In October 2020, a study measured peoples’ heart rates while they watched horror movies. They aimed to see which movie caused the most consistent rapid heart rate, not just leaps from jump scares. The five scariest movies--Sinister, Insidious, The Conjuring, Hereditary, and Paranormal Activity--all featured malicious demons or ghosts.
Two years earlier, research from Chapman University determined that 57.7% of Americans believe in spirits or hauntings. Although many participants claimed that they were not scared of spirits, the current horror movie market says otherwise.
Spirit workers might look at these studies and wonder, are all spirits really malicious? Do evil spirits really possess people like in the movies? And how do we, as magicians, keep ourselves safe?
In this post, I’m going to talk about malicious spirits and how to detect them. Much of this post stems from my personal experience and UPG (unverified personal gnosis). However, I will also reference information from folklore.
Do Evil Spirits Exist?
In an effort to make spirit work appear more safe and accessible, some online practitioners have claimed that evil spirits do not exist. Personally, I find this claim to not only be incorrect, but potentially dangerous.
Some of the world’s earliest magical texts include spells that protect people from spirits. The Maqlû, a collection of incantations from Mesopotamia, lists spells that guard people against witchcraft and spirits. Some of the ancient Greeks practiced apotropaic magic, in which they summoned chthonic deities or heroes to protect them against spirits. Some of these charms can be found in the Greek Magical Papyri, known in the occult community as the PGM (Papyri Graecae Magicae).
But if you were to base your entire spiritual knowledge on horror movies, you might think that all spirits are evil. This is not the case. Religions and folklore tell us that there are far more spirits than just ghosts, poltergeists, and demons. Hell, even if a ghost is in your house, that doesn’t mean that it wants to harm you.
Approach spiritual morality in the same way that most people view human morality. Some are good and helpful, while others and evil, and many are somewhere in the middle. It’s not uncommon for a spirit to act kind until they feel slighted.
How Can Spirits Harm Us?
Depending on the religion and culture, malicious spirits can harm people in any number of ways. According to Mesopotamian religious texts, angry ghosts can inflict illness and bad luck onto people. In certain Muslim traditions, malicious djinn were similar; they could even steal food or other items. Irish folklore tells of faeries who kidnapped humans to work for them before returning them to the human realm.
For simplicity’s sake, I put together a list of the ways that spirits might harm people. These are based on both UPG and folklore I’ve read.
How to Quickly Detect Malicious Spirits
When I first practiced spirit work around 13 years ago, I ran into quite a few malicious spirits. I was naive, arrogant, and lacked supervision, so I fell for a lot of their tricks. Now, I know how to detect when spirits might have an ulterior motive. Based on my experiences, plus the experiences that other practitioners have shared with me, I’ve put together a list of red flags.
Spirits Who Disguise As Deities
I’ve had many people ask me if spirits can pretend to be deities. In short, yes, they can. Learning to distinguish between a deity and spirit requires certain skills and experience, and I plan to write an entire post about this topic.
Here’s all I will say for now: If your deity suddenly sounds different--if They say something that’s entirely out of character or contradictory--be suspicious.
What to Do When You Encounter a Malicious Spirit
Because this post is already so long, I can’t go into detail about every single spell you should perform. But I put together a short list of what you should do if you believe that you encounter a malicious spirit. If you want a separate post about this topic, comment or message me.
Not all spirits act like they do in horror movies. Some are far more subtle, and others work to flatter you instead of scare you. If you know how malicious spirits act, you can detect them early. Then it’s just a matter of cutting contact, banishing, and protecting.
If you’ve been reading witchcraft and occult books for a long time, you may have noticed that most spells and folklore trace back to ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt, and the British Isles. Why do you think that is? Well, part of it is English colonialism. It’s no secret that the Brits preferred some cultures over others.
Another reason is that these cultures spent a lot of time writing things down. Other communities, such as African tribes, hardly wrote anything down. Their traditions are primarily oral, and for centuries, historians didn’t bother to record oral history.
Fortunately, this is changing. Many historians are taking the time to write down oral stories and traditions so they don’t become lost. But much of history--especially magic--has already become lost due to the lack of recording oral history.
