Necromanteion: Journey to the Kingdom of the Dead

Necromanteion
Claudia Schulte/Flickr

Necromanteion, or “Oracle of the death” is an ancient Greek temple built on several levels where those praying, with the help of special acoustics and hallucinogens could communicate with the souls of the dead.

The temple was built on top of a dark cave with numerous entangled tunnels. Ancient Greeks thought that the cave leads to a place where the rivers of underworld kingdom merged together, and that’s why the temple was a main spot for necromancy.

A church built on top of the Necromanteion. Public domain
A church built on top of the Necromanteion. Public domain

Greek archeologist, Sotirios Dakaris, discovered a large amount of seeds during excavations on the territory of the temple during the 1950s and ’60s. Those seeds, in their natural state, have hallucinogenic properties and cause dizziness.

Necromanteion is a curvy underground labyrinth which was built using profound knowledge of acoustics. The sound effects contributed for the communication with the dead.

Central room of the temple. Wikimedia Commons
Central room of the temple. Wikimedia Commons

Living in the underground labyrinth in complete darkness probably completely disoriented the visitors and they were losing their sense of reality, mentions Jessica Doyle from the University College in Dublin, in a publication of her article “To the dank halls of Hades’: Sensory Manipulation at the Necromanteion of Acheron”.

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Dr. Enrico Mattievich, a retired Physics professor from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), studies myths of the underworld kingdom of Hades:

“After a long time of practicing magic ceremonies, prayers, incantations and roaming in the dark secret chambers, worshipers reached a mental and psychological state which helped them contact the dead”, Mattievich says.

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