- possession are the following:
- • making a PACT with the Devil or demons• participating in occult or spiritualist rites, including playing with divination devices such as a OUIJA™ or doing automatic writing• offering or dedicating a child to SATAN• being the victim of a witchcraft spell or CURSEEngaging in these activities, as well as leading a deliberately sinful life, give demons the right and license to take up residence, according to the church. Mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder are not considered to be caused by demonic possession.The church teaches that God allows possession to happen for a variety of reasons:• to demonstrate the truth of the Catholic faith• to punish sinners• to confer spiritual benefits through lessons• to produce teachings for humanitySigns of Demonic PossessionThe Catholic Church defines the true signs of possession as• displaying superhuman strength and levitation, often accompanied by fits, convulsions, and contortions• having knowledge of the future or other secret information• being able to understand and converse in languages previously unknown to the victim• exhibiting revulsion toward sacred objects or textsExorcists develop discernment that enables them to determine whether or not a person is truly possessed, rather than suffering from mental illness or stress. A DEMONIAC’s eyes will be rolled back into his head and his or her voice will be altered to an evil, mocking tone. The person will scream insults, profanities, and blasphemies at the exorcists and witnesses.How a possessed person behaves depends on the type of demon involved, and the exorcist’s skill at recognizing the signs. There are three types of possessing demons, clausus (Latin for shut), apertus (Latin for open), and abditus (Latin for hidden). If a demon is clausus, it can resist prayer for a short time before eventually revealing its presence in an entranced condition and rolled-back eyes. The possessed person does not move or speak out but is still possessed. If a demon is apertus, it will keep the possessed person’s eyes open and will laugh at and mock the exorcist, claiming that the person’s condition is only psychological. An abditus demon is capable of hiding deep within a person’s interior and can show no signs for hours in an exorcism.In all cases, a possessed person will not recall his or her behavior during possessed episodes.Stages of Demonic PossessionDemonic possession can progress through stages:• INFESTATION, the actual entry point, when the demon first enters the victim and begins to exert an influence in the environment, such as unpleasant phenomena.• OPPRESSION or vexation, in which the victim weakens and makes unethical or immoral choices or serious mistakes on vital matters. As oppression worsens, the victim voluntarily yields control to the demon, even though he or she knows it is alien to his or her personality.• Full-blown demonic possession. The demon tries to cause the victim to commit heinous acts, such as murder or suicide. The victim’s appearance and behavior alter in radical ways. A host of unpleasant phenomena manifest: lewd and obscene acts and thoughts; cursing and swearing; screaming in rage; spitting, vomiting, and urinating; foul smells; horrible facial expressions; physical contortions; unusual strength; speaking in tongues; prophesying; emaciation through rapid weight loss; levitation; and so forth. If presented with holy objects or splashed with holy water, a victim recoils.Remedies for Demonic PossessionExorcisms can be performed at any stage, and sometimes the offending entity can be expelled before full possession is reached. Some cases require repeated exorcisms and last for years before a person is liberated. In addition to the exorcism rites, the possessed person and his family must pray and make an effort to regain a spiritual life. Once demons are expelled, they stay out, but they can return if invited back through a relapse of sin and behavior.Dangers of Demonic PossessionSeverely possessed people are in danger of dying (see MICHEL, ANNELIESE). According to the church, if they die before their demons are expelled, they are not necessarily condemned to hell. If they die in a state of grace, they will go to heaven. Once a victim is dead, the demons depart.Those present at an exorcism—the exorcists, assistants, and witnesses—are in danger of suffering possession from departing demons, who may seize an opportunity to occupy a new host. At the very least, the demon, speaking through the victim, may hurl their secret fears and vices in their faces. Exorcists and demonologists also can suffer mishaps, such as strange accidents, while they are working on cases. Good health and a virtuous life are important defenses in dealing with possession cases. Nonetheless, some untrained paranormal investigators, attracted by the danger, have involved themselves in the field, thus opening themselves and their families to unpleasant problems. Exorcists stress that amateurs should not meddle in possession.Possession of AnimalsIn the Catholic tradition, animals have the potential to become possessed, but reported cases are not common. The best biblical example is that of Jesus driving demons out of a man and into a herd of swine, which then commit suicide by drowning themselves in the sea (Mark 5:1–13). Animals that become possessed by demons act strangely and may exhibit self-destructive behavior, such as running in front of vehicles. If a possessed animal dies or is sacrificed, the demon departs.Possession