Necromancy
Divination by means of the spirits of the dead, from the
Greek nekrosh (dead), and manteia (divination). It is through its
Italian form nigromancia that it came to be known as the ‘‘black
art.’’ With the Greeks it originally signified the descent into
Hades in order to consult the dead rather than summoning the
dead into the mortal sphere again.
The art is of almost universal usage. Considerable difference
of opinion exists among modern adepts as to the exact methods
to be properly pursued in the necromantic art, and it must
be borne in mind that necromancy, which in the Middle Ages
was included in the practice of sorcery (malevolent magic, usually
traditionally accomplished through the assistance of a demonic
spirit), shades into modern spirit contact in Spiritualism.
Necromancy has long been regarded as the touchstone of
occultism, for if, after careful preparation, the adept can successfully
raise a soul from the other world, he has proved the
success of his art. The occult sages of the past have left full details
as to how the process should be attempted.
In the case of a compact existing between the sorcerer and
the devil, of course, no ceremony is necessary, as the familiar
is ever at hand to do the bidding of his masters. This, however,
is never the case with the true sorcerer, who preserves his independence
and trusts to his profound knowledge of the art and
his powers of command. His object therefore is to ‘‘constrain’’
some spirit to appear before him, and to guard himself from
the danger of provoking such beings.
The magician normally has an assistant, and every article
and procedure must conform to rules well known in the black
art. In the first place, the magician and his assistant must locate
a suitable venue for their procedures, which may be either a
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subterranean vault, hung with black and lighted by a magical
torch, or else the center of some thick wood or desert, or some
extensive unfrequented plain where several roads meet, or
amid the ruins of ancient castles, abbeys, and monasteries, or
among the rocks on the seashore, or some private detached
churchyard, or any other solemn, melancholy place between
the hours of twelve and one at night, either when the moon
shines bright, or else when the elements are disturbed with
storms of thunder, lightning, wind, and rain, for in these
places, times, and seasons, it is contended that spirits can manifest
themselves to mortal eyes with less difficulty and continue
to be visible with the least pain in this elemental external world.
When the proper time and place is fixed on, a magic circle
is to be formed, within which the master and his associate are
carefully to retire. The dimensions of the circle are as follows
a piece of ground is usually chosen, nine feet square, at the full
extent of which parallel lines are drawn one within the other,
having sundry crosses and triangles described between them,
close to which is formed the first or outer circle, then, about
half-a-foot within the same, a second circle is described, and
within that another square correspondent to the first, the center
of which is where the master and associate are to be placed.
According to one authority
‘‘The vacancies formed by the various lines and angles of the
figure are filled up with the holy names of God, having crosses
and triangles described between them. The reason assigned by
magicians and others for the institution and use of circles, is,
that so much ground being blessed and consecrated by such
holy words and ceremonies as they make use of in forming it,
hath a secret force to expel all evil spirits from the bounds
thereof, and, being sprinkled with pure sanctified water, the
ground is purified from all uncleanness; besides, the holy
names of God being written over every part of it, its force becomes
so powerful that no evil spirit hath ability to break
through it, or to get at the magician or his companion, by reason
of the antipathy in nature they bear to these sacred names.
And the reason given for the triangles is, that if the spirit be not
easily brought to speak the truth, they may by the exorcist be
conjured to enter the same, where, by virtue of the names of the
essence and divinity of God, they can speak nothing but what
is true and right. The circle, therefore, according to this account
of it, is the principal fort and shield of the magician, from
which he is not, at the peril of his life, to depart, till he has completely
dismissed the spirit, particularly if he be of a fiery or infernal
nature. Instances are recorded of many who perished by
this means; particularly ‘Chiancungi,’ the famous Egyptian fortune-teller,
who was so famous in England in the 17th century.
He undertook for a wager, to raise up the spirit ‘Bokim,’ and
having described the circle, he seated his sister Napula by him
as his associate. After frequently repeating the forms of exorcism,
and calling upon the spirit to appear, and nothing as yet
answering his demand, they grew impatient of the business,
and quitted the circle, but it cost them their lives; for they were
instantaneously seized and crushed to death by that infernal
spirit, who happened not to be sufficiently constrained till that
moment, to manifest himself to human eyes.’’
