Necromancy is a type of magic that forces a soul back into a body after it has been killed. Through a dark ritual, the soul is forcefully removed from its eternal rest in the afterlife and is anchored back into the mortal world. The soul is under the complete control of the necromancer, and is a form of spiritual enslavement. The bound soul is in agony every moment of its unlife, and expresses its pain by constant moaning that sends shivers through anyone hearing it. These zombies are used for free labor, an undead army, and various other purposes.

Necromancy is a vile heresy, and is punished with burning at the stake. People are horrified at the thought of their loved ones being robbed of their well deserved rest, forced back into their dead body, and used as slaves to another's bidding. Necromancers are thankfully rare, and is a difficult kind of magic to learn. However, they have been necromancers in the past who became dangerous threats to civilization, and their names have become infamous. Despite this, society refuses to cremate its dead, as the body retains special significance in this culture. What would be a good reason for people to not cremate their dead when the dangers of this dark magic is well known? What would be an alternative method for protecting the souls of their loved ones?

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    $\begingroup$ Religious reasons perhaps? Maybe people believe a cremated individual wont go to on to the after life? The could believe the 'soul' is destroyed by cremation. I mean if you can't be brought back from the dead after burning at it's not a huge leap to assume the soul is destroyed. $\endgroup$
    – Firelight
    Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 11:57
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    $\begingroup$ @Raditz_35 Wait... Are you proposing to raise the dead to ask them the question of why the dead of yore weren't cremated? $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 12:06
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    $\begingroup$ Also, OP, don't you answer this yourself with this: "the body retains special significance in this culture." Or are you looking for us to define a core tenet of your culture for you? $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 12:08
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    $\begingroup$ Your question seems to imply that irrationality was a rare feature in humans, and that a special explanation for irrational behaviour was required. This is a false premise. $\endgroup$
    – Burki
    Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 12:12
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    $\begingroup$ Who says they can't resurrect a cremated body? Have you ever been haunted by an animated ash cloud? Take it from the Ghostbusters, Class Five Full-Roaming Vapors are the worst! $\endgroup$
    – Dacio
    Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 16:28

26 Answers 26


Because there's necromancy and there's holy resurrection.

Necromancy is evil, holy resurrection allows the deceased to return to service in the name of god, their cries of joy at being returned to this service sending shivers through anyone hearing them, utterly unlike the cries of torment from the victims of the necromancer.

What do you mean you can't tell the difference? You shall be hanged for heresy and then you may begin your eternal service to the great god!

I didn't think this was necessary, but a surprising number of people have missed out on the fact that the difference between necromancy and holy resurrection is the colour of the robes you wear while doing it. Of course to suggest as much is heresy and we know how that ends.

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    $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 15:43

If necromancy works the way you describe it, that means there is a link between the soul and the body of the dead. Indeed, you can force back the soul into its body, but not in another body (unless you told us otherwise). The implication of this, is that if you burn the body, what happens to the soul can be more terrible than a mere resurrection. This can be achieved via several ways.

Eternal burning

That one is easy : if being resurrected means temporary agony (temporary being as long as the resurrection takes place), having your body burnt could mean eternal agony of the soul, like if you were burning for eternity. Basically, Hell.

The one problem with this is that there is no proof that the soul goes through this pain (since it can't go back to the livings to tell us so), so it would be only believed by the people that burning is, in fact, worse than resurrecting. Or you could have a semi-burnt body brought back to life, but I don't think people will get the difference between constant moaning of resurrecting pain and constant moaning of burning pain.

Homeless soul

If the body is burnt, the soul can't rest in peace and is forced back to earth, roaming around formless for eternity. This could be coupled with "Eternal burning", so that people could actually feel the pain of this "ghost".


A variation of the "Homeless soul" : the soul would seek another vessel, stealing animal corpses (or human corpses, depending on your rules regarding human and animal souls) and attacking/eating the livings. And you can still add the constant burning agony for that matter.

With this, clearly, burning bodies would be considered worse than necromancy.

