Witch of Endor

AS SOON AS KING SAUL passed a law against witchcraft and drove all practitioners out of the land, the witch of Endor traded in her broomstick on a bicycle, changed her pointed black hat for a summer straw, flushed a great many evil-smelling concoctions down the john, and tried to go straight.

But then Saul fell on evil times. He felt so sure David was after his throne that he grew paranoid on the subject. He was convinced his own son Jonathan had sided against him too. And the Philistines were gathering for a massive attack at Gilboa. He had to know how things were going to turn out, and since he and Yahweh were no longer on speaking terms as far as he was concerned and the prophet Samuel was dead, he was forced to go elsewhere for his information.

He tried a dream book, but none of his dreams were in it. He tried things like tea leaves and Ouija boards, but they all malfunctioned. So he asked his servants whether they happened to know if anybody was still around who might be able to help, if they knew what he meant, and they told him about this old party in Endor who looked like something straight out of Charles Addams.

Saul disguised himself heavily for the visit, but as soon as he stepped through the door and said he wanted her to conjure up somebody who could foretell the future, she grew shrill and suspicious. What did he want to do, she said, get the fuzz after her? And only when he swore by Yahweh that he wouldn't breathe a word to a soul did she go so far as to ask him who exactly it was he'd like her to try to get hold of for him. As soon as he said Samuel, she knew there could be only one person in Israel who would dare face that fierce old ghost, and the cat was out of the bag.

"You are Saul," she said, and by that time he was past denying it. The next thing she knew, he'd let out a yelp that not only was enough to awaken the dead, but did. "An old man is coming up, and he is wrapped in a robe," she said, and Saul realized immediately he was the right old man and bowed so low his beard touched the carpet (1 Samuel 28:12-14).

Except on the grounds of wanting to make himself even more miserable than he already was, it's hard to explain why it was his old enemy he'd asked for. Even before Samuel opened his mouth, Saul knew what he was going to say, and sure enough he said it. Samuel told him that everybody was against him including Yahweh, and not only would the Philistines win at Gilboa, but by that time the next day Saul and all his sons would be joining him in the grave. Saul crumpled in a heap to the floor.

The witch did all she could to get him back on his feet. She tried to make him eat something, but he refused. She told him that she'd done what he'd asked her and the least he could do in return was take enough to get his strength back and go, but he didn't even seem to hear what she was saying. Finally with the help of the servants she managed to get him to where he was sitting on the edge of the bed (1 Samuel 28:23), and when she produced a little meat and some freshly baked bread, he stuffed a bit of it into his mouth and then left without saying a word.

Nobody knows what the witch did after they were gone. Probably she just sat there in a daze for a while, trying to pull herself together with the comforting smell of the bread she'd baked. Maybe she decided to get out of Endor for good in case Saul broke his word and squealed on her. But she needn't have worried about that because Saul had no time left to squeal on anybody.

On the next day he was just as dead as Samuel had risen from the grave to tell him he'd be, and, this side of paradise or anywhere else, she'd never have to worry about seeing him again. Unless she got herself talked into having another seance, of course, but the odds against that seem overwhelming.

1 Samuel 28

-Originally published in Peculiar Treasures and later in Beyond Words  

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