Necromantis Lac Petens

The Necromancer Begging for Milk

Vergilius was called a Necromantis (Necromancer) because he was learned in Necromanteia, but he did not practice divination or other magic by means of the Dead. Nevertheless, every seven years he followed a practice of the Necromanteis, which included subsisting for a long period almost entirely on curdled milk (lac coagulatum), but also cottage cheese and eggs. At these times he would disguise himself as a poor Wandering Scholar (Doctor Vagus), putting on an old, tattered black paenula [hooded traveling cloak of Celtic origin], and go from house to house begging milk. Wise people know the Necromanteis beg milk in this way, and so they offer milk to any stranger who requests it! In this way they honor Jovis Hospitalis, that is, Jupiter, who protects strangers needing food or shelter. Also, while the Necromantis sits to drink his milk and converses with his hosts, he often reveals the future or other secrets of value to his benefactors.

Vergilius knew through his divination which houses had extra milk and which didn't, and he visited only those houses with plenty of milk. When he was refused milk, he read from his Black Book (Volumen Nigrum), which all Necromanteis had, for which reason they were rightly called Nigromanteis (Black Seers). So he would open out this book, which no one else could read, and read from it backwards; then a hail storm would come and devastate the property of the one who refused him milk.

On the other hand, Vergilius rewarded those people who were generous with their milk, although these rewards could be their own undoing. Once, Vergilius had been treated well at a certain house for several weeks, where the master always sent out a Gallic slave with a cup of milk for him when he came begging. Although the master never came to speak with Vergilius, the Nigromantis enjoyed talking with the slave, who was well educated. Vergilius decided to reward those who deserved it, and so on his last visit he sent a message to the master that if he dug in a certain place three cubits below the ground, he would find a box of money. But he warned him not to think about what he planned to do with the money before he was done digging, or he would die.

So the man got his brother and the slave, whom he brought to do the digging, and they went to the place. The slave began to dig, and sure enough, three cubits down he came upon a large chest with three handles. The brothers tried to pull it out while the slave pushed from below. They almost had it out when the master said, "We'll each have half of this, for the slave gets none." Instantly the two brothers collapsed onto the ground. The chest slid back into the hole, and the earth opened under it. As the chest disappeared into the chasm it dragged the slave with it, for he still held on.

The chest and slave slid down a long passage deep into the earth and finally came to rest in a small chamber. As the slave felt around the sides of the chamber, he felt a door on one end, and he could hear merry voices behind. So he banged hard on the door and called out for help. The door scraped open and he found himself looking into a brightly lit underground room. Vergilius was there with some of his students. They helped the slave through the door and dragged the chest in after him. Vergilius and his friends has been having a Symposium (Drinking Party) while they were waiting for the slave (for they knew the brothers' fate); now the slave was invited to join them, and they encouraged him to open the chest and see the treasure that was now his. Later this slave became a wise and powerful Nigromantis.

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Last updated: Mon Nov 11 22:35:54 EST 1996