It is only within recent times that the attempt to communicate with the dead has been elevated to the dignity of White Magic. Here it is necessary to affirm that the phenomena of Modern Spiritualism are to be distinguished clearly from those of old Necromancy. The identity of purpose is apt to connect the methods, but the latter differ generically. To compare them would be almost equivalent to saying that the art of physical Alchemy is similar to mercantile pursuits because the acquisition of wealth is the end in either case. To appreciate the claim of Modern Spiritualism would be to exceed the limits of this inquiry; it is mentioned only with the object of setting it quite apart. It should, however, be added that occult writers–with the nondiscrimination which is common to their kind–have sometimes sought ambitiously to represent the communication with departed souls by means of Ceremonial Magic as something much more exalted than mere Spiritualism, whereas the very opposite is nearer the truth. Ancient Necromancy was barbarous and horrible in its rites; it is only under the the auspices of Eliphas Levi and Pierre Christian that it has been purged and civilized, but in the hands of these elegant magicians it has become simply a process of auto-hallucination, having no scientific consequence whatever. The secret of true evocation belongs to the occult sanctuaries, by the hypothesis of those who are their spokesmen; it is not the process of Spiritualism, and still less, so far as may be gleaned, is it that of the magical Rituals, nor would the secret at best seem respected by those who possess it, because the higher soul of man transcends evocation, and that which does respond ought to be beneath the initiate. The claim, however, is naturally one of delusion complicated by imposture.
In any case, the Necromancy of the Ritual is, properly speaking, a department of Black Magic, and for this reason no doubt it was excluded from the theurgic scheme of the Arbatel; nor do even such composite works as the two Keys of Solomon and the Magical Elements contain any account of a process which was always held in execration. It was lawful apparently for the Magus to conjure and compel the devils, to rack the hierarchy of Infernus by the agony of Divine Names, but he must leave the dead to their rest.
Where the process is given, as in the Fourth Book of Cornelius Agrippa, it is confined to the evocation of those souls who might be reasonably supposed to be damned, and it involves revolting rites. It assumes that the evil liver carries with him into the next world the desired which have depraved him here, and it allures him by his persistent affinities with the relinquished body. In this way the use of blood came to be regarded as indispensable, because blood was held to be the medium of physical life; so also a portion of the body itself, whether flesh or bone, was prescribed in the rite. There is not any need to say that evocations involving the use of such materials belong to Black Magic, but they would not in any case offer a redeeming feature to the consideration of the informed student.
“It is also to be understood,” says pseudo-Agrippa, “that those who are proposing to raise up the souls of any deceased persons must do so in places with which it is known that they were familiar, in which some special alliance between soul and body may be assumed, or some species of attracting affection, still leading the soul to such places. . . . Therefore the localities most suited for the purpose are churchyards, and, better still, those which have been the scene of the execution of criminal judgments”–in plain words, the immediate neighborhood of a gibbet. A battlefield or other place of public slaughter is still more favorable, but best of all is the scene of a murder before the removal of the carcass.
The ritual of Necromantic Evocation is indicated but not given by the authority just cited; we must seek it in Ebenezer Sibley and in the supplementary portions of the Grand Grimoire and the Red Dragon. The astrologer Sibley does not give account of his sources, but they were evidently not in printed books. The Sloane MS. numbered 3884 in the Library of the British Museum would appear to have been one. It is, in any case, not an invented process; it develops the principles laid down in pseudo-Agrippa and is quite in harmony with the baleful genius of Black Magic. It is here given verbatim.
But if, instead of infernal or familiar spirits, the ghost or apparition of a departed person is to be exorcised, the Magician, with his assistant, must repair to the churchyard or tomb where the deceased was buried, exactly at midnight, as the ceremony can only be performed in the night between the hours of twelve and one. The grave is first to be opened, or an aperture made by which access may be had to the naked body. The magician having described the circle, and holding a magic wand in his right hand, while his companion or assistant beareth a consecrated torch, he turns himself to all the four winds, and, touching the dead body three times with the magical wand, repeats as follows:–By the virtue of the Holy Resurrection, and the torments of the damned, I conjure and exorcise thee, Spirit of N. deceased, to answer my liege demands, being obedient unto these sacred ceremonies, on pain of everlasting torment and distress. . . . BERALD, BEROALD, BALBIN, GAB, GABOR, AGABA. Arise, arise, I charge and command thee.
After these forms and ceremonies, the ghost or apparition will become visible, and will answer any question put to it by the exorcist. But if it be desired to put interrogatories to the spirit of any corpse that has hanged, drowned or otherwise made away with itself, the conjuration must be performed while the body lies on the spot where it is first found after the suicide hath been committed, and before it is touched or removed. The ceremony is as follows. The exorcist binds upon the top of his wand a bundle of St. John’s wort or Milies perforatum, with the head of an owl; and having repaired to the spot where the corpse lies, at twelve o’clock at night, he draws the circle and solemnly repeats these words:–By the mysteries of the deep, by the flames of Banal, by the Power of the East and the silence of the night, by the Holy Rites of Hecate, I conjure and exorcise thee, thou distressed spirit, to present thyself here and reveal unto me the cause of thy calamity, why thou didst offer violence to thy own liege life, where thou art now in being, and where thou wilt hereafter be.
