Ancestor Rituals – Magical Tech For New Rites

Well it’s been a while since my last post. I wasn’t intending on leaving it for about a month, but life has been pretty crazy round here of late.

Most of it is mundane stuff, but the strange and otherworldly has been rather active here too. And I’m going to be honest with you here, I think this is some kind of run-up to Midsummer. Still, if restoration is a thing we’re going to be invested in, we need to be ready for some pretty hefty bumps in the road. The Good Folk have not been treated well over the years, and a lot of them are very angry from what I’ve seen/heard/experienced.

But this blog post isn’t about restoration and the Other. The post I owe you is about ritual with ancestors. I just wanted to tell you all to look to your wards, make sure your apotropaics are good to go, and that a burnt offering of raw meat can go a long way with hungry spirits.

So that said, on with the show!

Magic vs Religion (?)

I’d like to begin by talking about a group of practitioners who lived a long time ago. They were people who served their communities, using their lamentations at funerary rites and guiding the dead to where they needed to go. They were also skilled in the art of evoking the dead, and purification. In many ways, they were the ritual specialists of the old chthonic cults. They were goen, and it is from them that we get the word goetia.(Stratton-Kent 123-131)

Nowadays, most people associate goetia with demons and scary looking diabolist grimoires from an era when the sauciest of texts came in the color blue. There’s this idea that magic and religion are two entirely separate things – a conception that likely didn’t exist for the original goen. To quote Jake Stratton-Kent, they belonged to ”a phase of culture wherein magic is not perceived as a specialized or marginalized sphere of activity, but permeated the whole of existence.” (Stratton-Kent 126)

In some ways, the distinction between magic and religion is entirely political. For example, the Catholic church rites of transubstantiation and exorcism are

A real den of magical iniquity.

undeniably magical in nature, and yet it they are not considered so. Why is this? Simply because the church (with its long history of clearly magical participation) doesn’t consider it to be so? And this is a line that is negotiated and renegotiated as the times change. How many people in the early modern period with witch bottles under their steps would have ever imagined it to be the domain of witches a mere three hundred years into the future? And yet this is overwhelmingly the case nowadays. It’s witches who bury the bottles now, few non-witches have even heard of them.

It’s not my intention to gripe about the politics of “magic vs religion” here though, I simply wish to make the point that magical tech can have religious applications too. And as I hope to demonstrate in this post, the inclusion of magical tech into ancestor rituals can allow us to flesh out the religious rites of the ancestor cults we wish to build.

Necromancy vs Sciomancy

But first we need to get some terminology out of the way, and some clarification of the two types of dead.

Historical accounts tells us of two types of dead: the revenant and the ghost, with one pertaining to the physical elements of the dead, and the other the

ancestor rituals - zombie
We’d like to avoid this, thank you very much!

non-physical. European cultures have believed in both kinds of dead at various times in their histories. Sometimes (as in the Heathen period Icelandic tales), it’s revenants or draugar that take center stage. However at other times, it is spirits.

Over the years, this has led to some Heathens arguing for a completely non-dualist view of the soul (ie a soul that does not separate from the body after death). However, I find flaws in this argument. For if we are to take the arguments that the Wild Hunt originated in the ancestor rites of the early Indo-European societies, and that the act of the masking transformed the young warriors into the ancestors (per Kershaw), then a belief in a non-physical soul is somewhat necessary.

Instead, I find greater sense from both a scholarly and experiential perspective in a tripartite schema of ‘soul’. One that is comprised of breath/spirit wind, a ‘free soul’ (the hyge), and a more passive soul that is confined to the body (mōdsefa). (The sharp minds among you may notice the correlation between these two soul parts and the ravens said to accompany Odin.) Those of you who are interested can read more about my take on this here.

The division inherent within the terms “necromancy” and “sciomancy” reflect these two types of dead and the practices surrounding them. That’s not to say that correlation is causation here though. Simply that true necromancy requires the physical remains of the deceased and may also involve the creation of revenants. The practices that the vast majority of modern “necromantic” practitioners are engaged in involving the non-physical aspects of the dead is more properly called “sciomancy. (“The Rain Will Make”)

Thankfully, it’s the latter that I’ll be dealing with here.

A Magical View of Ancestor Cultus

Now that we’ve gotten those definitions out of the way, it’s time to return to our central problem: how to make contact with our deceased ancestors in an effective way.

1. Story

A lot of people laugh when I tell them that magic is all about stories and the telling of stories. But this is especially the case with the dead because the stories we believe and allow to mold us in life, can so easily become what we are after death.

Think about the stories your family tells about deceased relatives. Where does your family believe they go? What is the likelihood that your ancestors thought the same thing? Finally, if your family comes from a number of different faith traditions, what (if any) common ground can be found?

