Necromancy .. Why is it Claimed to be Evil?

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Question: This is going to sound pretty weird, but... I am very interested if not taken in by necromancy. I'm not just talking about video games (though I really have a blast being one in Skyrim), but I've also looked up necromancy and read up on it. However, a lot of sources summarize necromancy as an evil element, a forbidden power no one should withhold (whether you believe in myths or not).

Why is it seen as evil? Can't necromancy possibly be used for good? In most TV shows, games, and books/novels, anything relating to necromancy has a villain behind it. I don't admire that concept, because it's like saying fire is an evil element because it burns everything it touches. Fire can be used to warm places, cook food, inspire art (like tattoos, ect.) and so forth. So why does necromancy gets no love from anyone unless it's from an evil person or monster (if you're including fiction)?

Science Related Question: Just thought of something... scientists try to create animals from mere samples. Since they're trying to bring back mammoths even to this day, can that be seen as necromancy? Also scientists cloning from an animal that was already dead.. like a dog or sheep- can that be necromancy too? Sure it's not magical powers or anything but the definition behind necromancy is bringing back the dead (despite that it's done differently in this case).

Note: Even if you disagree with me, I would still love to hear your answers.
Also note I am not into preforming necromancy, just the ideal makes me curious and enlightened if that makes sense.

Hmm well in a lot of fantasy worlds. Necromancy involves binding peoples souls into their rotting carcasses, killing innocent people for a power boost and other nasty things. Plus theres the whole issue of how you acquire your undead servants(like killing people)

Plus its kind of desecration of a corpse. How do you think the grieving family would feel if they saw a necromancer go "Right! Another one for the army!"

It would be interesting to see a fantasy setting where theres a village or city that willingly gives their dead over to a benevolent necromancer. You could see it from the point of view that as long as the necromancer doesnt do anything to the departeds soul and only uses the bodies with consent that theres nothing really wrong. It would be an interesting setting.

Then the people could get an army of zombies to protect them! Or zombie labour!

Fieldy409:
Hmm well in a lot of fantasy worlds. Necromancy involves binding peoples souls into their rotting carcasses, killing innocent people for a power boost and other nasty things. Plus theres the whole issue of how you acquire your undead servants(like killing people)

Plus its kind of desecration of a corpse. How do you think the grieving family would feel if they saw a necromancer go "Right! Another one for the army!"

It would be interesting to see a fantasy setting where theres a village or city that willingly gives their dead over to a benevolent necromancer. You could see it from the point of view that as long as the necromancer doesnt do anything to the departeds soul and only uses the bodies with consent that theres nothing really wrong. It would be an interesting setting.

Then the people could get an army of zombies to protect them! Or zombie labour!

i am pretty sure planescape torment does that.

Well I straight up love necromancy. Its like my favorite class ever.

I would take a good necromancer over a psychic medium every day. At least they would have pretty undeniable evidence of their powers.

"Hmm... I'm getting a message from the other side that someone in this room has had a personal tragedy at some point. I'm getting the letter "E"... or perhaps "F"..."

vs.

"Hey, I've raised your late husband from his eternal slumber, we've got him backstage. Let's bring him out. You can sit down and have a coffee with him"

the Dept of Science:
I would take a good necromancer over a psychic medium every day. At least they would have pretty undeniable evidence of their powers.

"Hmm... I'm getting a message from the other side that someone in this room has had a personal tragedy at some point. I'm getting the letter "E"... or perhaps "F"..."

vs.

"Hey, I've raised your late husband from his eternal slumber, we've got him backstage. Let's bring him out. You can sit down and have a coffee with him"

image

Just take it. Your joke made me bust out of my chair.. literally.
I'll probably get no sleep now thanks to you lol.

Also you brought up a point- necromancy (if used right) could get the dead to answer questions on how they died. Example: A murder case, I bring the victim back up and they can tell me what happened. Or have them see their family to make up before moving on. Sounds cheesy but hey.. imagine that.

Because they defile the dead to advance their goals.

Their goals can still be good, but it's a means and ends thing.

Also, depending on your fictional universe magic may need to come from an external supernatural source. In such cases Necromancy will pretty much always come from deals with demonic forces, sacrificing orphans, or giving money to Valve.

