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Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/808

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NECROMANCY


73G


NECROMANCY


the guidance of thcsi' "divining" or "pythonio" spirits (Levit., xx, 6; I Kings, xxviii, 3, 9; Isa., xix, 3). The term yidttc 'onim (from yada, "to know"), which is also used, but always in conjunction with 'ohdth, re- fers either to knowing spirits and persons through whom they spoke, or to spirits who were known and familiar to the wizards. The term 'obh signifies both "a diviner" and "a leathern bag for holding water" (Job — xxxii, 19 — uses it in the latter sense), but schol- ars are not agreed whether we have two disparate words, or whether it is the same word with two re- lal<'(i meanings. Many maintain that it is the same in l)(ilh instances, as the diviner was supposed to be the recipient and the container of the spirit. The Sepluagint translates 'ohoth, as diviners, by "ventrilo- quists" (eyyaiTTpifievol), either because the translators thought that the diviner's alleged communication with the spirit was but a deception, or rather because of the belief common in antiquity that ventriloquism was not a natural faculty, but due to the presence of a spirit. Perhaps, al.so, the two meanings may be con- nected on account of the peculiarity of the voice of the ventriloquist, which was weak and indistinct, as if it came from a cavity. Isaias (viii, 19) says that nec- romancers "mutter" and makes the following predic- tion concerning Jerusalem: "Thou shalt speak out of the earth, and thy speech shall be heard out of the ground, and thy voice shall be from the earth like that of the pj-thon, and out of the ground thy speech shall mutter" (xxix, 4). Profane authors also attribute a distinctive sound to the voice of the spirits or .shades, although thev do not agree in characterizing it. Homer (Iliad. XXIII, 101; Od., XXIV, 5, 9) uses the verb Tp/feii', and Statins (Thebais, VII, 770) stridere, both of which mean "to utter a shrill cry"; Horace qualifies their voice as triste et actitum (Sat., I, viii, 40) ; \'irgil speaks of their roi exigua (.Eneid, VI, 492) and of the gemitus lacryinahilis which is heard from the grave (op. cit.. Ill, 39); and in a similar way Shake- speare says that "the sheeted dead did squeak and gib- ber in the Roman streets" (Hamlet, I, i).

The Moasic Law forbids necromancy (Levit., xix, 31; XX, 6), declares that to seek the truth from the dead is abhorred by God (Deut., xviii, 11, 12), and even makes it punishable by death (Levit., xx, 27; cf. I Kings, xxviii, 9). Nevertheless, owing especially to the contact of the Hebrews with pagan nations, we find it practised in the time of Saul (I Kings, xxviii, 7, 9), of Isaias, who strongly reproves the Hebrews on this ground (viii, 19; xix, 3; xxix, 4, etc.), and of Manas- ses (IV Kings, xxi, 6; II Par., xxxiii, 6). The best known case of necromancy in the Bible is the evoca- tion of the .sold of Samuel at Endor (I Kings, xxviii). King Saul was at war with the Philistines, whose army had gathered near that of Israel. He "was afraid and his heart was very much dismayed. And he con- sulted the Lord, and he answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by priests, nor by prophets" (5, 6). Then he went to Endor, to a woman who had "a divining spirit", and persuaded her to call the soul of Samuel. The woman alone saw the prophet, and Saul recog- nized him from the description she gave of him. But Saul himself spoke and heard the prediction that, as the Lord had abandoned him on account of his disobedi- ence, he would be defeated and killed. This narrative ha-s given rise to several interpretations. Some deny the reality of the apparition and claim that the witch deceived Saul; thus St. Jerome (In Is., iii, vii, 11, in P. L., XXIV, 108; in Ezech., xiii, 17, in P. L., XXV, 119) and Theodoret, who, however, adds that the prophecy came from God (In I Reg., xxviii, QQ. LXIII, LXIV, in P. G., LXXX, 589). Others attrib- ute it to the devil, who took Samuel's appearance; thus St. Basil (In Is., viii, 218, in P. G., XXX, 497), St. Gregory of Nyssa ("De pythonissa, ad Theodos, epLso. epist.", in P. G., XLV, 107-14), and Tertullian (De anima, LVII, in P. L., II, 794). Others, finally,