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    $\begingroup$ And this is WHY necromancers are burnt at the stake. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 14:05
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    $\begingroup$ @LyndonWhite That would be true, disregarding the Ghoul portion. Can you imagine? It would take a much more macabre setting than just necromancy if every famous necromancer in existence could be at your beck and call if you just found the right squirrel. $\endgroup$
    – Imperator
    Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 11:49
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    $\begingroup$ @Ryan Err... natural decay is the natural way to set free the soul for it to reach some kind of heaven ? Good for me ! $\endgroup$
    – Keelhaul
    Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 16:52
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    $\begingroup$ It's also possible that everyone superstitiously believes some combination of these things, but there's no actual evidence for them. $\endgroup$
    – Kevin
    Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 23:08
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    $\begingroup$ There was a similar plot point in Doctor Who a couple seasons back, where it had been discovered that the spirits of the dead were connected to their bodies, and anything beyond normal decomposition would be felt by them, with many such souls uttering the 3 words in despair: "Don't cremate me!" (Doctor Who - Dark Water) If this society knows about how Necromancy affects the soul, it is possible that through magic they also know about how burial rites affect them. $\endgroup$
    – Oskuro
    Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 15:56
  1. The risk is low by some reason:

    • "Necromancers are thankfully rare, and is a difficult kind of magic to learn."
    • "Necromancy is a vile heresy, and is punished with burning at the stake."

    The reward of keep body intact (religion or spiritual value) is outweigh the risk. Thus, people ignore the risk of necromancer and decide not to cremate its dead.
    Comparing with real life, you know that when you drive a car, you have risk of being killed (accident), but the reward of going fast far outweigh the risk, so you choose to drive a car.
    Therefore, in this case, dead bodies are protected by statistics.

  2. Countermeasure - trying to reduce the risk of necromancy:

    In history, every disease have mortality rate (percent people die to disease). So, doctor invent vaccine and cure to reduce mortality rate. It reduce, but very hard to get 0%.
    In this case, your citizen can develop some method to reduce necromancy. "Necromancy is a vile heresy, and is punished with burning at the stake." is an example.
    However, I suggest some more option for you. Like vaccine for the disease, you can "vaccine" the dead body, after or even before their dead.

    • After dead: holy monk cast some spell to prevent necromancy spell.
    • Before dead: old people (themselves) go to pagoda, practices light magic, which would protect their soul from dark magic.

If burning the body destroyed or at least harmed the soul people wouldn't cremate the dead. Instead they might try to hide the bodies of the dead, or use magic to protect them.

Would hacking the body to pieces stop a necromancer from using it? Perhaps they'd just reconstitute the body, or raise the pieces into an even more terrifying mangled horror.

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    $\begingroup$ and you could call those mangled horror: abomination $\endgroup$
    – nefas
    Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 12:27
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    $\begingroup$ @nefas you need smaller chunks. Like, Kung-pao sized. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 8:33
  • $\begingroup$ Or pour cement around the body. $\endgroup$
    – HSchmale
    Commented Jun 29, 2017 at 4:10

The soul needs time to leave the dead body - it's not something that happens in the moment of death and is done with. Over the lifetime the soul has become attached to the body, and only the slow decomposition in a hallowed ground will ascertain that the soul rises whole and intact into the afterlife -- and maybe even beyond to rebirth!

Burning the body would also destroy parts of the soul, tearing it apart and not allow it to experience the afterlife at all. A most cruel act, reserved only for the worst of criminals and enemies.

Incidentally that very link between soul and body is how necromancy works: It reanimates the body, and the remaining bit of soul will take over the operation of the body. Once the Necromancer's spell is broken, and the artificial conservation of the body, which binds the soul, is no more, the soul will be able to reform in the afterlife, merely suffering a delay, where it is split in two.

Although similar to the "ghost" suggestions above, I don't think it's necessary to have and might add unnecessary complexity to a world. After all, a soul's wellbeing should be of paramount importance to the ex-loved ones of the body in question.

  • $\begingroup$ What about if you die in a fire? $\endgroup$
    – user32862
    Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 17:30
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    $\begingroup$ You can die from a fire quite easily, with a salvagable corpse being left. To achieve cremation from your house burning down is somewhat unlikely. But yeah, your mostly-immortal soul has been bound to the body for dozens of years - if you get eaten and digested by a giant dragon, then your soul won't be in a good place. You have to take good care of your soul. Losing a body is a big issue in this world. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 17:41

The dearly departed offer aid and blessings to those they feel bonds with.

  • Perhaps your business continues to thrive because your great-grandfather that started it helps to guide customers your way.

