I know it sounds like I’m beating the drum of redundancy, and I promise you all will see a softer side of me—- when the mood strikes—- but I really just get annoyed with stigmas. Last night, I watched a show I’ve grown to rather enjoy–A Haunting by Destination America on the Discovery Channel.
A Haunting typically reenacts the story (with narrative given by the actual family members and witnesses) of a haunting they experienced. Well, last night’s episode that I caught On Demand, was entitled “Black Magic”. It was of a family that moved into a 150 year old house (nothing sets the scene of a haunted house than one that is 150 years old, right?). There was a mother, her daughter and two grandchildren, her son as well as a seventeen year old boy who has lived with the family growing up.
Upon entering the home, the son feels a heaviness in one of the rooms. All family members concur in retrospect that there was something “Off” about the house (which seems to be how almost all of these stories go) Other than those indications, they give you no other indication that there is something else dwelling within the 150 year old walls.
A short time after they have moved in, the son has an experience– which he refers to in his narrative as “childish”. A ball was thrown at him, by a child–or something– that simply was not there. He knew at this point that there was a spirit in the house.
The seventeen year old “Good, church-going boy” who has lived with them has suddenly and dramatically changed during this time as well. He’s got himself a goth girlfriend, they both dress in all black, are playing with an Ouija board and casting spells. Mom comes into his room one day to find a shelf of candles, a black “pentagram” painted on the wall over them, and a book that is titled “Wicca”.
Let’s stop right here for a moment, shall we?
Now, it could just be my imagination here, but I would swear that they just managed to blend 4 different practices into one.
Wicca, as most of us know, is a federally recognized religion, it’s practitioners spread the words of love, peace and harmony and follow a rule of “Harm None”…. kind of the opposite of what the kid and his girlfriend did when they sacrificed a cat in the basement, offering up its life in exchange for illness, suffering and death, isn’t it? (Oh, yes, they did this, did I forget to mention that little tid bit?) Mom ultimately sent the teenager off and had him committed too (**GASP!** He’s practicing the evil witchcraft, he must be crazy!!)
They also performed a great many spells atop a Ouija board– which isn’t at all an uncommon practice, but becoming rarer and rarer– but it certainly is not Wicca. The Wiccans reading this up to this point, in my opinion, should be royally pissed by now. Despite my distaste for the over-kill of love and light, this fact remains: When one group of us are thrown under a bus, we all are, and this includes the Satanists, who I have personally come to know as non-sacrificial, generally peaceful people. You might be wondering how they are involved in all this. The use of the word “Pentagram” involved them. The Pentagram is an inverted Pentacle, the symbol of the witches. The blood sacrifice made (the poor cat), was their attempt at throwing Necromancy in with the story. While it is true that there is often a blood sacrifice with Necromancy, it is our own blood, and not the blood (or life) of one of the Universe’s innocent creatures (We no longer live in Medieval times). They did a fabulous job of intermingling all of us I think, thank you very much, Discovery Channel, for giving us all more work to do now in trying to educate the public of your misinformation. This is the very thing that got a whole lot of innocent people killed, and still does today in some countries.
Early necromancy was related to – and most likely evolved from – shamanism, which calls upon spirits such as the ghosts of ancestors. 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. 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….. very First Testament if you ask me, where even the Christian God could only be appeased by the blood sacrifice of an animal….. still, none of this sounds like Wicca to me. But Practices such as these, varying from the mundane to the grotesque, were commonly associated with necromancy. Today’s necromancer might surround himself with morbid aspects of death, which sometimes include wearing the deceased’s clothing and consuming foods and such that appease the spirits, such as wine.
While some cultures considered the knowledge of the dead to be unlimited, ancient Greeks and Romans believed that individual shades knew only certain things. The apparent value of their counsel may have been based on things they knew in life or knowledge they acquired after death.
There are also several references to necromancers – called “bone-conjurers” amongst Jews of the later Hellenistic period in the Bible. Some Christian writers later rejected the idea that humans could bring back the spirits of the dead and interpreted such shades as disguised demons instead, thus conflating necromancy with demon summoning (**Yawn**…here we go again!)