look upon Samuel's ajiparition as real; thus Josephus (Antiq. Jud., VI, xiv, 2), St. Ju.stin (Uialogus cum Tryphone Judao, 105, in P. G., VI, 721), Origen (In I Reg., xxviii, "De Engastrimytho", in P. G., XII, 1011-1028), St. Ambrose (In Luc, i, 33, in P. L., XV, 1547), and St. Augustine, who finally adopted this view after having held the others (De diversis quiEst. ad SimpHciauum, HI, in P. L., XL, 142-44; De octo Duleitii qua>st., VI, in P. L., XL, 162-65; De cura pro mortuis, xv, in P. L., XL, 606; De doctrina Christiana, II, x.xiii, in P. L., XXXIV, 52). St. Thomas (Summa, II-II, Q. clxxiv, a. 5, ad 4 "") does not pronounce. The last interpretation of the reality of Samuel's apparition is favoured both by the details of the narrative and by another Biblical text which convinced St. Augustine: "After this, he |SaniueI] slept, and he made known to the king, and showed him the end of his life, and he lifted u|) his voice from the earth in prophecy to blot out the wickedness of the nation" (Ecclus., xlvi, 23).

III. Necromancy in the Chiustian Era. — In the first centuries of the Christian era the practice of necromancy was common among pagans, as the Fa- thers frequently testify (see, e.g., Tertullian, "Apol.", xxiii, P. L., I, 470; "De anima", LVI, LVII, in P. L., II, 790 sqq.; Lactantius, "Divinae institutiones", IV, xxvii, in P. L., VI, 531). It was associated with other magical arts and other forms of demoniacal practices, and Christians were warned against such observances "in which the demons represent them- selves as the souls of the dead" (Tertullian, De anima, LVII, in P. L., II, 793). Nevertheless, even Christians converted from paganism sometimes in- dulged in them. The efforts of Church authorities, popes, and councils, and the severe laws of Christian emperors, especially Con.stantine, Constantius, \'alen- tinian, Valens, Theodosius, were not directed siiecif- ically against necromancy, but in general against pagan magic, divination, and superstition. In fact, little by little the term necromancy lost its strict meaning and was applied to all forms of black art, becoming closely associated with alchemy, witch- craft, and magic. Notwithstanding all efforts, it sur- vived in some form or other during the Middle Ages, but was given a new impetus at the time of the Re- naissance by the revival of the neo-Platonic doctrine of demons. In his memoirs (translated by Roscoe, New York, 1851, ch. xiii) Benvenuto Cellini shows how vague the meaning of necromancy had become when he relates that he assisted at "necromantic" evocations in which multitudes of "devils" aj)i)cared and answered his questions. Cornelius Agrippa ("De occulta philosophia", Cologne, 1510, tr. by J. F., London, 1651) indicates the magical rites by which souls are evoked. In recent times, necromancy, as a distinct belief and practice, reappears under the name of spiritism, or spiritualism (see Sfiritism).

The Church does not deny that, with a special per- mission of God, the souls of the departed may appear to the living, and even manifest things unknown to the latter. But, understood as the art or science of evoking the dead, necromancy is held by theologians to be due to the agency of evil spirits, for the means taken are inadequate to produce the expected results. In pretended evocations of the dead, there may be many things explainable naturally or due to fraud; how much is real, and how much must be attributed to imagination and deception, cannot be determined, but real facts of necromancy, with the use of incanta- tions and magical rites, are looked upon by theolo- gians, after St. Thomas, II-II, Q. xcv, aa. iii, iv, as special modes of divination, due to demoniacal intervention, and divination itself is a form of superstition.

Lenormant, La magie chcz les Chaldiens (Paris, 1875) : Idem, La divination el la science des prisages chez leu Chaldeens {Paris, 1875) : Bouch^-Leclercq. Histoire de la divination dans I'antiquiti (Paris, 1879-82) ; Tvlor, Researches into the Early History oj Man-