Then gently smiting the carcass nine times with the rod, he adds:–I conjure thee, thou Spirit of this N. deceased, to answer my demands that I propound unto thee, as thou ever hopest for the rest of the holy ones and ease of all thy misery; by the Blood of Jesus which He shed for thy soul, I conjure and bind thee to utter unto me what I shall ask thee.
Then, cutting down the carcass from the tree, they shall lay its head towards the east; in the space that this following conjuration is repeating, they shall set a chafing-dish of fire at its right hand, into which they shall pour a little wine, some mastic and some gum-aromatic, and lastly [the contents of] a vial full of the sweetest oil. They shall have also a pair of bellows and some unkindled charcoal to make the fire burn bright when the carcass rises. The conjuration is this:–
I conjure thee, thou Spirit of N., that thou do immediately enter into thy ancient body again and answer to my demands: by the virtue of the Holy Resurrection, and by the posture of the body of the Savior of the world, I charge thee, I conjure thee, I command thee, on pain of the torments and wandering of thrice seven years. Which I, by the force of sacred magic rites, have power to inflict upon thee; by thy sighs and groans I conjure thee to utter thy voice. So help thee God and the prayers of the Holy Church. Amen.
This ceremony being thrice repeated, while the fire is burning with mastic and gum-aromatic, the body will begin to rise, and at last will stand upright before the exorcist, answering with a faint and hollow voice the questions propounded unto it: why it destroyed itself, where its dwelling is, what its food and life are, how long it will be ere it enter into rest, and by what means the magician may assist it to come to rest; also of the treasures of this world, where they are hid. Moreover, it can answer very punctually concerning the places where ghosts reside, and of the manner of communicating with them, teaching the nature of Astral Spirits and hellish beings so far as its capacity alloweth.
All this when the ghost hath fully answered, the magician ought out of commiseration and reverence to the deceased, to use what means can possibly be used for procuring rest unto the spirit, to which effect he must dig a grave, and, filling the same half full of quick-lime, with a little salt and common sulfur, must put the carcass naked into it. Next to the burning of the body into ashes, this is of great force to quiet and end the disturbance of the Astral Spirit. But in this and in all cases where the ghosts or apparitions of deceased persons are raised up and consulted, great caution is to be observed by the Magician to keep close within the circle; for if, by the constellation and position of the stars at his nativity, he be in the predicament of those who follow the Black Art for iniquitous purposes, it is very dangerous to conjure any spirits without describing the form of the circle, and wearing upon the heart, or holding in the hand, the Pentacle of Solomon. For the ghosts of men deceased can easily effect sudden death to the magician born under such a constellation of the planets, even whilst in the act of being exorcised.
It must be confessed that this process is grim and depressing, and the occult student will not envy the sorcerer at the first palpitation of the corpse. Yet the rite is methodical, and even sober, when compared with the monstrous alternative of the Grand Grimoire, which must be given on the authority of Levi; for no available edition of the work which is in question, nor yet of the Red Dragon, nor indeed any ritual of my acquaintance, contains it. There is reasonable probability that he invented it to make out his case at the moment.
“There are also necromantic processes, comprising the tearing up of earth from graves with the nails, dragging out some of the bones, setting them crosswise on the breast, then assisting at midnight mass on Christmas Eve, and flying out of the church at the moment of consecration, crying. ‘Let the dead rise from their tombs!’–then returning to the graveyard, taking a handful of earth nearest to the coffin, running back to the door of the church, which has been alarmed by the clamor, depositing the two bones crosswise, again shouting: ‘Let the dead rise from their tombs!’–then, if we escape being seized and shut up in a madhouse, retiring at a slow pace, and counting four thousand five hundred steps in a straight line, which means following a broad road or scaling walls; finally, having traversed this space, lying flat upon the earth as if in a coffin, repeating in doleful tones: ‘Let the dead rise from their tombs!’–and calling thrice on the person whose apparition is desired.”
The object of Necromantic evocations was much the same as the other operations of the Grimoires. If the sorcerer of old, like the modern magician, had ever disposed the shade of Apollonius of its eternal rest, it would have been upon a question of finance. The remaining process in Necromancy will be therefore an appropriate conclusion to our whole inquiry, as it is designed to raise up and expel a human spirit who is supposed to stand guard over a hidden treasure. It is from the Verus Jesuitarium Libellus, and is the ne plus ultra of Ceremonial Magic, however distributed according to the colors of the spectrum. The end of all things is money, says the sorcerer, and if asked to define Occult Science, he would answer that it was the method of obtaining concealed money. The testimony of the entire literature coincides with this definition.