beautiful Creatures novels, the character of Ryan Duchannes is referred to as a Thaumaturge; a healer-type of Caster in the series.
- In the Fate/ series, a Reality Marble is an advanced form of Thaumaturgy.
- Harper, Douglas (November 2001). ""Thaumaturge" etymology". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2008-07-03.
- The Mistaking of 'the Mathematicks' for Magic in Tudor and Stuart England by J. Peter Zetterberg. "Sixteenth Century Journal," II.1, Spring, 1980
- The Gift of Death by Jacques Derrida, page=15.
- O'Brien, Patrick The Surgeons Mate. WW Norton and Company: NY, 1992. p 137.
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