  • The family sword effortlessly slices the flesh of fell beasts because it carries some small favor from your warrior great uncle.

  • Your farm has better yield because the family specters of the past all do their part to chase away pests.

  • You were able to wake up and save your entire (living) family before the fire became too great, because your grandmother's spirit roused you from sleep just in time.

These ancestral spirits are only tentatively tied to the physical world, and so, are unable to give constant help. They are often able to act when you need it, though. Unless something has utterly destroyed the body. Once the body is gone, either through action or natural decay, the average spirit can no longer watch over their legacies. Most people would be loathe to destroy the connection to guardian spirits on purpose. However, it may be wise to burn the bodies of particularly awful and hateful people.

Necromancy may even have a side effect of twisting the protective instincts into antagonism. An undirected undead may still be drawn to their families, but the pain and torture of the dark magic causes them to attack and destroy what they once cherished.

Protecting the soul form such things may bot be possible, different regions may have different approaches with varying degrees of efficacy. Salting the body, or mummification with purifying herbs may go some way to blocking the evil magic. Hiding the bodies, or placing them in durable tombs and mausoleums is likely an obvious choice. Some cultures may remove the skull and keep it safe in the family shrine. It seems that necromancers would most benefit from mass graves post plague or war. They would also likely seek out paupers graves and the bodies of the indigent that have no one to care for their remains properly.

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding! If you have a moment please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. Have fun! $\endgroup$
    – Secespitus
    Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 19:38

What if cremation didn't actually stop resurrection?

In the past, there was such a vile necromancer, and so the people took to burning their dead to stop him from raising a huge zombie army. The only problem was that it turns out his spells still worked on their ashes. They didn't have the amazing strength or the spine-chilling wails of the fully corporeal bodies (it's hard to scream with no vocal chords, of course), but when a black cloud of possessed ashes swept over a city its residents would suffocate in the remains of their own loved ones, and typically provide the necromancer with even more bodies for his undead army.

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    $\begingroup$ For a real-world reference of this, have a look at the Thorolf Half-Foot section of Eyrbyggja Saga. The guy was so vile that after he died, he came back as a draugr (a zombie-like creature), then after the townsfolk burned his body, and a nearby bull ate some of the ashes, allowing him to essentially possess the animal. The only stopping him was to build a giant wall around his final grave, imprisoning him there. $\endgroup$
    – Shauna
    Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 19:51
  • $\begingroup$ Possession via haunted ashes would be another great effect of my suggestion. Thanks for the reference! $\endgroup$
    – ConMan
    Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 23:37
  • $\begingroup$ What an outstanding spot for an archaeological expedition... should make quite a tourist attraction. Has anyone found the wall? $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 15, 2021 at 13:34

I have thought about some reasons, the majority of them can be combined with other reasons.


Cremate a corpse need much fuel and time, also it's an unhealthy task.
Imagine the corpses of an entire army or a deadly plague, it would be impossible to cremate all of them. Also, families of the corpse might not have enough money to pay for a cremation.

Statistic (Low chance)

  • Each time you drive a car there is a chance to die in an accident.
  • Each time you fly in a plane there is a chance to crash the plane.
  • Each time a soldier goes to a battlefield there is a chance of been reached by a bullet.

But... Why do people drive cars, fly in planes and are volunteers in the army? They could die... this is because, statistically speaking, there is a really low chance (at least in the two first) to die, people accept the risk in order to: travel faster, feel the speed of a car, fight from the country or even get high doses of adrenaline.

Your citizens don't think that they will be victims of a necromancer like you said:

Necromancers are thankfully rare and it's a difficult kind of magic to learn.

So they don't think that they'll be the next victims, there is a really low chance.


You said:

Through a dark ritual, the soul is forcefully removed from its eternal rest in the afterlife and is anchored back into the mortal world.

This means that there is some kind of connection, link or tie to your body. Using that I get a lot of conclusions.

Prison in the heaven

This link is our only backdoor from the heaven to the live realm (Earth).
The heaven can be a very beautiful place (or maybe not but see below) but it's isolated from the real world. Some persons (people with have alive relatives) want to see them (the relatives) even if they (the relatives) can't see them (the deaths). If their bodies are cremated, they would lose they door to our world and they won't be able to see their relatives again.