I believe that it’s incredibly important to find that common ground too. As Pagans and Heathens we tend to take a kind of patronizing view towards the dead and where they may have ended up. We decide wholesale that they’re really in “heaven”, or “hel”, or (heavens forbid, fucking brosatru) “Valhalla”. But that may not be where they actually are or how it looks for them.

So I tend to take a pretty loose view of this part of ritual planning. Most afterlife beliefs involve the moving of the deceased to another place that is either good or bad, and often there are obstacles considered to be in the way. So rather than getting into details about place names, I tend to just go with generic terms like “peaceful lands” (pick one, whichever you want!), and with a standard three obstacles (as a repeating theme in European folklore). This usually allows me to work with both Christian and pre-Christian ancestors quite well.

And like the goen of old, I use lamentation (or rather a dirge) to call them forth. My chosen song is an adaptation of the old English song ‘A Lyke Wake’. Which is perfectly really, because it was designed to be sung over a corpse and effectively guides the deceased through the obstacles to the afterlife. You can see my adaptations here. The tune itself remains the same.

You will notice that there are both summoning and returning verses. Don’t be an asshole, do them the courtesy of singing them home if you summon them. This song can also be used to psychopomp stray spirits to good effect.

Permission?

Depending on your worldview (and the worldview of your dead), there may be permission required from whoever the “story” puts in charge of wherever the dead are. Again, I like to stay general here and make a polite address to whichever deities are in charge of the places where my dead reside. I call to them, ask permission, and make offerings. Manners go a long way in witchcraft.

Meeting Halfway

It can be hard for the ancestors to come and hang out with us, especially in a ancestor rituals - crossroadsmore present sense. So I usually suggest that we include ways to meet them “halfway” in our ritual design. Historical accounts and evidence give us multiple examples of these “halfway” places that can be recreated in ritual. Crossroads, water, pits, doorposts, and mounds – these are all places that can be helpful to recreate ritually when working with the dead. Your circle could be as a mound, crossroads can be made with sticks bound together, and most people have access to doorways and bowls of water! Symbolism is a language of ritual, so don’t worry if you have to symbolically recreate any of those things. The ancient Greeks had no issue with recreating the geography of Hades in their Nekyomanteia (orakles of the dead), and archaeologists of Old Norse culture are investigating similar ideas in the north too!

Some Safety Mechanisms For Ancestor Rituals

And speaking of bowls of water, let’s talk safety mechanisms. One of my favorite ways of contacting ancestors is the Art Armadel. As a technique it dates back at least to the Greek Magical Papyri, and is a form of scrying. Just with ghosts and other spirits summoned into the mix.
I mention this tech because it’s got a couple of really neat safety mechanisms built in (which is why it’s been my predominant form of having a natter with spirits since my kid was born).

First you summon a gatekeeper deity or spirit. For some people this is Hermanubis or Anubis, but I tend towards good old Draugadróttinn, Odin. (I ancestor rituals - circehave this whole bastardized ritual involving stuff I also found in a dream that would melt a purist’s head.)

Then you ask them to bring the dead you want to talk to (or whoever), and you basically scry the conversation you have. And I know, it sounds weird to have a conversation into a bowl of water, but it’s also great because the spirits are contained, and there’s someone bigger than you in charge of the whole thing. Moreover, you can do the whole ritual within a circle for an added layer of protection.

(Obviously this is a very simplified version of this whole thing. For a similarly bastardized but more detailed ritual, see Gordon White’s Chaos Protocols)

This kind of ritual tech is great for solo rituals, but what about rituals that are more public?

From my experience of incorporating some of this tech into public rituals (no joke – and they were right next to a civil war battlefield), there are one of two ways you could go with this:

1. Ask a deity to act as ‘gatekeeper’ for the rite.

2. Have attendees wear phylacteries (protective amulets – I usually make my kid wear one anyway).

There is of course the third option of simply not allowing anyone but the ritual specialists inside the sacred space for the duration of the working, but I’m yet to see any group actually do this.

Regardless of what you do though, be sure to pay attention to your wording of things and the kind of conditions and permissions you’re including (either intentionally or inadvertently) in your liturgy. This this is incredibly important when dealing with the numinous, especially if you use language of agreement (ie their presence is contingent on abiding by certain behaviors).

Lastly, be sure to have back-up plans (like a bunch of asafetida you can burn) and plenty of apotropaics. I would also advise including a purification stage after the ancestors have been sung home before the end of the rite.

