Confronting Familiar Spirits
“Familiar spirit” is the designation of a specific type of evil spirit. It is so classified because of its chief characteristic: namely, familiarity. It is a relationship, a familiarity, with a person or personality. For example, a woman, whom Paul encountered in Macedonia, had a familiar spirit which gave her powers of divination. (Acts 16:16-18)
Familiar spirits are common amid the practices of spiritism and witchcraft, but their activity is by no means limited to persons and practices so obviously occult. Evil spirits are personalities. They can reason, decide, express emotions and communicate. Personalities have the capacity to relate to one another. Two human personalities can form a relationship; and, through communication and communion, that relationship can be enhanced. Likewise, a person can form and develop a close relationship with an evil spirit. When a person forms a relationship with an evil spirit (which can be done either willfully or through ignorance), he then has a familiar spirit.
Communication is the chief characteristic of a familiar spirit. The spirit responds quickly to the summons of the medium. A medium, such as the witch of Endor whom Saul consulted (I Sam. 28:7), is a go-between which forms a communication link between the earthly world and the demonic realm. Thus, anyone who becomes a channel of communication for an evil spirit is a medium. He has a familiar spirit.
A familiar spirit is something that a person has, because it is a personality identified with a certain individual. In the same sense that one has a book, a friend or a cold, one can be personally identified with a demon spirit.
- “Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God.” Lev. 19:31, KJV, (emphasis mine)
The Hebrew word for “familiar spirit” is ob, meaning “a leathern bottle.” To the ears of the ancient Hebrews, the hollow sound of a familiar spirit, speaking through a medium, sounded as though it were coming out of a skin bottle. A skin bottle is a vessel; and, a person who has a familiar spirit, serves as the vessel which contains the spirit. The spirit indwells the person. Thus, a person who has a familiar spirit is demonized.
The seriousness of entertaining familiar spirits is plainly set forth in God’s Word. Under the Old Testament law, involvement with familiar spirits was punishable by death.
- “A man or a woman who is a medium, or who has familiar spirits, shall surely be put to death; they shall stone them with stones. Their blood shall be upon them.” Lev. 20:27
Familiar spirits are counterfeits of the Holy Spirit’s work. As with anything occult, involvement with familiar spirits constitutes idolatry and creates spiritual defilement: “Regard not them that have familiar spirits…to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God” Lev. 19:31.
Anyone who has fellowship with God, and who is led by the Holy Spirit, does not need a familiar spirit, for God provides him with all that he needs. The sin of adultery is committed when a man or woman goes outside of his or her marriage relationship to gratify sexual appetites. Likewise, a child of God commits spiritual adultery when he goes outside his relationship with God to gain supernatural knowledge, wisdom, guidance or power.
King Saul sought out a woman who had a familiar spirit, and because Saul sought help from the witch of Endor, God’s judgment came upon Saul.
- “So Saul died for his unfaithfulness which he had committed against the Lord, because he did not keep the word of the Lord, and also because he consulted a medium for guidance. But he did not inquire of the LORD; therefore He killed him, and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse.” I Chr. 10:13-14.
God brought judgment upon the Canaanite nations because of their occult practices, and He gave their lands to the Israelites. Then, God warned the Israelites that He would drive them from the land if they ever turned to the occult:
- “When thou art come into the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you…a consulter with familiar spirits…for all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord: and because of these abominations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee.” Deut. 18:9,11,12, KJV
Deception is always present in one’s relationship with a familiar spirit. Usually, the one having a familiar spirit believes that his spirit-companion is good rather than evil, or thinks that something beneficial will come out of that relationship. He erroneously believes that the spirit is a true benefactor who will provide him with helpful information. He may even believe that the familiar spirit is the Holy Spirit. He will; therefore, be reluctant to part with something he believes is beneficial or that is of God.
The person having a familiar spirit may not recognize that it is a spirit entity with whom he is having a relationship. He may think that his experiences are only within his imaginations and fantasies. Or, he may believe that he has contacted God’s spiritual realm through his mind rather than through his spirit. Thus, he may be ensnared, not because he is seeking something evil, but because he is seeking something good in a wrong way .