The magic circle is consecrated by special rituals. The proper
attire, or ‘‘pontificalibus,’’ of a magician is an ephod made
of fine white linen, over that a priestly robe of black bombazine
reaching to the ground, with the two seals of the Earth drawn
correctly upon virgin parchment, and affixed to the breast of
his outer vestment. Around his waist is tied a broad consecrated
girdle, with the names ‘‘Ya, Ya,—Aie, Aaie,—Elibra,—
Elchim,—Sadai,—Pah Adonai,—tuo robore,—Cinctus sum.’’
Upon the magician’s shoes must be written ‘‘Tetragrammaton,’’
with crosses around it; upon his head a high-crowned cap
of sable silk, and in his hand a Holy Bible, printed or written
in pure Hebrew.
Thus attired, and standing within the charmed circle, the
magician repeats the awful form of exorcism, and presently the
infernal spirits make strange and frightful noises, howlings,
tremblings, flashes, and most dreadful shrieks and yells before
they become visible. Their first appearance is generally in the
form of fierce and terrible lions or tigers, vomiting forth fire,
and roaring hideously about the circle, during which time the
exorcist must not suffer any tremor of dismay, for, in the event
the spirits gain the ascendancy, the consequences may endanger
his life. On the contrary, he must summon up firm resolution
and continue repeating all the forms of constriction and
confinement until the spirits are drawn nearer to the influence
of the triangle, when their forms will change to appearances
less ferocious and frightful, and become more submissive and
tractable.
When the forms of conjuration have in this manner been
sufficiently repeated, the spirits forsake their bestial shapes and
enter into human form, appearing like naked men of gentle
countenance and behavior, yet the magician must remain warily
on his guard so that they do not deceive him by such mild
gestures, for they are exceedingly fraudulent and deceitful in
their dealings with those who constrain them to appear without
compact, having nothing in view but to accomplish his destruction.
The spirit must be discharged with great care after the ceremony
is finished and he has answered all the demands made
upon him. The magician must wait patiently until he has
passed through all the terrible forms that announced his coming,
and only when the last shriek has died away and every trace
of fire and brimstone has disappeared may he leave the circle
and depart home safety.
If the ghost of a deceased person is to be raised, the grave
must be resorted to at midnight, and a different form of conjuration
is necessary. Still another is the infernal sacrament for
‘‘any corpse that hath hanged, drowned, or otherwise made
away with itself,’’ and in this will at last arise, and standing upright,
answer with a faint and hollow voice the questions that
are put to it.
Lévi’s Instructions
The occultist Éliphas Lévi stated in his book Transcendental
Magic (1896) that ‘‘evocations should always have a motive and
a becoming end, otherwise they are works of darkness and folly,
dangerous of health and reason.’’ The permissible motive of an
evocation may be either love or intelligence. Evocations of love
require less apparatus and are in every respect easier.
Lévi describes the procedure as follows
‘‘We must collect in the first place, carefully the memorials
of him (or her) whom we desire to behold, the articles he used,
and on which his impression remains; we must also prepare an
apartment in which the person lived, or otherwise one of a similar
kind, and place his portrait veiled in white therein, surrounded
with his favourite flowers, which must be renewed
daily. A fixed date must then be chosen, being that of the person’s
birth or one was that especially fortunate for his and our
own affection, one of which we may believe that his soul, however
blessed elsewhere, cannot lose the remembrance. This must
be the day of the evocation, and we must prepare for it during
the space of two weeks.
‘‘Throughout the period we must refrain from extending to
anyone the same proofs of affection which we have the right to
expect from the dead; we must observe strict chastity, live in retreat,
and take only one modest and light collation daily. Every
evening at the same hour we must shut ourselves in the chamber
consecrated to the memory of the lamented person, using
only one small light, such as that of a funeral lamp or taper.
This light should be placed behind us, the portrait should be
uncovered and we should remain before it for an hour, in silence;
finally, we should fumigate the apartment with a little
good incense, and go out backwards.
