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Nekyia - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In ancient Greek cult-practice and literature, a nekyia (ἡ νέκυια) is a "rite by which ghosts were called up and

questioned about the future," i.e., necromancy. A nekyia is not necessarily the same thing as a katabasis. While they both afford the opportunity to converse with the dead, only a katabasis is the actual, physical journey to the underworldundertaken by several heroes in Greek and Roman myth.

In common parlance, however, the term "nekyia" is often used to subsume both types of event, so that by Late

Antiquity for example "Olympiodorus

story, as in Homer's Odyssey book 11)". [1]

claimed that three [Platonic] myths were classified as nekyia (an underworld

Questioning ghosts

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A number of sites in Greece and Italy were dedicated wholly or in part to this practice. "The Underworld

communicated with the earth by direct channels. These were caverns whose depths were unplumbed, like that

of Heraclea Pontica." [2] The most notable was theNecromanteion in the northwestern Greek town of Ephyra. Other

oracles of the dead could be found at Taenaron and Avernus. Such specialized locations, however, were not the only

places necromancy was performed. One could also perform the rite at a tomb, for example. Among the gods associated with the nekyia rite are Hades, his wife Persephone, Hecate, and Hermes (in his capacity as psychopompus – one who escorted souls to Hades).

The Odyssey

The earliest reference to this cult practice comes from Book 11 of the Odyssey, which was called the Nekyia in Classical antiquity. Odysseus was instructed to "make a journey of a very different kind, and find your

way to the Halls of Hades

prophet Teiresias about the means to return home to Ithaca, in a setting of "ghosts and dark blood and eerie noises,

like a canvas ofHieronymous Bosch". [4] He sacrifices a ram and an ewe so that "the countless shades of the dead and gone" would "surge around" him [5] and then he meets and talks to the souls of the dead.

"The story of Odysseus's journey to Hades

other heroes", although it is clear that, for example, "the κατάβασις[katabasis, "descent"] of Herakles in its traditional form must have differed noticeably from the Nekyia". [6]

The Athenian playwright Aeschylus features the use of tombside nekyiai in his Persians andLibation Bearers.

across the River of Ocean". [3] There he consults the soul of the priest and

was followed

by further accounts of such journeys undertaken by


C. G. Jung used the concept of Nekyia as an integral part of his analytical psychology: "Nekyia

conscious mind into the deeper layers of the unconscious psyche". [7] For Jung, "the Nekyia is no aimless or

destructive fall into the abyss, but a meaningful katabasis

Jolande Jacobi added that "this 'great Nekyia'

introversion of the

its object the restoration of the whole man". [8]

is interwoven with innumerable lesser Nekyia experiences". [9]


Nekyia - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Night sea-journey

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Jung used the images of the Nekyia, of "the night journey on the sea

(journey to hell)", and of "'Katabasis' (descent into the lower world)" [10] almost interchangeably. His closest followers

descend into the belly of the monster

also saw them as indistinguishable metaphors for "a descent into the dark, hot depths of the unconscious

journey to hell and 'death'" – emphasising for example that "the great arc of the night sea journey comprises many lesser rhythms, lesser arcs on the same 'primordial pattern'", [11] just like the nekyia.

The post-Jungian James Hillman however made some clear distinctions among them:


The descent of the underworld can be distinguished from the night sea-journey of the hero in many ways… the hero returns from the night sea-journey in better shape for the tasks of life, whereas the

nekyia takes the soul into a depth for its own sake so that there is no "return." The night sea-journey is further marked by building interior heat (tapas), whereas the nekyia goes below that pressured

containment, that tempering in the fires of passion, to a zone of utter coldness

haunts in our fears of the unconscious and the latent psychosis that supposedly lurks there, and we still turn to methods of Christianism – moralizing, kind feelings, communal sharing, and childlike naivete – as propitiations against our fear, instead of classical descent into it, the nekyia into imagination… (Only) after his nekyia, Freud, like Aeneas (who carried his father on his back), could finally enter "Rome". [12]

The devil image still

Cultural references

" Thomas Mann 's conception of the nekyia draws extensively from 'the doctrines of the "Thomas Mann's conception of the nekyia draws extensively from 'the doctrines of the East and Hellenism'". [13]

Jung considered Picasso 's "early Blue Period Picasso's "early Blue Period

Nekyia is also a popular name assumed by numerous art projects and performance or music is also a popular name assumed by numerous art projects and performance or music

as the symbol of Nekya, a descent into hell and darkness". [14]

groups. [citation needed]