Commentators are split on whether or not this was actually Samuel, but the text seems to imply it was. So why the exception? We are not sure, but it might have been allowed for the purpose of rebuking Saul for his sin, something that does not happen with familiar spirits when they manifest. Perhaps it is a teaching tool to show us the difference between those who are really of God Samuel and those who are not familiar spirits. What is a familiar spirit? I am the Lord your God. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord , provoking Him to anger. Pierre A. Riffard proposed this definition and quotations .
It does not look like the individual concerned. Even though it may have an independent life of its own, it remains closely linked to the individual. The familiar spirit can be an animal animal companion. The French poet Charles Baudelaire , a cat fancier, believed in familiar spirits. It judges, presides, inspires Everything in its empire; It is perhaps a fairy or a god? When my eyes, drawn like a magnet To this cat that I love….
Elkin studied the belief in familiar spirits among the Australian Aborigines :.
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A usual method, or explanation, is that the medicine man sends his familiar spirit his assistant totem, spirit-dog, spirit-child or whatever the form may be to gather the information. While this is occurring, the man himself is in a state of receptivity, in sleep or trance. In modern phraseology [spiritism], his familiar spirit would be the control [control spirit]. The Goldi [Nanai people in Siberia] clearly distinguish between the tutelary spirit ayami , which chooses the shaman, and the helping spirits syven , which are subordinate to it and are granted to the shaman by the ayami itself.
According to Sternberg the Goldi explain the relations between the shaman and his ayami by a complex sexual emotion. Here is the report of a Goldi shaman. It was a very beautiful woman. Her figure was very slight, she was no more than half an arshin 71 cm. Her face and attire were quite as those of one of our Gold women… She said: 'I am the ayami of your ancestors, the Shamans.
I taught them shamaning. Now I am going to teach you… I love you, I have no husband now, you will be my husband and I shall be a wife unto you. I shall give you assistant spirits. You are to heal with their aid, and I shall teach and help you myself…' Sometimes she comes under the aspect of an old woman, and sometimes under that of a wolf, so she is terrible to look at.
Sometimes she comes as a winged tiger… She has given me three assistants-the jarga the panther , the doonto the bear and the amba the tiger. They come to me in my dreams, and appear whenever I summon them while shamaning. If one of them refuses to come, the ayami makes them obey, but, they say, there are some who do not obey even the ayami.
When I am shamaning, the ayami and the assistant spirits are possessing me; whether big or small, they penetrate me, as smoke or vapour would. When the ayami is within me, it is she who speaks through my mouth, and she does everything herself. Among those accused witches and cunning-folk who described their familiar spirits, there were commonly certain unifying features.
The historian Emma Wilby noted how the accounts of such familiars were striking for their "ordinariness" and "naturalism", despite the fact that they were dealing with supernatural entities. Familiar spirits were most commonly small animals, such as cats, rats, dogs, ferrets, birds, frogs, toads, and hares. There were also cases of wasps and butterflies, as well as pigs, sheep, and horses.
Familiar spirits usually had names and "were often given down-to-earth, and frequently affectionate, nicknames. An Agathion is a familiar spirit which appears in the shape of a human or an animal, or even within a talisman , bottle or magic ring. It is strongest at midday. Using her studies into the role of witchcraft and magic in Britain during the Early Modern period as a starting point, the historian Emma Wilby examined the relationship that familiar spirits allegedly had with the witches and cunning-folk in this period.
In the British accounts from the Early Modern period at least, there were three main types of encounter narrative related to how a witch or cunning person first met their familiar.
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The first of these was that the spirit spontaneously appeared in front of the individual while they were going about their daily activities, either in their home or outdoors somewhere. Various examples for this are attested in the sources of the time, for instance, Joan Prentice from Essex , England, gave an account when she was interrogated for witchcraft in claiming that she was "alone in her chamber, and sitting upon a low stool preparing herself to bedward" when her familiar first appeared to her, while the Cornish cunning-woman Anne Jeffries related in that hers first appeared to her when she was "knitting in an arbour in our garden".
The second manner in which the familiar spirit commonly appeared to magical practitioners in Britain was that they would be given to a person by a pre-existing individual, who was sometimes a family member and at other times a more powerful spirit. For instance, the alleged witch Margaret Ley from Liverpool claimed, in , that she had been given her familiar spirit by her mother when she died, while the Leicestershire cunning-woman Joan Willimot related, in , that a mysterious figure whom she only referred to as her "master", "willed her to open her mouth and he would blow into her a fairy which should do her good.
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And that she open her mouth, and that presently after blowing, there came out of her mouth a spirit which stood upon the ground in the shape and form of a woman. In a number of accounts, the cunning person or witch was experiencing difficulty prior to the appearance of the familiar, who offered to aid them.
As historian Emma Wilby noted, "their problems… were primarily rooted in the struggle for physical survival—the lack of food or money, bereavement, sickness, loss of livelihood and so on", and the familiar offered them a way out of this by giving them magical powers. In some cases, the magical practitioner then made an agreement or entered a pact with their familiar spirit.
The length of time that the witch or cunning person worked with their familiar spirit varied between a few weeks through to a number of decades. In some rarer cases there were accounts where the familiars would appear at times when they were unwanted and not called upon, for instance the Huntingdonshire witch Elizabeth Chandler noted, in , that she could not control when her two familiars, named Beelzebub and Trullibub, appeared to her, and had prayed for a god to "deliver her therefrom". Familiars are most common in western European mythology, with some scholars arguing that familiars are only present in the traditions of Great Britain and France.
In these areas three categories of familiars are believed to exist: .
During the English Civil War , the Royalist general Prince Rupert was in the habit of taking his large poodle dog named Boye into battle with him. Throughout the war the dog was greatly feared among the Parliamentarian forces and credited with supernatural powers. As noted by Morgan,  the dog was apparently considered a kind of familiar. At the end of the war the dog was shot, allegedly with a silver bullet. Most data regarding familiars comes from the transcripts of English and Scottish witch trials held during the 16thth centuries.
The court system that labeled and tried witches was known as the Essex. This case is fundamentally political, trying Sampson for high treason, and accusing Sampson for employing witchcraft against King James VI. The prosecution asserts Sampson called familiar spirits and resolved her doubtful matter.
Another Essex trial is that of Hellen Clark, tried in , in which Hellen was compelled to state that The Devil appeared as a "familiar" in the form of a dog. The English court cases reflect a strong relationship between State's accusations of witchcraft against those who practiced ancient indigenous traditions, including the familiar animal or spirit. In some cases familiars replace children in the favour of their mothers. See witchcraft and children. In colonial America animal familiars can be seen in the witch hunts that took place in Salem, Massachusetts in Familiar spirits often appear in the visions of the afflicted girls.
Although the law that defined a witch as one who "hath or consulteth with a familiar spirit" had been suspended ten years earlier, association with a familiar spirit was used in the Salem trials as evidence to convict suspected witches. Sarah Good was said to have a yellow bird who sucked between her fingers.
Ann Putnam in particular frequently saw the yellow bird in her afflictions. Tituba was known to have seen strange animals that urged her to hurt children, these included, a hog, a black dog, a red cat, and a black cat. The mark was most commonly an extra teat found somewhere on the body and was suspected to be used to suckle the familiar spirits.
An example of this can be seen in the Salem witch trials of