Have you ever wondered where the pointy wizard hat stereotype stems from?
Someone on Quora did and Wendy Carolan had the answer.
Where Does the Idea of the Wizard’s Hat Come from?
As you can well imagine, the question here refers to the stereotypical pointy blue wizard’s hat with the stars and crescent moons, immortalized by Fantasia:
Tall, conical hats have long been associated with magi and sorcery.
It’s been claimed that the cone-shaped hat traditionally worn by wizards is symbolic of wisdom and intelligence. Its pointed shape represents the cone of power, which is associated with the circle, the symbol of the sun, unity, eternity, rebirth, and the triangle. The conical hat allows the wizard to concentrate his sacred power so that he can be centered with a power that is infinite.
Whatever the basis for such claims, it’s true that pointed hats were frowned upon by the Church, which associated points with the horns of the devil. During the Middle Ages, some European Jews were actually required to wear this specific hat style to signify their religion:
The Judenhat (or horned skullcap) unsurprisingly became a target of Anti-Semitism.
It was common to demonize Jews, so it’s a fairly small step to imagine that figures wearing these hats as being in league with Satan. During the European Witch Hunts, authorities in Hungary, for example, made anyone accused of performing magic wear similar hats as punishment.
Likewise, in Spain, a special tunic known as a sambenito and a conical cap called a coroza were worn by convicted heretics. If the heretic was condemned to be executed, he’d wear a red coroza. Other punishments used different colors.
All these hats, however, tended to be brimless. whereas the wizard hat in popular depictions is usually characterized by a wide brim.
Tolkien drew inspiration from Norse and Anglo-Saxon mythology (Gandalf itself is a name from Norse myth, and literally means Wand-elf), and Gandalf’s appearance, especially his staff and ‘traveling hat’ was drawn from Odin (or Woden) the Wanderer.
Modern depictions of wizards certainly owe a great deal to Tolkien’s archetype. But the Odin/Woden pointed hat goes back a lot further than Gandalf:
So, in your next book, please do have your wizard tip his hat to Odin, the original inventor of a style that’s now become a classic!