Final Words

Around two thousand words of text and I’m barely scratching the surface here! Hopefully though, this post has given you some ideas for how you could incorporate magical tech into your ancestor/dead rites. I also promised some prayers but found myself hesitant to share the prayers that have become part of my family’s hearth cult.

In the next post, possibly an AMA on this subject to tie things up. In the meantime though, stay spooky my friends!

Sources (Not Linked)
Jake Stratton-Kent – Geosophia I
Gordon White – Chaos Protocols

Communicating With the Dead

Magic With The Dead

I shuffled the cards as best I could, laughing at myself and my cackhandedness. I’ve never been able to shuffle, and my knowledge of tarot is rudimentary at best. It just never spoke to me in the same way as it seems to speak to every other witch on the planet.

I’ve always been better with runes and ogham – especially when I’m trying to do my periodic ‘drunken and completely inaccurate’ readings over on my personal Facebook. Things can get somewhat uncanny with that.

But this time I had cards, albeit Magic: The Gathering cards.

I was at a Samhain event, and had been participating in a discussion on tarot.

“I hear you can read anything” I’d said, as I tried to shuffle the cards. “I’ve heard of a woman who used to read beer mats like tarot while in the pub. She was apparently super accurate.”

A couple of cards tried to escape the deck and I simply added them back in, laughing to myself as I continued.

“Some people think it’s the symbols, but others? They think the cards are more like props, and that they sort of draw out the psychic impressions the reader is getting anyway.”

Finishing my shuffle, I laid out three Magic cards as though they were tarot.

“And if I had that skill, I’d be able to give you a full reading off of these bad boys right here.”

I laughed again, and without really knowing why snapped a photo.dead - magic cards

“But I don’t have that skill, so all you’d get out of me is that there’s something to do with a train and movement, then an hourglass, and then this guy here who looks like a right dick.”

(Conversation paraphrased, this happened a while ago.)

Someone else at the table made a joke, and I put the cards away.

Later that evening though, I’d look back on this tomfoolery with different eyes.

Under Darkened Skies

It was dusk when we came to do ritual – the perfect time really for this kind of rite. We’d gathered around a blazing fire and sang the dead forth using an old dirge with psychopompic elements. We’d adapted it of course;we’d wanted to raise the dead, not lay them. The night darkened, the temperature dropped, and there was the distinct sense that we were no longer alone.

We’d gotten some attention.

But then again, we were using borrowed necromantic tech in Gettysburg of all places.

We set out a place for the dead and shared mourning cookies, offered food and clothing. Then we’d set out a bread man as substitute “sin eater” for those who felt the burden of sin too heavily to move on. That’s not uncommon for those who die in battle after a certain era. For all the talk of “glory”, war continues to torture and torment long after the guns fall silent and lungs empty.

I perceived a line of dead coming from the passage of trees to my right. I watched them as they wound a procession around the fire, each man taking his turn with the bread man. The temperature dropped further, and there was the sensation of a small breeze where they passed. (I would later find out that they had come from the direction of one of the battlefields that sits only a mile down the road.)

The ritual progressed and we asked for an omen, and this was where things began to get interesting.

The Dead Opine

The designated seer for the rite had chosen tarot, as it was not only potentially more recognizable to the dead than runes or ogham, but she also has the gift I lack with that medium.

“Is there anything you wish for us to know?”

That had been the question (or near enough). One by one, she laid out the cards, carefully positioning them in the firelight so she could read them.

The first was the Chariot reversed, which I’m told speaks of movement that is out of control and a need to regain control lest the wheel falls off.

The second was Temperance reversed that further underlined the lack of balance and control first spoke of by the Chariot.

And the final card was the Hierophant reversed, the card of a despotic leader.

The year was 2016, and that was when I knew Donald Trump would win the election.

But the weirdness would not end there. Because after the rite, when we’d returned to the warmth of our host’s house, I realized something about the cards the seer had pulled.

The images were basically the same images as I’d pulled from the Magic deck earlier.

It would seem the dead didn’t just have a message but had been screaming it all day.dead - tarot

The Dead v Our Ideas Of The Dead

There was an oddness to 2016 that I feel in this year too – albeit somewhat different; 2019 has its own flavor. Death came for many at the birth of the year. Terrifying clown sightings filled the news as the northern hemisphere moved into Fall only to stop before the election. And political campaigning took a turn for the nativist, throwing out appeals to history with abandon.

“Make America Great Again”

Like the “good old days”, just like “how our ancestors lived”.

As the living, we like to put a lot on the dead and our ancestors. We like to try and speak for them, we like to try and act in ways we think they would approve of most (even if subconsciously).

Every time you use that old family recipe or wear the jewelry your grandma died clutching. Every time you gather photos or go tidy up a grave site. All of it is a form of either engaging with ancestors or in the cult of the dead depending on what you’re doing). We just no longer recognize it as such.