Burning souls

If you burn the corpse, his soul would feel the pain of the cremation. You don't want that your relatives get so much pain in their well deserved eternal rest, no?

Cremating souls

Even more than the last, if you destroy their physical body, their soul will also be destroyed. Here you are literally killing them again, destroying their eternal rest and even "disintegrating" their souls (his conscience, memories will be lost).

Prison in the real world (ghost)

Think about a tree (the link), it has roots (earth), trunk (tunnel) and leaves (heaven).
Your physical body is the root, which holds the tree. When you die your corpse hold this tree (or ladder if you want) and you climb to the heaven. Then his leaves let you be there, if you set on fire the roots they will destroy it, the trunk and even the leaves, you would lose the "pillar" who let you be in the heaven and you will fall to our world. You will be here for all the eternity, suffering always cold, heat, thirst, hunger (humans needs) to the eternity and you won't be able to stop them (a ghost can't drink, eat, etc) but also you won't die (ghost are immortals). Again, do you want to make all your deaths relatives suffer this?


Souls are tied to the bodies by this "magical link" that I am always talking. This lets the souls not enter into the hell. If you break the link (burn the corpse) his soul will be free... free in the bad concept, they will be "free" of the tieds that "protect" him, What? Protection? Yes, the link is like a rope, the hell can't pull off the souls because the link is holding them, but if you break the link the hell would be able to capture them in the endless flames of the hell, an eternal and painful torture... and when the demon god bored with you, he will eat your soul.


There are legends that the gods will come someday to our world and will revive all our dead relatives and all of us will live happily. If you burn them, gods won't be able to resurrect them and they won't enjoy the eternal paradise in our world when gods come.


When you destroy the soul link (body-soul) the soul get "wandering" in earth (similar to the ghost concept). The difference is that this spectre will try to get a new body (of an alive person, of course) and this effect is called "possession". Obviously, you don't want to be possessed by your mother-in-law.

Spirit's guardians

Well, this isn't my idea, I only want to show my agree with Neocognitron's answer. Sincerely I wouldn't choose his answer but it's very original.

Soul resurrection

Basically, your people believe in the flesh resurrection (after death they will reborn in another animal).

Here I have some ideas:

  • But if you burn his flesh he won't be able to perform the incarnation (he won't have anything to offer in order to complete the resurrection).
  • The resurrection takes some time (years to complete):
    • While the soul is in this process it's linked to his corpse, if you hurt the corpse, the soul will be hurt (and his haven't cure, also this can explain why some people born with diseases), if you burn it, you will destroy the soul.
    • The process is very slow and need the corpse to accomplish, you have to produce a slow but constant transference of the soul from the corpse to his new body (this take 9 month), in order to transfer the soul to his new body the last has to be destroyed in a slow process (exactly the same time needed to make the new body). Putrefaction destroys the body with a perfect rate, it's too fast (like fire) nor too slow (life mummification).


My ideas about how to protect the souls very simple, and are almost compatible with all my ideas.

  • Enchanting/Blessing: With a magic charm or the blessing of a cure you can protect the soul from necromancers or be able to burn his body without hurting him. (Ask help for god to protect the soul / Make immune the soul to the hell / Break bad connection of resurrection, etc).
  • Making a new link: Almost all the problems involved with burning are that they broke his link/bond/chain/tied to the real world and them they are wandering forever, been tortured, possessing bodies, insulated in the heaven, etc. You could build a (or some) magic/s monolith/s in where you enchant the soul linking it to the monolith instead of the corpse, solution!
    Also, with this method maybe you could think about what would happen if the monolith...is...broken...
  • $\begingroup$ Magic The Gathering has a case example for religious reasons: Amonkhet. mtg.gamepedia.com/Amonkhet $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 16:11
  • $\begingroup$ I wonder what would happen if necromancy is casted on the monolith... Stone golems? $\endgroup$
    – beppe9000
    Commented Jun 29, 2017 at 11:34
  • $\begingroup$ @beppe9000. 1) The idea of the monolith is to protect the souls, obviously the monolith must be protected by armed guards. 2) Even if a necromancer reach the monolith he also need the corpse, you could bury them in other place. 3) Stone golems can't be maked because the monolith holds centenary of souls, and you only have one "body" (monolith) to the souls, you can't make golems, I think instead you could make deadly spectres... $\endgroup$
    – Ender Look
    Commented Jun 29, 2017 at 18:22
  • $\begingroup$ the expense of cremating every person can't be overstated. even in modern industrial society it is expensive, in a medieval setting it would be prohibitive, you need at minimum 1000 lbs of timber to cremate a body, that's as much as it takes to heat a home all winter in a temperate climate. that's weeks or months of work per body plus doubling your rate of deforestation, which is a problem in pre industrial societies . $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Nov 15, 2019 at 1:49