Personally I find Necromancy freaking awesome. My guess why people are against it is the "Playing god" thing. If you could bring anyone back to life what you've done is create immortality and solved every single illness in the world. Not only are you gonna get corrupted (It's inevitable) but everyone will either try to praise you as a god (in hopes of becoming immortal) or kill you for having such powers.
People would be against that and the whole corpse stealing dealio as well. Also just because it's "death magic" people would probably run away screaming "Witch Witch!"

Lousy ingrates...

Because defiling the dead and binding their souls to their rotting forms might unintentionally be ever so slightly infringing on their free will and such. Might.

..However, the Necromancer from Diablo is totally cool about this, considering they exist to provide balance to the nature of the realms when not corrupted by demons, rather than the stereotypical profession of raising undead armies to terrorize people for the sake of "Kings of Shadows" or "Velsharoon" or "the lulz". It's a hard stigma to crack, you know, especially while being forced to a suit covered with a human skeleton that you can never get rid of, but simply get in a variety of different colors and shoulder bone sizes (albeit, it ends up looking really badass).

Because as much as people on the internet might say otherwise, I think having your loved ones forcefully pulled out of their grave and forced to do work for someone you might not have even met might actually not be the best thing that could happen to them.

Just about every culture in the world has some taboo about messing with "the dead", so I assume there's a reason for it other than "Well we decided to do something because grandpa Billy is starting to smell a little and we think somehow writing his name on a piece of rock and sticking it in the ground above where we buried him might fix it".

Caramel Frappe:
Question: This is going to sound pretty weird, but... I am very interested if not taken in by necromancy. I'm not just talking about video games (though I really have a blast being one in Skyrim), but I've also looked up necromancy and read up on it. However, a lot of sources summarize necromancy as an evil element, a forbidden power no one should withhold (whether you believe in myths or not).

Why is it seen as evil? Can't necromancy possibly be used for good? In most TV shows, games, and books/novels, anything relating to necromancy has a villain behind it. I don't admire that concept, because it's like saying fire is an evil element because it burns everything it touches. Fire can be used to warm places, cook food, inspire art (like tattoos, ect.) and so forth. So why does necromancy gets no love from anyone unless it's from an evil person or monster (if you're including fiction)?

Science Related Question: Just thought of something... scientists try to create animals from mere samples. Since they're trying to bring back mammoths even to this day, can that be seen as necromancy? Also scientists cloning from an animal that was already dead.. like a dog or sheep- can that be necromancy too? Sure it's not magical powers or anything but the definition behind necromancy is bringing back the dead (despite that it's done differently in this case).

Note: Even if you disagree with me, I would still love to hear your answers.
Also note I am not into preforming necromancy, just the ideal makes me curious and enlightened if that makes sense.

1: First off, necromancy isn't real, and thus in the real world it isn't evil because it doesn't exist. However, the closest real-life equivalent would be grave robbing/desecrating, at least in how we treat it morally. The dead deserve their dignity. It's not a matter of religion or belief in the afterlife either; we also should respect the memories of the dead. Just because someone is dead gives us free reign to fuck around with their bodies as we please? No. It's about basic human respect, is all.

2: Scientists are not looking to reanimate corpses, just clone them. That's an altogether different moral quandary, but most people agree that cloning is creating a new life, not jump-starting an expired one.

In Arcanum they actually had it separated into white and black necromancy. White necromancy was about the restoration of flesh to healthy life, so healing and perfect ressurrection. Where as black necromancy was communication with the dead, reanimation of corpses and killing.

Caramel Frappe:
Why is it seen as evil? Can't necromancy possibly be used for good?

OK, the two fundamental questions. Before answering them, let me clarify that depiction of necromancy depends on the setting. An older interpretation of "necromancer" used to be "a person who contacts dead spirits" or uses the dead in some way to divine truths about the world. In short, just a dude (or a gal) who used the dead instead of tarot cards or palm reading. Not really that negative when you think about it. Anyway, necromancy as evil is the prevalent depiction.