‘‘On the morning of the day fixed for the evocation, we
should adorn ourselves as if for a festival, not salute anyone
first, make but a single repast of bread, wine, and roots, or
fruits. The cloth should be white, two covers should be laid, and
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one portion of the broken bread should be set aside; a little
wine should also be placed in the glass of the person we design
to invoke. The meal must be eaten alone in the chamber of evocations,
and in presence of the veiled portrait; it must be all
cleared away at the end, except the glass belonging to the dead
person, and his portion of bread, which must be placed before
the portrait. In the evening, at the hour for the regular visit, we
must repair in silence to the chamber, light a clear fire of cypress-wood,
and cast incense seven times thereon, pronouncing
the name of the person whom we desire to behold. The
lamp must then be extinguished, and the fire permitted to die
out.
‘‘On this day the portrait must not be unveiled. When the
flame dies down, put more incense on the ashes, and invoke
God according to the forms of the religion to which the dead
person belonged, and according to the ideas which he himself
possessed of God.
‘‘While making this prayer we must identify ourselves with
the evoked person, speak as he spoke, believe in sense as he believed.
Then, after a silence of fifteen minutes, we must speak
to him as if he were present, with affection and with faith, praying
him to appear before us. Renew this prayer mentally, covering
the face with both hands; then call him thrice with a loud
voice; remain kneeling, the eyes closed or covered, for some
minutes; then call again thrice upon him in a sweet and affectionate
tone, and slowly open the eyes. Should nothing result,
the same experiment must be renewed in the following year,
and if necessary a third time, when it is certain that the desired
apparition will be obtained, and the longer it has been delayed
the more realistic and striking it will be.
‘‘Evocations of knowledge and intelligence are performed
with more solemn ceremonies. If concerned with a celebrated
personage, we must meditate for twenty-one days upon his life
and writings, form an idea of his appearance, converse with
him mentally, and imagine his answers. We must carry his portrait,
or at least his name, about us; follow a vegetable diet for
twenty-one days, and a severe fast during the last seven.
‘‘We must next construct the magical oratory . . . [This oratory
must be invariably darkened]. If, however, the proposed operation
is to take place during the daytime, we may leave a narrow
aperture on the side where the sun will shine at the hour
of the evocation, place a triangular prism facing the opening,
and a crystal globe, filled with water, before the prism. If the
experiment has been arranged for the night, the magic lamp
must be so situated that its single ray shall upon the altar
smoke. The purpose of the preparations is to furnish the Magic
Agent with elements of corporeal appearance, and to ease as
much as possible the tension of imagination, which could not
be exalted without danger into the absolute illusion of dream.
For the rest, it will be easily understood that a beam of sunlight,
or the ray of a lamp, coloured variously, and falling upon curling
and irregular smoke, can in no way create a perfect image.
The chafing-dish containing the sacred fire should be in the
centre of the oratory, and the altar of perfumes hard by. The
operator must turn towards the East to pray, and the West to
invoke; he must be either alone or assisted by two persons preserving
the strictest silence; he must wear the magical vestments,
which we have described in the seventh chapter, and
must be crowned with vervain and gold. He should bathe before
the operation, and all his under garments must be of the
most intact and scrupulous cleanliness.
‘‘The ceremony should begin with a prayer suited to the genius
of the spirit about to be invoked and one which would be
approved by himself if he still lived. For example, it would be
impossible to evoke Voltaire by reciting prayers in the style of
St. Bridget. For the great men of antiquity, we may see the
hymns of Cleanthes or Orpheus, with the adjuration terminating
the Golden Verses of Pythagoras. In our own evocation of
Apollonius, we used the Magical Philosophy of Patricius for the
Ritual, containing the doctrines of Zoroaster and the writings
of Hermes Trismegistus. We recited the Nuctemeron of Apollonius
in Greek with a loud voice and added the following conjuration
‘Vouchsafe to be present, O Father of All, and thou
Thrice Mighty Hermes, Conductor of the Dead. Asclepius son
of Hephaistus, Patron of the Healing Art; and thou Osiris, Lord
of strength and vigour, do thou thyself be present too. Arnebascenis,
Patron of Philosophy, and yet again Asclepius, son of Imuthe,
who presidest over poetry. Apollonius, Apollonius, Apollonius,
Thou teachest the Magic of Zoroaster, son of
Oromasdes; and this is the worship of the Gods.’