Necromancy, a supposed communication with the dead, is a facet of the familiar spirit’s operation. Necromancy is an outright deception. Rather than communicating with a particular person, the medium is in contact with a spirit which is familiar with that dead person. The spirit is able to give information and produce manifestations which lead the necromancer to suppose that he has contacted the spirit of a certain dead person.
What draws a person into involvement with familiar spirits? The appeal of the occult is usually either curiosity or a desire for that which is hidden. One may have fascination with the supernatural, but may not know how to differentiate between the supernatural realm of God and that of Satan. Almost everyone wants to know what the future holds in store. It is easy, therefore, to be drawn into a scheme that claims to hold the key to knowing the unknown.
Many, it seems, have been enticed by the desire to communicate with departed loved ones. A woman overheard my wife and me discussing familiar spirits. She thought that she was being visited by her deceased husband. She said that the spirit of her dead husband would come into her bedroom, sit on the edge of her bed and talk with her. She decided to test the phenomenon. When the spirit returned, she touched him on the nose and said, “You are nothing but a demon. I rebuke you in the name of Jesus. Do not come back anymore.” The familiar spirit never returned.
Christians, especially those suffering from rejection, inferiority and insecurity, are prone to crave an intimacy with the Lord which can draw them into unscriptural ways of achieving such closeness. For example, a Christian woman who had an unloving husband, was encouraged by a counselor to visualize Jesus as being her husband. She was to imagine Jesus coming through the door, hugging her and kissing her. Her visualized Jesus became very real to her, and she found this fantasy very satisfying. But one day her visualized Jesus became so intimate that he made sexual advances toward her. She was frightened enough to seek counsel which lead to her deliverance from a familiar spirit, the spirit of “another Jesus” II Cor. 11:4.
An interesting experience involving a familiar spirit occurred while we were teaching in Europe. The church there had been organized by an anointed woman pastor, who had been deceased for several years. One night, the Lord revealed to Ida Mae, by means of a spiritual dream, that several in the church were being visited by an apparition of the former pastor. In the dream, Ida Mae was shown the apparition. It appeared very beautiful. When Ida Mae identified it as an apparition, the face became hideously demonic.
The present pastor of the church, a young man, confirmed that everything Ida Mae was shown was true. Several older women in the fellowship were resisting the new, young leader and wanted everything to continue as it was before. These women, who had been closely related to their former pastor, so desired to stay in communication with her that they opened themselves up to being visited by the deceptive apparition. The sad part of the story is that the deceived women refused to believe that they were communicating with a familiar spirit rather than their deceased pastor.
Satan is a sly deceiver. When forbidden things are sought; or when good things are sought in wrong ways, the devil is quick to take advantage.
There are many avenues through which familiar spirits can be acquired. The following list is suggestive rather than exhaustive.
1. Divination. Divination is broadly defined as an attempt to discern future events or to discover that which cannot be known by normal methods. The familiar spirit is sought to assist a person in his quest for hidden knowledge, guidance and power. There are many expressions of divination. Divination includes the practices of occultists, spiritist mediums, witches, Haitian voodoo priests, American medicine men and Siberian shamans.
Water witching is a form of divination. In some communities there will be a particular person who is proficient in finding underground streams of water with a forked stick. As he holds the “Y” of his divining rod, the stick will turn forcibly downward when he walks over a spot that has underground water. The familiar spirit communicates with the diviner through his rod. One might reason that such a benefit could not be wrong, but God has judged it to be wrong. He calls divination an “abomination,” and pronounces a curse upon anyone who practices it: “Thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those [Canaanite] nations. There shall not be found among you any one that…useth divination Deut. 18:9-10. You shall not…practice divination or soothsaying” Lev. 19:26
As a young man, I learned to play with the Ouija Board. Years later, I discovered that Ouija was no mere game! I could ask Ouija a question, and he would communicate. I asked him many questions concerning my life’s future, and Ouija had ready answers. I did not know that I was talking with a demon and becoming familiar with the devil’s emissary.
2. Transcendental Meditation. TM, a practice associated with Hindu worship, is accepted widely throughout western culture today. It is being taught in some colleges and even in some churches. Contrary to Christian meditation, which is an active reflection upon God and His Word; Eastern meditation is passive. Passive meditation coupled with trance-producing techniques and the chanting of a mantra, open a person directly to the demonic realm. In his attempt to discover true enlightenment, the TM practitioner empties himself of all self-identity and willpower. He opens himself to deceiving spirits who impersonate Deity and divulge false revelations of secret and hidden mysteries.
