Necromancer (Heb. דֹּרֵשׁ אֶלאּהִמֵּתַים, one who inquires of the dead; Sept. ἐπερωτῶν τοὺς νεκρούς). In many ancient nations there were jugglers who professed to be able by incantations to call up the dead from the under world, chiefly to consult them on the mysteries of the present or future. Already in Homer's time this practice had been introduced (see Odys. 11:24 sq.); and the belief in such enchantments, notwithstanding the mockery of the better instructed few (Cicero, Tusc. 1:16, 37), kept its ground among the common people in pagan lands down to the latest times (comp. Plin. 30:5 sq.; Herodian, 4:12, 8; Dio Cass. 77, 15; Tertullian, Apol. 23; De Anima, 57). Particular places were commonly supposed to be, as it were, entrances to Orcus (νεκυομαντεῖα), where, on invocation, the shades would actually appear; for example, at Lake Aornos in Epirus and Lake Avernus in Lower Italy (Cicero, Tusc. ut sup.; Heyne, Excur. 2 sq., ad Virg. En. 6); and at Heraclea on the Propontis (Herod. 5:92, 7; Diod. Sic. 4:22; Pausan. 9:30, 3; Plutarch, Cim. 6; Strabo, 5:244). The Eastern Magi were especially famed for necromantic skill (Herodian, lit sup.; comp. Strabo, 16:762). Necromancy (אוֹבוֹת; Talm. דרשיו אל המתום; see Othonis Lex. Rabb. page 171) had also found an entrance among the Israelites, especially when idolaters were on the throne (2Ki 21:6; 2Ch 33:6; Isa 8:19; Isa 29:4 comp. 19:3, where the Egyptian enchantments arm mentioned). In the Law the consultation of these men was forbidden as a heathen superstition (Le 19:31), and they who disobeyed were threatened with death (Le 20:6; De 8:11). Saul, in his distress, caused the shade of Samuel to be summoned from Sheol by an enchantress (1Sa 28:7 sq.; comp. J.C Harenburg in Iken. Nov. Thesaur. 1:639 sq.; E.F. Schmersahl, Nat. Erklar. der Gesch. Sauls mit d. Betrugerin zu Endor [Gera, 1780]; Hensler, Erlaut. des 1 B. Samuel page 88 sq.; Exeget. Handbuch. A.T. 4:251 sq.; Bottcher, De Inferis, 1:111 sq.). Dathe believed in the actual appearance of Samuel by a miracle (comp. Doderlein, Theol. Biblioth. 3:331); and the conception the people formed of this apparition, which was not essentially altered by the poets and prophets, afforded a very natural basis for such superstitions. To the spirits thus evoked the enchanter lent a low, soft. almost whispering voice (Isa 8:19; comp. 19:3), as seemed natural for such shades; just as the Greeks and Romans also applied the wordsτρίζειν (τρύζειν; Iliad, 33:101; Odys. 24 sq.; Lulcian, Menip. or Necromant. 11) and stridere (Statius, Thebais, 7:24; Claudian, In Rufin.
1:126; Petronius, Sat. 122, 17; comp. Virgil, AEn. 3:39 sq.) to the returning manes. It is by no means proved that the necromancers produced this muttering and whispering by ventriloquism, although the Septuagint usually renders the Hebrew אוֹב by the Greek ἐγγαστρίμυθος (according to Galen, the ἐγγαστρίμυθοι are so called because, speaking with the mouth closed, they seem to speak from the belly; comp. Josephus, Ant. 6:14, 2). The meaning of the word has been much discussed' (see Thenius, On 1 Samuel 28:3; Knobel, Prophetism. d. Hebr. 1:241 sq.; Bittcher, De Inferis, 1:101 sq.). Ventriloquism was certainly one of the arts of ancient jugglers (Aristoph. Vesp. 1019 sq. See also Leo Allat. De Engastrimytho, also in the Tractat. Bibl. of the Critici Sacri, 6:331 sq.; Dickinson, Delph. Phoeniciss. page 91 sq.; Gesenius, Comment. on Isaiah 1:605 sq., 853; Van Dale, De Idolat. page 608 sq.; Millii Dissertat. Sel. No. 12, also in Ugolini's Thesaur. 23; Tjeeuk, in the Commentat. Societ. Scient. Vlissing. 1:546 sq.; Potter, Greek Archeol. 1:758 sq.; Heyne, Excurs. 1, ad Virg. AEn. 6). SEE DEMON; SEE SORCERY. In most parts of Greece, necromancy was practiced by priests or consecrated persons in the temples; in Thessaly, it was the profession of a distinct class of persons called Psychagogoi ("Evokers of Spirits"). The practice of it in that country was ultimately connected with many horrid rites, in which human blood, half-burned portions of bodies from funeral piles, the immature foetus cut out of the womb, etc., were employed; sometimes human beings were slain, that their spirits might be consulted ere they finally passed into the lower world. The establishment of Christianity under Constantine caused necromancy to be placed under the ban of the Church. There are evident traces of necromancy in some of the older Norse and Teutonic poems. The mediaeval belief in the evocation of spirits belongs rather to sorcery than to necromancy. See Peucer's Commentarius de precipuis divinationum generibus (Zerbst, 1591); N.A. Review, 80:512. SEE DIVINATION; SEE MAGIC.
A species of necromancy, called Rochester knockings, from Rochester, N.Y., where it originated, and spirit rappings, from the raps by which' departed spirits are said to give their responses, has recently prevailed extensively in the United States, and produced no small amount of fanaticism and infidelity. See Brit. Quar. Rev. October 1875, art. 6. SEE MESMERISM; SEE SPIRITUALISM