People are horrified at the thought of their loved ones being robbed of their well deserved rest

Not necessarily. Love makes you do crazy things; grief makes you do doubly-crazy things.

Have you ever watched FullMetal Alchemist? The central premise is that the two main characters, grieving the premature death of their mother, resort to the ultimate taboo: transmuting her back to life using alchemy. (Spoiler alert: it doesn't end well.)

A similar scenario might occur in your world as well. A mother loses her young son in a tragic accident. She's consumed by grief; she refuses to accept his loss. She knows the dangers of necromancy, and the punishment if you're caught, but she doesn't care any more: she just wants her son back.

The funeral director asks if she wants him to be buried or cremated. She chooses buried. The next day, she visits the shady part of town and buys a book on necromancy from the black market. The seller asks if she's aware of the consequences of necromancy. She is, but she doesn't care: she just wants her son back.

The burial takes place, and the mother seems strangely calm throughout the ceremony. That night, she returns to the grave in secret, the book of necromancy clutched in her hand. It's not going to end well; not for her, not for her son, not for anyone involved. If she stopped to think for a moment, this might occur to her. But she hasn't been thinking straight ever since her son died. She just wants him back.

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    $\begingroup$ And that's how you got Pet Sematary ! $\endgroup$
    – Keelhaul
    Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 13:00
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    $\begingroup$ That sounds more like a reason for society to avoid burial - not a reason to prefer it as a general rule... $\endgroup$
    – G0BLiN
    Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 15:10
  • $\begingroup$ this should be a comment not an answer... $\endgroup$
    – user64742
    Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 17:17

1) Weaponization

The bodies of the buried ones form strategic defenses, to be activated by a three letter government agency if the country is faced with an immediate existential threat (i.e. an invasion). The undead are in agony, but hey, it's just temporary (unless the enemy wins and binds them to serve him - this gives the undead extra incentive to fight) and not much worse than conscription (and those serving in the army during their life might even be exempt from the afterlife service). As the part of the defense program, the government might even subsidize cemeteries at strategic places.

2) Life preservation

(Almost) nobody wants to die. Given the evidence of a possible resurrection, this is the equivalent of our cryopreservation. A hope that sometime in the future, science will solve the "agony problem" and resurrect you, hopefully while giving you enough personal autonomy. If the agony is physical, throwing enough painkillers in might help. If emotional, research the cause - eventually, the holy grail of the necroresearch is to find the soul anchor and the way to transfer it to a fresh young (vat grown, unless you are an evil bastard) body, letting your previous body do the incantation, so that you are kind of enslaved only to yourself.

3) Escaping the worst

If the christianoislamic concept of Hell turns out to be correct, then letting yourself be resurrected in agony and enslaved might still be preferable to the torture you'd suffer otherwise. First, resurrect the person, ask them if they are in hell or the other place, and if hell, keep them resurrected. Rich people might set up trusts and committees, poor one have to rely on their grandchildren.

This is all rather bleak, but you might still hope to solve the "agony problem" (see 2))

  • $\begingroup$ Don't even know which of these i like most $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 14, 2019 at 23:28
  1. Possibly religious reasons, that could work up to some seriously conflicting worldviews. For example, taking convention in your world that necromancy is bad. But as you noted, necromancers are burnt at the stake. So, logically implying that burning bodies (live or dead) is an impure/tainted death with probable repercussions in the afterlife. Thus, people don't want to cremate their dead.

  2. The number of necromancers that come up from time to time is a very important factor to count in here. Rarely in the real world do you see a certain population adapt itself by changing customs to accommodate a minority. Suppose the necromancer infestation is a recent problem, and the concept of fire deaths being bad/evil exists for centuries. Or maybe they did coexist, but the necromancers are significantly smaller in number than majority population, so people's fears increase.

