Necromancy (pronounced /ˈnɛkrɵmænsi/; Greek νεκρομαντεία nekromanteia, via Latin necromantia) is a form of magic in which the practitioner seeks to summon the spirit of a deceased person, either as an apparition or ghost, or to raise them bodily, for the purpose of divination.
In Renaissance magic, necromancy (or nigromancy, by popular association with niger "black") was classified as a forbidden art, and Johannes Hartlieb (1456) lists demonology in general under the heading.
The word necromancy derives from the Greek νεκρός (nekrós), "dead body", and μαντεία (manteía), "prophecy, divination". The compound νεκρομαντεία itself is post-classical, first used by Origen in the 3rd century. The classical Greek term is nekyia (ἡ νέκυια), in Hellenistic Greek also νεκυιομαντεία, rendered in Latin as necyomantia and in 17th century English as necyomancy.
Early necromancy is likely related to shamanism, which calls upon spirits such as the ghosts of ancestors. Classical necromancers addressed the dead in "a mixture of high-pitch squeaking and low droning", comparable to the trance-state mutterings of shamans.
Strabo refers to necromancy as the principal form of divination amongst the people of Persia (Strabo, xvi. 2, 39, νεκρομαντία), and it is believed to also have been widespread amongst the peoples of Chaldea (particularly amongst the Sabians or star-worshipers), Etruria, and Babylonia. The Babylonian necromancers were called Manzazuu or Sha'etemmu, and the spirits they raised were called Etemmu.
Necromancy was widespread in Western antiquity with records of practice in Babylon, Egypt, Greece, and Rome. The oldest literary account of necromancy is in Homer’s Odyssey (ca. 700 BC). In the Odyssey (XI, Nekyia), Odysseus under the tutelage of Circe, a powerful sorceress, makes a voyage to Hades, the Underworld, in an effort to raise the spirits of the dead using spells which Circe has instructed. His intention is to invoke and ask questions of the shade of Tiresias, in order to gain insight on the impending voyage home. Alas, he is unable to summon the spirit without the assistance of others. In Homer's passage, there are many references to specific rituals associated with necromancy; the rites must be done during nocturnal hours and around a pit with fire. In addition, Odysseus has to follow a specific recipe, which included using sacrificial animals' blood for ghosts to drink, while he recites prayers to both the ghosts and gods of the underworld. Greek Mythology most often refers to the dead living the underworld. This is the main form of necromancy in Greek mythology and most often involves heroes traveling to hades and claiming souls.
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