Necromancy

Authored by: Frank Klaassen

The Routledge History of Medieval Magic

Print publication date:  February  2019
Online publication date:  February  2019

Print ISBN: 9781472447302
eBook ISBN: 9781315613192
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781315613192-16

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Abstract

The intentional or unintentional conjuring of demons was the great spectre medieval anti-magic literature, something to which practitioners and non-practitioners alike reduced almost all forms of magic at one time or another in order to reject them. John of Morigny constructed and supported his revision of the Ars notoria in opposition to the threat of demons it provoked. 1 Renaissance authors such as Marsilio Ficino and Henry Cornelius Agrippa constructed their positive views of magic in conscious opposition to necromancy. 2 Later, necromancy and magic in general were used in the rhetoric of the reformation to attack not only Catholicism but also sectarians and atheists. 3 This rhetorical habit even continued with modern authors. Lynn Thorndike, Frances Yates and a host of others have used it to designate the sort of magic that was decidedly unlike science: the magic of the Renaissance, natural or spiritual magic, astral magic or whatever sort of magic they championed. This concern also had institutional expressions. To at least the mid-fifteenth century, the learned necromantic practitioner was the principal focus of law and legal procedures against magic. The middlebrow nature of much necromantic literature and its generally self-serving goals make it an easy target for this sort of thing, but given how large its spectre looms in writing on medieval magic and the Middle Ages in general, and its consistent presence in modern commentaries about premodern magic, it is curious that so little is really known about it.

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