  3. The price of cremation. Imagine, that a cremation was not as simple as lighting a body with wood. If it had complicated rituals involved in the customs of the people, then the poorer sections of society would not be able to do anything except for mass burial, necromancer or no necromancer. Or think up some sort of class divide, i.e. only the lords and officials above a certain rank can be cremated, leaving the other people with no other choice. This of course assumes the absence of coffins, as poor people simply dump their bodies in holes in the ground, as traditionally, coffins are more expensive than simply lighting a body.

  4. Epidemics or other reasons for massive deaths. Imagine a specific incident had taken place in the past, i.e. some battle/extermination/flood/epidemic. Cremations are costly, fuel is precious, so basically, a huge pit was dug, and bodies dumped in a mass grave. This works for especially poorer people who might have suffered in such a manner. A necromancer learns the location of one such mass grave, hey presto, you have an undead army. Now imagine something of the size of the Bubonic Plague. There is no single huge pit, instead, every town has had such pits, although their locations have been lost centuries ago. So, necromancers can simply research the graveyards well, and they can form a practically unbeatable army by adding to their "collection" as they pass through each town.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding VSA! Those are some great suggestions. Looking forward to your contributions. If you have a moment please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. Have fun! $\endgroup$
    – Secespitus
    Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 13:36

Easiest is just "flesh resurrection": in many cultures (including Christianism, up till recently) people believes after the end of the world there will be a Trial for everybody and the flesh will resurrect.

If You burn the body You condemn the defunct to remain forever a ghost.

This is also reason behind burial rituals and some embalming (e.g.: in ancient Egypt).


Because if you have bad, bad necromancy you also have nice necromancy. Because you see, people like to change their minds.
For example typical necromancer in dark robes, skulls and with a name like Obyntrontinx is vile and heretic.

On the other hand you have a necromancer wearing white robes, smiling and calling people by name. And he's a nice fellow, almost everyone like him. Let's call him Jesus.

Of course in both cases there will be people who will say "well, it's bad in both cases. We gave dead people tax reliefs." But you can convince them it's ok because it's "our" necromancer. OR kill them if they are stubborn.

Soto summarize - the people don't burn corpses because when they are alive and not dead yet they say "hey, don't burn me. I'm waiting on the good necromancer".

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ How can "good necromancy" exists when is torture for the soul (cf the question: The bound soul is in agony every moment of its unlife) ? $\endgroup$
    – nefas
    Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 12:30
  • $\begingroup$ @nefas Some might argue that some people deserve exactly that. $\endgroup$
    – Raditz_35
    Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 12:33
  • $\begingroup$ That would more like "necessary" necromancy then. I can see necromancy used as a threat or a punishment. Give us what we want and we don't resurrect you or condemn someone to X year of resurrection. Some would say that's barbaric though $\endgroup$
    – nefas
    Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 12:39
  • $\begingroup$ @nefas There are many options. Jesus could simply just tell people that what he does is good for the soul and still torment them (because he's that kind of guy) without anyone knowing or what he does could be great for the corpse. What you wish to call at the end it matters the least $\endgroup$
    – Raditz_35
    Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 12:51
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    $\begingroup$ @Raditz_35 On one hand I could see some charismatic leader making people believe that there is good necromancy (with religion, nationalism, ...) even with the corpse making sound that gives you nightmare (expresses its pain by constant moaning that sends shivers through anyone hearing it. On the other hand, the "zombies" make sound that gives you nightmare. (I'm using the premise that necromancy is in reality not good for the victim soul). $\endgroup$
    – nefas
    Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 13:11

Religion is the most obvious answer. If cremation wasn't acceptable in the religion, it would be rare.

Religion would also be the method of protecting the dead. A good [insert religion here] burial involves blessing the corpse and burial in consecrated ground which prevents necromancy.

Necromancers would try to get their bodies from corrupt undertakers before the funeral or just make their own. Once the funeral was over, the body would be no good to use so no point robbing graves.

  1. Create a time limit during which you can resurrect a body. If necromancy works by summoning the soul back to the body, there must be a connection between the two even after death. Presumably, this is due to the fact that we are all somewhat attached to our bodies (pun intended). Logically after some period of time after death, one would start caring about his/her former body less, weakening the connection and making the summon harder to perform.
  2. People are horrified at the thought of their loved ones being robbed of their well deserved rest, forced back into their dead body, and used as slaves to another's bidding. Necromancy requires access to the corpse. If the risk of resurrection is so high as to be worrying then all you have to do is protect the body. Cremation is an unnecessary extreme. (Albeit an effective one.)

