Are you a Muggle? What! You don’t know? Then you must be one of the few people in America who haven’t read a Harry Potter book (Scholastic)—a slickly dressed, literary version of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. This hugely popular and highly controversial series about an 11-year-old wizard and his exploits at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has burst on the scene like dynamite, spawning everything from Web sites to school curricula to an entire subculture revolving around Hogwarts, magic, and witchcraft.
Are you a Muggle? Of course you are because, in the world of Harry Potter, Muggles are humans—non-magic persons. We are depicted as a rather unfortunate life form that fears witchcraft and can’t do anything wonderful, such as cast spells, ride a broomstick, play Quidditch (a sort of soccer in the air), or learn how to “bottle fame, brew glory, even stopper death.”1
We can, however, apply the Word of God. Although most of the Harry Potter-reading universe considers witchcraft pure whimsy, the Bible does not. Nor does Wicca, an official organization of witches and neopagans. Nor, apparently, did King Saul.
His visit to the witch of En-dor is recorded in 1 Samuel 28:7–25. The witch is referred to as a “medium,” or someone “who hath a familiar spirit” (28:7, KJV). She apparently survived Saul’s purge when he “had put away those who were mediums [had familiar spirits], and the wizards, out of the land” (1 Sam. 28:3). Saul probably had them killed because (1) the Bible says, “A man also or woman who hath a familiar spirit, or who is a wizard, shall surely be put to death” (Lev. 20:27); and (2) the witch feared for her life (1 Sam. 28:9).
The term familiar spirits refers to the demons involved in an individual’s alleged communication with the dead. The Lord Jesus called Satan “a liar, and the father of it [the lie]” (Jn. 8:44). These spirits, of course, are no different. The witch of En-dor had no power to communicate with dead people; she merely contacted demons who impersonated them. And, as with many professing witches today, she may have denied the reality of what she was doing.2
In Saul’s desperation to hear a word from the Lord before fighting the Philistines, he disguised himself, sought out the witch (an offense punishable by death [Lev. 20:6]), and asked her to bring up the prophet Samuel from the dead. It appears the woman had no chance to do anything before she saw Samuel appear. Evidently she was so shocked “she cried with a loud voice,” then realized her client was King Saul (28:12).
In this case, God allowed Samuel to speak to Saul. Not only does Scripture refer to the man as Samuel, but 1 Samuel 15:35 confirms that “Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his [Saul’s] death.” Samuel tells Saul that Israel will fall to the Philistines, “and tomorrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me” (v. 19).
Interestingly, the witch now tries to comfort Saul. She sees he is weak and terrified, and she offers him food. He refuses, but she and his servants persuade him to eat. So the woman kills a calf and cooks for him.
Based on her behavior, it is tempting to call her a “good” witch. She did not want to harm Saul and, in fact, appeared sympathetic to him. Even Wiccans and witches apparently distinguish between “white magic” and “black magic.” And, in Harry Potter, the “good” wizards fight the “evil” wizards. But is there such a thing as “good” witchcraft?
The Bible says all mediums and wizards “are an abomination unto the LORD” (Dt. 18:11–12); they all consort with demons. The witch of En-dor was no exception. And, biblically speaking, neither is young Harry Potter. The enemy knows how to package his poison.
And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore, it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness (2 Cor. 11:14–15).
Last season the CBS prime-time drama JAG aired an episode involving witchcraft in the U.S. military. With the exception of the one bad bubble in the cauldron, the witches—all of whom were supposed to be members of Wicca—were portrayed as generally nice folks. Truly, we are engaged in spiritual warfare. And unless we diligently sift everything through the truth of the Word of God—including innocuous-looking but dangerous books like Harry Potter—we may wake up one morning to discover that, in our ignorance, we have placed our children into the hand of the devil.