How many times have you heard or thought people expressing the sentiment that by doing an action, they would make (dead person) happy (if they could see them)?

You see? We invoke the ancestors often.

Anthropologists have noted that this tends to lead to a more conservative society – especially when the veneration of ancestors is limited to only a few generations (Lehman and Myers 283-284).

But the dead are often not what we think of or assume them to be, and depending on which group of dead, can differ wildly from us in what they approve of (as opposed to what we might think they would approve of).

The problem here is communication, and this is something that we need to talk about before getting into ancestor veneration proper.

So how does a person communicate with the dead?

Communicating With The Dead

Contrary to popular media, one doesn’t have to be psychic in order to have meaningful communication with one’s ancestors or more recent dead. Often times, you just need to be able to recognize that communication for what it is.

Dream

dead - dreams
No accuracy guaranteed!

In many ways, the dead are far easier to communicate with than most people think. Moreover, there are a lot of tools that can help and mediums through which they can communicate.

One of the most common ways in which the dead can communicate is through dreams. This is something you see in pretty much every culture in which ancestor veneration exists.

This communication may be spontaneously obtained or via incubation practices. For example, ancient Greek seekers would go to a psychomanteion/nekyomanteion for this purpose. The nekyomanteions are thought to have mimicked the geography of the afterlife in some way, and often involved tunnels leading down into the earth, and bodies of water. Those wishing to communicate with their ancestors (either via speaking with a priest-oracle or dream) would make preliminary sacrifices and/or ingest narcotics (depending on the sought experience) before entering the sleeping rooms or tunnels.

In some ways, this mimics the Northern European practice of sleeping the night on a burial mound in order to gain wisdom or poetic ability from the dead. In both cases, the seeker goes to a place in which the underworld may be accessed in physical or symbolic form in order to sleep.

This is something that we too can make use of in our practices even if we don’t live near any burial mounds or grave sites where we may sleep without getting arrested, but I’ll get into that in a future post.

Divination Tools

As we saw in the story above, the dead can also divination tools (either ‘official’ or improvised) in order to communicate with the living. This was one of my first methods of communicating with the dead while still in the

dead - cards
“One of 54 Devils checking in for your middle school necromantic needs!”

equivalent of middle school. Only we used a set of regular playing cards for our seances with the school ghosts, and the suits and their colors were how we derived our answers. As unlikely as it sounds, we had some fairly strange things happen while experimenting in this way, and it was enough to concern our parents.

Unfortunately, the substitute activity my father asked me to use (the key and the bible) never got the same results (so I stuck to the cards).

In my experience, tools often take on a chill when used for relaying the messages of the dead. That’s probably good to know. As an aside, this is not so dissimilar from the manipulation of modern tech in order to deliver a message.

Ouija Boards

This is obvious and also probably something I’m going to catch heat for. However, there are ways in which you can use a Ouija board safely, and conveniently, most of those ways also correspond with general spirit etiquette and psychic hygiene.

I’ll write more about Ouija boards in another post. But for now I’ll just stick with saying that if you’re absolutely terrified of these things, keep away from them. You already lost the head game.

(If you can’t wait until I finally get round to writing about ouija, this post is great.)

Synchronicity

When you start associating with different groups of ancestors, you might find

dead - clock
“Maybe it’s ancestors, maybe it’s Maybelline.”

things pertaining to them cropping up. For example, when I was working particularly closely with my Irish ancestors, I began to randomly win Irish-related things. Information that led me further into connecting with them better also just sort of landed in my lap. Often it can feel as though you’re being pushed along when this stuff happens.

Manifestation And Apports

dead - white feather
“Whatup sis! I’m doing good. Got myself some new threads and everything!”

Finally, sometimes the dead can be pretty direct. They can appear, and they can cause other things to appear. Like the white feather that appeared in the air and fell into my mother’s lap when she was thinking about her deceased brother and feeling sad. Or disembodied voices speaking with my native accent and dialect in a place separated by thousands of miles from any other speakers. Or that deceased relative stood by your bed when you wake up from an awful nightmare. The nightmare may have been awful, but when you fall asleep again it’s but a lovely dream.

Well, you get the idea…

Next Time

In the next few posts, I’m going to start getting into the meaty bits of this topic. First I’ll be covering the different conventions for setting up an ancestral shrine. Then I’ll take a look at the pros and cons of doing so. I’ll also be discussing some of the ways in which you can work at your shrine. This will include offerings, prayers, songs, and anything to help you get your dead on. Then, I’ll be taking a look at the different mediums through which the ancestors may be contacted.