by DjinnAccording to Islam, there are two principal causes of possession by DJINN, and both are forbidden by Allah. The djinn can possess a person out of lewdness, desire, love, capriciousness, trickster horseplay, and whim. It will attack the weak, vulnerable, and insane; “under Satan’s touch” describes madness. Sometimes possession of this sort is permitted by the victim, but it is still forbidden. Without permission, the possession becomes a grave offense of oppression, and the djinn must be rebuked and informed that it has broken the laws of Allah. In the second case, djinn may possess a person out of revenge, if they feel they have been wronged or injured. Humans may inadvertently urinate on them, pour water on them, or kill them, causing the djinn to react by punishing the humans. In that case, the djinn should be informed that the harm was accidental, and the djinn are not permitted to occupy the person’s home, property, or body. In possession, djinn can make people speak in unintelligible languages, have supernormal strength, and run unnaturally fast. The djinn will rain blows upon people and make them have fits.Minor djinn called ZAR possess women and cause sickness, marital discord, and rebelliousness.Other Demonic Possession outside of ChristianityBeliefs in the ability of negative, interfering spirits to possess people are universal. Views on possessing demons and their purposes vary, as do remedies against them. In Hinduism, possession permeates every facet of daily life. The victim is most often a woman, who attributes her personal problems—menstrual pain, barrenness, the death of children, miscarriage, abuse by husbands or fathers, the husband’s infidelities—to the intervention of evil spirits. Exorcism techniques include blowing cow-dung smoke, pressing rock salt between the fingers, burning pig excreta, beating the victim herself or pulling her hair, using copper coins as an offering, reciting prayers or mantras, and offering gifts of candy or other presents.In Japanese tradition, fox fairies cause similar negative conditions (see huli jing; kitsune). The spirits communicate their requirements for departure, usually offerings of special foods.Elsewhere, negative spirits and even mischievous deities are held responsible for all bad things that happen. Sometimes, the possessed victims gain social status by becoming possessed, which entitles them to privileges, attention, and gifts.Possession by the Holy GhostVoluntary possession by the divine presence is accepted in traditions of Christianity. The word enthusiastic originally meant being filled with the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit, or the supreme state of oneness with God. After the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus, on the first day of Pentecost (the date seven weeks after Passover, in the Jewish calendar), the apostles became possessed with the Holy Ghost. Acts describes how flames appeared above their heads and they spoke in tongues previously unknown to them. Speaking in unknown tongues, called glossolalia, and other ecstatic communion with God characterized early Christian worship but by the Middle Ages had come to signify the work of the Devil instead. In modern Christianity, the Pentecostal movement has revived interest in ecstatic religious practices. The movement began on January 1, 1901, when a group of worshippers at Bethel College, Topeka, Kansas, reportedly received the Holy Spirit. Members of Pentecostal churches may speak in tongues, engage in long prayer revivals, perform faith healing, and even roll and writhe on the floor as the spirit fills them.Such voluntary and temporary possessions are a “religious altered state of consciousness.” Their phenomena are similar to cases of demonic possession, in which the possessed person exhibits rigidity of limbs, speaking in foreign languages or tongues, dilation of pupils, visions, insomnia, fasting, self-infliction of pain, sensations of a burning death, and catatonia. These states of consciousness can have 40-day cycles, imitating the 40-day withdrawal of Jesus into the desert.Voluntary Spirit PossessionIn some non-Western cultures, including shamanic traditions, voluntary possession as a means to communicate with spirits and deities serves as the centerpiece of religious worship and is used to obtain beneficial help in solving problems, divining the future, curing illness, and restoring happiness and harmony in life. Possession by a god shows the possessed to be worthy of the god’s notice and protection.In the Caribbean and South America and lands where tribal Africans were taken to be slaves, worship of the religions of their ancestors—now practiced as Vodun, Santeria, candomblé, or Umbanda—involves the possession of the faithful by the gods to obtain true communion and protection. Black slaves transported to Brazil by the Portuguese in the 1550s found their tribal religion had much in common with the spiritual practices of Indian tribes along the Amazon River. Forced to syncretize the worship of the gods, or orishas, into the veneration of Catholic saints to escape persecution, the blacks continued to follow the old ways and rituals in secret. By the time the slaves won their independence in 1888, more than 15 generations of Brazilians—black, white and Indian—had heard the stories of the orishas and how their magical intervention had snared a lover, saved a marriage or a sick baby, or eliminated a wicked enemy.Worshippers, entranced by rites of chanting and drumming, are