Don’t believe me? I’ll list some examples below.
I’m writing these down because (a) they fascinate me, and (b) I want to remind people that we don’t know everything. In the occult community, some people believe that written spells survived because they work. But that’s not entirely true. Many other spells existed--and likely worked--but were never written down or saved.
What do you think about these lost spells? Do you think that we will ever figure out what they were used for? Let me know below.
The Dolls in Miniature Coffins
In 1836, three boys were hunting for rabbit burrows near a rocky formation in Edinburgh called Arthur’s Seat. One of the boys spotted a slate, and he moved it to discover a tiny cave. After digging further, the boys found some objects. They were miniature coffins, only four inches in length.
Although the boys uncovered eight coffins, but only five of them survived after the boys hurled them at each other. Yes, really. They threw around historical artifacts.
Eventually, one of the boys brought the surviving coffins to his father. After opening each coffin, the father discovered eight tiny dolls. Each one has a unique face and clothes, and some don’t have arms, likely to fit inside the coffin. At least two were pink or red, and they were carved from white wood. They date back to the 1780s.
Throughout the centuries, many people have come up with theories about the purpose of these miniature coffins. Some claim that these figures represent the victims of the nearby West Port murders, but there is little evidence to support this.
In 2018, historian Jeff Nisbet claimed to “crack” the miniature coffin mystery. He claimed that these dolls represent people who lost their lives during a political revolution. However, his theory is no more “proven” than others.
Many believe that these dolls were ingredients in a spell. Perhaps sailors carried these dolls to ward off death on their journey. Newspapers from 1836 credited “demonology and witchcraft.” What do you think the coffin dolls were used for?
The Bronze Age Bird Skull Headdress
In January 2019, archaeologists dug up several skeletons in Siberia’s Novosibirsk region. While the fully-preserved skeletons were an amazing find, the archaeologists uncovered a peculiar find. One skeleton wore a headdress of bird skulls.
Between 30 and 50 bird skulls and beaks were tied together to create the headdress, which was likely worn on the neck or collar. The bones belonged to large shore birds, including herons and cranes.
Historians nicknamed the skeleton “the Birdman of Siberia,” and they suspect that he was a priest or a shaman. According to carbon dating, the skeletons date back 5,000 years. He was likely a member of the Odinov, a culture that dominated Siberia during the Bronze Age.
Siberian researcher Lidia Kobeleva believes that the headdress had a ritualistic purpose. But what exactly was it? Was it protective? Did it connect the shaman to spirits? Was it dedicated to a deity? Perhaps all of the above.
What do you think was the purpose of the bird skull headdress?
Babies Buried with Skull Helmets
This is a strange one. In 2014, archaeologists unearthed an ancient burial site in Salango, Ecuador. The funerary mound, which dates back 2,100 years, revealed many interesting finds. But the most unusual were two infant skeletons wearing bone “helmets.”
These helmets were made from the skull fragments of older children who had died before the infants. The infants were younger than 18 months, while their skull helmets came from children between ages four and 12. Archaeologists called it “using juvenile crania as mortuary headgear.”
The children were members of Guangala, a civilization that lived on Ecuador’s coast around 100 B.C. But despite knowing when the infants lived, historians still have no idea what the skull helmets mean.
Archaeologists have many theories. One is that these helmets represent the infants’ ancestors quite literally protecting them. Others believe that the helmets protect infants in the afterlife, or that they symbolize conquering another nation. We still have no idea what these skull helmets mean.
What do you think about the skull helmets? Do you think they were a spell, or purely symbolic?
Archaeologists are skill unearthing facts about ancient civilizations. Some could have been spells, but we will never know if they actually were.
Do you think that you can use this knowledge for your Craft? Do you believe that these were even spells at all? Leave your theories below!
If you’ve been following me, you may know that my grandfather died quite recently. It was my second familial death in four months, with the first being my great aunt. Although these deaths were hard, I’m no stranger to experiencing the loss of a loved one. If you’re reading this, chances are that you’re familiar with it, too.
I receive a lot of questions about what to do, magic-wise, when a loved one dies. Many of these messages sound urgent--people are eager to communicate with their loved one, especially if they pass away unexpectedly. In this post, I hope to answer some questions on what you can do after someone you know dies.
