Resurrection was a form of magic, which allowed the spellcaster to bring the dead back to life. Spells often involved invoking the God Osiris. Additionally, powerful entities such as the Powers That Be and the Senior Partners were capable of resurrection in different circumstances. Resurrection was a different form of magic from reanimation, in which the deceased was raised as a soulless zombie.
Sacrifice to Osiris
One of the resurrection spells was the Sacrifice to Osiris, which was used to bring Buffy back to life. Objects necessary to the spell's success included the rare Urn of Osiris, "Vino de Madre", special black candles, a circle of practitioners and the body of the deceased. The caster was forced to go through a trial in order to be worthy of the life they wished to bring back. Such trials included vomiting up snakes, surface mutilation and what appeared to be painful energy manipulation. The spell also had to be performed at the stroke of midnight.
This spell was only allowed when a being died through mystical means, such as Buffy Summers diving into the energy field generated by the ritual used to activate the Key. Resurrection was not allowed if the user died of natural causes, such as illness or murder as was proved when Willow Rosenberg attempted to resurrect her dead lover Tara Maclay after she was shot dead but was dismissed by Osiris, keeper of the gate and master of all fate, Osiris informing Willow after she invoked his presence that Tara's demise was a mortal death and not his concern.
The incantation for the spell:
- "Osiris, keeper of the gate, master of all fate, hear us!
- Before time and after, before knowing and nothing
- Accept our offering, know our prayer.
- Osiris, here lies the warrior of the people,
- Let her cross over.
- Osiris, let her cross over
- Release her!"
If the spell was successful then the person's soul was summoned from its resting place- in the case of Buffy Summers, an undisclosed heavenly dimension-, then entering the body and immediately bring it back to life, also reverting the entire process of decay that her body had suffered during the months of her death.
Other Instances of Resurrection
- The Order of Aurelius attempted to perform a "Revivification Ritual" to bring the Master back to life. Giles implied that there had been other attempts to perform such a ritual but had never read of one being successful. This method of resurrection involved covering the Master with the blood of the humans who were present when the Master died, but Buffy thwarted their plans before they could come to fruition and destroyed the Master's skeleton to prevent any further resurrection attempts.
- It could be argued that the Ritual of Restoration was a resurrection ritual as it restored a soul to a human form, returning the body's original owner to 'life' when used on Angel (Albeit in a body that was still technically dead).
- The blood of Mohra Demons had potent healing abilities strong enough to resurrect Angel and make him human again, although it is unclear whether his status as a vampire with a soul impacted the blood's ability to bring him back. However, after the destruction of the Seed of Wonder and thus the end of magic, Mohra Demon blood induced painful tumorous growths in the recipient, making this method impossible.
- Vocah, a demon serving Wolfram & Hart, performed the "Raising", to resurrect the vampire Darla as a human being, sacrificing five vampires to bring her back in an elaborate ritual.
- Dawn Summers attempted to bring her mother back by calling on Osiris, in a different spell to the one Willow would use. However, this spell did not resurrect the dead, instead it just raised the recipient as a zombie, and the spell was terminated before it could be completed anyway.
- Likewise, Wolfram & Hart's Standard Perpetuity Clause allowed the Senior Partners to keep valuable employes in a state of perpetual undeath. However, these undead kept their memories and personalities, generally appearing as they were when alive apart from the remnants of the wounds that killed them, such as Lilah Morgan possessing a distinctive scar on her neck where she was decapitated—although this happened after her death in the belief that she had been attacked and sired by Angelus—and Holland Manners retaining Darla's bite marks.
- Spike died because of the Amulet and direct sunlight in the 2003 Battle at the Hellmouth. This process was later seen in reverse, bringing an incorporeal Spike out of the amulet in Wolfram & Hart's LA branch two months later. He was later made corporeal by a spell by Lindsey McDonald, and effectively fully back from the dead from there on out.
- Illyria succeeded in her plan to resurrect herself from the confines of the Deeper Well; this required her taking on a new form, and possessing a human host – this was Winifred "Fred" Burkle. When Fred died, Angel was confident that with the resources of Wolfram & Hart at his disposal he could successfully resurrect her. However, her soul was "consumed in the fires of resurrection", making resurrection spells impossible as her soul no longer existed to be brought back.
- Warren Mears was "dead for like a second" after Willow flayed him. However, using her magic, Amy Madison was able to teleport him away from Willow—creating the appearance that Willow had destroyed his body—and restore him to life, albeit in a skinless state. When she lost her magic, he died instantaneously as the spell that was holding him together in the absence of his skin ceased.
- When the Senior Partners sent Los Angeles to Hell, they also turned Angel into a human to weaken his ability to resist them; likewise, when the Partners turned back time after the Fall to resurrect Angel when he was killed, Charles Gunn, who had been turned into a vampire while in Hell, was restored to his humanity, albeit retaining all the memories of his actions as a vampire. Various other humans and demons were also resurrected as a result of time being turned back to a point before they had been killed, although the implications of this resurrection on a large scale were not explored.
- Following the death of Rupert Giles at the hands of the Twilight-influenced Angel, the latter vowed to find a way to resurrect him in spite of the End of Magic. Angel began using a Tooth of Ammuk to gather fragments of Giles' soul together by visiting locations that had some meaning to Giles in life. This resulted in him taking on aspects of Giles' mannerisms on occasion. Angel intended to subsequently 'transplant' Giles' soul into a soulless body, selecting the body of a junkie who had been killed by demons, the victim's body being healed by another artefact. When discussing the possibility of Angel's success with Faith, Willow admitted that, given Giles' immersion in magic, he could have succeeded, but in the magic-less Earth, he might not. Angel later claimed that this method of resurrection relied on both Giles' prolonged contact with various magical artefacts and another factor, later established to be Giles' continued connection to Eyghon the Sleepwalker; since his soul was still tied to Eyghon due to the rituals he had performed as a youth, Giles' soul did not pass on but instead went to its 'master', allowing Angel to restore Giles to full life if he could kill Eyghon. The spell Angel subsequently used to reunite Giles' soul with his body would traditionally kill the caster, but Angel believed that he would be able to bypass this rule due to him already being physically deceased.
- Rupert Giles has been shown restored to life—apparently being resurrected before his funeral, with his coffin being buried empty—but it was subsequently revealed that 'Giles' was actually animated by Eyghon the Sleepwalker, Giles still possessing the broken neck that had killed him but otherwise appearing perfectly fine. Eyghon had also restored Ethan Rayne to life in a similar condition—Ethan still had a hole in his head from where he had been shot—and various others had been resurrected as Eyghon's minions, although these minions were generally zombie-like in appearance; more detailed, personal resurrections merely remembered stories about their hosts rather than possessing their memories, and unconscious bodies animated by Eyghon's essence would eventually burn out.
Behind the Scenes
- Joss Whedon stated that he had intended to bring Tara back in season seven in an episode that revolved around Buffy being given one wish by the Powers that Be due to all the good she had done for the world. Buffy would have spent the entire episode deliberating on what she truly wanted (including making Angel and/or Spike human again) and finally would approach Willow and tell her that she wanted a really nice pair of shoes. Willow would reply "You spent your one wish on a pair of shoes?!" to which Buffy would then respond "No, silly!" and stand aside to reveal Tara. Although this never happened in the show due to Amber Benson being unable to return this implies that the Powers that Be are perfectly capable of bringing people back to life.