Necromancy in Texts

Read some of the most detailed descriptions of ancient necromantic rituals as they can be found in ancient texts.

Homer, Odysseia

Odysseas, the king of Ithaca and the one who planed the fall of Troy is performing a successful necromantic rite under the instructions of Kirke, who is not present in the rite. In the night, he is digging a big whole in the earth, using his sword. He offers melikraton (milk and honey) around the whole and then he adds barley. After, he pours wine. Those are offerings. He is making animal sacrifices. He is killing two black sheep with the sword. Their blood is shed inside the whole. It is understood the meaning of the offerings. The blood is helpful to open a gate with the dead. This essence of life is giving access to the dead to our realm. Odysseas is making a promise to make more offerings when he will arrive to Ithaca. The remains of the sheep is thrown in the fire, again as an offering. Fire again acts as a gate to the dead. As the spirits arrive from that gate, Odysseas is using his sword as any magickian would do, to banish the spirits he doesn't want to be there, in the ceremony. Then, the great diviner ___ is coming and Odysseas is using him as a guide to the Underworld.

Epimenides, Diogenes Laertios

The followers of Kylonos were killed by Alcmeonidaes despite the fact that they asked asylum in the temple of Athena. Ghosts were around the city and nothing was going well. Atheneans asked from the great Witch Epimenides to cleanse the city of Athens. He gathered some sheep (black and white) and left them in Athens. Where every sheep sat they performed a sacrifice to the local Gods and then they built a small altar. It was believed that the local Gods were angry of the actions of the Athenians, so they have to calm them down. This is what Diogenes writes. Epimenides was an expert in astral projection and he possesed the secret of youth, as Ksenophanes writes.

Trophonios, Pausanias

The person who is invoking was wearing a linen robe with ribbons in his waist and big shoes. He was walking in a hole in the ground. This hole was made by the necromancers. He was going inside the earth (katabasis). Then he found a cave. He left the appropriate offerings of barley pies with honey. Then he was moving his body in that thin tunnel, to the point that his feet and were moving inside a smaller hole. Pausania's description ends here. A snake appeared, thus the offerings, or the God in the form of the snake appeared in the dream of that person. After some days inside the hole, the person took its oracle and he was moving up. The experience was very scary. The hiereis (priests) collected him and they tried to make him calm down. Then they explained to him the oracles. Necromancy was not a happy practice. It was a serious experience and very hard for the psyche. That's why one word of necromancers was gooi (in plural, goes in singular), means mourning persons, sad. From that word we have goetia. Suiddae lexicon writes that goetia was the living of the dead by evocation. Suiddae lexicon was a famous byzantine encyclopedia.

Erichtho, Loukianos

Loukianos (Lucian) writes in 65 a.C. that Pompeios Sextos petitioned the famous Witch Erichtho. Loukianos describes the Witch as being old, tired with long messy hair. She is also very good in her work. Erichtho is calling Hekate, Hades, Persephone, Erynies, Kerberos and others in her rituals.

Eukrates, Loukianos

Eukrates was married with Demairete, until she died. According to the custom of his place, he burned her body and her clothing too. The following days he tried to get some sleep by reading the Plato's dialogue "Phaidon". In his dream, the spirit of his wife appeared. She kissed him and she asked him to burn her sandal which was in a wooden box. Demairete was barefoot. At once, Eukrates found the sandal he had forgotten and burn it.

Flegon

Around 150 a.C Flegon from Tralleis of Lydia describes how a dead came back temporarily to the earth. After winning the battle in Thermopylae against Antiochos, the Romans were collecting weapons and valuable items from the deads.His body came back to live, he walked to the roman camp and he talked prophecies. He warned them to stop collecting from the dead, their items, or they will be punished. After that, his spirit left.

Virgil

Necromanteion of Phauvos was one of the famous but not one of the four major oracles. Virgil writes in Aeniad that this oracle was inside a big forest with a big fountain who had a strange smell. The priestess (Sibyl) was sitting close to the fountain. The proccess was similar. Sheep were sacrificed and their skins were layed in the ground in the night. Ghosts appeared to the latin king that Virgil describes. He then listened a voice from the forest, answering to his request. It is obvious that Phaunos (Favnos) was the main deity of that necromantic oracle.

Heliodoros

Heliodoros has written a novel Theagenis and Chariclea at 3rd century a.C. A female Witch from Bessa of Egypt is performing a necromantic ritual using the techique of anazoogonisis. Chariclea is the daughter of the king of Aithiopia. She has been raised in Hellas, where she got in love with a young man, Kalasisris. They both came in Egypt to live. Chariclea follows an Egyptian priest to watch some acts of an old lady. Three days after the Full Moon she watched the scene of anazoogonisis performed by that old witch. Chariclea and her boyfriend were hidden. The woman started to dig a hole in the ground using just her hands. She put up two fires next to the hole. Between them she put the dead body of her son. She poured in the hole offerings like honey, milk and wine. Seperately. Then she used a flour made poppet with bay leaves and fennel. She threw that too in the hole. With a magickal sword she started an invocation to Selene using voces magicae too. She marked her arm with the blade and then she passed her through the bay. She three some of the blood that had remained in the blade to the fire. She kneeled to her son and spoke some spells in his ear. The dead body raised up alive with all of his senses. Chariclea who watched the scene woke up Kalasiris. She was frightened. The old lady started to ask questions to her son, abou his brother who was in danger, but the dead did not speak at all. The witch changed his positions and she did the epodai (invocations) again. This time she used binding to make the dead speak clearly. Her son spoke to her. He was very angry for bringing him back with that technique. He started to shout to his mother, saying that she is not showing respect to his body by performing anazooginisis, neither she is respecting the Fates. He told that his brother will not return alive to his home, but he will die violently. He also told that two people are watching this rite and one of them will be a sheer, so it is not a big problem for being present but the woman will have a difficult fate and at the end she will find love and happiness. Immediately the witch started to search for those spies and in order to kill them, she accidentally killed herself in the darkness.

 

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