temporarily possessed or “mounted” by a god or spirit, becoming the entity’s “horse.” They take on that spirit’s personal characteristics, such as facial expressions, body postures and gestures, preferences for certain foods or colors, perfumes, patterns of speech, use of profanity, smoking, and so forth.Under possession, the worshipper may endure great extremes of heat and cold, dance unceasingly for hours, suffer from cuts and bruises with no pain, and even tear off the heads of live chickens used for sacrifice with his or her own teeth. Often the possessed issue prophesies and deliver pronouncements about local affairs. The worshipper becomes the deity and is accorded all appropriate rights and honors. Once possession subsides, the special treatment ends and the worshipper resumes his or her ordinary life.CandombléCandomblé closely resembles the ancient Yoruban practices from Africa. The term candomblé probably derives from candombe, a celebration and dance held by the slaves on the coffee plantations. The first candomblé center was organized in 1830 in Salvador, the old capital city of Brazil and now the capital of the state of Bahia, by three former slaves who became the cult’s high priestesses. The slave women inherited the formerly all-male ceremonial duties when the men spent their time in slave field labor. Also serving as mistresses to the white Portuguese, the women claimed the exercise of their magical rites helped maintain their sexual skill and prowess. These “Mothers of the Saints” trained other women, called the “Daughters of the Saints,” ensuring that the men were excluded from major responsibilities.Candomblé ceremonies involve invocations to the gods, prayers, offerings, and voluntary possession. Healing is emphasized. Devotees believe the moment of greatest spiritual healing occurs when a person becomes one with his or her orisha during initiation into the cult. Such possession is often intense, requiring constant aid from the other worshippers. The priest may beg the orisha to treat the initiate gently, offering a pigeon or other sacrifice to the orisha in return for his or her mercy. The stronger the orisha the more violent the possession.UmbandaUmbanda was founded in 1904 and has its roots in Hinduism and Buddhism in addition to African tribal religions. The teachings of spiritism—that communication with discarnate spirits is not only possible but necessary for spiritual healing and acceptance of one’s earlier incarnations—also plays a large part in the practices of umbanda.The term umbanda probably derives from aum-gandha, a Sanskrit description of the divine principle. Umbanda incorporates the worship of the Catholic saints with the beliefs of the Brazilian Indians. The orishas go by their Catholic names and personae.In addition to the orishas, possessing entities include the exus and pomba giras, caboclos, pretos velhos, and criancas.The exus are the spirits of the wicked and dangerous dead and of suicides. Their female counterparts are the pomba giras. Their light is diminished. They are sometimes equated with demons by outsiders, but their nature is not evil and satanic, more that of a trickster. The caboclos are the spirits of dead Indians. They possess good herbal knowledge, pride, and strength and are valued when decisiveness is needed. The pretos velhos are the spirits of dead Afro-Brazilian slaves. They have a gentle nature and are good for personal matters and healing, especially concerning herbal remedies.The criancas are the spirits of children who died between ages three and five. They are consulted for personal matters and healing.Quimbanda, formerly called Macumba, involves black magic in which lower spirits are contacted.VodunVodun entered the Caribbean islands of Jamaica and Saint-Domingue, now divided into the nations of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, with the millions of black African slaves, encompassing members of the Bambara, Foula, Arada (or Ardra), Mandingue, Fon, Nago, Iwe, Ibo, Yoruba, and Congo tribes. Their religious practices perhaps first amused white masters, but soon fearful whites forbade their slaves not only from practicing their religion but gathering in any type of congregation. Penalties were sadistic and severe, including mutilation, sexual disfigurement, flaying alive, and burial alive. Any slave found possessing a fetish (a figurine or carved image of a god) was to be imprisoned, hanged, or flayed alive. To save the blacks from the “animal” natures that they were believed to have, masters baptized their slaves as Catholic Christians. In front of whites, blacks practiced Catholicism, but among each other, the gods of their ancestors were not forgotten. Rites held deep in the woods, prayers transmitted in work songs, and worship of saints while secretly praying to the gods preserved the old traditions while giving them a new twist.The syncretic practices that evolved featured worship rites in which voluntary possession was invited of the loas or mystères, the old gods and ancestral spirits. The priest or priestess, called houngan and mambo, respectively, acts as intermediary to summon the loas and help them to depart when their business is finished. The houngan and mambo receive total authority from the mystères. The possessed lose all consciousness, totally becoming the possessing loas with all their desires and eccentricities. Young women possessed by the older spirits seem frail and decrepit, while the infirm possessed by young, virile gods dance with no