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A Technique for Evoking the Deceased

In ancient Greece, people who wanted to consult with a deceased loved one could travel to institutions known as oracles of the dead, or psychomanteions.

Many classical writers describe these places and their existence, and they are well documented in various sources. Homer, Herodotus, Plutarch, Aristophanes. Stabo and Lucian, among other writers, left fascinating accounts of the oracles of the dead. Recipes for consulting the dead at psychomanteions are preserved in the Greek Magical Papyri.

The most famous of the Greek oracles of the dead was in Epirus on the Acheron, near the modern-day village of Kanaliki. This was the site of Odysseus' descent to the underworld as described by Homer in Book 11 of The Odyssey.

The oracle of the dead at Cumae was on the southwestern coast of Italy, near what today is Naples. Virgil's Aeneid describes Aeneas' visit to the underworld at Cumae. Oracles of the dead were also on the southern- most point of the Peloponnesus at Cape Taenarum and in Sicily on the slopes of Mt. Etna.

By studying archaeological findings at the oracles of the dead and integrating these with classical writings and modern psychological knowledge, Raymond Moody recreated a Greek technique for evoking the deceased. Moody's psychomanteum is a small, dark room with a mirror mounted on the wall. A comfortable easy chair is placed three feet in front of the mirror, and a small light bulb behind the chair dimly illuminates the room. Subjects sitting in the chair gaze slightly upward into the mirror which is mounted at such an angle that they do not see their own reflections. Subjects see only an optical depth in the mirror, and no reflections, as though they are gazing into infinity. Subjects are asked to choose a deceased person known to them whom they wish to see again. Subjects are prepared by an interview in which they call up poignant memories about the deceased and explore their personal feelings about the loss. Then they enter the chamber and gaze into the mirror for an hour or more. More information at:  psychomanteum.

Under those circumstances, about one-half of subjects experience life-like visitations from the deceased. These often take the form of vivid three-dimensional apparitions which appear in the mirror or sometimes emerge from the mirror and appear in the room in front of the subject. In other cases, subjects describe how their consciousness goes through the mirror into an apparent other dimension where they encounter the deceased.

About one-third of subjects report distinctly hearing the audible voice of the deceased. Almost all the rest report a heart-to -heart or mind-to-mind conversation with the deceased. Subjects experience these encounters as real events and report relief from their grief.

Arthur Hastings of Sofia University (formerly the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology), as well as other investigators, have independently reproduced Moody's findings.


Moody, Raymond (1993). Reunions: Visionary Encounters with Departed Loved Ones. Ivy Press.

Ogden, Daniel (2004). Greek and Roman Necromancy. Princeton University Press.


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