The Mundane Comes First
This probably goes without saying, but the funeral and your family always, always come first. If you were close to this loved one, you’re probably involved in their funeral and honoring their will. These projects take time, but they’re essential for both the deceased soul and the people grieving.
The funeral helps the deceased to wrap up any loose ends they had in life. Many people receive signs from their loved one during this period, such as messages in dreams or specific picture frames falling off the shelves.
If you haven’t received any of these signs, don’t worry. You aren’t doing anything wrong. It’s actually quite common for souls to not contact the living right after dying. Why? Keep reading.
Don’t Expect to Communicate with the Dead Right Away
“Is it too early to contact my dead loved one?” is one of the most common questions I receive. I’ve also seen a lot of practitioners fearfully warn against communicating with the soul soon after death, as if something bad will happen if you do.
Technically speaking, you can communicate with your loved one soon after death. Some older occult works advise that necromancers perform a ritual within a week of the death. In their eyes, the soul will remain close to the body within this time, which makes for an ideal communication session.
However, in my experience, most souls do not contact the living soon after death. I’ve read message upon message asking why a loved one won’t respond, and what the practitioner is doing wrong. Chances are, you’re not doing anything wrong. Most souls prefer not to communicate within weeks, months, or even years after their death.
Think about death as a major life transition (despite how that sounds like an oxymoron). If you moved to a different country, you’d likely take a while to adjust. You’d have to learn a new routine, a new home, and possibly a new language. That major transition could consume your life for a while after the move.
Death is the same way. Your loved one may take a while to adjust to their new state. They may want to wrap things up in their life before they respond to magicians. Some may never respond to magicians--that is entirely their choice.
As a death witch, you should honor your loved one’s choices in death. Be patient. Don’t keep bugging them to respond if they’re not ready yet. As a general rule, most necromancers don’t contact a soul for around six months to a year after death. Although there are some exceptions, expect to receive few messages in between that time.
So What CAN You Do?
Being unable to contact your loved one can hurt. You’re grieving, after all. You may want to help your loved one feel safe and happy, or you may fumble with your own emotions. Fortunately, death witchcraft isn’t only about talking to the dead. It’s about helping, honoring, and caring for the dead, even if you don’t receive any message from them in return. Here are some things that you can do to support your loved one beyond the veil.
Erect an Altar
In my opinion, building an altar for your loved one is one of the most important steps that a death witch can take. The altar continues the soul’s memory just by existing. It contains any tools or memorabilia you need to contact the soul, and it’s where you can perform most of your rituals.
If you already have an altar for the dead or your ancestors, give your loved one a special spot. You can provide a picture of the person or an object that represents them, such as their old jewelry or even their funeral pamphlet. These objects will serve as a taglock to connect you with your loved one during rituals.
What else can you put on the altar? Anything that represents your loved one or furthers your magic. If you have their graveyard dirt or ashes, keep them in a container at the altar. If you write a letter or make a candle for your loved one, you may keep it on the altar. Include a space to give offerings. Appropriate magic tools, such as an obsidian scrying mirror or tarot deck, may also be stored there.
If your loved one was religious, include some items to represent their faith, not your own. For instance, my great aunt Mary was a nun, a sister of Saint Joseph. So I included a Saint Joseph votive and a rosary on my ancestor altar. Even if you don’t agree with your loved one’s religious views, it’s important to honor them. Although I’m Wiccan, I give my ancestors Catholic offerings because I love them and want to make them happy.
Speaking of Offerings…
Never underestimate the importance of offerings. They not only nourish the soul, but also prove that you are thinking of your loved one. Offerings establish a connection between the two of you, even if you can’t receive their messages quite yet.
As I mentioned before, make sure that the offerings for your loved ones honor their religious beliefs. Rose quartz wouldn’t be an appropriate offering for my grandfather since he never believed in crystal healing. But lighting my Saint Joseph candle and offering red wine--which he drank every night--would be appropriate offerings.
When in doubt, here are religion-neutral offerings that you can give: water, bread, wine, honey, milk, and rocks (not crystals). I will write in-depth about offerings in a future post.
