Author Archives: Eugenia

Roman and Greek Necromancy

Necromancy, also known as nigromancy, describes a theoretical magical practice of communicating with the dead.  This happens either through raising them by summoning the spirit. Generally, the goal of this practice is to use the dead for divination; the practice of acquiring knowledge about the unknown or the future through supernatural means.

In classical antiquity, a term associated with the history of the ancient Greece and ancient Rome, there was much fascination about the practice of Necromancy. This time period looked at ghosts and the wisdom that they could provide. In their attempts, they would visit oracles, try to reawaken skulls and corpses, and sleep on tombs. The personal involved in ancient Necromancy included the likes of zombies, early vampires, shamans, Chaldeans, Roman emperors, sorceress, ghosts and witches.

There was a general understanding that even during the time of Classical Antiquity that majority agreed that it was better to leave the dead unmolested and only a few people engaged in this practice. I think this runs parallel to our culture now where there is a general understanding that we do not defile the dead once they are gone but also likewise that there are people who choose to act against that grain. Overall Necromancy during this time was seen more prominently in literature.

Do I believe in the legitimacy of this practice? No. Do I believe in ghost, spirits, the dark arts? Not really. It’s not something that I have explored extensively but I do believe in supernatural powers in more biblical/Christian way. Necromancy addresses a question that we have explored in ANT Death and Burial. Which is where do our spirits go when we die? With Necromancy there is this idea that even after death you are able to actively contribute to society. After you die your legacy lives on; whether it is big, small, good or bad.


Seppuku – Honorable Suicide

A staged version of the Japanese ritual suicide known as Seppuku or Hara-Kiri, circa 1885. The warrior in white plunges a knife into his belly, while his second stands behind him, ready to perform the decapitation. (Photo by Sean Sexton/Getty Images)

As an anime fan, one thing that I have grown to love and appreciate is the diversity and uniqueness of both modern and traditional Japanese culture. One practice that does stand out to me is the practice of the honorable death known as Seppuku.  Seppuku, death by self-disembowelment, became a ritualized and institutionalized form of suicide among the Samurai in Feudal Japan; and it was seen has a form of honor and courage reserved for the Samurai, the traditional Japanese military. I was interested in learning a little bit more about this practice especially with our recent class discussions of what constitutes a “good” death or a “bad” death.

The deaths of Minamoto Yorimasa, a poet, and Minamoto Tametono, a samurai, describes the earliest known acts of Seppuku. Seppuku, which describes a process of slicing the stomach open, was considered the most courageous, straightforward and bravest way to die because the stomach was considered to be where the human spirit resided. In these practices, witnesses would sit discreetly to the side while the samurai, dressed in white, would kneel on large white cushion. The Samurai would then inflict the fatal injury to his stomach and his Kaishakuin, second in command or assistant, would make sure the Samurai did not experience prolonged suffering and ensured a honorable death.

Seppuku’s adoration and inspiration in Japanese culture has remained even today and can be seen depicted in movies, plays, novels, anime and more. During WWII, in the Pacific Islands, American soldiers witness Japanese militia committing this ritual right before their very eyes. After losing the war, some men and women performed the ritual in order to serve as an apology to the Emperor of Japan.  But for people who are not Japanese the practice has been held with horrid fascination.I think this is because each individual has their own qualms about the topic of death and even more so suicide. So for me, it is interesting to see how understanding death is highly influenced by the culture, the society and the time and how they all play a major role in determining what constitutes a “good” or “bad” death.


Fusé, Toyomasa. “Suicide and culture in Japan: A study of seppuku as an institutionalized form of suicide.” Social Psychiatry 15.2 (1980): 57-63.