Top 5 | The Lore Explored | The Necromancer

As Howard Philips Lovecraft once wrote–that
which is not dead can eternal lie, and with strange aeons–even death may die. You see, in this capacity, the incomprehensible
scope of cosmic horror was once immortalised by the many comings and goings and wants and
needs of the Old Gods–a concept which never could be fully grasped by the human mind. But it was a passage written in a book that
harkens back to the ultimate adversary of all human life. Death. The Necronomicon. The Book *OF* The Dead–and one which played
on a symbolic device that has been scrawled on the pages of literature since time immemorial. That of the Necromancer–the human host that
blurs the boundaries between the spirit world and ours. So, in that case–let’s see what they’re
all about. Hello horror fans, what’s going on, and
once again welcome back to the scariest channel on YouTube–Top 5 Scary Videos. As per usual, I’ll be your horror host Jack
Finch–as today, we once more return to the Lore Explored–and take a curious look, at
The Necromancer. Roll the clip. For the curious amongst you, that clip–of
course, was from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug–and in my eyes, anything–book,
movie, game–whatever–that is set in Middle Earth. Can do no wrong. Fact. But hey–it also depicted an incredibly unique
concept, that of Sauron as the Necromancer–a fledgling essense of the shadow before his
whole campaign of hate and torment–one that wasn’t exactly laid down in the Lord of
the Rings Series, but instead only hinted at by J.R.R Tolkein a hundred years prior. Put a pin in that–because Sauron is an incredibly
important figure in the fictional lore of the Necromancer–but again–it was an even
older archetypal image–one that has appeared time and time again in mythology, folklore,
religion–literature–tabletop board games. The Necromancer is as old as storytelling
itself–and before we dive into the bulk of their lore–it’s probably best that we find
out where they first began. So first and foremost, what’s in a word? Because while it may seem slightly obvious–the
etymology behind the Necromancer is the first and most important stop in deciphering the
origin of those that speak with the dead. The word necromancy is adapted from the Late
Latin–necromantia, which in itself is borrowed from the post-Classical Greek Nekromanteia–a
compound of the Ancient Greek Nekros, which means dead body–and manteia, which loosely
translates to divination by means of. A diviner of those that are dead. Now, whilst the first ever use of this word
occurred in a treaties known as Origen of Alexandria in the 3rd Century AD–the actual
origin of the classical Greek Term–nekyia–was even older still. It appeared in perhaps one of the most famous
texts of the ancient world, The Odyssey–written by Homer and completed some time around the
8th Century BC–denoting an ancient Greek cult ceremonial practice known as Nekyia–a
rite by which ghosts were called upon and questioned about the future. And whilst this certainly seems to be the
most important starting point for our journey through Necromancy In Literature–still, the
form and function of this practice is older than even that. Because–you see–the role of the Necromancer–walks
hand in hand with another archetypal role. That of the Shaman. And don’t worry, because we certainly can’t
cover the whole extent of the Shaman as merely a footnote in a video, and we’ll be taking
a much deeper look at them in their own Lore Explored in good time. The point is–it is important to note that
the Necromancer is certainly an offshoot of the Shaman–and it harkens back to an ancient
cultural practice that, seemingly, has made up an integral part of all human beings–and
in turn, all life on earth. Veneration of the dead–as well as the physical,
metaphysical or spiritual communion with those that have passed over–is perhaps one of the
oldest core beliefs of human existence. It would make sense, then, that evidence of
this Necromancy was prevalent throughout the ancient world–particularly in Ancient Egypt,
Babylonia, Greece and Rome. Several allusions are made in ancient records
of classical necromancers addressing the dead in a mixture of high-pitched squeaking and
low droning noises–comparable to the trance-like mutterings of Shamanism–which suggests further
that the origins of Necromancy are indeed one and the same with Shamanism, or at least
comprised of similar rites. In his encyclopedic work, Geographica, written
by the Greek Academic and Philosopher Strabo around 7 BC–he refers to the Nekromantia–or
diviners of the dead–as the foremost leading practitioners of divination amongst the people
of Perisa. In short, necromancy was at the forefront
of religion in much of the ancient world–and it is believed to have also been widespread
amongst the people of Chaldea–Etruria–and most importantly, Babylonia–where Babylonian
necromancers were denoted as Manzazuu–or Sha’etemmu–and the spirits that they raised
were called etemmu. Once again, evidence of an ancient practice. Communication with the dead. And here we can bring it back to Homer’s Odyssey–where
these themes come to the forefront of ancient literature. In the Odyssey, under the direction of the
powerful sorceress Circe, the hero Odysseus travels to the bowels of the Earth, to the
Underworld–in order to gain an insight into his impending voyage home. Most importantly, he seeks a lost knowledge,
one that could not be revealed without the wisdom of the dead. That’s an important theme. By using the practice of spells that Circe
taught him, Odysseus wishes to invoke and question the shade of Tiresias–the blind
prophet of Thebes–but is unable to summon the seer’s spirit without the aid of others. Even more astoundingly, eventually Odysseus
commits fully to the necromantic ritual–where he then performs the rites of the dead around
a pit and fire–sacrifices the blood of animals–and recites prayers and incantations to the ghosts
and gods of the underworld. As clear as it could ever be. Communion with the spirit world. Odysseus as the Necromancer. Most importantly, this rite and practice of
Nekyia would later form the psychological and philosophical incarnation of the Necromancer
that we now know–particularly in horror and fantasy literature. This image was perhaps best elaborated on
by the psychoanalytic works of Carl Jung–who equated Nekyia and Necromancy as the allegorical
Night Sea Journey–a metaphorical descent into the lower world with the ultimate prize
being a new, darker knowledge of the self. In many ways, the classical hero’s journey
was superseded by the night sea journey–an ultimate descent into the dark depths of the
