Necromancy – Chatting with the Dead

necromancy ˈ

nɛkrə(ʊ)mansi/ :

  1. necromancy the supposed practice of communicating with the dead, especially in order to predict the future. “alchemy, necromancy, and other magic practices”

2. witchcraft, sorcery, or black magic in general.

 

Illustration portraying a scene from the Bible wherein the Witch of Endor uses a necromantic ritual to conjure the spirit of Samuel at the behest of Saul

Illustration portraying a scene from the Bible wherein the Witch of Endor uses a necromantic ritual to conjure the spirit of Samuel at the behest of Saul

Wikipedia says that Necromancy is a supposed practice of magic involving communication with the deceased – either by summoning their spirit as an apparition or raising them bodily – for the purpose of divination, imparting the means to foretell future events or discover hidden knowledge, to bring someone back from the dead, or to use the deceased as a weapon, as the term may sometimes be used in a more general sense to refer to black magic or witchcraft.

 

The Roots of Necromancy

Early necromancy was related to – and most likely evolved from – shamanism, which calls upon spirits such as the ghosts of ancestors. It  was prevalent throughout Western antiquity with records of its practice in Babylon, Egypt, Greece, and Rome. The Babylonian necromancers were called manzazuu or sha’etemmu, and the spirits they raised were called etemmu.

The oldest literary account of necromancy is found in Homer’s Odyssey. Under the direction of Circe, a powerful sorceress, Odysseus travels to the underworld (katabasis) in order to gain insight about his impending voyage home by raising the spirits of the dead through the use of spells which Circe has taught him. He wishes to invoke and question the shade of Tiresias in particular; however, he is unable to summon the seer’s spirit without the assistance of others. The Odyssey’s passages contain many descriptive references to necromantic rituals: rites must be performed around a pit with fire during nocturnal hours, and Odysseus has to follow a specific recipe, which includes the blood of sacrificial animals, to concoct a libation for the ghosts to drink while he recites prayers to both the ghosts and gods of the underworld.

Medieval practitioners believed they could accomplish three things with necromancy: will manipulation, illusions, and knowledge:

  • Will manipulation affects the mind and will of another person, animal, or spirit. Demons are summoned to cause various afflictions on others, “to drive them mad, to inflame them to love or hatred, to gain their favor, or to constrain them to do or not do some deed.”
  • Illusions involve reanimation of the dead or conjuring food, entertainment, or a mode of transportation.
  • Knowledge is allegedly discovered when demons provide information about various things. This might involve identifying criminals, finding items, or revealing future events.

Disgusting Rituals

Rituals could be quite elaborate, involving magic circles, wands, talismans, and incantations. The necromancer might also surround himself with morbid aspects of death, which often included wearing the deceased’s clothing and consuming foods that symbolized lifelessness and decay such as unleavened black bread and unfermented grape juice. Some necromancers even went so far as to take part in the mutilation and consumption of corpses. These ceremonies could carry on for hours, days, or even weeks, leading up to the eventual summoning of spirits.

The act of performing medieval necromancy usually involved magic circles, conjurations, and sacrifices.

  • Circles were usually traced on the ground, though cloth and parchment were sometimes used. Various objects, shapes, symbols, and letters may be drawn or placed within that represent a mixture of Christian and occult ideas. Circles were believed to empower and protect what was contained within, including protecting the necromancer from the conjured demons.
  • Conjuration is the method of communicating with the demons to have them enter the physical world. It usually employs the power of special words and stances to call out the demons and often incorporated the use of Christian prayers or biblical verses. These conjurations may be repeated in succession or repeated to different directions until the summoning is complete.
  • Sacrifice was the payment for summoning; though it may involve the flesh of a human being or animal, it could sometimes be as simple as offering a certain object. Instructions for obtaining these items were usually specific. The time, location, and method of gathering items for sacrifice could also play an important role in the ritual

 

Necromancy in 2016

In the present day, necromancy is more generally used as a term to describe the pretense of manipulation of death and the dead, often facilitated through the use of ritual magic or some other kind of occult ceremony. Contemporary séances, channeling and Spiritualism verge on necromancy when supposedly invoked spirits are asked to reveal future events or secret information. Necromancy may also be presented as sciomancy, a branch of theurgic magic.

As to the practice of necromancy having endured in one form or another throughout the millennia, An Encyclopædia of Occultism states:

The art is of almost universal usage. Considerable difference of opinion exists among modern adepts as to the exact methods to be properly pursued in the necromantic art, and it must be borne in mind that necromancy, which in the Middle Ages was called sorcery, shades into modern spiritualistic practice. There is no doubt, however, that necromancy is the touch-stone of occultism, for if, after careful preparation the adept can carry through to a successful issue, the raising of the soul from the other world, he has proved the value of his art.

Black Witch S on Necromancy

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