Personalized offerings, such as writing a letter or providing their favorite food, also work. If you’d put the object on their grave, it’ll likely make an appropriate offering.
These gifts will relax your loved one in death. It’ll calm them, help them pass on, and remind them that you won’t forget their legacy. Offerings can also help you sort through your grief.
What to Do If These Things Aren’t Enough
If you’re a magician, you’re probably a “doer.” Sticking to prayers and belief isn’t enough for us; we want to push the forces of nature with our own hands. Offerings may scratch this itch for some time, but after a while, you’ll want to perform a ritual.
Although I recommended waiting to contact the dead, nothing is stopping you from trying. You can always try divination to see if your loved one is willing to talk. But don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t work; they just aren’t ready yet.
If you want to be more proactive in helping your deceased loved one, I recommend a love spell. No, not a spell to make them fall in love with you--a spell to send healing and love to your loved one in death.
When I performed this spell in February, it encouraged communication between me and my lost loved ones. Even my great aunt Mary responded to my ritual, which is highly unusual given that she died in November.
You will need:
Here’s what you do:
This ritual is just an idea. You can change it to suit your practice if you wish.
Although most people can’t communicate with their deceased loved one soon after death, they can connect in other ways. You can build an altar, give offerings, and perform a spell for the newly deceased soul. Remain patient and focus on mundane tasks first, such as attending the funeral and tending to your living loved ones. If you give the soul time, you’ll be able to communicate eventually.
Spirit Guides In Death Magic
I'm not fond of the term "spirit guides" because it implies some special status that every magician needs. Depending on how you define the term "guide," every spirit can guide you in some way. Here, I define a spirit guide as a soul who can lead you to answers, messages, or pathways you were previously unable to reach. Although some people assume that they can only have one spirit guide, rest assured that most spirit workers contact multiple. Here's how spirit guides help you in death witchcraft.
Although spirit guides are often over-emphasized in generic spirit work books, they're frequently overlooked in necromancy. In death magic, spirit guides can lead you to the afterlife, connect you to other souls, and deliver messages from other entities. They may aid you in certain divination techniques such as scrying, or they may appear in your dreams to point you in the right direction.
Finding your spirit guides takes time. Although many authors write rituals to summon your spirit guide, I personally don't like these. I think that calling out "who's my spirit guide?" to the void is a perfect opportunity for spirits to take advantage of people, especially new practitioners. Don't force it. Guides always come as you expand your craft.
If you are interested in death witchcraft or necromancy, start how most of us did: by contacting souls through divination, graveyard dirt, or bones. Over time, you'll find a soul who is willing (often eager) to show you secrets and paths you never dreamed of. You don't require a spirit guide to practice; you just need yourself.
How do you know if a spirit is your guide? Figure it out yourself. Is the entity reliable? Have they answered your questions correctly? (Asking them something you already know is a good way to verify divination.) Do you have good reason to trust them? Have you worked with them before? Often, a spirit becomes your guide before you even think to apply the label. As with all things spirit work, let this happen organically. Your death will flourish from it.
About Ancestors: The Beloved Dead
Witchcraft generally divides ancestors into two broad categories: the Beloved Dead and the Mighty Dead. For this post, we're going to focus on the Beloved Dead, which are familial ancestors.
Who are the Beloved Dead?
The Beloved Dead are what most people think of when they hear "ancestors": family members who have long since passed. Although the Beloved Dead are often called the "ancestors of blood," they don't require blood relations. Familial dead also include adoptive families and in-laws. After all, family is family.
Some people divide the Beloved Dead into subcategories, such as the Ancestors of Milk and Honey (in-laws). For this post, I'll refer to all of them as your familial ancestors.
What if I don't know my ancestors?
If you don't know your ancestral line, don't fret. In my experience within the community, most witches ask ancestors to come to them. You don't need to have met your ancestors, or even know their name, to work with them.
Ancestors can be contacted in two ways: communicating with specific souls, or calling out whoever wishes to respond. I'll cover both of these methods later.
On Abusive Ancestors.
When discussing ancestor work, one of the main topics that pops up is abusive family members. In fact, this is one reason why people contact the Beloved Dead: to achieve clarity and healing for previous trauma.
