Necromancy involves the evocation of spirits of deceased individuals for the purpose of divination. Some magicians believed that spirits could only be summoned during the first year of that person's death. Necromancy was forbidden by the Laws of Moses, but even the great king Saul (11th century B.C.E.) sought the advice of the prophet Samuel through the mediumship of the Witch of Endor. The Christian clergy also condemned the practice since the earliest days of the church. None of these warnings and proclamations have prevented sorcerers and magi from attempting to evoke the spirits of the dead through a variety of rituals.

A spirit could not be called without the magician first taking steps to protect himself. Should he not do this, his soul would be in danger. Protection took the form of talismans, seals, special powdered concoctions, and, most importantly, the magic circle. As long as the magician stood within the magic circle, he was invulnerable to whatever spirit entity he managed to call up.

A variety of circles were used. Sometimes a triple circle was drawn, the diameter of each concentric circle being six inches less than the one surrounding it. The outermost circle was marked at four equidistant points for north, south, east, and west. Magical words were written at each point: "Agial" at the eastern, "Tzabaoth" at the southern, "Jhvh" at the western, and "Adhby" at the northern. Between each of these points a pentacle, or five-pointed star, was drawn.

The magician placed his brazier of lighted charcoal at the eastern point, in the smallest circle. Then his altar, its center plumb with the center of the brazier, was equipped. Upon the altar were the ritual tools, including salt water, incense, candles, and herbs appropriate to his specific undertaking. Lighted candles would also be placed around the outside circle. Each tool was carefully consecrated and wrapped in white linen.

In the circle with him, the magician would have prepared the proper talismans. Inscribed also within the circle were the seals of the spirits to be evoked. Next, a triangle was drawn to the side of the magic circle, and it was in this triangle that the spirit would manifest. The magician then commenced with the conjuration, the first order of business being the evocation of the magician's own guardian spirit. This was a further assurance of protection. Then the evocation of the planetary spirit was attempted.

Still other rites demanded that the magician draw a circle containing Solomon's seal (Star of David) with a rectangle superimposed over it, a cross within the center diamond formed by the seal. Solomon's seal was especially recommended for summoning air spirits. According to Peter of Abano (an occult author who lived from 1250 to 1318), this summoning should take place when the moon is waxing. Abano also recommended the inscription of four concentric circles for the invocation of good spirits. This should be done in the first hour of a Sunday in springtime. The names inscribed in the circles were Varcan, the Lord's king-angel of the air, and Tus, Andas, and Cynabel, who are the Lord's holy ministers. The highest angels of Sunday, according to Abano, are Michael, Dardiel, and Huratapal. The north wind carries these angels, and they can be invoked by magical ceremonies employing incense made of red sanders.


Ahmed, Rollo. The Black Art. London: Arrow Books, 1966.

De Grivy, Emile Grillot. A Pictorial Anthology of Witchcraft, Magic & Alchemy. New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1960.

Levi, Eliphas. Transcendental Magic. London: Rider & Co, 1958.

Waite, Arthur Edward. The Book of Ceremonial Magic. New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1960.

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