‘‘For the evocation of spirits belonging to religions issued
from Judaism, the following Kabalistic invocation of Solomon
should be used, either in Hebrew, or in any other tongue with
which the spirit in question is known to have been familiar
‘Powers of the Kingdom, be ye under my left foot and in my
right hand! Glory and Eternity, take me by the two shoulders,
and direct me in the paths of victory! Mercy and Justice, be ye
the equilibrium and splendour of my life! Intelligence and Wisdom,
crown me! Spirits of Malchuth, lead me betwixt the two
pillars upon which rests the whole edifice of the temple! Angels
of Netsah and Hod, strengthen me upon the cubic stone of Jesod!
O Gedulael! O Geburael! O Tiphereth! Binael, be thou my love!
Ruach Hochmael, be thou my light! Be that which thou art and
thou shalt be, O Ketheriel! Tschim, assist me in the name of Saddai!
Cherubim, be my strength in the name of Adonai! BeniElohim,
be my brethren in the name of the Son, and by the
power of Zebaoth! Eloim, do battle for me in the name of Tetragrammation!
Melachim, protect me in the name of Jod He Vau
He! Seraphim, cleanse my love in the name of Eloi and
Schechinah! Aralim, act! Ophanim, revolve and shine! Hajoth
a Kadosh, cry, speak, roar, bellow! Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh,
Saddai, Adonai, Jotchavah, Eieazereie Hallelu-Jah, Hallelu-jah,
Hallelu-jah. Amen.’
‘‘It should be remembered above all, in conjurations, that
the names of Satan, Beelzebub, Adramelek, and others do not
designate spiritual unities, but legions of impure spirits. ‘Our
name is legion, for we are many,’ says the spirit of darkness in
the Gospel. Number constitutes the law, and progress takes
place inversely in hell as the domain of anarchy. That is to say,
the most advanced in Satanic development, and consequently
the most degraded, are the least intelligent and feeblest.
‘‘Thus, a fatal law drives demons downward when they wish
and believe themselves to be ascending. So also those who term
themselves chiefs are the most impotent and despised of all. As
to the horde of perverse spirits, they tremble before an unknown,
invisible, incomprehensible, capricious, implacable
chief, who never explains his laws, whose arm is ever stretched
out to strike those who fail to understand him. They give this
phantom the names of Baal, Jupiter, and even others more
venerable, which cannot, without profanation, be pronounced
in hell. But this Phantom is only the shadow and remnant of
God disfigured by their wilful perversity, and persisting in
imagination like a visitation of justice and a remorse of truth.
‘‘When the evoked spirit of light manifests with dejected or
irritated countenance, we must offer him a moral sacrifice, that
is, be inwardly disposed to renounce whatever offends him; and
before leaving the oratory, we must dismiss him, saying ‘May
peace be with thee! I have not wished to trouble thee; do thou
torment me not. I shall labour to improve myself as to anything
that vexes thee. I pray, and will still pray, with thee and for
thee. Pray thou also both with and for me, and return to thy
great slumber, expecting that day when we shall wake together.
Silence and adieu!’’’
Necromancy Around the World
The last example is, of course, of modern European necromancy,
from France, the center of the modern magical revival.
The evocation procedure followed by various peoples elsewhere
is totally different. Among certain Australian tribes, for
example, the necromants were called ‘‘Birraark.’’ It is said that
a Birraark was supposed to be initiated by the ‘‘mrarts’’ (ghosts)
when they met him wandering in the bush. It was from the
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ghosts that he obtained replies to questions concerning events
passing at a distance, or yet to happen, that might be of interest
or moment to his tribe.
An account of a spiritual séance in the bush is given in a discussion
of the Kamilaroi and Kurnai peoples ‘‘The fires were
let down; the Birraark uttered the cry ‘Coo-ee’ at intervals. At
length a distant reply was heard, and shortly afterwards the
sound as of persons jumping on the ground in succession. A
voice was then heard in the gloom asking in a strange intonation
‘What is wanted’ At the termination of the séance, the
spirit voice said, ‘We are going.’ Finally, the Birraark was found
in the top of an almost inaccessible tree, apparently asleep.’’
In Japan, ghosts were traditionally raised in various ways.