Why is it seen as evil? Well, it' is literally about people playing God. IRL, you get the "playing God" tossed around when you talk about death sentence and taking lives. It's a serious accusation. Now think of it as controlling lives. Whether somebody lives or dies is not only determined of whether you kill them or not - you can approach the same situation from the other end and grant them lives. Something humans are not (presumed) to have the authority of.

That's just one of the factors, though. Another one is that death is seen as evil. In a lot of the western world, at least. Take no further look at the Disney abomination animation Hercules. In Greek mythology, Hades was...well he wasn't a pretty cool guy but certainly wasn't Satan in disguise. In western society, death and the things related to that are perceived as evil, therefore, if you control it, it must rub off you or at the very least, you are manipulating evil of some form.

So far we have people playing with the natural order and especially an evil part of it. Pretty solid for painting the whole perception of necromancy. But there is more. I can't really list every contributing factor, but I'll try to mention some more relevant ones. Slavery. Necromancy is portrayed as slavery. And a bad case of it, too. if you have living slaves, they require some amount of care - feeding, sleeping. Sure, you can skimp on those and that would make you a bad person, but at the very least they require some humane handling to work. The dead are literally bound in service forever for they are tireless and sleepless. But they are bound in service. There iss no equivalent for the mortal slave, it's way worse than making them work 24/7 whipping them instead of letting them eat or sleep. If the necromancer uses just a dead body, that's bad enough case to call it slavery, if they actually use a soul...well that is really up to 11. Think about it, the necromancer snatches a soul from wherever it is resting (usually depicted as resting, otherwise they'll be picking up some infernal souls or something, therefore evil again *sigh*) and forces it to work for them. As well as a body.

Another reason is D&D, and related settings that have objective morality set in them. They may not really care less about what the magic does, however, the very act of "disturbing the dead" is seen as evil. Very grey, at the very least. Also, undeath is depicted as the exact opposite of life itself. Foul thing. Again evil, but also supported by the objective morality. In D&D (pre 4e, at least), the necromancers are evil. As simple as that. They mess with the antithesis of life, they mess with the natural order, they mess with forces of evil. Sure, there are some neutral, and maybe a couple of actually good people that mess with the dead, but they are the exception not the rule. Besides, they wouldn't be doing the same as a true necromancer would do.

Also, it's the usual way necromancers work. To operate, they need the life of something to be extinguished. They may use readily available corpses but that may be grave robbing. It may not be, but still it presents a slight limitation on their resources. On the other hand, if they kill people themselves (directly or indirectly), they have a huge deal more resources. It's lucrative to do so. And many evil necromancers just do that.

And finally, D&D and the like settings again. From slightly more non-fluff perspective, plainly the evil sounding spells are shoved with necromancy. Kill people, curse them, bind their souls, obliterate their bodies, cause them unimaginable agony, feed off their deaths becoming stronger at the expense of lives. Most of the things that sound evil are thrown there.

Mostly, necromancy suffers a lot from the continual depiction as evil. It's not always portrayed that way but there are some elements that can suggest it. In the end, though, necromancers just make perfect villains. A very evil guy who the protagonist(s) will wish to stop. And the necromancer has an entire army of mooks, which the good guys would feel no remorse for mowing down.

Can't necromancy possibly be used for good? Well, of course it can. You just have to look beyond the D&D mythology ripoffs classical fantasy tropes. Necromancy can be really be a neutral force in a setting, so it can be used both for good or evil.

In Arcanum the necromancy magic is about manipulating the life force and souls of the mortals. It's split into two paths - black (causing harm and raising the undead) and white (healing). Neither of them is inherently god or evil. For a while, necromancy had even been outlawed but that was because of a very powerful necromancer who raped souls and destroyed the living en masse for "study". That was evil. but there are legitimate black necromancers out there who may not be evil. It is predisposed to that but it depends how you use it. White necromancy is predisposed to good as well - healing and all that. But in the end it all depends on how you use that magic.

