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Necromancy and how we use the word today 
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Post Necromancy and how we use the word today
While reading through the Conan stories I noticed how often Robert E Howard uses the word Necromancy to describe pretty much any magic being used for an evil purpose. Which got me thinking how a lot of people, especially some of the ones I game with, seem to associate it with evil mages who only deal in magic that has to do with the dead. Raising the dead, talking to the dead, etc. After doing a bit of research online I find out that originally it didn't have much of a negative aspect to it at all. Here is one section from Encyclopedia Britannica...

Quote:
necromancy

communication with the dead, usually in order to obtain insight into the future or to accomplish some otherwise impossible task. Such activity was current in ancient times among the Assyrians, Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and Etruscans; in medieval Europe it came to be associated with black (i.e., harmful, or antisocial) magic and was condemned by the church



So this all breaks down to me asking this. How do you view the term 'necromancy' in your game worlds, groups, etc? Does anybody use the old style to where it may or may not be dark magic and just a communication with the spirits of those passed on?

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Wed May 09, 2012 6:45 pm
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Post Re: Necromancy and how we use the word today
In my gaming circles it principally seems to be understood as magic that deals with the dead - usually animating it - and this would be considered 'evil'.

However, I'm aware of the original definition of necromancy as a form of divination. I think that in certain circles in history, the practice might have been accepted, but in general terms it was likely frowned upon for at least being rather creepy.

My current historically-informed bronze age RQ game sees communication with spirits (including those of the dead) as a somewhat normal practice - that is to say, normal for the special practitioners of these arts. But since the spirits of the dead are not really separated out from the wider body of spirits, there is no 'necromancy' per se, and it isn't labeled as such in our game. There is no person who specializes in dealing with the dead.

However, in our game, the Sahhari of Gudea routinely summon all kinds of spirits and put them to use, especially jinn, and jinn are considered to be the spirits of people who died in the waste - a particular kind of ghost, if you will. They also summon and control more conventional ghosts, disease and passion spirits, magic spirits, spell spirits, and so on. Another culture, the people of the Noahim tribelands, worship their ancestors and, through the help of a Handmaiden (Shaman) they may summon them, speak to them, and learn magic from them. All these things are considered normal and not necessarily 'evil'. Good and evil, by the way, are not absolutes in our campaign - they exist purely in the eye of the beholder.

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Wed May 09, 2012 7:32 pm
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Post Re: Necromancy and how we use the word today
Necromancy is literally "Death Magic". It is any magic dealing with the dead. In AD&D, healing spells were considered necromantic spells IIRC, so that isn't particularly evil. I think a confusion between "Necro-" (Death) and "Negro-" (Black) is at least partly responsible for the drift in meaning.

-clash

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Wed May 09, 2012 7:42 pm
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Post Re: Necromancy and how we use the word today
-mancy or -mancer specifically refers to 'divination' - not 'magic'. Necromancy is literally 'prophecy from the dead'. The use of the word necromancy in the context of raising the dead and performing black arts is probably quite recent.

From wordnik:
Middle English, from Old French -mancie, from Late Latin -mantīa, from Greek manteia, -manteia, from manteuesthai, to prophesy, from mantis, prophet; see men-1 in Indo-European roots.

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Wed May 09, 2012 8:10 pm
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Post Re: Necromancy and how we use the word today
Thalaba wrote:
-mancy or -mancer specifically refers to 'divination' - not 'magic'. Necromancy is literally 'prophecy from the dead'. The use of the word necromancy in the context of raising the dead and performing black arts is probably quite recent.


So basically any medium could be considered a user of necromancy.

Well according the little bit I quoted up there the black arts connection started around the time of medieval Europe. Then once we get closer to modern times it was pretty much sealed in concrete as that by pop culture adapting and using it (like using it in Conan). I've always liked how the meanings of words change over time, this one particularly got my interest for some reason. Enjoying the input on it here.

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Wed May 09, 2012 8:22 pm
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Post Re: Necromancy and how we use the word today
I think the frowning upon necromancy started very early, like with Old Testament interdiction on offering libations to the dead and conjuring them. It was clearly part of the "You shall worship only one god" package.


Thu May 10, 2012 9:50 am
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Post Re: Necromancy and how we use the word today
flyingmice wrote:
Necromancy is literally "Death Magic". It is any magic dealing with the dead. In AD&D, healing spells were considered necromantic spells IIRC, so that isn't particularly evil. I think a confusion between "Necro-" (Death) and "Negro-" (Black) is at least partly responsible for the drift in meaning.

-clash


It's not just a confusion. Etymologically speaking, the modern word "Necromancy" is descended both from "Death Magic" and "Black Magic." From the Online Etymology Dictionary:

Quote:
Spelling influenced in Medieval Latin by niger "black," on notion of "black arts." Modern spelling is mid-16c. from attempts to correct Middle English nygromauncy.


In modern terms the prefix "Necro" is pretty much universally used to indicate death, however. "Necrotic Tissue" is dead tissue, "Necrophilia" is the love of the dead, and "Necrology" is a synonym for obituary.

Hi, I'm LS. I like words.


Thu Jun 28, 2012 5:06 pm
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