If you're going to contact abusive ancestors, keep two things in mind: (1) the dead may carry their attitude with them, BUT can also receive clarity in death; (2) you don't HAVE to contact them. Communicating with rude or uncooperative spirits is emotionally taxing. Don't risk your health or happiness over it.
Sometimes, an ancestor may turn out to be rude, manipulative, or stubborn. Don't feel the need to continue with this soul. You are never obligated to heal or put up with taxing spirits. If a relationship turns too sour, don't hesitate to contact a different ancestor.
What if my ancestors have a different religion?
This is one of the most common questions I receive about ancestor work, and it's a valid concern. Most new spirit workers worry that their ancestors won't cooperate due to religious differences. While this is sometimes the case, I've learned that many souls--even hardcore Christian souls in life--are surprisingly lenient in death.
When I first worked with my grandfather, a devout Catholic, he was more than happy lend me graveyard dirt for my magic. To him, it was like giving me a sweater when he was alive. He felt happy to give his granddaughter presents again.
As you can probably tell, my ancestral line is Irish Catholic. While some of them refuse to partake in witchcraft, others gladly participate once they learn that it's for my own protection, healing, profit, etc. My main piece of advise is this: Don't decide whether or not they'll participate before they do.
How to contact the Beloved Dead
You have a closer link to the Beloved Dead than any other ancestor. As such, they're fairly easy to contact (in comparison to other spirits).
Much of spirit work requires a physical link to the soul, and ancestor magic is no different. One option is to use your ancestor's graveyard dirt (sometimes called ancestor powder). If you have your ancestor's ashes, these work similarly. Another option is to use family heirlooms. Old photographs, books, tea sets, clothes, furniture--any heirloom should do the trick. You'll have an easier time signaling the Beloved Dead if you have a direct link to their soul.
If you own some of these, harness their energy before communicating with the Beloved Dead. For instance, focus on the energy while calling your ancestors to you. I highly recommend using these objects during divination. If you know your ancestor's name, call it out, and clarify "of the ___ family" (to prevent souls of the same name from arriving). If you don't know their names, ask for an ancestor of the ____ family to come. Evoke the Beloved Dead through a ritual with offerings and, of course, adequate spiritual protection.
If you don't have your ancestor's heirlooms or graveyard dirt, you can achieve this without them. A piece of yourself--such as a hair clipping or finger nail--can go a long way. Remember, you're blood-related to the Beloved Dead.
Offerings For The Beloved Dead
Offerings vary depending on ethnicity and culture. Some general offerings include dark bread, cakes, wine, tobacco, milk, water, candles, stones, flowers, artwork, letters, or items that represent their religious faith. Well-fed ancestors are more likely to repay you, whether that be through protecting their offspring, increasing your luck, advising your craft, or pouring their power into your spells. If you can, maintain regular offerings for your ancestors.
But why should I do this?
First and foremost, contacting the Beloved Dead unites you with your family line and traditions. If you feel disconnected from your culture or ethnicity, you may want to work with the Beloved Dead. In America, many descendants of immigrations feel stripped of their ancestral roots. The Beloved Dead teach you how to reconnect with them (as well as the Mighty Dead).
Second, ancestors are more likely to help you than other spirits. Powerful, well-known spirits have a lot of people knocking on their door, but few practitioners are summoning your great-grandmother. Your familial ties guarantee that you already have something in common. The Beloved Dead can become valuable allies and guides for your craft.
Third, the Beloved Dead are easier to contact than other deceased souls. There's a higher chance that they'll respond and get along with you. Finding physical links, offerings, and tools is relatively simply compared to most of death witchcraft. If you're a beginner spirit worker, consider working with the Beloved Dead.
Consider this post to be a primer, one that will kickstart your work with the Beloved Dead. To learn more, research more ancestor sources and your culture's funerary traditions.
In the death work community, most people emphasize gathering graveyard dirt and bones. Yes, these tools are significant: they connect us with the deceased when we're outside of a cemetery. But in my practice, I rarely collect graveyard dirt when I visit the dead's resting place. Instead, I practice other forms of devotion, spirit communication, and magic.
