NeoWiccan (who frequently comments on this blog) and I were hanging out together the other day, shopping, having nails done, and discussing, among other things, necromancy. A pretty typical Crones Day Out.
NW was wondering what the big deal is - why so many folks get their knickers in a knot over this type of divination. Not that they (in this case, a comment from a Roman Catholic) are happy with ANY type of divination, but that necromancy is clearly more upsetting to them than, say, the attention lavished on the groundhog on groundhog's day, or even tarot readings. Heck, even in Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files series necromancy is one the things banned by the White Counsel (the Good Wizard's Union). And the series has the good guys calling up demons to work with without blinking an eye!
So we discussed the ancestors and the Ancestors (family vs. Big Name/religious), we touched on the real and perceived role of spiritual entities involvement, etc. And I figured I'd do more research and blog about it.
For those desperately googling, Necromancy is divination that relies on contacting the dead for the info. Clearly, to be able to do this means you have to believe that the soul or spirit hangs out after death, and that it can communicate with living beings if the living do the right thing, and that the dead have insight/knowledge that they didn't have before. In other words - even if they were morons before death, they are now morons with access to a better library now that they are dead! Okay, to put it more ... gently ... they are 'closer to the sources of real knowledge'.
So, what's to fear?
Well... First there is the fear of the dead and ghosts and undead and vampires and zombies. What DO they want from the living? Apparently, in the gut-level view of a lot of people, all the dead want to do is live again, at any cost to the actual living. They will eat our brains, they will drink our blood, they will possess our bodies. I dunno if the afterlife is supposed to be that boring, or at least it's not seen by most people as the dead REALLY being 'in a better place'?
Second, some see an impenetrable barrier between the dead and the living. Whether the dead are 'unconscious' until resurrection, or live is live and disembodied are disembodied and never the twain shall meet. People with this view tend to see any purported necromancy as demons pretending to be the dead. And that demons have access to all knowledge, too, the better to imitate the dead (and, I suppose, promote science the better to use scientific advances to take people away from religion). I CAN sort of see how people would get this idea from contacts with their departed friends and family - they would have a different perspective after death, being now spirit not primarily soul and flesh. The answers/responses are going to show a different focus.
It's probably pretty clear I don't hold to these views. OTOH...
So, what's to give even ME pause?
Okay, at Samhain I invite the Honored Dead to come by, have a meal, say hi. No promise, no demands that they show up. An open invitation. Once a year - it's not my 'standard' form of divination.
I've seen some people who have been unwilling to let go of the dead, mucking up their own lives with this. There's a nice scene of Edith Piaf doing this in the movie "Le Vie En Rose". It's not always emotionally healthy for the living person - not because of the dead's focus, but because of his/her own. It can practically be a form of necrophilia!
And I DO wonder how healthy it is for the dead to keep being called back to this plane. They have moved to be more spirit than soul, in my belief system they have new things to do/work on rather than still work the family issues they shed with their bodies. Let them move on with their afterlife.