Doorways

Doorways - Doorway

Introduction To Ranting About Doorways

Doorways are interesting things, and in my opinion, they’re also rather underrated and underused in modern magic. Well, at least from what I’ve seen

doorways - Cyprian
Please cool kids, come back! I’ll give you moar necromancies!

anyway. Which you know, considering that I’m the kind of person to either work in ridiculously niche groups or alone, that’s not saying a whole lot. I mean, for all I know, you’re all rocking the doorway-thing, and it’s way bigger among the cool kids than St Cyprian was a few years ago.

(Please tell me this is true?)

But things were quite different in Heathen period Northwestern Europe. For one thing, they didn’t have the internet to start massive “witch wars” on. Nor did they have convenient sandwich makers upon which to create endless grilled cheese sandwiches to get fat on.

Life was just different back then.

Doorways - mound
Tadaa!!!!

One thing they did have though, was burial mounds. Yes, wonderful, boob-shaped containers for the dead. (Or pudendas. Honestly, whichever junk-based imagery you like best is good here).

And some of those wonderful bosoms of final doom also have what appear to have been post holes in front of them. Or more specifically, post holes for (most likely) doorways.

Now this may sound like completely irrelevant bollocks, but it’s  not, and to find out why, you need to stick with me through a minor detour.

Oh Look! A Conveniently Labeled Digression!

So, these pudendas of death didn’t just have post holes. No, some of them also have what appear to have been ditches. And moreover, pollen analysis of some of those ditches demonstrates that they used to be filled with water for at least part of the year. This would have turned these mounds into temporary, de-facto islands of the dead.

Doorways - boat
I was looking for “boat burial” and this came up. This is better. This is far better                                                                             

When you factor in the amount of European death lore that describes the dead crossing over water of some kind to the afterlife, it’s not hard to see the applications for all kinds of dead-related activities here.

The point I’m making with this digression?

We often build our holy places with ritual and cosmology in mind. If you want to figure out ritual and cosmology, it’s good to look at the holy places.

YAY!!!! The Return of the Original Point!

Now, a bunch of post holes wouldn’t really be anything, and we wouldn’t necessarily guessing that they’re door posts were it not for a continuous thread of ritual doorpost usage connected with the dead.

Moving forward in time to the Viking Age (you know, that time period all the

Doorways - Doorway
Imagine a relative buried in your doorway. Every time you walk over it they get to see…Imma stop now.

bros like to fap off over), you have the doorway burials of the Viking age. You see, some folks back then would actually bury the people they wanted to stick around post mortem in the doorways of their homes.

Well, there’s nothing like  keeping the family together, amirite?

As you might expect though, this backfired sometimes. Most usually when the person you unwisely decided to give visitation rights to was a raging dick in life. You see, rule number one of ‘Necromancy Club’ is that a rabid cockwomble in life is sure to be a rabid cockwomble in death.  People don’t just automatically become wise and loving ancestors; there’s a process for that in most cultures that still have coherent ancestor cults.  Unfortunately, most of us in modern WEIRD Pagan communities come from cultures where the death rites were taken over by some imperialist death cult that worships a dead dude on a torture/execution device. So, to say that our ideas on all of the above can be a little fucked up and unhealthy is something of an understatement.

But anyway, doorways!

They were a thing in the foul arte of necromancy back in the day. (Although to be fair, it was probably just called “going to ask Aunt Guðrún about that there thing we were talking about”.)

“Wake aunt Guðrún, wake auntie good.
At the back door I call you (to ask you where our fucking sheep went)”

And she’d bitch you out, call you crazy, and then tell you want you need to know. That’s a filch of an actual invocation btw. It’s from Svipdagsmal, and yes, it mentions doors.

The Final Point!

Aye, so doorways are interesting things. To stand between doorposts is to be neither in nor out, neither here nor there. It is to stand in a liminal place in which things may be seen, and through which things may pass (albeit when engineered a little bit…)

Doorways - Druidenhain
Here’s one I made earlier. Ok, so it wasn’t really me. Not this one anyway.

One of the best things about doorways too is their availability, so you don’t need to drop a load of cows or bling on obtaining fancy schmancy stuff. Because if you don’t have any kind of doorways and don’t have access to some woods where you can create arches in the trees to work in, then you’re probably a fair way up shit creek and should be working on other stuff first.

So yeah…give it a go.

The first time I tranced in a doorway, my garden filled with mist, a storm blew in, and I heard screams on the wind. I’m not claiming the storm here, but to hear the screaming on the winds of a storm that had taken lives on its way across the land before hitting my area? Would I have heard them had I not been trancing in a doorway? Who knows! But still. Doorways are useful things in magic, and they have the benefit of being easy to get out of if things become a bit much.