In the World of Darkness, the old one, necromancy was mostly used for evil. It could have also served good, sure, but it is the WoD. Also, it suffered from "let's shove the evil and painful sounding powers here" a bit. And finally, there was a bit of a legit reason necromancy to be viewd as evil, in short a very powerful and very mad mage poisoned the very idea of necromancy, so most practitioners are subconsciously aiming to tear down the wall between life and death. And that's a bad thing. In the new World of Darkness, the creepiness factor of necromancy is turned down. Sure, there are plenty of evil necromancers (again, it's WoD) but necromancy and the dead aren't inherently evil. There is even a whole bunch of people who died and returned from death gaining new powers in the process. Powers mostly related to the dead. And they are pretty neutral. Those guys aren't inherently good or evil, it's how they use their powers - they can forcibly bind ghosts against their will to do tasks, or just chat with them and ask them a favour.

Technically necromancy can be used for good. It's p to the setting to depict that.

Caramel Frappe:
Science Related Question: Just thought of something... scientists try to create animals from mere samples. Since they're trying to bring back mammoths even to this day, can that be seen as necromancy? Also scientists cloning from an animal that was already dead.. like a dog or sheep- can that be necromancy too? Sure it's not magical powers or anything but the definition behind necromancy is bringing back the dead (despite that it's done differently in this case).

No, I don't think that can be called necromancy. They aren't using the dead, per se, and they don't mess with the forces of life and such. At most, you can call it "messing with the natural order" but the same could be said about the LHC. Science uses body samples not trying to reanimate whole bodies, and they don't bother with souls (for now). Incidentally, sympathetic magic can also be described the same way. So, no the scientific cloning doesn't have a significant enough overlap with necromancy to be called such.

EDIT: Damn, it turned into a wall of text.

TL;DR - is it evil? It's mostly depicted this way but not exclusively. Can it be used for good? Yes, it can. Depending on the setting/presentation. Is cloning necromancy? No, it's not.

I respect people that have passed away, but if I can still use your body to hold a sword and slay some evil beast, then you bet your ass you're becoming my zombie.

Its all about the desecration of the dead, and while you can see where most cultures are coming from, I frankly don't care. All graveyards should be replaced with low income housing for the poor anyways. Its a waste of space. Pay your respects and move on.

Respecting ideals of people that have passed away = sounds reasonable

Respecting their rotting corpse = nonsensical

Well, why don't you take up thread necromancy. Join my army and threads will live for eternity muhahahhahahahahhahahaha.

I always got the impression that necromancy was the summoning and controlling of the dead (whether in the form of spirits,zombies skeletons, other undead etc.)

So, if we split that up and first look at controlling. If you are controlling the spirit, then you are enslaving something and robbing it of free-will. Hence Evil.

If you are just animating a corpse, this isn't any more evil than making a robot. It is however, a lot more disgusting, and can be seen as desecration. So whilst its not evil, it is at least distasteful especially if you could just as easily make a Golem or Construct.

If you are summoning spirits then you are again holding something against its will. Especially if you trap it in a vessel (such as a corpse for instance). Not necessarily evil you might argue, but certainly not good. Especially if they've been dragged out of some afterlife, as opposed to just hanging around.

That's before you consider the practical issues. I imagine the risk of possession etc. is much greater for necros than for other mage types, except maybe warlocks.

Also there's the whole human sacrifice thing necromancers have a reputation for. People don't like that.

It's skeletons and shit, yo. Bad mojo.

DoPo:
Huge Snip

image

... .. Wow. I just got done reading your entire post. Never expected someone to look so deeply into any of my OPs before but I really, really appreciate the feedback you've given me. I have a whole lot to think about now and you've certainly outdid yourself so it'll take me awhile to absorb all that information haha.

Also I didn't even realize there was a 'black' and 'white' version of necromancy. Someone else mentioned about those types of necromancy so I will really have to look up on that. Perhaps (due to being into animation and entertainment of video games) I can use this sort of information to develop a great game or show, showing necromancy from a new prospective. So again, thank you for the feedback. I'm saving your post in Microsoft Word (sounds creepy, I apologize XD)

P.S: To everyone else, I am just as grateful and I still would love to know what you guys think about the issue at hand.

If we're talking about sorcery and the like, that is to say something which most definitely is not in the real world, then whether or not necromancy is inherently evil depends upon the underlying basis for the world.