3. Imaginary Playmates. It is not unusual to find a child who has an imaginary playmate. The invisible companion is very real to the child. In fact, the playmate may be invisible to others but appear visibly to the child. The imaginary playmate becomes a companion and a teacher of the child.
What begins, in the child’s imagination, as a technique to offset loneliness, evolves into a relationship with a familiar spirit. A four- year-old-boy, to whom we ministered, had an imaginary playmate whom he called Charcoal. We asked why he called his playmate “Charcoal,” and he insisted that the playmate told him that his name was Charcoal. In order to be set free, the boy first had to fall out of agreement with the familiar spirit and, command him to go. Although he was normally an obedient child, he was so threatened by the prospect of losing his companion that he stubbornly resisted his father’s coercion to renounce the demonic presence. After a successful deliverance, there was a marked improvement in the child’s personality and behavior.
In another case, my wife and I ministered to a young woman who was plagued by extreme supernatural phenomena. Poltergeists manifested themselves in her house; she experienced unsought astral travel, and possessed undesired psychic insights. The root cause for all the supernatural phenomena was, in her particular case, an early childhood relationship with an imaginary playmate. Her parents had divorced when she was four-years of age. Rejection and insecurity resulted because she was passed around for different ones to raise. She began to play with an imaginary friend, a familiar spirit, named “Genie.” Interestingly, Genie (a derivation of jinn) is one of a class of spirits which assumes various forms, exercises supernatural power, and serves his summoner. The familiar spirit, Genie, was responsible for the occult phenomena.
4. Visualization. Visualization is not a valid spiritual tool, although it is a common technique employed by some practitioners of inner healing and healing of the memories. Visualization is a method used for centuries by sorcerers to contact demonic powers. Some proponents of visualization contend that their Christian use of it represents the true counterpart of an occult counterfeit; but in Scripture, however, there is no basis for the use of visualization as a way of contacting God or of receiving spiritual benefits. Therefore, so-called Christian visualization is not a true counterpart to a counterfeit visualization, but rather is itself a counterfeit of faith. Faith has spiritual eyes which enable one to see the invisible. “Faith is the evidence of things not seen” Heb. 11:1. Visualization is an attempt to see, by the function of the natural mind, that which can only be seen by the spiritual eye of faith.
A friend of ours became involved in visualizing Jesus. When she prayed, the presence she felt was so real that she would sit at his feet and place her head in his lap. She was shocked by the testimony of a prominent Christian leader who had herself discovered that the “Jesus” contacted through visualization was indeed “another Jesus” II Cor. 11:4.
Our friend was brought to the realization that her “Jesus” was a familiar spirit, and she called for help. She was delivered from her bondage to the familiar spirit and now openly shares her testimony, so that others can be brought to the light of truth.
Sometimes these familiar spirits of “another Jesus” become so familiar that they actually manifest their presence by speaking audibly and by touching the person.
5. Drugs. Drugs, especially the hallucinatory drugs, provide a straight corridor into the demonic realm. This is true of all sorts of drugs ranging from the ancient peyote to modern drugs known as LSD and PCP. Such drugs alter the function of brain cells, and pave the way for an infinite variety of supposed revelations which are fostered by familiar spirits that were contacted via the drug-induced hallucinations.
6. Rock Music. Those who are hooked on rock music are usually very defensive and unteachable. This rejection of truth is because rock music is a “religion” to the devotee, and to suggest that someone should give up his religion is a serious threat. Rock music requires as definite a commitment as does Christianity.
Edward was a Christian teenager. He loved the Lord and was growing spiritually. Suddenly, Edward changed. He completely turned away from his Christian convictions. His parents were dismayed, and nothing they said or did had any effect on their son. Edward had a dramatic change in his personality. We asked his mother if he had become involved with rock music. The answer was “yes.” His love for God and the Holy Spirit had been usurped by “another spirit” with whom Edward had become familiar.
7. Games and toys. The devil is blatantly making his bid to control the lives of our nation’s youth. Games and toys are a powerful influence in the training of children. Parents, the spiritual guardians of children, must be especially alert and vigilant today in order to protect their offspring from Satan’s wiles.