Don’t like seeing what you’re seeing? Go in and close the door. Make sure your wards are awesome. Good times!

Well, that’s it for me today. I’m currently in the middle of packing for going to Iceland where I’ll be co-hosting this trip with Morgan Daimler!

 

Sex and the Dead: A Right Load of Fuckery

ancestor - skull

The Paradox of Sex and the Dead

For the ancient Greeks and Romans, the onion was considered a vegetable of the dead. Perhaps it’s because it grew in the ground as the deceased are planted? Or perhaps the reasoning was something else. Either way, along with parsley and celery, the onion commonly graced the tables of funeral feasts

sex and the dead - onions
Viagra, a long time ago.

(“Eating with the Dead”).

But here is where we come to a paradox, because the onion was also well known as an aphrodisiac. And what of grim and unyielding Hades himself? Not only was he connected with the cycle of the year, but was also arguably connected to fertility too.

As it turns out though, this collocation of sex and death is not unusual, and it’s not limited to the classical world either.

Among the Germanic tribes, for example, the god of the mound is also the god who fertilizes the earth. It is he who is depicted with a large phallus – a sign of his virility. Ruler of Alfheim, so too do his subjects share the same associations. Mound-dwelling and sexually deviant, elves would eventually come to be known as incubi.

Moving slightly further afield, the Canaanite Ba’al the god of life and fertility is shown to be constantly locked in battle with Mot, the god of death and sterility.

To move even further afield (at least from the perspective of my resting paradigm), we see the same dichotomy in the Haitian deity Papa Ghédé who presides over both death and eroticism.

Again and again, fertility (or even straight up eroticism) and death walk hand in hand. Life is spun and then unspun in a cycle of generation and dissolution, the fibers falling away only to be respun again. These are in truth, two sides of the same cycle, and without the one there cannot be the other.

Man Imitates Gods (or Elves)

This also seems to be the case for many humans who work with the dead too, and the grave may be just as inseparable from sex and generation within some human practitioners, as it is with the aforementioned gods.

“Thus the Gods did, thus men do”

Taittirīya Brāhmana
(Eliade 98)

sex and the dead - beso negro
Those witches will get with any old unclean spirit!

There also seems to be something in the “wiring” here too. For anyone who has studied historical witchcraft accounts, accusations of “sexual deviancy” go hand in hand with accusations of trucking (sexually or magically) with demons or elves. Again and again we see this pattern of chthonic beings with fertility aspects and their human partners engaged in both necromancy and apparent sexual deviancy. (See Lee Morgan’s ‘A Deed without a Name’ for further discussion on these relationships both among historical and modern practitioners)

It would seem that one cannot separate the sex/eroticism from the chthonic, and by extension, death itself. And this can be unsettling to our modern WEIRD minds. (I note here that apparently Papa Ghédé enjoys fucking with white people because of exactly this kind of hang up. Go Papa Ghédé!)

But patterns rarely emerge without reason, and this one is no exception.

A Matter of “Wiring”?

First though, I’d like to talk about the matter of the “wiring” of human practitioners for a moment. Because here too are patterns to be observed. Why is it that the witch was so associated with sexual deviancy in historical accounts? Why did Jordanes write of the Halirunnae (Gothic for Helrune), if you’re interested) going out and having issue with “unclean spirits”? Why was that so believable to him that people associated with Hel practices would be all about fucking the “unclean spirits”? (Getica XXIV, 121-123)

This matter of “wiring” is something that Martin Coleman (aka Draja Mickaharic) comments on in Communing with the Spirits: The Magical Practice of Necromancy. To quote him regarding women with the propensity for necromancy:

“If you are a woman you may have had occasional vivid dreams of a sexual nature which you remember upon awakening. In some cases, the dream may

sex and the dead - necromancy
According to Pixabay, this is what necromancy looks like

have been so vivid that you awakened as a result of the orgasm that the dream produced. This is not an uncommon phenomena found in those women who are able to work with the spirits of the dead. Women who are able to work well with the spirits of the dead often have very little sense of physical modesty. In a few cases they are excessively modest. Often women who can work with spirits of the dead are quite uninhibited in comparison with most of the women of their generation. Occasionally they are asexual, but these women are usually found at the extreme ranges of dress and sexual behavior.”

So what is going on here? Why can working with the dead turn into such fuckery? (Ha, see what I did there?) Why does this collocation exist?

