Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Double, Double, Toil and Trouble


Wisdom from the Witch of Endor: Four Rules for Living
by Tikva Frymer-Kensky was recently published by Eerdmans Publishing Company. Frymer-Kensky died in 2006, and this posthumous volume is emblematic of her interests in drawing from the biblical text and championing women. To fully appreciate this little gem, we had to put a few pieces together.

Today, when we thick of witches, the coven from Macbeth comes to mind. This creepy group meets secretly and makes a nauseating brew in their cauldron:

Eye of newt and toe of frog,

Wool of bat and tongue of dog, 

Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting,

Lizard's leg and howlet's wing, 

For a charm of powerful trouble,

Like a hell-broth, boil and bubble.

The witches predict that Macbeth will be king, but that Banquo's descendants will be monarchs. They tell Macbeth that "no man of woman born" can kill him, and that he will not be defeated "until Birnam wood comes to Dunsinane." All of which comes true. Macbeth is killed by Macduff, who was born via caesarian birth, and his forces cut down trees to use as camouflage when they attacked at Dunsinane.

Many assert that Shakespeare found inspiration in Samuel I, Chapter 28. Saul has been deteriorating, both mentally and physically, even more so since Samuel the Prophet's death. Saul tries praying and calling out, but he cannot reach God. Although he has outlawed necromancy, Saul disguises himself and brings two attendants to a witch. She is hesitant to help, since it is against the law, but Saul implores her, and she communicates with the deal Samuel. 

Samuel asks why the witch disturbed him, and he gives Saul the bad news: he and his son will be killed in battle the next day. Saul is distraught, and the witch sees he is upset and gives him bread and meat before he goes on his way. While the witch did not make the predictions, Samuel's prophecy comes true, and David becomes king.

We never learn the name of the sorceress (fun fact: Endora, Samantha's mother on the 1960s television show Bewitched got her name from this chapter). But she is not the spooky, cackling, stereotype that casts spells; she is a professional with empathy.

Fryer-Kensky elaborates on the four lessons we learn from the Witch of Endor:

  1. Know your power.
  2. Strive to excel.
  3. Choose the moment.
  4. Win well.

After recounting the biblical story, she explains how the Witch applied these rules. Finally, she illustrates how we can use the rules:

[The Witch of Endor's] story reminds us that even people whose actions are suspect in their own day can be wonderful, magnanimous, and benevolent spirits. And so can we.

A small book, a quick read, but one with a message relevant to our times. The "other" is often discounted or disparaged, but everyone should know their power and strive to excel. Their moment to shine will come, and when it does, they should take it with grace.

 Real Cats of Israel

These real cats were in Jerusalem, enjoying one of the first warm days of spring:

Happy Reading!

Besorot tovot (May we hear good news soon!)!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.