Christchurch, New Zealand (CNN)On a sunny autumn afternoon, two wizards in long, black robes and pointed hats sat down for coffee in one of New Zealand's biggest cities.
It wasn't Halloween, and they weren't on their way to a costume party. And while they attracted attention from passersby, there was no finger pointing or all-out stares.
That's because, in Christchurch, seeing a wizard isn't completely out of the ordinary.
For decades, the city has had an official wizard. Born in the United Kingdom, Ian Brackenbury Channell settled in New Zealand in the 1970s, where he became known as The Wizard. As if to reinforce how serious he is, he even held a New Zealand driver's license issued to The Wizard, although he says he hasn't officially changed his name.
Over the years, he became a fixture in the city. On the paved square in front of Christchurch's cathedral, he pontificated on his life theories, wore wizard robes and became such a well-known figure that he earned himself a TripAdvisor rating (four out of five stars). Since 1998, he's been paid 16,000 New Zealand dollars ($10,400) annually by the Christchurch City Council for "wizardry."
Now age 87, The Wizard spends less time in the public eye. He wants to find a successor -- and appears to have got one in 39-year-old Ari Freeman, who teaches guitar and fronts a psychedelic funk band.
As he and Freeman sit at at a table outside a sunny, inner-city cafe, a middle-aged cyclist calls out to them: "No casting spells fellas!"
"Can't promise anything," Freeman quips.
Becoming a wizard
As a young man, The Wizard backpacked around Europe, was a Royal Air Force Officer in Canada, and taught English literature at the University of Tehran. But it wasn't until he moved to Australia with his then-wife that he found the role he would spend his life playing: The Wizard.
After finishing his degree in sociology and psychology, he worked as a community arts organizer for the University of Western Australia in Perth, and then as a teaching fellow in sociology at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney.
There, he started what he called a "fun revolution," aimed at bringing love, logic and levity to the world, and turning the university into a "theater of the absurd." When he lost his university job, he hatched a plan with the vice chancellor to give him a new position -- UNSW's first official wizard.
"I've invented a wizard out of nowhere," says The Wizard. "There were no wizards when I arrived in the world, except in books."
A picture of him in the role -- published by Origins, the newsletter of the UNSW Archives -- shows him wearing a leather jacket, standing on a chair and holding a skull like a modern-day Hamlet.