If reincarnation exists, that is to say 'souls being shoved into new bodies', then there is absolutely no doubt: necromancy, in the common sense, is evil. Even something so blase as a seance is an act of evil in such a case: it tears a soul away from its new mortal frame, the participants demanding answers to various questions. The recreation of a mortal frame, whether it be via skeletal animation or your standard zombie, can be even more horrific, depending upon situations.

If reincarnation is not extant, then necromancy enters a more grey area: necromancers could very well simply be manipulating dead tissue, which - while horrific in its own sense - is anything but vile. It's simply a use of existing material - or materiel, as the case may be.

Of course, necromancy in a general sense isn't always bad. It could be construed and used as simply a matter of 'treating the dead properly', for example performing last rites, ensuring the dead find rest, and so forth. One example thereof is Rilian, from Dominic Deegan (yes, it's not a favorite of many, but it's a good example). Various cases of 'necromancy', in terms of religious rites, exist worldwide, from mummification to cremation, and even your standard Christian funeral rites could be construed as a sort of necromancy in a certain light.

Depending upon the situation, the world, and of course the characters, a GM has all manner of options in dealing with this.

The only form of necromancy I dislike is Thread necromancy... :3

Caramel Frappe:
I'm saving your post in Microsoft Word (sounds creepy, I apologize XD)

Oh, no! You've bound the soul of my post to your bidding and now you'll use your foul powers to rise it as a zombie! I want you to stop your evil witchery right now!

Seriously, I'm glad you appreciate it. As for black and white necromancy, that's the distinction made in Arcanum. As I said, necromancy there is just the manipulation of the life force and the souls. The distinction is mostly aesthetic (in-universe, mechanically they are as different as water magic and air magic or whatever). It's like splitting "fire magic" into "destructive" and "helping" of some sort.

Ultimately, there is nothing stopping you from showing necromancy as evil as other forms of magi - it can go both ways. I mean, of course, both good and bad.

I'd suggest having a look at the World of Darkness for a more neutral view on necromancy. Mostly in the Mage gameline. In the old Mage, necromancy was a bit of a niche - it was mostly the purview of Spirit. With the Spirit sphere, a character can interact and affect spirits and the Umbra (their realm) - the majority of the spirits are actually natural spirits (they embody ideas or some stranger stuff, say the spirit of a building), but ghosts do fall under that. In the new Mage, necromancy is better defined and falls under Death. But that does suffer somewhat from putting the more sinister effects in there. Using Death, a mage can see the last moments of a corpse or talk to ghosts, also manipulate shadows for some stupid reason, as well as "slay" all sorts of things, like objects, magic or auras (which only allow somebody to know your mood if they are able to see it).

Overall, though, necromancy in the WoD has the potential to be mostly neutral.

Because necros generally do one of 2 things. 1) summon demonic entities into a corpse making it evil by default such as the demon posing the corpse is evil by default or 2 souls are used to reanimate copses thus people must be killed or drained of a soul to reanimate a corpse.

Then you have the fact that people see a copse literally as still being whomever it is a corpse of rather than just their body and that necros tend to make an army so large they are no longer under their control and just destroy shit.

It depends on what kind of necromancy you're talking about, it's at least slightly different in pretty much every game, movie or book that it appears.

I figure the default reason necromancy is traditionally looked down on is because most people consider corpses deserving of respect, in some form or another.

But more specifically, it's usually to do with the soul. In a setting where necromancy is a reality, souls are also (usually) a reality. While a body is just the form we hold for the short time we're alive, souls are eternal, so messing with them is a big no-no.

It's hard to give an exact answer because there's no exact, fiction-wide definition of necromancy. But basically, messing with bodies = disgusting, messing with souls = sacrilegious, messing with both = disgustingly sacrilegious = necromancer.

These books have an interesting take on Necromancy.


The protagonist of the series is a necromancer who can speak with the dead (amongst other things), and the dead love him for it because gives them companionship and allows them to be meaningful after death. There are also characters who are twisted necromancers however, who can force the dead to inhabit their corpses, therefore returning there senses to them and causes them pain.

Diablo lore has good necromancers. "Good", It kinda chances it a bit from soul binding zombies to the controll of life and death. But I loved the necromancer in D2. He was Pimps.

