Witchcraft 101: Necromancy | 09-09-17

Necromancy is a form of witchcraft that has been practised all over the world by a great number of cultures, communities, and faiths for a very, very long time.

But,… what is Necromancy?

When defined by the search engine, Google, Necromancy is as follows:


  1. 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.

Origin: Middle English nigromancie, via Old French from medieval Latin nigromantia, changed (by association with Latin nigernigr- ‘black’) from late Latin necromantia, from Greek (see necro-, -mancy). The spelling was changed in the 16th century to conform with the late Latin form.

Comes from the Greek “Nekros” (”corpse”) and “manteia” (”prophecy”).

Necromancy in History

Necromancy in Ancient Greece:
The ancient Greeks may have practiced ἡ νέκυια or nekyia similar to that described in Homer’s The Odyssey. The ritual described required travelling to a lonesome place near the mouth of Hades, digging a pit and filling it with the blood of of a sacrificed ram and ewe. This caused the dead to gather around the sacrifice and he was able to treat with them for assistance.

Another form of necromancy described in the literature of the ancient Greeks is through κατάβασις katabasis or “descent”. In this process, the practitioner or hero descends into Hades, the underworld, to confer with the dead directly in their own land. This was most likely performed via some ceremonially prescribed method of astral projection.

One location in Greece where such rites may have taken place is the Necromanteion Νεκρομαντεῖον temple (trans: “Oracle of the Dead”) in Ephyra which was sited along a river believed to flow directly into the underworld. It was most likely here that Odysseus performed his rite and Herodotus reports that the 6th century tyrant Periander sent messengers here to inquire of his dead wife Melissa. Visitors would be given a meal containing narcotics of some sort and then would be led through twisting corridors, leaving offerings as they go which the Priest, the nekyomanteia, asked questions and chanted prayers. The Romans destroyed this temple in 167BC.


Necromancy in Abrahamic Lore:
The opinion of Abrahamic tradition is largely that Necromancy is impossible at best and any messages received from the dead are really demonic forces in disguise sent by Satan to fool the unwary. At any rate, Christianity strictly forbids Necromancy and all forms of divination in the Book of Deuteronomy (18:9–12) and further illustrates what a bad idea it is in 1 Samuel when Saul seeks the aid of a medium to get some advice from the deceased Samuel, only to receive a fierce chiding from Samuel and assurances that he’s going to die soon. Most Christian apologists insist that this was impossible and that the image of Samuel was an illusion, perhaps an angel sent to give the message or a demon bent on trickery. Thus, all necromancy is actually the summoning of demons.

During the Early and High Middle Ages, however, necromancy was occasionally seen in practice by Christian clerics. Rituals written by Christian necromancy, particularly those practiced by Medieval clerics, are often heavy with Christian symbolism, traditional Christian prayers and “Names of God” so as to easily disguise these rituals as acts of prayer and devotion. These clerics were highly educated and had access to magical texts from both East and West and combined these practices with exorcism and other Christian practices. They experimented a great deal with both necromancy and demonology; often in conjunction as the two were frequently conflated. As a result, most Christian sources for necromancy cannot be relied upon as they are mostly about demons, not the dead.


More on Necromancy in ye olde days.

Necromancy in Modern Witchcraft

Nowadays, Necromancy is extensively practised in Quimbada, and some other African traditions, such as voodoo. It is also used in some branches of Santeria. It is not exclusive to these sects of paganism and witchcraft, however.

In present day practises, the term Necromancy is used as an umbrella term for any magickal workings that involve death, the dead, spirits and anything relating to those things.
It is said that seances, and channeling of this ilk verge on Necromancy when the invoked spirits are asked questions pertaining to future events.

So,… What is Necromancy, then?

Traditionally, it is the practise of divining using the dead as a channeling tool (via their spirits or actual physical bodies), or the act of utilising the bodies of the deceased in magickal workings.

Nowadays, Necromancy remains true to its roots in divination, but the title has grown to encompass death related workings of all kinds.

In fiction, Necromancy is often seen as raising the dead.

