I’m reading about Hermes’ role in the Nekromanteion at Epirus in Northern Greece, and it’s giving me all kinds of ideas:
The visitor would remain for an unknown duration in the lodging rooms to the north of the building, where he would eat food appropriate to the location, that is, food associated with the nekrodeipnon, or feast in honour of the dead. These included broadbeans, found at the site, which, if eaten in their intoxicating green state, may have contributed to an altered state of mind and fuller immersion in the experience. At the appropriate time, the visitor would make his way down the eastern corridor before arriving at a labyrinthine passage. Reaching the end of this labyrinth, he would be led into the central hall, where Dakaris envisaged his being met with puppets or eﬃgies of the dead, operated by the personnel of the oracle via a crane. A number of ratchets were found at the site, in addition to counterweights, which Dakaris took as evidence in support of his suggested deus ex machina-type apparition.
The visitor to the oracle, before leaving the north passage, may have had to undergo a ritual puriﬁcation, washing his hands in a louterion which stood to his left just at the threshold. To his right, as another part of this puriﬁcatory ritual, prior to progressing to the next stage of his visit, he cast what Dakaris described as an ‘apotropaic stone’. This was inferred from a pile of stones found opposite the louterion just before the doorway. A second pile of stones was found just inside the central hall, after the labyrinthine passageway, indicating another possible apotropaic gesture at the most crucial moment in the rite. Both stone heaps at the site occur close to doorways or thresholds, areas under the remit of Hermes. These may have been associated with progression between stages of the ritual, and, as a deity of transitional states, invocation of Hermes would also be appropriate here. In casting a stone, the visitor may have ﬂung from himself any miasma of impurity or impiety which might hinder or shadow his progression to the next stage. Hermes, as we have noted, is also a psychopompos, an escort of souls in the Underworld.
The template of the katabasis, the hero’s journey into the Underworld, may have lent itself to the necromantic rites which may have taken place at this site, culminating in the simulated descent into the Underworld. As a wayfarer on a perilous journey of a spiritual nature, the supplicant would have sought the protection and guidance of Hermes. (All of a heap: Hermes and the stone cairn in Greek Antiquity, Jessica Doyle)