Possession & Exorcism..



The expulsion of an evil spirit by a command, ritual or prayer is called exorcism and supposes some theory of the in-habitation or infestation of a human soul or a place by evil spirits.

Until quite recently much dominated by the view of E.B.Tylor, (Primitive Culture, 1871.)

Who propounded a theory of animism, saying that primitive man, when once he has build up a concept of his own soul out of dreams and other psychic experiences, extrapolates this same soul, finding its semblance in beats and even in lifeless objects.

At the root of exorcism lies belief in the power to transfer a spiritual being from place to place by ritual acts and words, Such a belief seems to have been at work in the minds of the early Romans when they carried out their evocatio, which may be looked upon as an exorcism of a community rather than of an individual.


Tribal Exorcism

The Azande have the idea that the powers of witchcraft reside within a witch's body,

And think that by cutting out a gland or pouch in the region of the witch's liver they can be removed, They hold that a wizard can have wizard sons but no witch daughters,

And a witch likewise has witch daughters but no wizard sons.

The Azande say that when a man has been bewitched the soul of the wizard's magic has eaten the soul of the flesh of that man, Below the grade of wizard they recognise what they call

'Gall Bladder men, who are thought to be less dangerous.

All this is very physical.

In a modern primitive tribe one does not necessarily see the same process of thought as can be projected back into the earliest stages of humanity, yet this example is helpful because it suggests one way in which the idea of possession by evil spirits may have developed.



At the root of exorcism lies belief in the power to transfer a spiritual being from place to place by ritual acts and words, Such a belief seems to have been at work in the minds of the early Romans when they carried out their evocatio, which may be looked upon as an exorcism of a community rather than of an individual.


Roman Exorcisms

In War, before the final assault on a hostile town, the Romans conducted a solemn ritual of calling out the gods of the enemy.

This happened, for instance, in the campaign against the city of Veii.

The gods were invited to join Rome, with promises of worship and good treatment if they did.

Correct use of the name of the god or goddess was an essential part of the ritual, and fear lest an enemy should try to evoke Roman Gods led to the concealment of the true name of the genius or guardian spirit of Rome; the sex of this original tutelary deity was not known.

The Romans must have begun by regarding the gods of the enemy as themselves hostile, for otherwise the ritual of propitiation would have been pointless.

This belief can be traced with some probability to the Hittites of Asia Minor;

One of their tablets speaks of an offering of beer being set out for three gods of an enemy town,

Along with coloured ribbons to mark the way to the beer.

The colours were used are Red, White and Blue.



Jewish Exorcisms

The Jews of the Old Testament were quite different in their outlook;

The Baals - Gods of enemy Canaanite towns - were not propitiated but looked upon as captives and slaves when victory had been won.

In the Old Testament,

There are no stories of exorcism except for the episode of Tobias and Sarah in the Apocrypha.

Sarah was not in fact possessed by a demon but guarded by one,

much as in later stories the princess is guarded by a dragon.

Later Jewish writings have plenty of exorcism stories and the Qumran documents have shown

(In so call prayer of Nabonidus)

that a Jewish exorcist could be credited with the forgiveness of sins and consequent healing.

Josephus made the claim that Solomon had been taught by God the art of exorcism and that he passed this on in his writings, but the Scripture has no trace of this.



Baptism Christian Times.

Baptism was preceded by exorcism from the earliest Christian Times.

The theory was that the candidate for baptism had been engaged in worshipping pagan gods who were no better than a cover for demons;

In fact,

the whole world was considered to be in the power of the Devil until it was redeemed by Christ.

A voluntary renunciation of the Devil was required of the candidate because the human will was a vital factor in the problem of possession; no one could be manoeuvred by the Devil unless he had given his consent, When infants were baptised, the renunciation was undertaken by sponsors on their behalf, An apocryphal work of the 2nd century, The Gospel of Truth, compares the baptised to jars which have been filled and then sealed; before filling with the Spirit of God they would have to be emptied of all previous content.



The Neoplatonist philosophy developed in Greece in the early centuries of the Christian era brought in the concept of spiritual bodies for demons and angels,

made of the most subtle of the elements, Air,

Some of the Greek theologians, from Gregory Nazianzen down to Michael Psellos in the 11th century were attracted by the idea, and this made for much cruder theories of exorcism.

If air had to be extracted from the possessed person, then the use of torture did not come amiss.

Whereas in 1080's Pope Hildebrand could write to King Haakon of Denmark to say that woman accused of weather magic and spells were innocent and that to attempt to punish them was foolish and would provoke anger of God, in the East Michael Psellos was writing a blood-curdling treatise on the power of demons.


In the west the synod of St Patrick had decreed excommunication for anyone who brought an accusation of witchcraft or believed in witches, and this decree was copied into many of the early codes of cannon law, providing a brake on popular scares which was lacking in the East, They Learned cleric John of Salisbury gave stern warnings on the abuse of exorcism; holiness was required in the Church's ministers and if they were lacking in this,

They might seem to effect an exorcism but the final outcome would be worse infestation.



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