Friday, June 17, 2011

Possession & Exorcism

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Possession and exorcism have interested me for many years now. Growing up I viewed a real life exorcism on “0/0” and saw the movie “The Exorcist.” These two events brought many questions to my mind that could only have been answered by reading and researching demons and exorcisms. I never knew anything about the subject growing up only that it was frightening; I covered my eyes and ears every time the subject was mentioned. I asked my sister and even my mother about why these events occur, but I never really got a straight answer. As I matured, I was even more interested in the subject and when I viewed the movie, I understood it more. I was not so much frightened by the content, but rather, scared that it would happen to me. I never really knew the meaning of possession or of exorcism, so when I learned of the project I decided to read a book about possession and exorcism. The book, “How About Demons? Possession and Exorcism in the Modern World,” was authored by Felicitas D. Goodman.


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Many people do not understand the exact meaning of possession. Possession occurs when Satan enters and takes over the physical and mental capabilities of a victim; however, the soul and will remain free. Satan acts through the victim without the victim’s consent, thus the victim is morally blameless. Satan does not act alone when he possesses an individual. He works side by side with many evil spirits spirits of lust, hate, destruction, suicide, revenge, anger, anxiety, desperation, death, torment, etc. Ms. Goodman explains in a very thorough way in which one is possessed. She states, “The car is the body, and the driver is the soul.” This metaphor makes it easier for us than any theoretical discussion could to understand what people mean when they talk about the experience of possession. Just as the driver owns the car, so the soul owns the body.” (Goodman ) This distinction of how a person is to be possessed is a good way of explaining the occurrence to people who do not really understand the literal definition of possession. Today a more favorable climate exists for cases of possession than ever before.

The Dictionary of Christian Lore and Legend defines a demon as a fallen angel; they are the devils that serve Satan and reside in Hell. Their work in this sub world is to torture the damned for eternity. Demons are also said to tempt men to sin, and they have the ability and power to possess a living body (with the effect of the victim acting like a mad man). Most dramatic forms of possession are the sudden and complete disappearance of the personality ordinarily inhabiting the body, and its replacement by a very different personality. Whether voluntary or involuntary, there is often a shift in personality so radical that family and friends of the victim can no longer recognize him or her.


As has already been described, demonic possession is the act of evil spirits engulfing and possessing the body of human beings. In Contemporary Modern Religion, demons are generalized in a class with spirits and devils, saying there is no distinction among the three. The word demon comes from the Greek word “daimon,” which originally connoted a divine spirit. In Greek versions of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, the term “daimon” is used when speaking of the Devil. In Jewish and Christian religions, the idea that demons exist is real and they are believed to serve as helpers to Satan. However, in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Shintoism, demons are described as both malicious and compassionate. It has also been noted that the experience of possession does not always involve evil spirits; sometimes the beings in question are kind and helpful (Goodman 5). This implies that the idea of demonic possession and the effect and aura of demons vary among different religious denominations.

For those who have witnessed a so-called demonic possession, it is said that radical facial expressions, convulsing movements that would not be made ordinarily and even occasional speaking in tongues typically characterize possession. One of the biggest problems with proving the plausibility of demonic possession is that there is not any empirical evidence to investigate. Demonic possessions consume the body and soul, but only in their spirit, not in a concrete manner that would leave evidence to investigate.


Exorcism is the act of driving out, or warding off, demons, or evil spirits, from persons, places, or things that are believed to be possessed or infested by them, or are liable to become victims or instruments of their malice.

Technically, exorcism is not driving out the Devil or demon, but it is placing the Devil or demon on oath. In addition, in some incidences there may be more than one demon possessing a person.

Possession of an individual happens several ways. In some cases, the individual who becomes possessed is an innocent victim. In other cases, the one who becomes possessed chooses this route by their involvement in evil practices. Let us take a look at the different ways one can become possessed and what steps can be taken to seek help.

The following are symptoms of possession as represented in the “Roman Ritual of Exorcism.” In most cases, a victim will have one or more of the traits listed. Not all of these symptoms need be present to indicate possession, and it is quite possible that none of these symptoms will be present.

