The Supernatural in Ancient Greece and Rome
Both Odysseus and Aeneas travel to the Underworld in their respective epics. There is a comic version of this experience, in Aristophanes' Frogs where Dionysus and his slave, Xanthias, visit Hades in order to bring back the best poet to save the city, either Sophocles or Aeschylus.
In a change of direction from epic and tragedy, I'd like to tell you about supernatural activity in one of the ancient Greek novels. It's thought Heliodorus wrote Aethiopica ('Ethiopian Story') or The Story of Theagenes and Charikleia in the third centry AD.
Like the other novels, the hero and heroine meet, fall in love, go on a journey, are separated, and after attempts on their lives and chastity, are eventually reunited. The novel is long, compared to others in the genre, and complex. It begins in the middle, with the background revealed in flashbacks, rather like the Odyssey.
This curious episode occurs in book 6 of the novel when Charikleia and Kalasiris (who has been sent by her mother to find her) don rags in order to travel inconspicuously while they search for Theagenes in Egypt. The pair come upon the scene of a recent battle, and see a woman weeping over the body of her fallen son. They speak, but she is unable to help them, and must conclude the burial rites for her son. Charikleia and Kalasiris retreat, and the woman believes they have gone, but they wait where they are able to observe her ritual. She digs a pit into which she pours libations of wine, honey and milk, and places an effigy of a man made from wheat dough. After adding blood drawn from her arm, she kneels over her son's body, the woman recites incantations until the corpse awakens and stands upright.
With her magic, the women makes the corpse speak. He predicts his mother's death and reveals that they are being observed; he foretells the future for Kalasiris and Charikleia, then collapses. His mother rushes to locate the intruders and falls upon an abandoned spear, impaling herself, just as her deceased son prophesied.