Getting back to some of our own roots however, Norse Mythology also contains examples of necromancy, such as the scene in the Prophecy of the Völva, in which Odin summons a
völva, or shamanic seeress, from the dead to tell him of the future.
Medieval necromancy is believed to be a synthesis of astral magic derived from Arabic influences and exorcism derived from Christian and Jewish teachings. Arabic influences are evident in rituals that involve moon phases, sun placement, day and time. Fumigation and the act of burying images are also found in both astral magic and necromancy. Christian and Jewish influences are found in the symbols and conjuration formulas used in summoning rituals.
But get this….you ready?
Practitioners (of Necromancy) were often members of the Christian clergy, though some nonclerical practitioners are recorded. In some instances, mere apprentices or those ordained to lower orders dabbled in the practice. They were connected by a belief in the manipulation of spiritual beings – especially demons – and magical practices. These practitioners were almost always literate and well educated. (Can you say, “Busted!”??)
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” (have I ever said how much I loathe that word?) ceremony.
So basically, our beloved John Edward, Sylvia Brown, Psychic Tia and the chick with the high hair, scary long nails and thick New York accent on Long Island Medium can all be considered necromancers….. right? The same can be said for all of those ghost hunters out there, who go from one location to the other asking spirits questions. Maybe every naive kid who has ever played with an Ouija board or read tarot cards can be thrown in there too. I dunno. Maybe, maybe not. I do know that none of them perform any ritual or hold any ceremony prior to doing what they do, which may actually be what draws the line in the sand.
After having rehashed history and pointing a few questionable fingers, let’s break down necromancy, shall we?
Necro means death (necropolis, necrosis, necronomicon… you get the idea) and has two meanings: the first is a form of divination/mediumship/spiritwork involving the summoning of the dead in the form of spirits and communicating with them to gain knowledge and foreknowledge (Aha!!) and the second is witchcraft and sorcery in general, typically practiced specifically by a witch (NOT a Wiccan). It’s More like ancestor worship and witchcraft than all the horrible things you’ve been told (**Cough, cough, Discovery Channel, cough**).
The second definition gives away that witchcraft and sorcery have some inherent association (does a bear crap in the woods?) with death and with the history of us witches being moon worshipers and gathering at night, (mostly because we didn’t want to get caught and burned alive) it should surprise no one that Witches work with spirits, simply because we understand the spirit world, and above that, we respect and honor it. We know what makes a spirit tick, and we know what ticks them off. Above all, we understand the cycle of life and death better than most. Think about this for a moment: those herbs you used in your incense are dead parts of plants, and that skull or bones you found in the yard on your altar are from a dead animals. Even those Gods and Goddesses you invoke may just be the first and ancient ancestors who practiced as you do.
To be a necromancer one needs only to accept death and not fear it. One also needs to have reverence for death and not be insensitive to it – a life, no matter how small, is still a life. It is inevitable–we will all die. Everything will die. The entire Universe will come to an end one day, regardless of what modern day medicine and technology has accomplished.
It’s a no brainer that those who fear death (or the unknown) will fear spirits and not be able to do this work because you do indeed work closely with death. We necromancers also feel that in order to fully understand and truly appreciate and experience life and the magickal and wondrous things it offers, we must also understand and appreciate death in the same way. There is no curtain call, folks. No retakes. One shot. If you are afraid perhaps being a healer or a poet or a worshiper of Deities of life would better suit you. There is no shame in walking with the Sun and not the Moon; some people don’t belong in the shadows and need the light instead…it’s all good 😉
There is a difference between a Pagan, a Witch, a Wiccan, a Satanist and a Necromancer (if you break them down individually)… they certainly are NOT all encompassing. If you would like to point out that fact or give “Destination America” a piece of your mind, here is their Facebook page:
If you would like to become a student of necromancy, I would suggest this site: http://witchesofthecraft.com/category/book-of-spells/necromancy-spells/
But consider yourself warned: Summoning spirit should not be used as a parlor trick, be manipulated, abused or confused with the butterflies and rainbows stuff they have printed and on bookshelves these days. If you get queezy at the thought of grabbing hold of a lancet and pricking your own finger for a blood offering, then I’d suggest you try another practice.