Open main menu

Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/807

This page needs to be proofread.




est possible character, only the day of the month, and not the year, being indicated, still in indirect ways these lists of names have been regarded as of consid- erable importance both for philological and histori- cal purposes. A large number have been published in Germany, France, England, and other countries.

MOLINIER, Les Obituaires FTan<;ais an moi/en dgc (Paris, 1S90) ; Ebner, Die kldsterlichen Gebetsverbriidcrungen bis zum Ausgange dts karolingischen Zeitallers (Ratiabon, 1890). 130-54; Delisle, Rouleaux des Marts du IX' au X V' siicle (Paris. 1866). Several volumes of Necrologies have been printed in the quarto series of the Mon. Germ. Hist., and four or more volumes of French Necrolo- gies have been issued in the Recueil des Historiens de la France by LoNGNoN AND MoLlNiER (Paris. 1902 — ). The first volume of the last-named collection contains an excellent bibliography of printed French Necrologies, pp. xxxvii to Ixxxvi. A bibliography of German necrologies will be found in the sixth edition of Wat- TENBACH, Deutechlands Geschichtsquellen.

Herbert Thurston.

Necromancy (veKp6s, "dead", and iiam-ela, "divination") is a special mode of divination (q. v.) by the evocation of the dead. Understood as nigro- mancy (niqer, black), which is the Italian, Spanish, and old French form, the term suggests "black" magic or "black" art, in which marvellous results are due to the agency of evil spirits, while in "white" magic they are due to human dexterity and trickery. The practice of necromancy supposes belief in the sur- vival of the soul after death, the possession of a supe- rior knowledge by the disembodied spirit, and the possibility of communication between the living and the dead. The circumstances and conditions of this communication — such as time, place, and rites to be followed — depend on the various conceptions which were entertained concerning the nature of the de- parted soul, its abode, its relations with the earth and with the body in which it previously resided. As divinities frequently were but human heroes raised to the rank of gods, necromancy, mythology, and demon- ology are in close relation, and the oracles of the dead are not always easily distinguished from the oracles of the gods.

I. Necrom.vncy in Pagan Countries. — Along with other forms of divination and magic, necromancy is found in every nation of antiquity, and is a practice common to paganism at all times and in all countries, but nothing certain can be said as to the place of its origin. Strabo (Geogr., XVI, ii, 39) says that it was the characteristic form of divination among the Per- sians. It was also found in Chaldea, Babylonia, and Etruria (Clemens Alex., "Protrepticum", II, in Migne, P. G., VIII, 69; Theodoret, "Gra-carum affec- tionum curatio", X, in P. G., LXXXIII, 1076). Isaias (xix, 3) refers to its practice in Egypt, and Moses (Deuter., xviii, 9-12) warns the Israelites against imitating the Chanaanite abominations, among which seeking the truth from the dead is mentioned. In Greece and Rome the evocation of the dead took place especially in caverns, or in volcanic regions, or near rivers and lakes, where the communication with the abodes of the dead was thought to be easier. Among these, yeKpoixavreta, \pvxoiiavTela, or 'pnxoTroixwela, the most celebrated were tlie oracle in Tliesi)rotia near the River Acheron, which was supposed to be one of the rivers of hell, another in Laconia near the promontory of Tanarus, in a large and deep cavern from which a black and unwholesome vapour issued, and which was considered as one of the en- trances of hell, others at Aornos in Epirus and Hera- clea on the Propontis. In Italy the oracle of Cumse, in a cavern near Lake Avernus in Campania, was one of the most famous.

The oldest mention of necromancy is the narrative of Ulysses' voyage to Hades (Odyssey, XI) and of his evocation of souls by means of the various rites indi- cated by Circe. It is noteworthy that, in this in- stance, although Ulysses' purpose was to consult the shade of Tiresias, he seems unable to evoke it alone; a number of others also appear, together or successively.