As we ministered to a five-year-old-boy, we discovered that he was emotionally attached to the hideous looking little creature known as ET, an extraterrestrial being. ET had ceased to be a mere fictional character in this young boy’s experience. ET had become a living companion and friend who visited his bedroom and talked with him. He was conversing with a demon: a familiar spirit. In such ways the devil is conditioning children to relate to demons as friends. The child becomes accustomed to these demonic creatures to the extent that he is even comfortable with them when they materialize.
Tom, a young man in his late teens, was controlled by a false personality. The alter ego was acquired through his involvement with the game “Dungeons & Dragons.” The game requires role playing, and the player becomes totally identified with a fictional character. Often, the players dress in identifying costumes which portray the character they are to represent. Tom had gradually lost his own identity and had taken on the identity of his familiar spirit.
8. Conversing with demons during deliverance. When demons are challenged, they sometimes speak through the person they indwell. A deliverance worker may cultivate a relationship with a demon by interrogating such spirits. In so doing, the deliverance minister becomes a medium through whom the familiar spirit imparts secret knowledge. If the information acquired through demons is accepted as truth, then testimony to what demons have said becomes a doctrine of demons:
- “Now the Spirit expressly says that in the latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons.” I Tim. 4:1, (emphasis mine.)
A man sent me a manuscript that he had written. He asked me to critique the material before publication. He had obtained supposed “top-secret” information on the hierarchy of spirits in Satan’s kingdom by conversing with a demon in a person who had been involved in witchcraft. The book was dedicated, by name, to the demon who had given him the information. He thus allowed himself to become a spiritist medium communicating with a familiar spirit.
A deliverance minister was sharing with one of our staff members his experiences in conversing with demons during deliverance. He said that he saw no need for giving up the practice of interrogating evil spirits. In fact, he found them to be entertaining. There was one that he especially enjoyed talking with because what this demon said always “seemed so cute.” How could anything out of the mouth of a deceiving demon ever be considered “cute?”
Conversing with demons can easily lead to the forbidden role of being a “consulter with familiar spirits” Deut. 18:11, KJV. If one becomes a communication link with the demonic realm, he becomes a spiritist medium; and the information he transmits is a “doctrine that demons teach” I Tim. 4:1, NIV. Thus, interrogation of demons, and conversation with them, is not only foolish but exceedingly dangerous. “Reasons Why We Should Not Converse With Demons,” Demons and Deliverance In The Ministry of Jesus, by Frank Hammond; Impact Christian Books, Inc., Kirkwood, MO, pp. 20-25.
9. Necromancy. God’s Word clearly forbids communication with spirits of the dead. “There shall not be found among you anyone who…calls up the dead” Deut. 18:10,11.
Some, whose loved ones have died, are tempted to communicate with them. Instead of contacting the spirit of their loved ones, they come into contact with familiar spirits who impersonate deceased friends or relatives.
Teraphim, or household gods, are mentioned several times in the Bible. These were human figures and statues from which oracles were sought. These household images were made in the likeness of deceased ancestors. When Jacob separated himself from his uncle, Laban; Rachel stole her father’s Teraphim. (Gen. 31). This passage reveals that Laban and his family were involved in idolatry. They believed that they could be helped by the spirits of the departed dead.
When God told Jacob to return to Bethel (The house of God), Jacob said to his family; “Put away the foreign gods that are among you” Gen. 35:2, and the Teraphim were buried and left behind. Thereupon, the curse was avoided; and the blessings of God came to Jacob and his family, for, “The terror of God was upon the cities that were all around them, and they did not pursue the sons of Jacob” Gen. 35:5
Sometimes, displayed pictures of deceased parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents or other dead persons can attract familiar spirits. At one time, my wife kept pictures of her deceased parents and other family members in our bedroom. It gave her a sense of their continued presence in her life. The Holy Spirit convicted her that her dead parents were not her source of comfort, security or help. The pictures were put away.
In a church which I pastored, the aged grandmother of one of our members died. Shortly afterward, I received a plea for help from the family . I was told that the grandmother was making appearances in the house, and that one member of the family was bitten on her thighs when she sat in her grandmother’s favorite chair. The grandmother had been involved in witchcraft. It was necessary to remove all witchcraft paraphernalia from the house and to command the familiar spirit of the grandmother to leave. The procedure proved effective, and there were no further disturbances.
