Resurrection was a form of magic, which allowed the spell-caster 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. According to Tara Maclay, resurrection was considered to be against all the laws of nature. Likewise, it was a controversial issue among witches.
Sacrifice to OsirisOne of the resurrection spells was the Sacrifice to Osiris, which was used to bring Buffy Summers 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 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, who informed 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 was 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.
- Likewise, Wolfram & Hart's Standard Perpetuity Clause allowed the Senior Partners to keep valuable employees 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.
- Dawn Summers tried to resurrect her mother Joyce. With the help of Spike and Doc, Dawn was provided with the right ingredients for a spell so that she could properly bring back her mother to life rather than have her rise as a zombie. Since there was a possibility that Joyce could return differently, Dawn ended the ritual before anyone had a chance to see how she turned out.
- The deaths caused by a wish caused by a Vengeance demon may be reversed only by the sacrifice of a vengeance demon. After Anyanka summoned a Grimslaw Demon in order to grant a wish to Rachel who was humiliated by a group of fratboys who made her feel she was having her heart torn out, which in turn summoned a demon which specifically ate their hearts. However, Anyanka felt regret and asked her mentor D'Hoffryn to sacrifice a vengeance demon to bring back the boys, intending to give her own life. However, D'Hoffryn killed Halfrek to reverse the wish instead.
- 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, although he remained an undead vampire and not a living human being.
- 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.
- Charles Gunn mention that demons from the Goran Clan die, pupate and live again, but only if the proper rituals are performed by the immediate family, and then only if the body is returned to them in time after the subject's death.
- 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, with no reference being made to the resurrected dead retaining memories of their afterlife.
- 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 artifact. 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 artifacts 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 and 'claim' Giles' soul for himself. The spell Angel subsequently used to reunite Giles' soul with his body, identified as the Lazarus Incantation, would traditionally kill the caster, but Angel believed that he would be able to bypass this rule due to him already being physically deceased. However, the ritual restored Giles to life in his twelve-year-old body as his aunts, Lavinia and Sophronia, were focusing on their memories of him as a child to try and give him a new chance at life. The two had been intending to resurrect Giles as the untainted-by-magic ten-year-old he had been, but Giles retained enough awareness and control over the ritual to make himself slightly older.
- Rupert Giles was shown restored to life- apparently being resurrected before his funeral, with his coffin being buried empty- but he 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, retaining 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, with Giles and Ethan being animated in this manner only due to their pre-existing ties to Eyghon.
- Andrew used the Slayer Handbook to attempt to bring Tara back, using its ability to rewrite the rules of magic after the restoration of the Seed of Wonder. He also stated an intention to bring Jonathan back using the book as well, but he was talked out of this approach before he could put the plan into action.
- Following the restoration of magic, Winifred Burkle was restored to life despite Illyria's death and reports that her soul had been consumed by the Old One's resurrection; this was attributed to old spells having been 'reset' when magic was restored, due to the new rules.
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.
- Despite Tara claiming bringing someone back to life is not right, she participated in the plan to resurrect Buffy; this can be attributed to her sharing Willow's initial assumption that Buffy went to a hell dimension after her death.
- The spell Dawn performed to bring back Joyce was considered a resurrection spell, though, if done incorrectly, could only result in reanimation. Since Dawn ended the ritual before anyone could see Joyce, then whether she came back as a zombie or a living person remains unknown.