Arguing, patterns key in wizardry

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For many years, Ciaran MacCoinneach was likened to a wizard because of his fortune-telling skills. Now, he’s fully qualified – and the official wizard of Palmerston. Oamaru Mail reporter Gus Patterson finds out how he juggles his day job of data entry with wizardry.

Q What brought you to Palmerston, and how long have you been living there?

I was finishing a degree, and my partner is an illustrator. Her house was destroyed in the Christchurch earthquakes, so when the insurance company finally paid out, we wanted to move somewhere affordable that was near a city and close to nature. We had been this way on a road trip a few years earlier, and Palmerston stood out even then. It is a gem. We moved here in 2016, and have found ourselves becoming part of a great community. People in Palmerston look out for one another.

Q How did you become one of the Wizard of New Zealand’s apprentices?

I have travelled a lot over the years and was given the nickname “Brujo” in both Guatemala and Ecuador because of my fortune-telling skills. Brujo roughly translates to “wizard”. I have also spent time with calendar priests, astrologers, shamans, and fortune tellers in various parts of the world. When Ari Freeman, the deputy Wizard of Christchurch, was still fairly early in his apprenticeship, we talked of wizardry, and I said I was a wizard, too. He figured I should talk to Jack, the Wizard of New Zealand, and things went from there. We finished our apprenticeships in 2014 at a ceremony at the top of Mt Cavendish in Christchurch. Then, as full wizards, we turned around and elevated Jack to Archwizard of Canterbury.

Q What does a wizard do?

Wizard translates, more or less, as “wise one”, but that does not quite cover it – wizards can be foolish and non-wizards can be wise. Wizards tend to be up for an argument though, to the point where the collective noun for a group of wizards is an argument. Like architects, apparently. If we have anything in common, it’s that we are the kind of people that do our best to break down the universe in our heads, and put it back together again, ideally without leaving out too many pieces. Our arguments often revolve around whether one way is more justified than some other way, whether that piece you left out is of high significance and why the piece I left out is not, and there’s some ego involved too, because who goes around calling themselves a wizard? It is a lot like academia.

Q How do you become a wizard?

It helps if you were a bit strange as a kid, but it is not required. A certain fondness for patterns helps. Wizards tend to be quite different in a lot of ways, but being able to be entertaining seems to be critical as well. Magic is the art of shaping the world, and one key way to do it is by shifting perceptions of the world. That is easier to do if you are used to trying to understand how you shape your own perceptions. As living beings, we all make models of reality in order to engage with reality. If you are a wizardly type, you might try understanding how that process works.

Q Do you have meetings? Is there a wizard council?

It is like a degree, not a job title, and it is rooted in recognition by other wizards. A lot like academia. There is a council here in Aotearoa New Zealand, but most times it is person to person. Some wizards are more active in their roles than others, particularly the Archwizard, the Deputy Wizard of Christchurch and the Green Wizard down in Bluff. There are other active wizards elsewhere in the world we keep in touch with.

Q You also work in data entry that seems like an unusual occupation for a wizard. How do you juggle the two roles?

It is a good one for going into your head and entering into a state of flow, and a great one for training your perception to pick up small details. A database is also a mini universe, which is handy to think with. Don’t mistake models for reality, though.

Q What other interests and hobbies do you have?

I play music, I enjoy gardening, going for walks, and I have been telling fortunes again. I also like mathematics and working with patterns. Sometimes I write. It’s not a bad life, and I think those of us in Otago know how lucky we are. East Otago especially, but I may be biased.