Friday Lore Post: Necromancy and Law

Necromancy is the most feared form of magic on Menechit, despite being the least common in practice—and also, if one were to tally the casualties associated with various types of magic-user, the least deadly. The stigma associated with raising or controlling the dead is enough that the magic is feared the continent over, and the ever-present threat of it as a potential form of power for any magic-user is enough to create laws to stop its use.

Necromancy has basically always been stigmatized but has not always been a formal crime. In Dolovai, the outlawing of necromancy came after the civil war caused by the necromancer-wizard Dorothy Highquail, AKA Dorothy the Deathless, who used the lives of others to perpetuate her own life in a mad quest for both immortality and the throne her family had lost to house ven Sancte six hundred years before. After she was defeated in DN 542, necromancy was outlawed across Dolovai and Dallarjon, but not Porean. Necromancy remained nominally legal there until it was absorbed into Dolovai in DN 904.

Prior to this outlawry, necromancy was occasionally tolerated, though groups of persecutions would happen on occasion. In Dallarjon, it was hardest to be a necromancer, and though there was no formal law against it, it wasn’t uncommon for necromancy—or accusations of necromancy—to lead to death without trial and without retribution.

In the south, necromancy has always been illegal in Sutast, and was made illegal in Hechan at the same time as it was in Dolovai. It was not criminalized in Kyaine until the unification of the south, but is now, and is punishable with prison time, but not death like it is up north. In Ech’kent, necromancy remains legal, but those with the talent tend to be forced out of settlements. None of this came with any particular inciting event; southern laws reflected northern laws for the most part. Nobody knows why the practice was illegal in Sutast.

The rise of Dorothy the Deathless was one of very few moments in history characterized by dangerous necromancy, but that hasn’t stopped the craft from marking the minds of the people of Menechit. Matthias the Mad’s killing spree was also a notable moment, though it tends not to be as well known despite having been in the more recent past. Other than those, necromancers tend to keep as much to themselves as they can—most of them don’t want to do anything wrong, and those who do are very good at keeping it quiet. Many such people do enjoy a certain freedom; authorities generally look the other way if someone is clearly only trying to keep to themselves and not harm anyone. Usually this is dependent on the person being known to authorities, and so is more common in smaller communities.

Outside of Menechit, necromancy is also outlawed throughout Aergyre, though empire also keeps several necromancers on retainer to do research pertaining to warfare, so it’s really only illegal if you don’t work for the government. The criminalization of necromancy in the empire dates back to its earliest days as an empire, during which a cabal of necromancers supposedly tried to unseat the first emperor and killed his oldest child. This isn’t quite historical reality; the actual truth is that the emperor’s child was himself a necromancer who accidentally killed himself in an experiment in soul transfer gone wrong, causing his father to outlaw necromancy.

In Enjon, necromancy remains legal, though it is also rarely recognized as being necromancy when practiced. Attempting to raise the dead will get a practitioner killed, however. Similarly, in most of the eastern nations, rather than a blanket ban on necromancy entirely, certain practices are banned, such as raising the dead and attempting to transfer souls. The eastern nations all require anyone born a necromancer to be known to authorities, though how much compliance these laws enjoy is unmeasured.

Necromancy is not considered any differently than other forms of magic in most parts of Djyekkan, and necromancers are treated much the same as other practitioners as a result. Notably, Djyekkan is the only place that has never had a recorded large-scale conflict or high profile event involving necromancy. If the rest of the world knew they existed, debate might well rage about whether this is because the less restrictive laws allow practices to happen in the open and therefore allow more scrutiny, or if the looser laws are because no large-scale event has happened. Unfortunately it is hard to know the truth.

In most respects, necromancy really isn’t that different from any other form of magic. But it’s treated very differently, and the vast majority of necromancers find this to be very unfair–especially those born to the power who are being persecuted almost entirely because of the actions of those who sought it out later in life. But very few of them, even if they are doing their work without intent to harm, are brave enough to speak up publicly for fear of persecution.

From “The Definitive Atlas of the World, Vol. 2: Peoples and Cultures,” by Pascal Tiberius Naoton Quimbell Haeverine anNatalie, published in White Cape in DN 1997.

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