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How is Necromancy accomplished in the Harry Potter universe? I thought that people cannot be raised from the dead in Harry Potter. Were bodies just use as puppets that can only do simple tasks, for instance when Dumbledore and Harry were getting the locket, the Inferi were there to guard the locket.

Also, besides Inferi were there any Zombies in Harry Potter?

  • I've mentioned Inferi specifically, as I feel you were aiming to do. If you'd rather not mention them, feel free to roll back. – AncientSwordRage Sep 5 '12 at 19:38
  • @Pureferret It's fine I forgot what they were called. I was going to just call them cadavers but I didn't feel like it. – Blue Sep 6 '12 at 7:51
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Inferi are simply re-animated corpses. If you want to call them zombies, you can - JKR does not, and they don't fit the Braaaaaains Romero Zombie stereotype.. but they fit the broad definition (e.g. Wiki: an animated corpse brought back to life by mystical means, such as witchcraft. Inferi fit 100%):

"They are corpses, dead bodies that have been bewitched to do a Dark wizard's bidding" - Albus Dumbledore to Harry.


In addition, zombies as named creatures also exist in HP universe:

"The Zombie dwells only in the Southern part of America. It is an example, like the Vampire, of the Living Dead and may be recognized by its greyish colour and its rotten smell." ("The Dark Forces: A Guide to Self-Protection" on Pottermore).


However, true Necromancy - that is raising a dead person, to have their old soul and personality, is indeed considered impossible. At least by Albus Dumbledore, who wrote in his Beadle the Bard notes:

Necromancy is "a branch of magic that has never worked"

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    Isn’t what the Resurrection Stone does kind of a type of necromancy? It doesn’t really raise the dead as such, of course, but it creates a person-like imprint that’s more solid and real than a ghost. (Of course, since ghosts are dead people and the living interact with ghosts quite freely in the Potterverse, you could argue that every student and teacher at Hogwarts who’s ever spoken to one of the ghosts has practised necromancy to some degree.) – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 6 '15 at 16:23
  • @JanusBahs: the so-called Resurrection Stone is actually only a Speak with Dead stone. It doesn't raise the dead, but yes, it still counts as Necromancy. – b_jonas Sep 6 '15 at 17:54
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It depends on how you define "necromancy". I'm choosing to define it as "taking something that was previously alive and is no longer alive, and making some aspect of it alive again".

Most of the examples here are debatable, but all of them fall under that definition:

  • Ghosts. Probably the only self-inflicted cases of necromancy. In this case, only the soul is reanimated, with the body undergoing the usual rotting process. This is because the person dies, and chooses to stay behind or go to the great beyond, as told by nearly-headless Nick in book 5. If they choose to go to the great beyond, they're just dead, and if they return to us, then their soul is undead.

  • Inferi. The opposite of a ghost. In this case, the soul isn't in there, but you have a working body which can get instructions. This is widely regarded as dark magic. "what's dark about recycling?"

  • Zombies. Zombies exist in the harry potter universe, and are mentioned in book one. http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Zombie

  • Reanimated Skeletons. Essentially, a more degraded inferi. These only popped up in the games. http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Charmed_skeleton

  • Images from the Resurrection stone. These aren't a fully reanimated person, but can interfere with dementors, and interact with a person. http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Resurrection_Stone

Professor Dumbledore stated that necromancy is a branch of magic that "never worked". In a way that's true. None of these cases were complete necromancy. They only resurrected a soul or body parts. A full case of necromancy, IE resurrecting a full soul and body together, never occurred anywhere in the series.

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As was mentioned in the other answers, according to the Harry Potter Wiki Necromancy is mentioned by Dumbledore as ineffective:

Albus Dumbledore mentions in his notes on Beedle the Bard that Necromancy is "a branch of magic that has never worked".

but the Harry Potter wiki is a bit inaccurate in this case. It's a footnote by JKR's on The Tale of the Three Brothers which defines necromancy "a branch of magic that has never worked". The full quote is: (emphasis mine in all the quotes here)

"Necromancy is the Dark Art of raising the dead. It is a branch of magic that has never worked, as this story makes clear. JKR"

While the relevant part of Dumbledore's note on the tale:

"This youngest brother knows that taunting Death — by engaging in violence, like the first brother, or by meddling in the shadowy art of necromancy, like the second brother - means pitting oneself against a wily enemy who cannot lose. "

in the same note Dumbledore on the legend about the Hallows:

"The irony is that a curious legend has grown up around this story, which precisely contradicts the message of the original. This legend holds that the gifts Death gives the brothers — an unbeatable wand, a stone that can bring back the dead, and an Invisibility Cloak that endures for ever — are genuine objects that exist in the real world. The legend goes further: if any person becomes the rightful owner of all three, then he or she will become "master of Death", which has usually been understood to mean that they will be invulnerable, even immortal. "

So the second brother, the owner of the resurrection stone was "meddling in the shadowy art of necromancy" according to Dumbledore.