Perhaps the society believes in reincarnation - in which case the soul may be connected, resting peacefully, to the body until its new life can begin.

Necromancy would then be easy to describe as it's a reawakening of the attached soul, whereas burning or destroying the body would consign the soul to eternal oblivion; doomed to never return.
They may see this as a fate worse than undeath.

This also gives rise to the idea that you can only reanimate the recently dead, as the reincarnated soul will have moved on and there will be nothing to animate.


Because cremation makes monsters that are even worse.

You think what necromancers do to corpses is bad? You ain't seen nothin', friend. Wait until you see the most terrifying monsters in the necromancer's arsenal, the Infernal Wights. Once thought to be the departed souls of those unfortunate enough to suffer death by fire, no, it turns out that the mere act of desecrating a human's body in fire, even after death, has horrifying, infernal consequences should the soul ever be forced to re-inhabit their ashen remains. They become a flying, perpetually-shrieking specter of white-hot fire, knowing nothing but the perpetual searing agony once thought to be the domain of hell, and hell alone, and unable to think of anything but how to inflict it upon as many others as humanly possible.

Yeah. Sure. Cremate the dead. Have fun with that. Society outgrew that little fad a while ago.

...This isn't to say that they don't have to deal with the things. After all... some especially vile necromancers may burn corpses on purpose...


Desecrating the bodies of the dead to stop their being desecrated? Kinda defeats the purpose.

One dissuades necromancy by inculcating in the young the duty of respecting the dead, not by treating corpses as things you dispose of like trash.



As many people have suggested, religion would play a major part in this. The religion could say the body has to be buried (maybe you have a god who is a god of the earth, and the soul needs to be buried in order to reunite with the earth), or that bodies must remain intact so as not to destroy the soul.

Maybe people also believe that practicing necromancy kills or otherwise tampers with your soul, so why would anybody do it in the first place?


Alternatively, you could say that the body can only be effectively reanimated when all the flesh is there (like the muscles, which would allow it to move). The flesh begins to... liquify after a month or so, which might result in bodies being kept in secure places until the flesh is gone, where they are then laid in the ground. Maybe something is done to speed up the decomposition.

The Corpse Guard

Graveyards could be well protected. You could have a special "Corpse Guard" in your world, and it's considered an almost holy duty to protect the bodies from necromancers.


When a Human's body is incinerated, living or dead, their soul is condemned to Hell. That is why they burn Necromancers at the stake. But no-one would willingly condemn their friends and family to that. A few years of pain as a necromantic thrall are nothing compared to an eternity of anguish and torment.

And this only applies when one or more Humans deliberately burn another. Natural and accidental fires do not result in this.

As a side result, arson would be considered one of the worst crimes, because if the fire kills someone, you are sending them to Hell. So it is worse than ordinary murder.


Because it makes for a better story.

On a side note, anyone remember how the dead were big business in the 1999 game Planescape Torment? Cool game by the way, and a great explanation as to why they didn't cremate their dead: the de facto Necromancer's guild paid them good money not to and the undead were the city's chief source of cheap labor.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I believe the OP wanted an in-universe explanation. If you can expand on the "necromancer's guild pays" suggestion, this may be a useful answer. Suggest you edit to cut the chat about the game and focus on a good answer to the question. $\endgroup$
    – James K
    Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 19:29
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding! This answer is currently in the low-quality review queue for its length and content. Please edit it to provide more information and focus on the question asked. Otherwise this might get deleted. Take the tour and visit the help center for further information. Have fun! $\endgroup$
    – Secespitus
    Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 19:31

I really like the approaches of Radovan Garabík.

Then of course there is the ace in your sleeve, inofficially of course, as necromancy is illegal... If you are an important dynasty you might want to entomb your most important generals and war heroes and counselors and predecessors in pompous metal sarcophagi in the temple of eternal sleep, which is one of the highest honors in the realm. Inside the palace walls and heavily guarded all the time this mausoleum is said to be the safest final resting place. However, in case the palace is under attack or the realm faces a threat, one of the deceased has successfully fought back in his life... there are old, crooked ways underground, once part of the old palace... no one would notice the high priest and the archon on their way to the council of dust... necromancy might be heresy... but not forgotten... (cf. Herbie Brennan's The Purple Emperor)
And then again, what if the evil necromancer is able to sneak into that temple...

