Necromancy (derived from the Greek nekros, meaning "dead," and manteia, meaning "divination") is the evocation of the dead to obtain omens about future events or secret facts. It is based upon the belief that the deceased, free of physical limits, holds the power to obtain information that is not accessible to the living.

Necromancy is a practice that originated in ancient Persia, Greece, and Rome, but was most popular during the Middle Ages, and is rare today. The most common form of necromancy is to summon the spirit of the corpse by sacrifices and incantations but there is also the less common practice of attempting to raise the corpse to life. The rituals demand meticulous execution and exacting preparations involving the choice of a proper place, for example a cemetery or the ruins of an ancient monastery; the choice of the right time, usually between the hours of midnight and one in the morning; use of specific incantations; and accessories, such as bells. One of the most important elements is the use of a magic circle which protects the necromancer and his or her assistant from being harmed by provoking the dead.

There are many examples of necromancy throughout history, but the best-known necromancer was the witch of Endor, who, according to the Bible, summoned the spirit of Samuel to answer Saul's questions. Often considered a sinister practice, necromancy was condemned by the Catholic Church and was outlawed by the Witchcraft Act of 1604 in Elizabethan England.

See also: Communication with the Dead ; Dead Ghetto


Drury, Nevill. Dictionary of Mysticism and the Occult. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985.

Guiley, Rosemary E. The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft. New York: Facts on File, 1989.

Shepard, Leslie A. Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology, 3rd edition. Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1991.


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