Sex as a Safety Mechanism

One thing you quickly learn when interacting with the dead is that to interact with the dead is to interact with death, and pull away from life. But to engage in the primal act of intercourse is to pull away from death and to reassert one’s place within the living world. It is to leave the world of shadows and rejoin the world of the heart pounding, heavy breathing, and corporeality of skin and bodily fluids. To fall once more under the spell of the sensual and reconnect with one of the joys of this world. It is in this sense, a way of exorcising the touch of death from yourself in the same way that you may take salt or wash your feet, or whatever else you do to purify when leaving the places of the sex and the dead - life and deathdead.

This is not some sick and perverted thing as some might think. There is no sexual attraction to the dead present (and I actually hate that I feel like I have to say that). Instead, I find it to be more like the triggering a safety mechanism that occurs in response to a certain degree of proximity to death. It’s a form of medicine. When you think about it, this is really no different from people fucking at or after funerals. It is, I believe, the same underlying mechanism at work.

In short, this is a piece of protective wiring for those of us who experience it, and deities like Papa Ghédé rightfully mock us when repression keeps us from this act of self-healing.

(Ace folx, I’d be curious to hear what you experience post-interacting-with-the-dead!)

Bibliography

Eating With the Dead: Funeral Meal Practices, by Tylluan Perry in MEMENTO MORI A Collection of Magickal and Mythological Perspectives On Death, Dying, Mortality and Beyond

The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion, by Mircea Eliade

Communing with the Spirits: The Magical Practice of Necromancy, by Martin Coleman

Eight Sarcastic But Serious Tips for Necromancy

Necromancy - squad

Bored with the same old candle spells and rhyming couplets? Why not dabble in a spot of necromancy for the kind of life change that only the dead can bring! Practiced for generations and common to pretty much every culture on earth, necromancy is the new way to find out shit you wouldn’t otherwise know.

The Dead > Siri

We all have things we want to know about: lost items we want to find, things we want to know about other people, what the winning lottery numbers are…. and well, as we all know Siri can be a right royal bitch! But who the fuck is she to be a bitch? Sure, the dead can be bitches too (see point #2 ), but they arguably have some sentience (depending on your worldview). It’s like the difference between getting attitude from a fucking Furby, and you know, an actual person. Yes, Siri, you’re just some flashy Furby pimped up with spy tech! You are NOT the boss of me.

(FYI, the Dead also beat Alexa. The gods don’t go to any old schmucks for information!)

Necromancy - Siri
“Fuck you, Siri!”

But the point is, the dead can help with lots of questions. From modern iterations on the traditional treasure-hunting theme (“Where are my keys?”), to questions designed to find out hidden knowledge (“How many people has my aunt ____ banged? How many does it take before people start to call you a ‘bike’?”), the dead have you covered.

Your Dead Entourage

For the truly self-centered and destructive among you, necromancy also gives you the option of compelling the dead

Necromancy - squad
Amirite?

to go and fuck up someone you hate! Yes, for the small cost of completely shitting on any chances of being a decent human being and the potential consequences of getting caught robbing graves, you too can have your own dead army. Marvelous!

Of course, there’s a lot of argument about whether it’s *really* bad to do that to the bones of traditional targets (like hanged criminals and shit), but I’m going with the moral absolutism here. It’s way easier to be sarcastic about absolutes than shades of grey.

The Underworld’s The Limit!

Did you know that there are a fuck load of dead people buried in the earth, and that lots of people have died since the beginning of humanity? This means that there are literally millions of dead people to choose from with your necromancy. The Underworld is the limit, people!

Necromancy - underworld
See? LOADS of dead people. (Thanks for the snapshot, Orpheus!)

So, what key tips would I give to the would-be necromancer? I’m glad you asked that, because I have some right here!

1. Pick The Easy Ones

Necromancy - Kratos
This isn’t really Kratos, but this guy? Yeah, you’re not aiming to raise guys like him.

This is something of a no-brainer, but you generally want to go for either the somewhat debilitated or you know, people who actually liked you in life. The reason for this is that if you have a Code:Draugr situation, the weaker ones won’t be able to fight you as well, and people who liked you won’t automatically try to fuck you up when you drag them kicking and screaming from their miserable afterlife existences. Don’t go for the cool-sounding warrior or king, because that hardly ever goes well. The same goes for criminals or people who have died in really bad ways. That kind of anger sticks around (also: see point #2)

Generally the best advice is to go for your grandma who used to feed you cakes every time you went round to her house. Only this time, she’ll be feeding you information instead of diabetes.

2. An Asshole In Life Is Still An Asshole In Death
So, once upon a time there was a douchebag called ‘Hrapp’ who lived in Iceland way back when. Now everyone thought he was a grade A prick even in life, so it should have been a no-brainer to not bury him IN A FUCKING DOORWAY! Except they did, and it was terrible, because doorways are weird, liminal places, and Hrappy-boy stayed right where he was. Yes, they had a Code:Draugr situation, and it sucked. Because if they thought he was a prick in life, he didn’t exactly improve on death. No, he got worse, and even worse, he had draugr-powers.

