Most people probably think of zombies and other “walking dead” when they hear the word “necromancy.” This article explains that that’s not what necromancy is really about.
Although often involving morbidness and spiritual themes of mortality and the spirits of the dead, necromancy has little to do with the more popular notions of who and what a necromancer is. Most simply, necromancy purposes to communicate with the dead in order to gain special knowledge, whether that be foretelling the future or discovering knowledge long forgotten. As such, the ancient and ongoing art of necromancy will be explored by first outlining its history, second, describing how necromancy is practiced today, and finally, a more in depth overview of the different implements of necromancy, such as rituals and potions.
Necromancy – A History
Necromancy is old. One of the earliest mentions of necromancy actually comes from the Bible’s Old Testament. Saul, the first King of Israel, requested that a witch (who apparently came from Endor) come to his court and, through necromancy, conjure up the dead spirit of Samuel. Continuing with the biblical theme, Origen, a 3rd century C.E. theologian and scholar probably coined the term, combining the Greek ‘nekros’ or dead body, with ‘manteia’ or diivination. Necromancy is also found in ancient literature, the earliest of which is Homer’s Odyssey.
Compared to shamanism of other areas and eras, necromancy was common and famed from the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. During the Early and High Middle Ages, the practice of necromancy exhibited an obvious Arabic influence, such as the incorporation of moon phases and other astral concepts and forces. Christian and Jewish symbols are also incorporated into the divination rituals and spells. The trend continued during the Late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, in which necromancy was practiced alongside Christianity, even though prohibited by the latter. The tension between the Catholic church and ‘black magics’ such as necromancy fostered modern day public perception of necromancy, i.e., desecration of corpses in graves which was sacrilegious to the pervading religious norm.
Necromancy – As It Exists Today.Regarding necromancy, The Encyclopedia of Occultism states that, ‘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.’ That being said, necromancy is more of a conceptualized practice, rather than an ordered science and craft. However, there are some constants when analyzing the rites and rituals utilized as a part of necromancy, which takes on two main forms: divination by means of ghosts and divination by means of corpses.
One constant that any seasoned necromancer could agree with is that the art necessarily takes its toll on the necromancer. In other words, the source of the necromancer’s power comes from harnessing the powers of death internally in order to express or transfer those powers as the necromancer sees fit. This craft builds off of the innate fears and horror associated with death, decay, and destruction. A necromancer will experience great pain and suffering; however, they will understand the very real powers of death and, having understood them, will have a great power. A cursory study of what constitutes the art of necromancy will quickly show that there are no set rituals or systematic potion configurements. The sources of necromantic power, sometimes called ‘Death Essences’ are for the individual necromancer to find and harness themselves. The implements, spells, and rituals of necromancy.
As mentioned above, necromancers each have their own methods of discovering and harnessing the power of death. This is why magicks of all kinds are referred to as ‘practices’: you are always getting better. There are a few constants, however, that seem to show up in every rite or ritual.
An assistant – apprentice, acolyte – whatever you want to call him or her, another person’s presence can provide strength and protection, as well as an extra hand to light the candles. Location – where you work matters. Places that have special spiritual significance – especially dealing with death, such as a graveyard – are best. Other places where spiritual forces are strong are at beaches, deserts, forests, and crossroads.
Patience – necromancy is about summoning, communicating with, and learning from the dead. As a matter of course then, the workings of necromantic magic are contingent on a second party: the dead. The knowledge that comes from harnessing the essence of death is deep and powerful. Like all sincere spiritual endeavors, the point of necromancy is self-discovery, empowerment, and the ability to be the master of your own destiny.
About the Author
Kim Brown is a hereditary witch. She writes books and teaches classes on witchcraft. You can find more information on witchcraft and Necromancy here: http://www.realwitchcraftmagick.com. Sign up for our free newsletter!