Definitions are funny things, in a way, and I suspect were I writing a more academic treatise I’d have to mince my words carefully in this post as I’m sure that there are doubtless a number of my peers both in the esoteric communities that I amble around who have their own definitions on what comprises necromancy and what makes one a necromancer. Thankfully, being a personal blog focusing primarily on my own explorations, I have a little bit more freedom in describing this black art which defines my personal practice and experiences here.
At its most basic root etymology, necromancy is “divination by communication with the dead,” borrowed in its current English use from the Old French nigromancie which by that time had already started taking on a number of different associations from mere communication and divination with the spirits of the dead and began to include intersectional practices such as sorcery, witchcraft, and what we would now call goetic magic and even diabolism. In his Three Books of Occult Philosophy (Book Three, chapter 42), Agrippa says of necromancy:
“Necromancy hath its name, because it worketh on the bodies of the dead, and giveth answers by the ghosts and apparitions of the dead, and subterrany spirits, alluring them into the carkasses [carcasses] of the dead, by certain hellish charms, and infernall invocations, and by deadly sacrifices, and wicked oblations.”
A paragraph later in the same chapter, Agrippa then narrows the practice down to two chief methods:
“[But] there are two kinds of Necromancy, the one called Necromancy, raising the carkasses [carcasses], which is not done without blood. The other Sciomancy, in which the calling up of the shadow only sufficeth: to conclude, it worketh all its experiments by the carkases [carcasses] of the slain, and their bones and members, and what is from them, because there is in these things a spirituall power friendly to them.”
For the purposes of my work, both could be said to adequately describe my approaches to necromancy, though if I were to create my own definition, it would be something along the lines of:
“Practices of interfacing directly through divinatory tools and mediumistic trance with discarnate and chthonic entities through the use of prayer, magical and other devotional practices.”
In my experience it is difficult to separate any clear line between what we would call necromancy from practices associated with the dead, inclusive of ancestor veneration, as well as practices which could be considered by some to be goetic magic as history and practice seems to indicate they all share a commonality in both historical derivation and contemporary practice. One element, however, that I feel deserves more attention is that of mediumship as this ecstatic practice in modern magical literature is more often than not relegated to a footnote instead of being a vital link into living magical traditions.
Mediumship is perhaps one of the near universals of practice in every culture linking us to the spirits. I say “universal” as what we could consider mediumship can be observed across cultures and, as an ecstatic practice, very clearly goes back to our ancestors from the beginning of time and the animistic practices of our Paleolithic ancestors. While we cannot be entirely certain the methodologies employed by these pre-modern societies, I think it can be safe to conjecture that they were little different from what we observe in present non-industrial tribal cultures and cultures that still maintain strong elements of animistic practice.
How I came to mediumship was definitely anomalous, however my training and education in it is largely based on three different personalities whose work profoundly influenced contemporary modern occultism, namely Emmanuel Swedenborg, Louis-Claude de Saint Martin, and Allan Kardec. While I appreciate and consider the first two to be profoundly influential in my life, it is Kardec whose systematic exploration of the processes called Spiritism that would influence me the most in my practices as a medium and modern necromancer.
Born in Lyons shortly after the French Revolution, polymath and translator Hippolyte Léon Denizard Rivail began his explorations into a systematic understanding of the emergent phenomena of Spiritism as it began to emerge at the apex of the technological, scientific and cultural innovations of characterized as la belle époque. Writing under the pseudonym Allan Kardec, Ravail would then systematize his experiments along with the revelations provided him by mediums into what he would call the Spiritist Codification comprising five books: the Spirits’ Book, Mediums’ Book, Gospel According to Spiritism, Heaven and Hell, and Genesis According to Spiritism.
Individually, the first two texts would seek to create a comprehensive understanding of the phenomena of spirits and their relationship to mediums; the third a comprehensive understanding of the first two relations along with that of the Christian worldview in which Kardec lived; and the last two, wholly eschatological and cosmological considerations of spirits and humanity. While I can’t say I share the same conclusions of cosmology as Kardec, I feel that the methodology he outlines in the Spirits’ Book and Mediums’ Book provide a wonderful foundation into a modern necromantic practice that can be applied (sans eschatology) to anyone honestly seeking to explore the world of the Spirits and engage with them.
How does one, then, begin to explore the relationships between necromancy as daily practice, mediumship, goetia, and ceremonial practice? Well, I suppose that being the purpose of this blog you will be able to follow along and find out at least how I go about it in my own queer manner bridging the gaps of information with the materials and information I’ve been provided through research, word of mouth, data from my own experimentation and a healthy dose of levity, curiosity, and a little bit of diabolism and piety thrown in as well for good measure.
 AGRIPPA, H. C. (2018). THREE BOOKS OF OCCULT PHILOSOPHY. S.l.: LLEWELLYN.