One of the most fascinating, but least mentioned stories in the Bible is about King Saul and the Witch of Endor. The spectre of the prophet Samuel rising from the ground to confront the king has to be one of the creepiest, horrifying scenes in any literature–Bible or pulp fiction.
The Canaanite Witch of Endor appears in the First Book of Samuel, chapter 28:4-25. She was an oracle, a woman “who possesses a talisman” though which she called up the ghost of the recently deceased prophet Samuel at the demand of King Saul of Israel.
After Samuel’s death in Ramah, Saul had driven all the necromancers from Israel. Then, in a bitter irony, Saul sought out the witch, anonymously and in disguise, only after he had received no answer from God from dreams, prophets or the Urim and Thummim as to his best course of action against the assembled forces of the Philistines. Samuel’s ghost offered no advice, but predicted Saul’s downfall as king.
The Witch of Endor had a string of ancestors that stretched back over 10,000 years before her fateful seance.
Israeli archaeologist, Dr. Leore Grosman, and her team from Hebrew University discovered the remains of a 12,000 year old witch in a tomb in northern Israel. The woman lived at the time of the prehistoric Natufian culture, an ancient community that lived in the region 10,000 years before Jesus.
The witch was around 45 years old when she died. She was petite, and had an asymmetrical appearance due to a spinal condition or injury that would have affected her gait, causing her to limp or drag her foot.
The tomb, located at Hilazon Tachtit in western Galilee, contained a vast number of grave offerings. Among them were 50 complete tortoise shells, the pelvis of a leopard, the wing tip of a golden eagle, the tail of a dow, two marten skulls, the forearm of a wild boar and a human foot.
It would be interesting to study how women’s abilities for diviniation and spiritual intercession went from high respect in the Natufian society to persecution by King Saul and clerics in medieval Christianity.
Was it the evolution to a male God figure calculated? Did male saints and male religious authorities co-opt religious intercession and power roles to reside only in their own gender?