One mode was to ‘‘put into an andon (a paper lantern in a
frame) a hundred rushlights, and repeat an incantation of a
hundred lines. One of these rushlights is taken out at the end
of each line, and the would-be-ghost-seer then goes out in the
dark with one light still burning, and blows it out, when the
ghost ought to appear. Girls who have lost their lovers by death
often try that sorcery.’’
The mode of procedure as practiced in Scotland was thus.
The haunted room was made ready. He, ‘‘who was to do the
daring deed, about nightfall entered the room, bearing with
him a table, a chair, a candle, a compass, a crucifix if one could
be got, and a Bible. With the compass he cast a circle on the
middle of the floor, large enough to hold the chair and the
table. He placed within the circle the chair and the table, and
on the table he laid the Bible and the crucifix beside the lighted
candle. If he had not a crucifix, then he drew the figure of a
cross on the floor within the circle. When all this was done, he
rested himself on the chair, opened the Bible, and waited for
the coming of the spirit. Exactly at midnight the spirit came.
Sometimes the door opened slowly, and there glided in noiselessly
a lady sheeted in white, with a face of woe and told her
story to the man on his asking her in the name of God what she
wanted. What she wanted was done in the morning, and the
spirit rested ever after. Sometimes the spirit rose from the
floor, and sometimes came forth from the wall. One there was
who burst into the room with a strong bound, danced wildly
round the circle, and flourished a long whip round the man’s
head, but never dared to step within the circle. During a pause
in his frantic dance he was asked, in God’s name, what he wanted.
He ceased his dance and told his wishes. His wishes were
carried out, and the spirit was in peace.’’
In Sir N. W. Wraxall’s Memoirs of the Courts of Berlin, Dresden,
Warsaw, and Vienna (2 vols., 1799), there is an account of the
raising of the ghost of the Chevalier de Saxe. Reports had been
circulated that at his palace at Dresden there was a large sum
of money hidden, and it was said that if his spirit could be compelled
to appear, interesting secrets might be extorted from
him. Curiosity, combined with avarice, accordingly prompted
his principal heir Prince Charles to try the experiment. On the
appointed night, one Schrepfer was the operator in raising the
apparition. He commenced his proceedings by retiring into the
corner of the gallery, where, kneeling down with many mysterious
ceremonies, he invoked the spirit to appear. At length a
loud clatter was heard at all the windows on the outside, resembling
more the effect produced by a number of wet fingers
drawn over the edge of glasses than anything else to which it
could well be compared. This sound announced the arrival of
the good spirits, and was shortly followed by a yell of a frightful
and unusual nature, which indicated the presence of malignant
spirits. Schrepfer continued his invocations, when ‘‘the door
suddenly opened with violence, and something that resembled
a black ball or globe rolled into the room. It was enveloped in
smoke or cloud, in the midst of which appeared a human face,
like the countenance of the Chevalier de Saxe, from which issued
a loud and angry voice, exclaiming in German, ‘Carl, was
wollte du mit mir’’’ (Charles, what would thou do with me) By
reiterated exorcisms Schrepfer finally dismissed the apparition,
and the terrified spectators dispersed fully convinced of
his magical powers.
Since the rituals of magical evocation date back to the ancient
East, it is not surprising to find that European rituals have
parallels in Arabia, Persia, India, China, Tibet and Japan. In
the modern occult revival, such rituals have been popularized
side by side with European traditions; various hybrid forms
have also evolved. (See also ceremonial magic; magical diagrams;
magical instruments and accessories; New Zealand)
Sources
Lévi, Éliphas. The History of Magic. London William Rider,
1913.
Shah, Sayed Idries Shah. Oriental Magic. London Rider,
1956.
———. The Secret Lore of Magic Books of the Sorcerers. London
Frederick Muller, 1957.
Smedley, Edward, W. C. Taylor, Henry Thompson, and
Elihu Rich. The Occult Sciences. London and Glasgow Richard
Griffin, 1855.
Waite, Arthur E. The Book of Ceremonial Magic. London William
Rider & Son, 1911. Reprint, New Hyde Park, N.Y. University
Books, 1961. Reprinted as The Book of Black Magic and
Ceremonial Magic. New York Causeway Books, 1973.
———. The Occult Sciences. 1891. Reprint, Secaucus, N.J.
University Books, 1974