Necro just means death (necropolis, necrosis, necronomicon… you get it) and has two meanings: the first is a form of divination/mediumship/spiritwork involving the summoning of the dead in the form of spirits and communicating with them to gain knowledge and foreknowledge and the second is witchcraft and sorcery in general usually practiced specifically by a witch. Not really so scary, right? More like ancestor worship and witchcraft than all the horrible things you were thinking. As for reanimation of corpses, well you’ll need to read The Serpent and the Rainbow to learn about real zombies.
The second definition gives away that witchcraft and sorcery have some inherent association with death and with the history of witches being moon worshippers and gathering at night, it doesn’t surprise me. Witches work with spirits, spirits come from death. Think about it, we don’t just work with dead people; those herbs you used in your incense are dead parts of plants, and that skull on your altar is from a dead animal. Even those witch gods you invoke may just be the first ancestors or ancient ancestors who practiced as you do.
To be a necromancer one needs to accept death and not fear it. One also needs to have reverence for death and not be insensitive to it – a life, is a life, is a life after all – not matter how seemingly small. We will all die. Everything will die. The entire Universe will come to an end one day. It is easier to forget that and push it aside in our squeamish age of modern medicine with death and suffering hidden behind sterilized doors. So much easier than those who lived during the black plague, the worst smallpox outbreaks, and the bloody massacres of battles without long-distance weapons. So much easier than the times of our ancestors who had to hunt, kill, gut, and clean animals for their own food, who watched executions, and who had to wash and prepare the bodies of their own dead loved ones for burial.
Those who fear death will fear spirits and not be able to do this work and be so close to death. If you are afraid maybe you should be a healer or a poet or a worshipper of gods of life. There is no shame in walking with the Sun instead of the Moon; some people don’t belong in the shadows and need the light instead. Necromancers you should know include Ms. Graveyard Dirt and Sorceress Cagliastro.
An animal necromancer works with animal spirits and animal bones, teeth, claws, feathers, and skins. They are essentially animal spirit workers, shapeshifters, and bone collectors. Bone collectors today are much more likely to work with animal remains unless they happen to be a funeral director or are a cemetery caretaker. Our animistic ancestors believed that in order for a creature to be reborn, all its bones had to be returned to the earth intact. If a bone was missing it was replaced with wood. Bones were also kept, however, and used to adorn, to make fetiches, kept in sacred vessels, and for other ritualistic uses. For such purposes a rite of release is important to free the spirit of the animal from its remains if it so chooses. For such purposes the animal should be found dead, as it is not the most ethical action to kill a creature with the sole intent of ceremonial use (please don’t kill your cat just for it’s bones no matter what your book of authentic black magic spells tells you). It is likely the spirit of the creature would curse you rather than lending you their aid. Traditions vary, however, and there are always exceptions.
Not a path so much as a practice; the harvesting of herbs from cemeteries and graves, the harvesting and communion with plants associated with death and the underworld and poison plants that cause death, the knowledge of plants that can bring those close to death back to life, the use of such plants to summon and manifest spirits of the dead, the use of these plants to travel to and from the underworld safely, the killing of a plant to birth an alraun… and so many more secrets the plant spirits teach. Plants know much about death as many die every year to be reborn again through root or seed, revived by the warm light of the Sun. Others, like the great Yew, live and die at the same time and are masters of life, death, and rebirth. The plant necromancer is a master of entheogens and poisons and knows well the way to the underworld through the roots of the World Tree.
Human necromancy is so much more complex and full of differing roles and abilities and each one important, but almost forgotten in the modern world due to our fear of death. This necromancy belongs to those who can see and hear the dead – it’s best left alone by those who cannot. They resolve conflict between the living and the dead, the new generations and the ancestors. They aid the lost and forgotten. They smooth the way to death for the dying. They care for the ashes, bones, and graves of the dead. They are much-needed in our world full of spirits.
Bone Collector – The One Who Cares for the Remnants of the Dead
Grave-Tender – The One Who Remembers the Dead
Medium – The One Who is Ridden by the Spirits
Poisoner – The One Who Causes Death
Psychopomp – The One Who is the Guide of Death
Seer – The One Who Sees and Hears Spirits
Sin-Eater – The One Who Purifies the Souls of the Dead to Set Them Free