human consciousness–one where, compared to the cathartic process of the hero–here, there
is no coming back. You see, the basic practice of Necromancy
in Ancient Greece and the wider Ancient World was more of a solicitation of the dead, rather
than any form of exploitation. The general rite of the classical communication
of the spirit world–as laid out by Odysseus–was for a figure to dig a pit, make a fire in
it–offer honey, milk, wine–and then to lay out the sacrifice of an animal, along with
prayers to the Chthonic Gods–such as Hecate. Throughout pretty much all of the ancient
world–this practice appears time and time again in some form or another–and is one
that literally became the cornerstone for a myriad of belief systems. Old Norse, Gnosticism, Paganism–many necromantic
rites were sacramount to them, and over hundreds of years, this dead-speaking function shifted
and changed with the times. So then, you may be scratching your head and
thinking–where does the evil image of the Necromancer first occur? I was expecting flowing black robes–bone-white
hair–and an army of skeletal archers. And the answer to that question was forged
in perhaps one of the most tumultuous times in European History. The Middle Ages–and the role that the Catholic
Church played in shifting the tide in the continued cultural development of necromancy. You see, not surprisingly–the Abrahamic Religions
took a pretty dismal view of the practice–and condemnation of necromantic rites is explicitly
referred to on many occasions in their religious texts. In the Bible, it is very clearly denoted as
a dark art–but strangely enough, it wasn’t ever a practice that was completely eradicated
by the Church. In fact, throughout the Middle Ages–despite
the Church being the principal advocates for its condemnation–it was the clergy who inadvertently
sustained it’s practice, albeit by driving it underground–and in turn, augmenting it’s
cultural evolution. You see, the Church didn’t outright destroy
necromancy–but instead refused to believe that anyone but the Abrahamic god had the
power to resurrect a body or even intentionally contact a spirit. And because of that–the Church concluded
that these ancient necromancers weren’t actually communicating with the dead–but
instead–with demons–a host of nefarious forces who had deceived the magicians into
believing that they were the souls of the dead. And now, perhaps–the image of the Necromancer
as a Corrupted Scholar or Warlock owes itself as the far more nefarious archetype in contemporary
literature. This is where we get the far more contemptuous
conventions of the Necromancer. Blood sacrifices–poppets, voodoo dolls–protective
circles, letters and sigils. The image of the Necromancer almost as a warrior,
rather than a Shaman–bending the will of the metaphorical demon of the dead to do their
bidding, rather than to gain a lost knowledge like Odysseus did in the Underworld. Throughout the 1300s–reports of necromancy
as a practice fell on either side of the moral and cultural line. Rare confessions of necromancy by those that
were accused seemed to suggest that there was a range of what was and wasn’t acceptable
in relation to communing with the dead. John of Salisbury–is perhaps one of the most
famous historical examples of this, a philosopher accused of Necromancy after a royal scandal. So was the case of Richard Kieckhefer in 1323–who
was accused of Necromancy after being connected to a group who were plotting to invoke the
demon Berich from inside a circle made from strips of cat skin. It seemed that the ancient message may have
been lost in translation. You see, the Middle Ages truly were a gray
area as to what was and what wasn’t acceptable in terms of *ceremonial magic* and many of
these gray areas are what have laid the basis for esoteric knowledge in modern culture and
literature. You see, it didn’t end there though–and
it was with the rise of Spiritualism throughout the 1800s where the image of the Necromancer
once again shifted–this time back toward a kinder, more gentler form of communing with
the dead. This is where the seance came to the forefront
of popular practice–and instead of dead bodies as laid out by the Necromancy of the Middle
Ages–this time it was live mediums that acted as conduits for the dead. Now, whilst this was a historical period that
was certainly rife with Charlatans and Grifters who would seek to exploit the shared reverence
for the dead that has seemingly been ingrained in our cultural psyche since the dawn of time–it
is also part of the Gothic connotations of Necromancy that are so common today. Skulls. Candles. Shadow Ceremonies. Tapping the Bones. Throughout the turn of the 19th century and
later still–Necromancy literally got a face lift, and part of that facelift is the archetypal
Necromancer that we understand in today’s popular culture–but deep beneath the bones–the
form and function remains the same. And this is where it is difficult to pinpoint,
because when we look at modern literature–video games, tabletop and television included–the
Necromancer is, at times, all of these very same archetypes laid out throughout history. Whether it is the playable character class
in the Diablo Series–an orchestrator of the dead who harnesses the corpses of the deceased
to do their bidding–the unwitting Ash in Sam Raimi’s Army of Darkness–or in Briam
Lumley’s Necroscope series–where the Necromancer is instead augmented back to its original
form as an individual who can communicate with the dead as equals, rather than adversaries–all
of them remain the same. Reverence of the Dead is a tale as old as
time–but deep beneath that core belief system, is a far more important cultural reminder. Those that forget our history are doomed to
repeat it–and the dead–keep it. Well, there we have it folks–our most recent
destination in this whistle-stop tour of the Lore Explored. Obviously, there is much, much more to Necromancy–but
hey, feel free to dig deeper for yourself. Before we depart from today’s video, let’s
first take a quick look at some of your more creative comments from the last Lore Explored
Video–The King In Yellow. Rodney Kelly says– Why do I keep finding the Yellow Sign in the
snow? — Well. I think you know the answer to that question
Rodney. You’re a funny man–and please don’t eat
it. Saige Pilgrim says– I adore this series, and this character. — Well, that it incredibly kind of you Saige–and
I adore the fact that you’re enjoying this series–because I am too! And finally, Christopher Smith says– Your king has heard you mortal. — Oh…. no. Not again. Well, on that note–unfortunately that’s
all we’ve got time for in today’s video, cheers for sticking around all the way until
the end.

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