The Scripture says, “There is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” I Tim. 2:5. Also, Jesus declared, “No one comes to the Father except through Me” John 14:6. Jesus is the ONLY mediator and the ONLY way through whom we have access to the Heavenly Father.
There are some people; however, who have been taught to pray to Mary, the mother of Jesus, or to other departed saints, as mediators. When men pray to the spirits of the dead, they are practicing necromancy and courting familiar spirits. Therefore, it is easy to understand why there are so many reported visitations by these forbidden mediators. For example, there is the “Virgin of Guadalupe” and the “Virgin of Medjugore”, because familiar spirits manifested themselves when people prayed to Mary, the mother of Jesus.
10. Incubus and Succubus. An incubus (from the Latin: to lie upon) spirit, is an evil male spirit that lies upon women in their sleep, ostensibly to have intercourse with them. The succubus (from the Latin: to lie under) is a female spirit that comes at night to have a sexual relationship with men. Definitions of incubus and succubus are given in Webster’s Dictionary.
These unclean familiar spirits are found to have been acquired through sexual promiscuity. Fornication, adultery and any sort of sexual deviation will give opportunity to spirits of sexual lust.
One day, we invited a woman to come for deliverance. She met us at the home where we were staying. My wife and I took her into a bedroom where we could have privacy. The woman sat on the side of the bed, while we sat on chairs. During the course of the ministry, as we were commanding spirits of sexual lust and perversity to leave, a spirit of incubus manifested itself. It threw the woman backward onto the bed with her knees flexed and her thighs spread, and her bodily movements gave the appearance that she was having sex with an unseen being.
This is a good example of why a man should not minister deliverance to a woman when he is alone.
She said that this spirit of incubus came to her frequently while she slept. It was cast out by the authority of Jesus’ name.
Other deliverance experiences have led us to believe that involvement in the occult can open the door for spirits of incubus and succubus to enter. For example, we ministered to a Jamaican man who, along with relatives, had been deeply involved in voodoo. He was being tormented nightly by a succubus spirit. Not knowing the ways of God, he, in his desperation for help, had sought the help of a witch. After going through a witchcraft ritual, the problem was even worse than before. This man required deliverance from occult spirits in addition to a spirit of succubus.
What could be more familiar than a spirit who comes to have sex with a person? It is understandable that people are often embarrassed to admit that they are having night visitations from incubus and succubus spirits, but it is the devil who makes people feel ashamed and afraid. We must expose the devil by bringing secret things into the light. “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed” Jas. 5:16.
Apply this teaching on familiar spirits to your own life. Has any door of opportunity been opened to familiar spirits? Is there any evidence of the presence of familiar spirits?
Repent of each sin that has given opportunities for relationships with familiar spirits. God’s Word warns that it is a sin to have a familiar spirit. A familiar spirit is not judged by whether or not it appears to be of benefit, but by what God has said about it.
Renounce the familiar spirits. (Note: An individual can have more than one familiar spirit operating in his life.) Fall out of agreement with the familiar spirits. Destroy any thing that you have in your possession that would give a legal right for such a spirit to remain. Tell it that it is not needed or wanted.
Resist and cast out the demonic spirits, using your spiritual authority as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. Employ the spiritual weapons of the blood of the Lamb, the name of Jesus and the Word of God, for these weapons “are mighty in God for pulling down strongholds” II Cor. 10:5 .
Prayer and Warfare
(Read aloud the following prayer)
“Lord Jesus, I belong to You. You have saved me and redeemed me by Your blood. I have need of no spirit other than The Holy Spirit. Forgive me for having sought from other spirits that which should only come from You. I renounce and separate myself from all familiar spirits, however acquired. I call upon You, Lord, to deliver me from the lies and deceptions of familiar spirits. Teach me Your truth and Your ways. It is my earnest desire to walk in Your will and to glorify Your name. Amen.”
“Satan, I renounce you, and I take back all the ground that I ever yielded to you. God is my source of wisdom, knowledge, guidance and power. You familiar spirit, leave me, in the name of Jesus.”
“Thank you Lord Jesus for delivering me and cleansing me from all unrighteousness by Your precious blood. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”