Common Tools in Necromancy:

  • Blood
  • Bones
  • Grave/Cemetery Dirt
  • Spirit boards/talking boards
  • Apples
  • Dragon’s Blood (resin)
  • Bone dust
  • Fireproof bowl
  • Poppets (also known as ancestry dolls/vessels)
  • Wands
  • Nails

Common Practises Within Necromancy:

  • Osteomancy (divination using bones)
  • Ancestral veneration
  • Meditation
  • Chaos work
  • Astral travel/projection
  • Scrying

Guidelines for Necromancy:

1. Do not trespass in private cemeteries.

2. Do not desecrate graves.

3. Use incense in areas with good ventilation.

4. Treat the dead with respect and do not insult them.

5. Payment works better than threats. Forget ceremonial traditions.

6. Ward your place of residence against malevolent or angry spirits.

7. Do not practice around children or in the presence of pregnant individuals.

8. Remember that demons are not the only entities capable of possession, the dead can do it too.

9. Do not perform rituals in cemeteries as this can lead to arrest.

10. Perform regular banishment and purification rituals in your place of practice.

11. If practicing animal necromancy purify and consecrate all physical remains to protect against angry spirits.

12. Always carry some form of protection when working with the dead. This includes but is not limited to holy symbols, an iron knife (or other object including filings), consecrated or holy water, amulets or talismans, a book of prayer or holy text, etc.

13. Keep your practice relatively secret. Only tell people who you truly trust and that will accept it.

14. Consider celebrating a festival that honors those who have passed such as Samhain, the Day of the Dead, the Bon Festival, Ayamarca, Thursday of the Dead, Hop-tu-Naa, Gaiijatra, Tomb-Sweeping Day, the Hungry Ghost Festival, etc. This helps the practicing necromancer gain respect on the Other Side.

15. Practice ancestor veneration or worship and establish a solid relationship with the members of your family who are no longer among the living. This is considered a very good idea as if you find yourself having spiritual or physical trouble (such as a haunting, or abuse/assault) your ancestors can be called upon to aid you. They are never very far from their descendants and be considered somewhat like a family militia. They can also provide assistance in other matters as well as offer advice.

16. Keep a large supply of salt on-hand but do not use salt in offerings or put it on altars. Salt has purification properties and also absorbs spiritual energies. Most spirits (including the dead) will not go near it as it makes them weaker. If you wish to keep spirits out of certain rooms in your house (such as the bedroom) then place small containers of salt at various locations (I suggest windows and bedside tables). It can also be used offensively by throwing it at harmful spirits.

17. If you are being haunted (locational or personally) by a troublesome spirit that won’t leave when you ask, do NOT seek help from the Christian clergy. They have a miserable track record with exorcisms of the dead as can be seen in many pieces of documentation. Instead locate a banishing ritual you feel comfortable with, gather the necessary supplies and do it yourself. Followup immediately with purification through censing, floor washes, baths, sainings, etc. If this does not work seek help from a local occultist, make offerings to a deity or angel, and in extreme circumstances vacate the premises.

18. Necromancy is not a spectator sport. It is unethical and immoral to raise or use the dead for the amusement of others, acquiring fame, television or film spectacles, tourism, etc. Abusing the art in this way will always cause repercussions ranging from annoying (spirits refusing to work with you),  to racketeering (the spirits asking for their cut) and even potential danger (the dead deciding to deflate your swollen ego).

19. Before becoming involved with necromancy, know both yourself and your thoughts. The dead are capable of causing illness, draining your energy, and even influencing your thoughts. If some of the thoughts in your head are not normal for you they may not be yours. Additionally if you begin feeling tired or ill and there is no rational explanation divine the cause. It is possible that a spirit is using you as a battery or a deceased entity is upset with you.

20. While it is important to treat the dead well, it is also important to be nice to the living. It is possible to have a formerly living acquaintance become an enemy after their death.

[Taken from The Grey Necromancer’s Journal.]

Some helpful links/posts:

  1. Procuring Grave Dirt
  2. Beginner’s Guide to Necromancy: Creating an Inner Sanctum
  3. To Obtain the Service of a Spirit
  4. A Base Guide to the Magickal Practise of Necromancy

Photo Credit: [Hugovk]


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