Elementary Necromancy (Or how to talk to the dead)

Say the word necromancy and the Hollywood stereotypes pop up. Visions of hooded robes, blood sacrifice, and grave robbing will undoubtedly come up at some point early in the discussion. Necromancy, however, is something different from what the entertainment industry portrays it as. The term necromancy is defined by the Mirram-Webster dictionary as:

1.) conjuration of the spirits of the dead for purposes of magically revealing the future or influencing the course of events 

2.) magic, sorcery

Necromancy is often considered to be an ‘evil’ art. Lurid tales of necromancers engaged in nefarious activities have abounded since the rise of Christendom during the late Roman Empire and the ban upon magical studies that was imposed during this period. Necromancy, however, has been practiced for as long as humanity has existed and is even still present in modern society. Many people seek the services of a necromancer with out realizing it, and in many cases the necromancer in question not realizing said term applies to them.

Many of the psychics who speak with the spirits of the dead are, by definition, necromancers. Because the term is loaded with many negative connotations, these psychics shy away from it and use the more neutral term ‘medium’ in its place. If you use the term necromancer or medium, the basic elements of the practices are virtually unchanged from antiquity. There are two different general categories of necromancy. One is organic and the other is ritual.

Organic necromancy comes as a result of the necromancer having an innate talent for sensing and communicating with the deceased. The person who receives psychic visions of the dead or may hear them with out any ritual to assist them is an organic necromancer. While modern psychics make organic necromancy seem to be common place, it is a less common psychic skill then what the media portrays it. Incidents of empathy (in the psychic sense) and precognition are far more common, though less discussed in the general public because they are not as popular in the media.

Ritual necromancy requires the necromancer in question to use a ritual to establish connection and communication with the dead. Ritual necromancy is by far the version that is portrayed most often in the media. Rituals vary from the extremely simple to the elaborately complex. All rituals can be examined from the most basic and common components.

  1.  Statement of intent & establishment of working space. While this step is not practiced in all cases of ritual necromancy, it is among one of the oldest used. The use of a ritual space to ‘contain’ the spirits summoned is frequently said to be a holdover from ceremonial magicians of the Enlightenment era and late medieval period, but there are signs that this practice is rooted in antiquity. From what I have been able to establish in my research on ancient necromancy rituals, there is a distinct practice of establishing a space where the spirits of the dead are housed. This comes out of the acknowledgement that not all spirits of the dead are kindly inclined towards humanity and can potentially prove dangerous to the summoner.
  2. Entering into a receptive trance state. This can be accomplished by any number of means. Modern necromancers in the U.S.A. tend to rely heavily upon self-hypnosis. There is, however, an established tradition of using consciousness altering substances. Several of the herbs traditionally associated with European witchcraft, such as mugwort, have mild to significant psychoactive properties that will alter the user’s perception of the world upon ingestion or other methods of consumption.
  3. Establishing contact with the dead. The establishment of contact in ritual necromancy is often a summoning of the deceased’s spirit. Some rituals use something that has an energetic tie to the dead. This can range from an item that the dead carried on their person on a regular basis to fingernail clippings to soil from their grave site. The use of the item with the energetic tie is to strengthen the focus of the summoning and give the ritual greater ‘pull’ in drawing the spirit to the practitioner. Other rituals the summoning does not use anything that has had physical contact with the deceased.
  4. Communication. This is, quite simply, your conversation with the dead. This can happen via many different mediums. A popular one used since the early 19th century is the famous Ouija board (known then as the talking board or the spirit board). Pendulums can be used for simple yes/no questions. Tarot decks and other divination tools can also be used for more complex questions.
  5. Dismissal of the dead. This is the point where the persons enacting the ritual have completed their business with the spirit of the dead and dismisses them. It is important to use this step because hauntings have resulted from persons not properly breaking contact with the spirits they have summoned.
  6. Reestablishment of ‘normal’ consciousness. Equally important is the return to ‘normal’ consciousness after any sort of magical endeavor. It is not only good practice but it makes it easier for the necromancer to not be bothered by other spirits as they go about their day. Sometimes, the dead can be quite chatty and they’ll make a point of trying to get the attention of someone they can tell has any sort of ability to perceive them.

If one wishes to undertake a simple foray into necromancy, it is better to seek out the assistance of someone who has skill in this area. When done improperly, necromancy can become problematic. The dead are not always kindly towards the living. Sometimes, they will cause problems for them for reasons that we can not fathom. These problems might manifest as small items going missing (such as your keys disappearing from where you put them EVERY day) to technology going haywire or items being manipulated (your radio keeps turning itself on but it’s mechanically sound, for example). In the event of such a situation, one should seek the assistance of a person who can perform an exorcism or otherwise lay said spirit to rest.

Originally Posted 10/30/14
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