Official wizard in New Zealand loses his job

No industry is immune to the realities of layoffs. Not even a rocket scientist. After more than two decades as Christchurch’s official...


No industry is immune to the realities of layoffs. Not even a rocket scientist.

After more than two decades as Christchurch’s official wizard, Ian Brackenbury Channell, 88, saw his annual $ 10,000 contract disappear last week, according to Stuff, a news site in New Zealand.

The city’s payroll will no longer support “acts of witchcraft and other wizarding-type services,” as its contract had demanded since 1998. Taxpayers will no longer pay for its rain dances, its philosophers and – perhaps more concretely – its magnetism towards tourists.

“They are a bunch of bureaucrats with no imagination,” Mr Channell, more commonly known as the wizard, said of Christchurch City Council, according to Stuff.

A few fair questions might follow: What does an official wizard do? What are assistant services? How do you become a paid wizard?

Unfortunately for aspiring wizards, this is not a lucrative career. The sorcerer himself has been a volunteer sorcerer for 16 years after being appointed the town’s official sorcerer in 1982. He is believed to be the only sorcerer in the world to appear on a government payroll.

He’s best known as a street performer for decades, often perched in Cathedral Square, holding a wooden staff and wearing exactly the kind of pointy hat one would expect from a wizard. For decades, he drew crowds as he pontificated over anything and everything. In recent years, his reign has coincided with increased tourism by international fans of Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” films, which were filmed in New Zealand from 1999.

But the wizard’s fluid oratory didn’t always land well. The announcement that the city would stop paying him in December came months after some of his comments, including jokes about violence against women, were quickly condemned in New Zealand, according to The Guardian.

The wizard, who described himself as a provocateur, seems to have changed little from his decades-long approach.

“The worst things in the world are stupidity, fear and hate, and being serious” he told the New York Times in 1988. “I want people to be delighted and to stop worrying.”

He also had more important responsibilities. He cast spells to help rugby teams (although he wrote that he regretted it and offered to resign in 1984 after the bad team won). In 1988, he was summoned to Waimate, on the South Island of New Zealand, to perform a rain dance to help combat a drought. It sank about half an hour after it was finished.

He would later be summoned to Australia to help with a drought in the Outback, jumping in a circle while drumming and being splashed with buckets of water. (The drought soon ended.)

Born and educated in London, he moved to Australia in 1963 and began teaching at the University of New South Wales in Sydney in 1967. There he began to develop his character as a wizard, and in 1969 the vice-chancellor of the university appointed him official wizard of the school. .

He moved to Christchurch in 1972, where his offer to become the town wizard was first declined. He would prove to be very popular in the city, and also a thorn in the side of the local authorities. In 1986, he insisted that he did not need to complete the national census form because he was a registered work of art and not a human being. (In 1982, the New Zealand Art Gallery Directors Association recognized it as a living work of art.)

The government won the battle and it disappeared from the town square. Thousands of people have signed a petition demanding his return, forcing the government to bow to public pressure and abandon its fight for census forms.

Further congratulations would follow. In 1990, Prime Minister Mike Moore appointed him Magician of New Zealand. In 2009, Queen Elizabeth II awarded her a Queen’s Service Medal.

In recent years, however, his razor-sharp tongue has gotten him in trouble at times, especially comments about women.

“I love women, I forgive them all the time, I’ve never hit one before,” he said at a television screening in April, according to The Guardian.

“Never hit a woman because she bruises too easily, that’s the first thing, and they’ll tell the neighbors and their friends,” he said, adding, “and then you have to. big trouble. “

In August he posted an image on Facebook promoting what he called his “Save the Males” campaign, calling on people to help “protect the last endangered species”.

Christchurch officials did not say whether the comments influenced the decision on his contract. His last city paycheck will come in December, according to Stuff.

“I don’t like being canceled,” he told the news site.

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