Because Christianity has been present in our society for a long time and according to it, all magic is the work of the devil.
Only god can give and take a life, a human shouldn't do it. Also, since soul is powering a body, resurrecting the dead means either stealing a soul from god or creating a soulless living being.

But really, dead people are gross and they smell bad and they're decomposing so making them alive is icky.

Diablo 2's necromancers weren't evil... and since thats the main contact of i've had with necromancers in games i'd say that if most others are casting them as evil it's because that way the hero gets to fight a bunch of zombies/skeletons/other undead.

Religion.

That's where most resurrection stories come from and most (except jesus) are told to be evil/wrong/have bad consequences.

I think.

Necromancy always seemed incredibly inefficient to me. If what you want is an army, mind control is where it's at. Living people have functional muscle tissue and such, which tend to be helpful for conquering.

As for the morality involved, surely that would depend on the setting? If some warlock forces your conscience back into your corpse (disregarding where it went after your death) you would presumably feel your nerves disintegrating and such. Sounds painful. That person would probably qualify as evil.

'but I've also looked up necromancy and read up on it.'

You say that like it's an actual thing.

Anyway, things tend to slide towards the 'evil' side of the scale when you're fucking around with dead chaps.

When most fantasy settings who bring in necromancy usually go the way of reanimating the dead as lifeless, fighting husks or protective shells for otherworldly stuff, it seems pretty easily labelled as evil. Gotta be a strange person to not feel aggravated when someone decides to bring back your dearly beloved from the grave and march them off into battle. Unless your dead granny packed a mean punch, that is. Then it'd be fun to see her fighting again.

I think Christianity has a lot to do with it, and of course, Christianity has had a massive impact on everything Western.

Pre-Christian cultures tended to have a very different view of death, you have all that stuff about burying dead people underneath your house to keep them close to you, possibly digging them up every so often for special occasions.

Similarly, that stuff about there being days when the dead walk the earth again...why is that bad? If a loved one dying is a bad thing, surely having them pop back every so often is good? But, to convert people to Christianity, one of the popular methods is to take the existing religions and alter them to your needs. One of the ways this is done is not by dismissing other people's beliefs when they are incompatible with your own, but changing them and making them "evil". The dead coming back doesn't fit with the Christian afterlife, so it has to be wrong if it is allowed to exist.

Mind you, there's been a shift since before that, when the Romans took over the Etruscans, death became much more gloomier, they got rid of all the hope and rebirth and pictures of people holding up eggs and so on. Though, Roman ideas were co-opted by Christians anyway.

Caramel Frappe:

Why is it seen as evil? Can't necromancy possibly be used for good?

It's cause of Skellies Brah. No one wants to look at those bones and suddenly go dayum that structure be smexy.
/silliness
Desecrating the dead, binding souls, demons, spirits or whatever into a dead body to reanimate it and control it, wearing dark cloaks. Yea, thats pretty much why people see it as evil. Can it be used for good? Guild Wars. Also Bartimaeus Trilogy, The Golem's Eye specifically.

Science Related Question: Just thought of something... scientists try to create animals from mere samples. Since they're trying to bring back mammoths even to this day, can that be seen as necromancy? Also scientists cloning from an animal that was already dead.. like a dog or sheep- can that be necromancy too? Sure it's not magical powers or anything but the definition behind necromancy is bringing back the dead (despite that it's done differently in this case).

Crap, HE'S ON TO US BOYS! QUICKLY, GET THE SHADOW ORGANISATION TO TAKE HIM OUT!
@Everyone else disregard above and don't look into the lack of posting by CF for next the couple of years too closely.

Jack the Potato:

1: First off, necromancy isn't real...

*Falls off skull throne.* Wait, what. What have I been doing for the last 3000 years then? Running a morgue?

necromancy and cloning are two different things, cloning is making a copy of something necromancy is resurrecting something that is already dead going against the laws of nature.
the prevalence of Abrahamic religions like Judaism and Christianity might have to do with it since their religious texts say that only god has power over life and death.

Necromancy can be seen as the desecration of the dead. Desecration is bad.

lRookiel:
The only form of necromancy I dislike is Thread necromancy... :3

You still have my incredible thread reply-making skills.

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