~Victim speaks or understands unknown languages without ever

studying the language being spoken or heard

~Victim clearly knows things that are distant or hidden

~Victim can predict future events (sometimes through dreams)

~Victim has an intense hatred for holy things

~Victim shows a physical strength far above his age or normal condition

Most victims are under medical care for mental illness before it is discovered that they are possessed. Victims can be days old and possessed. In the past, the church’s beliefs about the nature of women and of human sexuality led to the belief that every newborn was possessed by an indwelling demon because of its intimate contact with its mother’s birth canal. The church routinely exorcised each newborn at the time of baptism with the following ritual “I exorcise you unclean spirit in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Come out and leave this servant of God {infant’s name}. Accursed and damned spirit, hear the command of God himself, he who walked upon the sea and extended his right hand to Peter as he was sinking. Therefore, accursed devil, acknowledge your condemnation…and depart from this servant of God [infant’s name]…Never dare, accursed devil, to violate the sign of the holy cross which we place upon his/her forehead. Through Christ our Lord.”

Possession is not to be taken lightly or for granted. Each case is to be carefully examined and great caution to be used in distinguishing genuine possession from certain forms of disease. “The priest who undertakes the office should be a holy man, free of sin, intelligent, courageous, humble, and he should prepare for the work by special acts of devotion and mortification, particularly prayer and fasting. During the exorcism, he should avoid everything that savors of superstition, and should leave the medical aspects of the case to qualified physicians. He should try to convince the possessed, to ready himself for the exorcism by prayer, fasting, confession, and communion. While the rite is in progress, the victim should try to excite within himself faith in God’s goodness, and resignation to His Holy Will.” (Goodman 6)

The exorcism should take place in a Church or some other sacred place, if possible. If for some reason it takes place in a private house, witnesses (preferably a family member) should be present especially if the subject is a woman.

All idle and curious questioning of the demon should be avoided, and the prayers and aspirations should be read with great faith, humility, and fervour, and with consciousness of power and authority. The Blessed Sacrament is not to be brought near the body of the obsessed during exorcism for fear of possible irreverence; but the crucifix, holy water, and, where available, relics of the saints are to be employed. If expulsion of the evil spirit is not obtained at once, the rite can be repeated, if need be, several times. The exorcist should wear a surplice, and violet stole.


In reading “How About Demons,” it seems the author implies to many aspects that you must be dealing with evil spirits in order to become possessed. I do not agree with this idea. I think that an evil spirit can possess someone even without that person opening up the evil world. From my research, I have noticed that there are many different opinions about this subject. However, they do agree with the author, Ms. Goodman on some aspects. They believe that you must open your mind to the evil world, thereby opening up yourself and allowing evil spirits to come into and take over your body.

Another aspect that Goodman speaks to is the idea in some religions that possession is not necessarily bad. For example, in Buddhism the spirit that possesses you may not be evil, but rather helpful and kind. I can understand how this would be true but it puzzles me. Some articles and books, suggest that, Padre Pio, who is now a saint, was possessed but not by an evil spirit. He experienced the stigmata. He was a servant of the spirit who possessed him, and the reason he was possessed was that the spirit wanted to proclaim a message. Therefore, I can understand that in some instances possession can be construed as good.

I was very impressed by the author’s description of someone becoming possessed, and how he or she would treat it. Goodman was very descriptive with examples and scientific information. However, it is understandable that certain things were inexplicable. Not everything about possession and exorcism can be explained.


Possession and Exorcism are two very distinct events that can happen in either the Catholic Church or other religions. It is very interesting to know about events that can happen in your religion whether good or bad. Growing up I really did not know that much about possession or exorcism. Everything I knew I learned by watching “The Exorcist.” Reading “How About Demons” has given me a better perspective as to what possession actually is and how to overcome it by an exorcism.

Three questions arose as I read the book. First, why does it happen? I still do not know the answer to this question but hopefully with more research I will finally be able to answer it. Second, during an exorcism, can the one being possessed actually die? There might be an actual answer for this now that I have not yet learned but hopefully I will come across the answer in the future, And third, is that will this ever happen to me? Goodman stated that opening the door to the evil world could possess you. When I was younger I do not know how many times I played with the Oujia Board, but in a sense isn’t that opening the evil world? Calling down spirits, hoping that you would not get a bad spirit,

I guess one will never knows until the day comes if one is possessed.

Doing this project, I learned more than I could have imagined. I have always been interested in possession but I never really read anything as informative as this book. I think the best kind of project is a research project. You glean so much information by just reading and piecing ideas together.

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