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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Witch of Endor

Biblical, Hebrew, reputedly flourished circa 1020 B.C.E.

According to the Book of Samuel in the Old Testament, the Witch of Endor possessed an unusual power: she owned a talisman with which she could summon the dead. At the request of King Saul of Israel, she called up the ghost of the recently deceased prophet Samuel, despite the fact that the king himself had previously forbidden the practices of necromancy (communicating with the dead) and magic. The prophet’s spirit offered no advice regarding the best course of action against the assembled forces of the Philistines, but did accurately predict Saul’s ruination. So potent is the imagery of the Witch of Endor and her taboo power that it appears in various forms in art, literature, and even popular culture.

William Blake. The Witch of Endor Raising the Spirit of Samuel, 1783. The New York Public Library

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