Likely there is a branch of magic called 'necromancy' in the Harry Potter universe which aim is to raise the dead or even 'master death' that is, to gain immortality. One of the results of such research was the creation of the Resurrection Stone, attributed by some to the Peverell brothers. But even if the Stone was ineffective in bringing back the dead, this probably haven't stopped other wizards to research the subject, tampering with souls and trying to raise and manipulate the dead. The branch or subdivision of magic called 'necromancy' probably continued to exist after the death of the Peverell brothers and was used by different wizards for various purposes over the ages. It's likely that some used it to create undead servants. So if we speak of necromancy in the broad sense, that is summoning, controlling and raising (un)dead, tampering with souls and dead bodies - there's plenty of such activity mentioned in the books. Besides inferi, zombies and the resurrection stone already mentioned by others there are also

Horcruxes

The best examples of necromancy in the books, besides the Resurrection Stone are the Horcruxes, which make the user practically immortal as long as they exist, and the reanimation of Voldemort described in detail in book four, The Goblet of Fire.

Voldemort used fragments of his soul as anchors to keep himself alive, and a ritual involving blood and bones from a human skeleton to (re)construct a corporal body with the original's memories and personality, capable of performing magic. So necromancy definitely works and is effective, judging how much trouble horcruxes caused, even if it proved to be useless in truly mastering death without irreparably damaging the soul. The consensus in the magic community, even among the 'dark' wizards, seems to be that making horcrurxes is taboo, and probably considered a failed experiment, one that demands too high a price.

Meanwhile, the Hogwarts library had failed Hermione for the first time in living memory. She was so shocked, she even forgot that she was annoyed at Harry for his trick with the bezoar. “I haven’t found one single explanation of what Horcruxes do!” she told him. “Not a single one! I’ve been right through the restricted section and even in the most horrible books, where they tell you how to brew the most gruesome potions — nothing! All I could find was this, in the introduction to Magick Moste Evile — listen — ‘Of the Horcrux, wickedest of magical inventions, we shall not speak nor give direction. . . .’ I mean, why mention it then?” (HBP, CH 18)

But the knowledge was still accessible in Tom Riddle's time. Nothing prevented an ambitious and talented sixteen-year old student with psychopathic tendencies to transform his school diary into a horcrux after he put a bit of effort in it. Horace Slughorn can hardly be described as a dark mage deep in research about cursed artifacts and necromancy, but he is familiar with the term:

“Sir, I wondered what you know about . . . about Horcruxes?” ...
“No. . . well . . . you’d be hard-pushed to find a book at Hogwarts that’ll give you details on Horcruxes, Tom, that’s very Dark stuff, very Dark indeed,” said Slughorn. “But you obviously know all about them, sir? I mean, a wizard like you — sorry, I mean, if you can’t tell me, obviously — I just knew if anyone could tell me, you could — so I just thought I’d ask —” (HBP CH 23)

and also why it shouldn't be used: :

“Well, you split your soul, you see,” said Slughorn, “and hide part of it in an object outside the body. Then, even if one’s body is attacked or destroyed, one cannot die, for part of the soul remains earthbound and undamaged. But of course, existence in such a form** . . .” (HBP, ch 23)

And Voldemort himself describes the experience less than enjoyable:

“I was ripped from my body, I was less than spirit, less than the meanest ghost . . . but still, I was alive. What I was, even I do not know . . . I, who have gone further than anybody along the path that leads to immortality. You know my goal — to conquer death.” (GoF CH 33)

Slughorn says it's natural an intelligent wizard would be interested about the subject:

“Not at all, not at all, not offended,” said Slughorn gruffly. “It’s natural to feel some curiosity about these things. . . . Wizards of a certain caliber have always been drawn to that aspect of magic. . . .” (HBP CH 23)

but even if it was considered a failed experiment and taboo in Horace's time, it was still a magical invention, part of the knowledge on necromancy and it was preserved. Hogwarts is not the only place magical research is studied and made. There's a chance than other schools, for example Durmstrang, (a school famous for teaching the dark arts) have more materials on the subject with detailed explanations why it is not advisable to use horcruxes along with additional research in other directions in necromancy, maybe less amoral than the horcruxes. Dumbledore himself aspired to become the conqueror of death and was reserching the Hallows, including the Resurrection Stone, thus engaging in what he calls 'the shadowy art of necromancy'.

Ghosts

Nearly Headless Nick describing how he became a ghost: I was afraid of death", said Nick softly. "I chose to remain behind." (Order of the Phoenix)

There are no details whether this 'choice' requires magic (necromancy) or it is also presented to any muggle / squib.

But there is indication that there are spells that can affect ghosts. Fleur Delacor seems to think that the Beauxbtons staff has the means to get rid of an unwanted poltergeist:

“At ze Palace of Beauxbatons, ... We ’ave none of zis ugly armor in ze ’alls, and eef a poltergeist ever entaired into Beauxbatons, ’e would be expelled like zat.” She slapped her hand onto the table impatiently. (OotP, CH 23)

It may be just Fleur's opinion, and getting rid of a regular ghost or a poltergeist may not be that easy, but in the same book later Myrtle complains to Harry that the ministry ordered her to stop haunting her former classmate and return to Hogwarts:

“— and then, of course, she went to the Ministry of Magic to stop me stalking her, so I had to come back here and live in my toilet.” (OotP, CH 25)

It indicates that the wizards of the Ministry of Magic have some way of controlling ghosts.

On the other hand, a bit surprisingly, ghosts in the HP universe are not immune to pertification, they are affected by air- and waterstreams (Myrtle can be flushed down the toilet into the lake, pertified Nick can be propelled in the desired direction) so it is unclear whether it is necromancy that is used to create or control ghosts or something else.

  • Voldemort never died originally, so saying 'reanimation of Voldemort' is inaccurate. – NKCampbell Jul 28 '16 at 22:56

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