I don't recommend packing up grave dirt during your first trip to the cemetery for a couple of reasons:
On my tumblr, I've received a lot of questions about how to contact the dead in a cemetery without using a divination vessel. Like any method of spirit work, this connection with the deceased develops through practice. The best way that I can answer this question is to respond with what I, personally, do in graveyards. Every death witch practices differently. Hence, this post is just here to give you ideas about how to advance your death witchcraft.
When I enter a new cemetery, here's what I'll do.
While we're talking about cemetery trips, here are some etiquette/safety tips to keep in mind:
I hope this post inspires you to view cemetery visits as more than a way to gather tools. These visits allow us to communicate with the dead, advance our abilities, and build a reliable reputation with the spirits. I wish you best of luck in your path.
Trees in Cemeteries, Part 2
Last time, we talked about trees’ associations with funerals and symbolism for being planted in graveyards. Now, I want to get more complicated and talk about how the tree’s spirits can relate to death work.
Most of us know that ‘tree spirits’ exist in several cultures. Here are just a few:
This said, most cultures are not as simple as ‘trees = specific spirit’ in this manner. Many cultures had different spirits inhabiting different kinds of trees. Some folklore describes other spirits inhabiting trees, even spirits of the dead. With all these varying accounts, how do we approach trees in cemeteries?
Based on my research, I have found that tree spirits can relate to the dead or afterlife in one of four specific ways:
Looking through this information, it’s clear that trees in cemeteries should not be overlooked in spirit work. The spirit within the tree can guard the dead, contain the dead, or link the dead to the afterlife, depending on the tree and its role in the cemetery.
This also broadens the use for tree bark and leaves as tools in death work. An amulet made of elm, for example, can help the magician cross over into the afterlife. Asphodel can be given as an offering to the dead, or an aid to communicate with them.
To work with a tree spirit inside a cemetery, you may approach it similarly to how one approaches a grave: give offerings, connect to its energy, and listen. The tree may give you information about the cemetery, or aid you in your magic. I had one tree guard my tools when I accidentally left them near there, and there were still there when I returned. That actually sparked my interest in working with trees in cemeteries.
~ Offerings for Trees in Cemeteries ~
You may use similar offerings as those for the dead, or ones catered towards tree spirits.
To Work with the Tree:
Although working with tree spirits inside a cemetery isn’t necessary to death witchcraft, it can certainly enhance your relationship to the dead and to that specific cemetery. I hope you got some great ideas from this.
Trees in Cemeteries, Part 1
Much has been written on trees in magical folklore and Paganism. This post will concern these trees in relation to cemeteries, souls of the dead, and their uses in death witchcraft and necromancy.
Many of these trees are used for wands and talismans in death magic. A branch can be picked up from the ground of a cemetery and polished into a powerful tool. If you understand the associations, you may grind their bark for protection powders, give their dried leaves as offerings, and include them in talismans.
These particular trees are common in North America where I live, though you can find many more online. Along with their mythological symbolism, many of these trees are planted in cemeteries because they require little upkeep to survive. However, this only highlights their association with endurance, hardiness, immortality and rebirth.
Note that these trees have many more associations and folklore attached to them. I am focusing on what I can find that connects to death, resurrection, and the afterlife.
In the best case scenario, a magician will learn to recognize these trees on sight. Otherwise, they may recognize some of these trees in a cemetery, and gain a better understanding of the conditions of the souls beneath the canopy. They can also use these trees for their own magical purposes.
For more information on plants and trees common in North American cemeteries, you can visit this document from the Greater Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust, April 2016.
Skulls in Death Witchcraft
I want to correct a statement I made on my blog earlier. I don’t remember when I made it, but I’m positive that I did. I said that skulls work simply as other bones and connecting to death energy in death witchcraft and necromancy, which is blatantly not true. I’m sorry about that. Please allow me to correct this by sharing what I’ve learned about some uses of skulls in death magic:
Thanks for coming to my TED talk
On this Samhain, I want to talk about one of the more taboo, yet prominent aspects of necromancy which is animal sacrifice. You might expect an “is it right or wrong” discussion, but I won’t be debating morality here. Your moral decisions on the subject are entirely your own. I also will not be talking about a religious standpoint, as in, animal sacrifice as an offering. Instead, I’ll talk about it from a secular, modern standpoint: how to navigate animal sacrifice as an ingredient in spells, to still produce successful results
This’ll be a long post, so tuck yourselves in.
