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the art or practice of supposedly conjuring up the dead, esp in order to obtain from them knowledge of the future
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

In the Middle Ages it was believed that the spirits of the dead were privy to knowledge of future events. It was therefore reasoned that if it was possible to speak to the dead, then it would be possible to learn what the future held. Some magicians attempted to do this by magically "raising the dead," briefly giving back life to a corpse just long enough to interrogate it. This act was known as necromancy (from necro, the Greek word for a dead body or person).

A freshly buried corpse would be dug up and conjured, using a necromantic tri- dent or wand. When questioned, it would reply truthfully, telling all it knew of future events. The frontispiece of Mathieu Giraldo's Histoire curieuse et pittoresque des sorciers (Paris, 1846) shows Dr. John Dee and his assistant Edward Kelley standing in a magic circle confronting a shrouded corpse who stands at the foot of its tomb. There is actually no mention of such a ritual being performed in Dee's private journal, so the event depicted may be spurious.

Marcus Annaeus Lucanus, in his Pharsalia (c. 65 CE), tells of Sextus Pompey, son of Pompey the Great, who employed the necromancer Erichtho. From a battlefield they obtained the body of a recently slain soldier and, by magic ritual, interrogated it concerning the probable outcome of Pompey the Great's coming battles. They later burned the body.

The Witch Book: The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wicca, and Neo-paganism © 2002 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.


(pop culture)

Abraham Van Helsing, the wise vampire expert in Bram Stoker‘s novel Dracula (1897) noted, in his halting English, that vampires “have still the aids of necromancy, which is, as his etymology imply, the divination by the dead, and all the dead that he can come nigh to are for him to command.” Necromancy was a form of divining the future through the use of the dead, most specifically dead bodies. Necromancy was specifically condemned in the Jewish Bible (Deuteronomy 18:11), though it is not altogether clear what form was being practiced. It possibly involved the calling up of the spirit or shade of the deceased as was done when Saul attempted to communicate with Samuel (I Samuel 28). By Stoker’s time, the term necromancy referred specifically to calling forth the dead from the grave to obtain otherwise unavailable information, especially about the future. From the Middle Ages to the present, artists have produced drawings of such necromanic activity. Necromancy involved a corpse, but was also seen as communication with the spirit/soul of the dead person, which appeared before the magician in a ghostly but bodily form—what theosophists termed the astral body.

In the mid-nineteenth century, the United States, England, and much of continental Europe were swept by the movement called spiritualism. Spiritualism was built around the practice of mediumship, the communication with the spirits of the dead. Spiritualism was several steps removed from traditional necromancy, however, although its practitioners were called necromancers by many religious critics. The identification of spiritualism and necromancy was common in Stoker’s time.


Cavendish, Richard. The Black Arts. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1967. 373 pp.
de Givry, Emil Grillot. Picture Museum of Sorcery, Magic and Alchemy. New Hyde Park, NY: University Books, 1963. 395 pp.
Kieckhefer, Richard. Forbidden Rites: A Necromancer’s Manual of the Fifteenth Century. University Park, Pa.: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998. 384 pp.

Nefarious see: Vampire Fandom: United States

Nepal, Vampires in see: Tibet, Vampires in

New England Dark Shadows Society see: Dark Shadows Fandom

New Moon see: The Twilight Saga: New Moon

The Vampire Book, Second Edition © 2011 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
'Necromancy Goes Underground: The Disguise of Skull and Corpse-Divination in the Paris Magical Papyri (PGM IV 1928-2144)', in: S.I.
The introduction of Ditanu as the deity to whom the consultation is addressed allows us to surmise that we are dealing with necromancy concerning a royal child (yld).
Faustus too is aware of the repercussions of choosing necromancy. Like Tarquin, he utters a statement which shows that he knows what will happen to him: 'The reward of sin is death?' (I.
It is believed that their activities can have a real effect on this world and that the shamans have special powers to communicate with and allay those spiritual entities, often through the means of possession and necromancy. Today in Korea, shamans (mudang) can be found all over the country, even in a high-tech city like Seoul.
necromancy, both of which succeed by conjuration and a trick of the eye.
With the help of his friends, he learns necromancy, the practice of communicating with the dead.
The two textile brands Kayseria and Lala also showcased, but not creating the necromancy expected of them.
He has just 13 days in which to decipher the almost impenetrable scrawl in his father's necromancy notes and find the spell which will keep the ghosts in line.
He is also associated with necromancy and idol worship.
(20) It is striking that all of these motifs can also be traced in The Ethiopian story, which refers to moving statues (3.13), the necromancy of the witch of Bessa (6.15), (21) the activity of the oracle at Delphi (2.27, 2.35), Helios (2.35, 4.8 and passim), magical stones (8.11), and sacrificial ritual (4.16).
White commented many years ago, "The so-called science of poll-taking is not a science at all but a mere necromancy."
Once he has secured his power, Jafar rules the people with manipulation, fear, and even necromancy, but with Aladdin's help, the Princess Jasmine hopes to win the city's heart and take the throne.