Ask a Necromancer, by Amanda Downum

Death Do Us Part

Anonymous writes: Hello! I have always been interested in the occult, but my boyfriend has always warned me against becoming a witch. Is the occult really that dangerous, and how would one learn to use occult powers in a way that would not put anyone in harm’s way?

I may not be the best person to give relationship advice, but I firmly believe that everyone deserves a partner who can enthusiastically encourage them in any dream or ambition. You need someone who will help you peruse eldritch tomes and select the finest bones and graveyard dirt. If witchcraft feels like a fulfilling path for you, then sit your boyfriend down and have a serious talk about what you need and how he can best support you. You’re worth nothing less.

Fade asks: How do you handle family disputes over, like, control of the funeral or whatnot? Is there a clear legal way to be sure you’re listening to the right people?

This is where the legal order of next of kin comes into play. One’s spouse will have first precedence. (Remember, my living friends, separation does not change this: only a finalized divorce.) Next come adult children, then parents, and so on. Most disputes in the funeral industry occur between adult children, all of whom have equal standing in matters of disposition. If a decedent’s children disagree over the arrangements, the funeral director does not pick one over another. In Texas, we were taught that if the next of kin disagreed, the director should simply recuse themself from the situation until consensus was reached. In Virginia, any of the next of kin may petition the circuit court where the decedent resided at the time of their death to determine who has the authority to make decisions.

As I’ve mentioned before, anyone can draw up an advance directive giving the person of their choosing right of disposition. (Please consult your local laws for specifics, as they may vary.)

Alix and Devin ask if I’ve talked about makeup for corpses, specifically referencing “the best movie I’ve ever seen about makeup for corpses. Also the only movie I’ve ever seen about makeup for corpses.” That, of course, refers to Robert Zemeckis’s 1992 film Death Becomes Her. I saw this in the theater as a wee baby-bat and remember it fondly, but haven’t watched it in decades. A rewatch is clearly in order! I’ll give this movie the serious professional analysis it deserves, and report back, dear readers.


Amanda Downum is the author of The Necromancer Chronicles, Dreams of Shreds & Tatters, and the World Fantasy Award-nominated collection Still So Strange. Not content with armchair necromancy, she is also a licensed mortician. She lives in Austin, TX with an invisible cat. You can summon her at a crossroads at midnight on the night of a new moon, or find her on Twitter as @stillsostrange.

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