So you come across a necromancy spell that seems feasible, but requires animal sacrifice. What do you do? Well for one, this isn’t exactly exceptional. Ritual sacrifice is pretty common in necromancy, and most magical traditions from ancient folklore to classical ceremonialism. Most animals were farm animals who would be eaten and resources afterwards, but that wasn’t always the case. Although it used to be more common back in the BC days, it is still practiced today.
Legal-wise, animal sacrifice varies by country and state. To hammer in the point, this may not be legal where you live. Always check your local laws before acting. Obviously, this subject is highly debated in the moral and legal realm, but we won’t talk about that in this post.
Understandably, a lot of people don’t want to perform animal sacrifice, but still want to perform successful necromancy. Most people who approach me for help on the subject are looking for a way to navigate this. Can we perform this spell without the ritual sacrifice? Can we substitute it? Did people actually do this? (Yes, they did.) Can we be successful necromancers while avoiding this?
Let’s start by discussing the most common question I receive on the subject. Can animal sacrifice be substituted in spells? Sacrificing a life is an impressive feat, which produces impressive, almost reality-bending results. I know someone who once redirected a hurricane from its predicted route with a sacrifice spell. That’s why people do it–for the results. But because the spell has a high results, it also has a higher risk factor if things go wrong. Because there’s a high danger factor, you don’t want to make the stakes even higher by implementing a wrong substitute, or (worse) ignoring the sacrifice entirely. If you’re going to substitute, you want to substitute something of equal value.
This is where the complications of substitution come in. At the risk of sounding like Fullmetal Alchemist, what equals the value of an animal soul? We can’t really equate that to anything else. I have seen people categorize blood magic and ritual sacrifice in the same vein, but to me there is no equivalence between the two. Using blood in a spell is a small sacrifice compared to giving a life. I’ve also seen some recommend killing plants instead; I do not believe plant life and animal life are equal on this scale. We use dead plants everyday in our tea, after all. How is that an equivalent sacrifice? In my opinion, an animal sacrifice can only effectively be substituted with a different animal.
To make things even more complicated, the animal chosen for sacrifice does have a symbolic significance in this spell. A black lamb is chosen for its symbolic connection to the Underworld–will the spell work the same with a fish? Theoretically, it might have a different effect, or it might not, depending on the spell and entity involved. Options listed in the spell may not be available to us, depending on where we live. This is a practical issue that must always be taken into account in spell work.
Most people I know who have performed these spells are either living or have lived on a farm / rural area, where animals are available and scheduled to be slaughtered anyway. If you live in an apartment in the city, you’ll have more obstacles in terms of accessibility and law enforcement. Morality aside, ritual sacrifice might not be possible for many aspiring necromancers.
To answer the initial question: What do I do if I cannot perform this ritual sacrifice, either for moral or legal reasons? My biggest recommendation is to search for another spell that doesn’t include the sacrifice. Don’t edit out the sacrifice or turn a blind eye to it; the spell is too powerful for you to afford that risk. There are other spells and other methods to achieve similar results, but you will have to look for them. You might need dig deeper into a different tradition, or test out more modern methods. I promise plenty of effective spells are out there.
I get it. I just spent forever making the simple point of “look for something else”. But I want to explain to people why substitution and erasure wouldn’t work. In the past, I’ve seen some necromancers respond a little harshly to people wanting to avoid animal sacrifice. “Do something else” is technically right, but can also be taken the wrong way. I do not believe that people “can’t be a necromancer” if they’re unwilling to do it. You can. Respecting life does not make you any less of a successful magician. At the same time, I don’t believe in shunning the practice or the practitioners for including ritual sacrifice. This is a reality of necromancy and witchcraft, so why ignore the subject?
I do encourage discussion on this post because I think the topic is often swept under the rug. But please be respectful of everyone’s views. We’re here to learn, not criticize.
If you’ve made it this far, here’s a big hug (っ´▽｀)っ