Necromancy is quite a fascinating topic. The concept itself is often defined as "communication with the dead," specifically in the context of divination⁠—but is that accurate? The reality is, many people seem to completely misunderstand the actual ancient practice of necromancy. Many seem to think that ancient diviners were claiming to physically speak with dead people in conversations (like in The House by the Cemetery, or some kind of Catholic apparition). Those who think in this manner are obviously not understanding the esoteric nature of these ancient cultures (namely, the Egyptians, the Hebrews and the Greeks/Romans). They were obsessed with obscure language, riddles, and solar-ecliptic worship.

Simply put, traditional necromancy is the seeking of enlightenment through the context of the dead, or the underworld in general. The Egyptian Book of the Dead is a classic example of necromancy in antiquity. Its title is actually more literally The Book of Coming Forth in the Light, further making the point. The Tibetan Book of the Dead of course is another example of traditional necromancy with its spiritual teachings of the mind, and yet a simultaneous focus on the dead. The ancient Hebrews can also be seen understanding this practice in the same manner. In Isaiah 8:19-20 it says the following:
When they say to you, “Consult the mediums and the spiritists who whisper and mutter,” should not a people consult their God? Should they consult the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn. 
Notice here, mediums and the dead are mentioned in the context of "dawn" (שָׁחַר). The point of view at hand argues that there is no such light (cf. John 1:9) in those who seek the dead. Why mention the dead and light/dawn together? Well, such is a classic example of solar mythology. The sun coming forth—light, dawn—is parallel with the dead coming forth into life (light out of darkness), the sun (i.e. Yahweh, Ps. 84:11) being the symbol of enlightenment (e.g. Psalm 43:4; Isaiah 60:1; Malachi 4:2). This is likewise the focus in the Egyptian Book of the Dead, as it says "they see Ra in his rising; his beams flood the world with light" (ch. XV.). And such is the case with The Odyssey as well; in Book 11, Odysseus is seen speaking to the dead, yet the beginning of the book puts a focus on the sun and its light, or perhaps I should say the lack of. As it reads: "The eye of the Sun can never flash his rays through the dark and bring them light, not when he climbs the starry skies . . ." This depicts a "dimming" of light followed by the dead speaking to Odysseus (cf. Micah 3:6).

Just how was necromancy put to practice? Basically in the manner of animism. In the Hebraic writings, notice Job 12:7, "ask the beasts, and they will teach you; and the birds of the air, and they will tell you." Biblically, this is done by receiving instruction and wisdom through observing nature (cf. Proverbs 6:6; 24:31-32). The next passage reads: "Or speak to the earth, and it will teach you." This is how necromancy is done, only "speak to the corpse." Actually, "the earth" and "the corpse" are one and the same thing esoterically (e.g. Genesis 3:19; Ecclesiastes 3:20). As Ovid's Metamorphoses exemplifies: "Our mother is the Earth, and I may judge the stones of earth are bones that we should cast behind us as we go" (Book I., 381). This is said in light of the bones of the dead mother of Deucalion, and after the stones are thrown, they assume a human form (the earth to flesh, solid to bone). This fits in with the creation of "man from clay," as seen with Prometheus earlier in the book (cf. Pros Edda, XIII.). Thus, to go to the earth ("speak") like this (receiving wisdom, enlightenment) well displays a traditional view of necromancy.

More than this, in Hebrew culture the view was that "the dead know nothing" (Ecclesiastes 9:5). Thus, in this "under the sun" of a context, it is quite clear that they believed the dead had no knowledge of this world (Ecclesiastes 9:10). Yet in 1 Samuel 28, the medium of En dor is seen raising up the dead body of Samuel (1 Samuel 28:8-15), and there, Samuel is seen having knowledge of the world (in obvious contrast to Ecclesiastes 9:5). Therefore, this is evidence that the story is strictly esoteric in nature. It expresses the idea of wisdom being obtained by means of divination. Keep in mind, the world is being understood from a perspective of synchronistic fortune-telling and prophecy in this kind of culture (e.g. Deut. 13:1-2; Isaiah 41:22). Their view was that the dead did not return to this life (Job 10:21; Eccl. 9:6), and yet the corpse itself was thought of as an object of power (e.g. 2 Kings 13:21), an inanimate source of instruction (e.g. Job 12:7). The medium is simply the spiritual practitioner familiar with this custom, one spiritually "in touch" with the earth/the dead (Isaiah 29:4). And, although the Bible presents the mediums and necromancers in a bad light (e.g. Deuteronomy 18:9-12; Leviticus 20:27), it also presents the same practice of divination (that Yahweh's own prophets are involved in) in a good light (e.g. Micah 3:6-7; also see Witchcraft). The Bible is not a Christian "book," but rather, a compilation of occultism and differing theological perspectives (which certainly oppose one another at times; see Is The Bible Biblical?).

In summary, this custom is seen as one of mental relevance. Psalm 119:99 speaks of understanding gained through meditation, and this concept applied to a "dark" context (death, the underworld) is a good outline of what necromancy truly means. In the association of "the dead" with spiritual research, a humbling view is indeed acquired.

- Robert Anthony

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