Don't forget - being illegal and/or dangerous doesn't mean that it doesn't happen in secret. You could compare the use of necromancy to the use of hard drugs or murder that occur throughout all social classes.

The more important question is: Which story aspects force you to prevent your society from burning their dead?

If I learned one thing from Burke and Hare it's how easy corpses are to produce... As necromancy is prohibited, why should anyone revive corpses that are officially known to be dead? A freshly reaped lazar can be useful for several days in winter without attracting any attention, before the smell gets too strong, making a tragic accident neccessary - those robbers in the slums, what a shame... And you really thought it was the kind-heartedness of the highborn widow to open a shelter for the homeless in the slums... As for the moaning - I'm not a healer but I am sure there are parts of the human body that, if cut out, will prevent any form of moaning...

Maybe burning the corpses is even mandatory for safety reasons in the city. Until then the undertaker has to store them securely. So if one of them might be stolen, why should the undertaker endanger his own life by mentioning that... and if he gets a better offer... ashes are ashes... only the rich can afford a glorious pyre, the poor will never know what they took home in that urn...

And then of course there are the ancient battlefields... Maybe the soldiers burned their comrades to prevent them from suffering... but their foes? How long has it been since a necromancer was seen anywhere? So why bother for these corpses, somewhere at the fringes of the realm... thrown into the lightless depths of the nearby marshes or hastily buried in mass graves... a whole army, at your command, Sir...


Ghosts are considered important sources of information and usually desired, but their availability is partly dependent on the state of the body.

Until the body decays enough, it provides a beacon to the soul in the afterlife, allowing it to return as a ghost should it be willing to put in the effort to make the trip. As the body decays, the beacon fades, making return visits harder and harder until, once the body is reduced to just a skeleton, the beacon goes out and it's no longer possible for the deceased to find their way to the land of the living to appear as a ghost any more.

Cremating someone greatly accelerates the process, which is exactly why necromancers are burned at the stake, rather than given a cheaper death like a hanging. Nobody wants them coming back as a ghost and finding an apprentice to teach, so onto the pyre with them!


Because necromancy - all mambo jumbo aside, is just fantasy automation, and if people want to have a job and purpose in life, the dead have to go.

Also the dead work 24/7 so, how is a living person to compete with that?


They believe cremation destroys the soul. A resurrectable body proves that the soul still exists

In the real world, a lot of Medieval and Renaissance theology was concerned with the nature of the human soul: is it eternal? which souls go to which place after death? Churches sold 'indulgences' to people which claimed to reduce their dead loved ones' time in purgatory. People were (and are) very concerned about death and what comes after.

And a resurrected corpse proves that the soul is eternal. It moans to show the agony of the soul within! It's demonstrable and repeatable. But if you cremate the body, does the soul live on? How do you know? You can no longer "test" for it's presence with necromancy. What if burning destroys the soul? Would you risk doing that to your loved one, to avoid the remote risk of necromancy? There's more chance of being struck by lightning!

Once the idea that cremation destroys the soul exists, there will always be people too fearful to cremate their dead. What's worse? The risk that they'll spend a few years in pain serving a necromancer, or an eternity of nothingness, denied their final rest in a paradise beyond the world?


Ecosystem services

The power of hallowed ground leads the departed ones to their rest. But it also leads other miscellaneous spiritual toxic waste to its rest. Any manner of failed astral tomfoolery, simulacrum-building gone wrong, or misguided attempts at cremation can leave you with a wandering spirit problem ... and your townspeople don't know how to build a particle accelerator, not even an unlicensed one. But spirits have an urge to get into bodies, and since most of them lack the mojo or training for a proper possession, that means clinging to bones in some forlorn instinctive attempt to will them back to life. Maybe it would work, eventually, in a some dark corner of your world. But in a hallowed cemetary, they are led somewhere else by some mysterious power, leaving normal folks at peace again.

Although the buried dead are a risk in the case of abuse, they are ordinarily seen as a defense mechanism.


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