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Working with Evoked Beings- Necromancy
Until relatively recently one of the regular skills of experienced practitioners of Craft, Paganism, and other magickal systems was working with the ‘spirits’. These spirits could be of the Otherworld, or nature, but were normally those who had died. It was believed that after death the person who had died was unencumbered by the limits of the Earth plane and might still want to help family and friends.
On a more practical note for most people ‘Banks’ not that long ago were only for the very wealthy and most people relied on practical places to hide money and valuables. For security only a few people would know where these were and, if they died without telling anyone else about them, one of the most common responses was to find a Witch or other magick user in the hopes of contacting the departed. These magick users were also not above using their skills to attempt to contact wealthy people who had died on the chance that they could be convinced to tell the person who summoned them of any hordes of their valuables that had not been discovered.
This branch of magick was called “Necromancy”, a term from post-Classical Greek combining νεκρός (nekrós), meaning “dead body” and μαντεία (manteía), meaning divination by the means of. It’s not as old as many people think, first being first used in the 3rd Century CE. Before that it was known as ἡ νέκυια (nekyia), traceable to Homer’s “Odyssey” in which the main character, Odysseus, visits the land of the dead. The term “Necromancy” appears to have first been used in English magick in the 17th Century, drawn from the Latin “necromantīa”, and was frequently corrupted into “Negromancy”, which could be translated as “Black Magic” and where the term originated from.
In countries where the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam held sway this branch of magick was banned because only Yahweh was supposed to be allowed to raise the dead. Although this was only where the authorities could enforce it, and even then society played a great part in how well this was tolerated. In the Tudor era (1405 – 1603) in England some magick users, such as Elizabeth 1’st court astrologer Dr Dee, were able to practice magick and necromancy without prosecution under the Witchcraft Act of the time. This was partly due to the rise of the Renaissance, and the ‘natural science’ on which the practitioners could claim to base their art.
Most rituals for contacting the dead were usually based in Ceremonial Magick. The operator would stand in a protective double circle with names, words of power, and protective symbols drawn and written in the space between the two circles. Outside this would be a “Triangle Of Conjuration” drawn in the east and surrounded by its own words of power. The spirit would manifest in this either through using smoke from special incense to form a body, or appear in a mirror within the triangle. Sometimes a special observer would be used to translate or describe what the evoked spirit was doing or saying as it is difficult to maintain the balance of projection and sensitivity to raise the energies involved in the ritual and sense the spirit.
That the Witchcraft Act was replaced by the Fraudulent Mediums Act in 1951 speaks volumes about how important working with the ‘mortality impaired’, was a part of a traditional Witches’ practice. Indeed, the last jailing of someone under the 1735 Act occurred in my home town of Portsmouth UK in 1944 on the grounds that “She had claimed to summon spirits”. While the last person convicted under it was fined £5 and ‘bound over’ for two years (which meant she received the money back after that if she behaved herself) by the Central Criminal Court in London. The latter, lesser, penalty was probably due to the person who was charged being over 70 at the time of the offence.
By this time, as you can see, most ‘raising of the dead’ had been taken over by the rise of the Spiritualism due to the mass deaths of people in the First and Second World War. Although it is a lesser known spiritual path these days there are at least two Spiritualist venues in Portsmouth today one being a Spiritualist Temple, and the other a Spiritualist Church, which suggests it is still a relatively popular spiritual path in modern times.
I tend to think of Spiritualism as Necromancy taken down to the bare basics. Until recently no Circles were cast and a non-denominational prayer or invocation was performed. Needless to say, this has led to some ‘interesting’ events over the years. Some of them were almost certainly fraudulent as it is hard to contact the dead on a regular basis for a number of reasons, from the Astral conditions being the equivalent of ‘stormy’, through to the spirit being sought just being unavailable. Even so some of the occurrences were just too bizarre to fake. My two favourite tales from the early 20th Century are of an “ape-like” apparition that easily picked individual sitters while they were still in their chairs. Along with the spirit of a sea-lion that had died manifesting to its keeper who went to the Spiritualist group directly afterwards. In both cases the Spirit Guide, who was supposed to be managing the manifestation of the departed spirits for the Medium officiating at the services in question, had no idea how the manifestations managed to appear at the service.
Today many mediums in the UK undergo training at various institutes. Some of the most well-known ones include The Arthur Findlay College, The College of Psychic Studies, and Harry Edwards (No relation!) Healing College. Here students are taught how to enhance and close down their sensitivity, ground energy, and protect themselves, much as Witches did and do. Many Pagans who feel drawn to this aspect of their path frequent attend these institutes to enhance their skills, and sometimes share theirs with their fellow students and teachers. These centres frequently allow the scientific community to use measuring instruments, both focused on the person doing the mediumship and their surroundings, to push the boundaries of both worldviews forward. This has led to some interesting discoveries that have paved the ways for new ways of working for the psychics, and theories of how the Universe may work for the scientific community. Especially in the fields of physics and neurobiology.
We will continue to look at the area of spirits in the next article. Specifically the ghosts and exorcism and their connection with Magick.
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