Necromancy: Controlling the Dead, The Complete Guide

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By: Andrej Jovanovski

What is Necromancy?

Throughout history one motif could be found in every society, that being the search for power.

Knowing this it’s easy to see why magic has always been the most sought out source of power, often making the user, a wizard, the most powerful person in their time.

What we often fail to realize is that there are three different kinds of magic, white magic, black magic, and last but not least death magic, better known as necromancy.

Even though this is a very broad generalization of magic, this is for sure, necromancy cannot be a different type of magic because of its nature. So let’s see what necromancy is.

Necromancy is the practice of magic that consists of communication with the dead, either by summoning their spirits or by raising the dead. The purpose is to discover hidden knowledge, bring someone back from the dead, or simply use the dead as a weapon.

a necromancer in a dark cemetary
How do Necromancers control the dead?

History of Necromancy

It is believed that necromancy started as part of shamanism, which calls upon spirits such as ghosts of ancestors.

This mysterious art is present all throughout antiquity, even making its way in the Old Testament, where in the Book of Deuteronomy (18:9-12) necromancers are mentioned, often being called bone-conjurers.

In the Middle Ages, necromancy is considered to be heresy, as the only real resurrection could be done only by God, therefore necromancers call upon demons to possess a dead body.

Therefore, necromancers possessed knowledge of exorcism, astrology, and demonology. They were trained under apprenticeships.

Medieval practitioners aimed to accomplish three things with necromancy: will manipulation, illusions, reanimation, and knowledge.

The spells were all performed with chants that called out demons, most of the time during a human or animal sacrifice.

In the modern era, necromancy is a term describing the manipulation of the dead, mostly being related to Spiritualism, like it was in the beginning, rather than demonic powers.

The Power of Necromancers

All throughout history, necromancers have been feared for their immense power, yet their limit is rarely known.

Some of the known powers of a necromancer are Curse magic, Bone magic, Conjuration, Undead manipulation, and Ghost companionship.

But to think that this is the only type of magic a necromancer could use would be a mistake, as necromancers were one of the greatest sorcerers in their time.

A common goal for all necromancers is turning into a lich, which leads to achieving eternal life.

The word lich translates to corpse, although most liches are portrayed as skeletons that have retained their previous intelligence and magical abilities.

Not only does a lich gain eternal life, by leaving their human nature behind they become immune to all forms of charm, sleep, enfeeblement, polymorph, cold, electricity, insanity, and death spells.

Further boosting their magical powers, turning a once feared human, the necromancer, into an undead monster that is near impossible to stop.

portrait of an evil necromancer
An evil Necromancer.

Spells and Abilities of a Necromancer

There are countless spells a necromancer can perform, therefore we will be looking at just a few that I find to be the core arsenal of any necromancer and lich.

Being notorious for raising the dead, the ability to reanimate the dead is a spell that turns any sorcerer into a powerful necromancer, giving them control over corpses, and turning them into zombies or skeletons.

Blight is a spell that allows a necromancer to drain its target of its life essence, however, this spell does not affect the undead.

Finger of death, often being called Death Coil, is the core ability that a necromancer uses. This spell sends out a blast that kills anything it hits, yet because of its power, it is believed that this ability was shown only to the most powerful necromancer in our history.

Curse is believed to be the easiest spell a necromancer can perform. It causes the victim to suffer unbearable pain until a curse removal spell is performed.

Of course, knowing Curse, necromancers can also perform the spell Remove Curse.

Demonic possession allows the necromancer to call upon a demon and order it to possess another human.

Blindness/Deafness causes the victim to lose their sense of hearing, seeing, or both. This effect is only temporary, however skilled necromancers can make it permanent. 

A necromancer in The Elder Scrolls: Online

Necromancers in Popular Culture

With the rising popularity of the horror-fantasy genre, necromancers and lich became the main antagonists of many franchises.

Often considered evil, their presence strikes fear even in the bravest of souls.

Mannimarco, considered to be the strongest necromancer in the Elder Scrolls franchise, is a necromancer turned lich, that is feared throughout the world. Often raising undead and attacking the Mages Guild, he was declared to be the deadliest sorcerer in all of Elder Scrolls history.

Arthas Menethil, once known as Prince of Lordaeron, was a paladin that became a Death knight and the Lich King. As the Lich King, he gained necromantic abilities that allowed him to raise an army of the dead to destroy the known world in Warcraft.

Kel’Thuzad, previously being one of the most powerful mages of the Kirin Tor, formed the Cult of the Damned, became a necromancer, and later a Lich. He was the right hand of the Lich King Arthas.

In the Witcher franchise, necromancy is used by respected sorcerers such as Detmold and Yennefer, in order to gather information from the dead.

In the popular TV show Game of Thrones, the Night King is the master and the first of the White Walkers. Being a powerful necromancer he is the supreme leader of the Army of the Dead.

a lich necromancer


Does Necromancy exist?

Necromancy, according to science, does not exist. The fear of the dead and the fear that someone could control the dead, drives the persistent belief in Necromancy.

Are necromancers evil?

In recent history necromancers have been considered evil, however, in the past where necromancy was part of shamanism, necromancers were considered as nothing more than just a medium.

How can I become a necromancer?

To become a necromancer, you must be under the apprenticeship of a master necromancer. There are little to no cases of someone becoming a necromancer on their own.

What is the weakness of necromancers?

The most effective magic against necromancers is considered to be Life magic.

Are necromancers immortal?

No necromancers aren’t immortal, but when a necromancer becomes a lich they gain immortality.


Dungeons & Dragons, Ravenloft
Christie Golden, World of Warcraft: Arthas: Rise of the Lich King, Pocket Books, 2009
Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Mannimarco, King of Worms, in-game book
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