As parallel to this passage of Homer may be men- tioned the sixth book of Virgil's ^neid, which relates the descent of /Eneas into the infernal regions. But here there is no true evocation, and the hero himself goes through the abodes of the souls. Besides these poetical and mythological narratives, several instances of necromantic practices are recorded by historians. At Cape Ta^narus Callondas evoked the soul of Archi- lochus, whom he had killed (Plutarch, "De sera nu- minis vindicta", xvii). Periander, tyrant of Corinth, and one of the seven wise men of Greece, sent messen- gers to the oracle on the River Acheron to a-sk his dead wife, Melissa, in what place she had laid a stranger's deposit. Her phantom appeared twice and, at the second appearance, gave the required information (Herodotus, V, xcii). Pausanias, King of Sparta, had killed Cleonice, whom he had mistaken for an enemy during the night, and in consequence he could find neither rest nor peace, but his mind was filled with strange fears. After trying many purifications and expiations, he went to the psychopompeion of Phigalia, or Heraclea, evoked her soul, and received the assur- ance that his dreams and fears would cease as soon as he should have returned to Sparta. Upon his arrival there he died (Pausanias III, xvii, 8, 9; Plutarch, "De sera num. vind.", x; "Vita Cimonis", vi). After his death, the Spartans sent to Italy for psychagogues to evoke and appease his manes (Plutarch, "Desera num. vind.", xvii). Necromancy is mixed with one- iromancy in the case of Elysius of Terina in Italy, who desired to know if his son's sudden death was due to poisoning. He went to the oracle of the dead and, while sleeping in the temple, had a vision of both his father and his son who gave him the desired information (Plutarch, "Consolatio ad Apol- lonium", xiv).

Among the Romans, Horace several times alludes to the evocation of the dead (see especially Satires, I, viii, 2.5 sq.). Cicero testifies that his friend Appius prac- tised necromancy (Tuscul. quiest., I, xvi), and that Vatinius called up souls from the netherworld (in Vatin., vi). The same is asserted of the Emperora Drusus (Tacitus, "Annal.", II, xxviii), Nero (Sueto- nius, "Nero", .xxxiv; Pliny, "Hist, nat.", XXX, v), and Caracalla (Dio Ca.ssius, LXXVII, xv). The grammarian Apion pretended to have conjured up the soul of Homer, whose country and parents he wished to ascertain (Pliny, "Hist, nat.", XXX, vi), and Sex- tus Pompeius consulted the famous Thessalian magi- cian Erichto to learn from the dead the issue of the struggle between his father and Caisar (Lucan, "Phar- salia", VI). Nothing certain can be said concerning the rites or incantations which were used; they seem to have been very complex, and to have varied in al- most every instance. In the Odyssey, Ulysses digs a trench, pours libations around it, and sacrifices black sheep whose blood the shades drink before speaking to him. Lucan (Pharsalia, VI) describes at length many incantations, and speaks of warm blood poured into the veins of a corpse as if to restore it to life. Cicero (In Vatin., VI) relates that Vatinius, in connexion with the evocation of the dead, offered to the manes the entrails of children, and St. Gregory Nazianzen mentions that boys and virgins were sacrificed and dis- sected for conjuring up the dead and divining (Orat. I contra Julianum, xcii, in P. G., XXV, 624).

II. Necromancy in the Bible. — In the Bible nec- romancy is mentioned chiefly in order to forbid it or to reprove those who have recourse to it. The He- brew term 'oboth (sing., 'obh) denotes primarily the spirits of the dead, or "pythons", as the Vulgate calls them (Deut., xviii, 11; Isa., xix, 3), who were con- sulted in order to learn the future (Deut., xviii, 10, 11; I Kings, xxviii, 8), and gave their answers through cer- tain persons in whom they resided (Levit., xx, 27; I Kings, x.xviii, 7), but is also applied to the persona themselves who were supposed to foretell events under