Thursday, March 04, 2010


Lovecraft, later in his life, began to read about mysticism (qabbala) and rituals. At one time he had a skull in his posession. He wrote in The Hound about fiendish rituals, albeit partly tongue-in-cheek.

"Niches here and there contained skulls of all shapes, and heads preserved in various stages of dissolution." The Hound, HPL

Here is a little modern archaeology that might be of interest to game players, and those interested in the sociology of magic and necromancy.
In Biblical Archaeology Review, No. 200, a letter from Dr. Meir Malul, Professor Biblical Studies, University of Haifa appeared on the topic of necromancy.

AS might be expected, necromancy was banned in Judaism, but was often practiced. The practice of using a skull (recall that in Near Eastern magic, the soul was considered to be in the stomach area) is a bit of a mystery. The surface does not easily lend itself to inscriptions, especially long inscriptions, being a rounded, irregular surface.

Malul, an expert on teraphim, household gods and idols, reminds the reader that these clay images reflected beliefs of the afterlife, the world of the dead, and necromantic rites.

Malul recites an eighth century text C.E. by Pirque de R. Eliezer that makes connections between teraphim and human skulls with a specialize light (candle, oil lamp?) while consulting with the dead. "What are the teraphim? They slay a man, a firstborn, and they pinch off his head and salt it with salt, and they write upon a golden nameplate the name of an unclean spirit and place it under his tongue, and they put it in a wall, and they kindle lamps before it and bow down to it, and it speaks to them."

The unclean spirit might easily be Lilith.

In a passage in Maimonides Mishneh Torah (the laws of idol-worship) we read, "One who willingly and knowingly practices necromancy or wizardry is liable to karet (Hebrew, derived from 'cut off' - excommunication) What are the acts of necromancy? A necromancer stands and burns specific incenses … and speaks slowly in matters known to necromancers … or takes the skull of a dead person, buring incense to it and divining with it."

[April 13, 2009] {Controversial}… evidence attests to the fact that ancient Jews used human skulls in ceremonies, despite a strict Halakhic prohibition on touching human remains. British researcher Dan Levene from the University of Southampton published findings in Biblical Archaeological Review about the human skulls, known as incantation bowls, some of which bear inscriptions in Aramaic.

The skulls, unearthed in former Babylonia, are believed to have been used during the Talmudic era. Levene added … the talisman was used by someone desperate …used to ward off increased ghosts or demons … belief in demons was widespread at this time … these incantation bowls are known not only from Jewish communities but from other communities as well. To combat demons - who cause medical problems as well as other mishaps and ills - people invoked numerous magic rites and formulas.

1 comment:

Shane Mangus said...

Great post! Most interesting.


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