To be fair, his wife probably just dealt with his demand to be buried in the doorway with the same level of give a shit or existential terror as she may have done to his demands for horse ass for dinner. Whatever, the moral of this story is clear: death doesn’t erase douchebaggery, so don’t raise douches. (That’s a moral for more than just necromancy, right there!)

3. Be Respectful
So, you’ve got your dead all nice and necromanced, how do you talk to them?
Well, if your answer was something along the lines of “Well, like Zak Bagans!”, do the world a favor and slap yourself. Actually, slap the shit out of yourself and put down the necromancy, no more necromancies for you!

No, the best way to deal with the dead in necromancy is to reign in all your inherent douchebaggery and pretend you’re a respectful fuck who isn’t just really trying to find out who his/her aunt banged for the lolz.

4. It’s OK To Be Scared
In fact, if you’re not scared, you probably have no internal capacity for risk assessment. If you cannot do that, then put down the necromancy. Fear isn’t a bad thing, it’s natural when raising the restless or rested. If anything, that preternatural cold kind of inspires it. It’s like a visceral warning that what you’re doing is not just a little bit against the natural order of things, and that’s the kind of instinct that keeps you from either joining them, or winding up in a straitjacket.

You just have to learn to handle the fear, not rid yourself of it.

5. Fuck-Ups Happen, So Have Backup Plans
Another thing you have to handle is the potential for fuck-ups. Or even ways in which you vastly underestimated the situation (same diff). This is incredibly common, and despite the new and improved character sheets the dead now come with which allow you to compare their stats with your own to see who has the most dots in whatever, fuck-ups are pretty much a part of the necromancer’s life.

Once upon a time, there was this dude called Benvenuto Cellini. Now Cellini got in with a necromancer back in the day and kinda let him know that he was up for learning about it. Kind of like a bucket list kind of deal really. So Cellini, his new necromancer buddy, and a couple of other mates he invited along, went off to the Coliseum to go and bother the dead. The first time they went, it was all a bit “oooh” and “ahhhh”, and “when will I see my dead girlfriend again?” (FYI, not a good question to ask.)

The second time though, there were more spirits than you could shake a stick at of various kinds. I mean, this was a situation seriously going downhill. But did the necromancer turn into Zak Bagans? Nope, he stayed respectful. His assistants were terrified, Cellini was terrified, the little virgin boy psychic they’d brought along was terrified. Seriously, they were so close to being completely up shit creek because the Coliseum was crawling with the dead and everything else.

Thankfully, the necromancer had a good plan to disperse the dead, and this is where we get into back-up plans.

6.Fart-o-cism
Yes, you read that right.

Cellini’s necromancer had a big pile of stinky ole asafetida. Because the dead apparently don’t like stinky stuff. (Nor

do the elves btw, a euphemism in Icelandic for ‘to take a shit’ allegedly literally translates as ‘drive out elves’).

Necromancy - Fartocism
“No more ghosts here, boss!”

However, they didn’t really need to crack out that fetid weed, because….

Cellini’s bud Agnolo cut cheese like you wouldn’t believe. No really, from the description it sounds like that fart would have left a mark. But it worked, and the dead started to get the hell out as soon as they could.
So you know, if you’re really in trouble, try shitting yourself.

7. Put Them Back When You’re Done
Remember when you were a kid and you finished playing with some toys, left them out, and got bollocked by your mum for not tidying up after yourself? Well it’s the same principle here. If there’s one theme that keeps coming up again and again in the different accounts of necromancy, it’s that the dead mostly don’t like being raised, so the least you can do after finding out where your car keys are, is put them back. Necromancy that focuses on just calling them up is half a job done. Don’t be one of those guys.

8. Purification, motherfuckers!
Lastly, when you’re done with your necromancing for the day, don’t forego your purification rites in favor of climbing into bed and getting a few more minutes of sleep. You already messed up your night’s sleep with going out and fannying about at the local cemetery/burial mound/crossroads, you may as well just suck it up and make sure you end the night right.

The dead are kept from the living for reasons, mostly that they’re not too good for us. So, it’s a good idea to make sure that you leave the fun of the graveyard, in the graveyard. Popular options include a good old-fashioned scourging, suffumigation, and ritual bathing, so there’s bound to be a method to suit every necromancer!

If all of this sounds good to you, and you’re the kind of person who enjoys the kind of pant-staining terrifying fun with the dead that only necromancy can bring, why not actually give necromancy a go?

Necromancy: Because Siri Is Shit