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The Magic of the Dead: Necromancy


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When most ponies hear the word 'necromancer', they think of somepony who wears a black cloak, mutters menacing chants, and raises an army of shambling corpses to do their bidding and menace rural communities. While I must regrettably admit that each of these cliches have some kernel of truth, to describe necromancy in such a way is to present a highly misleading view of it. It would be like describing pegasi as ponies that control the weather. It's significant, and not inaccurate, but not really a proper description.


Necromancy is essentially the magic of the dead. This may seem obvious, but it bears stating. Interacting with the dead, via magic, is not limited to being some callous means of acquiring minions. Indeed, trying to use the dead as servants is one of the least efficient tools of a necromancer.


Before one can begin exploring necromancy however, one needs at least a rudimentary understanding of spirits. Spirits are, in essence, beings of almost pure emotion, left behind when a conscious creature passes on in an agitated state. However underneath that simple description lies a surprising range and complexity. Emotion in this case proves to be a loose concept, as although it does apply to primal moods such as rage or sorrow, I have personally encountered spirits driven by duty, loyalty, guilt, even confusion, and more. Any set of circumstances in which a creature passes can create one, however it is typically only during a significant event or when the creature has a powerful need or drive that the resulting spirit will have any serious strength or be able to maintain itself for a serious length of time.


The most basic skill for a necromancer is that of speech. But despite it's relative simplicity, speaking to the dead is one of the most useful skills such a person can learn. Spirits being the emotion-driven beings that they are, resolving a haunting is often as simple as deciphering what that spirit is trying to say. The more reliable, or those whose emotion coincide with the speaker's goals, are often willing to grant favours, particularly in exchange for help with their own concerns. I have even taken on a few as travelling companions, then they prove willing to assist me in my own duties.


What is arguably the second most important skill a necromancer should learn is that of banishing. In an ideal world, all spirits would be friendly and helpful. In a slightly less ideal one, all hostile spirits could be sent on their way after merely speaking to them, and learning what makes them suffer. This is neither of those worlds, and a method of forcible exorcism is something every necromancer should have as a precaution. The methods used and means to accomplish them vary wildly between different traditions. One could force a calm state on an inconsolable state, seal their ability to influence the material plane, or even modifying the most intense memories. The various methods will be covered in more detail in a later chapter.


For those not content with the help or insight which can be found by speaking to spirits alone, there is another option. With proper preparation, spirits can be invited into one's body, allowing a pony to 'borrow' the abilities of a sufficiently willing spirit, or a spirit can be given a more direct way to affect the real world. Seances are a commonly known example of the latter. One must ensure that the spirit is benevolent however, or insure against misuse of one's physical form, as inviting a spirit in can be very dangerous for the unwary.

It is possible to provide a physical form to a spirit other than one's own, and this can be useful for containing a rogue spirit as well as the other, previously mentioned reasons. Bodies can be created from all manner of materials. A spirit's own, former body is also an option, and one that has the advantages of being readily assembled, and more familiar to the spirit than an artificial one. However on top of the usual risks, when doing so one must deal with the disturbing sights and smells of an animate corpse, and one is then only adding to the already problematic stereotypes about necromancers.

It is worth noting that living beings other than the necromancer him or herself can be used as a vessel, however this is a morally abhorrent action, and should only be even considered in the most desperate circumstances. As such, the relevant chapter in this book will only cover methods of identifying and and of stopping such possessions in any detail.


Finally, spirits can be bound to a pony, usually the necromancer, and forced to obey their will. Such rituals are typically used by those with malicious intent, and while I have occasionally found a use for such abilities over the course of my travels, they are far more likely to be employed for ill. Much like the concept of living vessels above, what I have included here on the subject of binding is meant more for identifying and combating such circumstances as they come up.


From the introduction of The Magic of the Dead, by Grim Solace

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