thought to their disabilities. Even facial expressions change to resemble that of the god or goddess. Although sacred, possession can be frightening and even dangerous, causing mental imbalance and deterioration of health.SanteriaSimilar in practice to Vodun, Santeria centers around the worship of the ancient African gods (mostly Yoruban) who were blended with Catholic saints. Santeria is derived from the Spanish word santo, or “saint”; practitioners are called santeros and santeras. The orishas who possess worshippers have complex human personalities, with strong desires, preferences, and temperaments. When possessed, the devotees assume the orishas’ supernatural characteristics, performing feats of great strength, eating and drinking huge quantities of food and alcohol, and divining the future with great accuracy.The santeros wield enormous power, having knowledge that can change a person’s life either through their own skill or by the help of the orishas. To use that power for good or evil rests with the santeros alone. Voluntary Possession in Mediumship and Channeling During the 19th century, belief in diabolical possession declined in the West, while belief in spirit possession increased. Mediumship involves communicating with the dead and other spirits. In physical mediumship, the medium allows a form of temporary possession to take place, in which the spirits use the medium’s body and voice to communicate directly. In mental mediumship, communication is impressed on a medium’s thoughts.In order for the temporary possession to take place, mediums enter into altered states of consciousness that range from dissociated states, in which they are fully aware of what happens, to deep trance, in which they have no awareness of events. Entranced mediums may exhibit physical symptoms similar to religious altered states of consciousness. Once the trance is ended, there is a period of transition in the return to normal awareness. Mediumship takes a physical and sometimes mental toll and can adversely affect health.Though mediumship is voluntary, it sometimes begins as involuntary episodes in which spirits take over a person. Over time, a medium learns how to control spirit access. There are many ways of inducing entranced states for mediumistic possession, including drugs, fasting, meditation, and prayer.Channeling is essentially the same as mediumship and is a newer term, usually applied to contact with highly evolved human spirits or nonhuman spirits, angels, and extraterrestrials, rather than the dead. Religious critics of both mediumship and channeling contend that the true identities of the possessing spirits are demons intent on deception and demonic possession. Catholics and others are counseled not to consult psychics and mediums.Voluntary Possession in Spiritualism and Spiritism Life everlasting for the spirit and the ability to contact such spirits through mediums, proving their survival, underlie spiritualism, a religious movement that began in the mid-19th century and swept both sides of the Atlantic. It declined in popularity in the 20th century but still continues today.A central feature of spiritualism is communication with the dead through mediums. One of the purposes of mediumship is to validate the tenets of spiritualism: belief in an immanent God as the active moving principle in nature, the affirmation of the essential goodness of human beings, a denial of the need for salvation, and the repudiation of HELL. Rather, the dead go to Summerland, a place of perpetual summer where the departed spirits spend eternity.Spiritism evolved from spiritualism in the mid-19th century. Its chief proponent was a French writer and physician named Hippolyte-Léon-Denizard Rivail, who knew Latin and Greek and wrote under the pseudonym Allan Kardec.Trained as a doctor, Kardec believed that certain illnesses have a spiritual cause and can be treated psychically through communication with spirit guides. Specifically, he said that persons suffering from epilepsy, schizophrenia, and multiple personality showed signs of spirit interference or possession, either from the dead or from remnants of the patients’ own past lives. Kardec theorized that within each person’s personality are what he called “subsystems” of past lives inherited with each new incarnation. Sometimes, these subsystems dominate the present life, blocking out reality and controlling the body for extended periods. Successful treatment depends not only on counseling and therapy but on communication with these spirits to understand their presence and persuade them to depart the victim.Kardec’s theories were fashionable in France for a while but did not catch on in the rest of Europe. They found enthusiastic audiences in Brazil.Possession as Physical or Mental IllnessIn ancient times, demons and spirits were held to be the cause of diseases and illnesses, both physical and psychological. The oldest extant text on epilepsy, On the Sacred Disease, attributed to the Greek physician Hippocrates (ca. 460–ca. 370 B.C.E.), but probably authored by several of his students, states that bizarre emotions, behavior, and sensations commonly believed to be due to demonic possession were instead due to a brain disease. It is likely that some cases of alleged demonic possession were either cases of epilepsy or of Tourette’s syndrome, a rare neurological disorder.According to Catholicism, the New Testament distinguishes between illness and possession, in descriptions of Jesus both performing the casting out of unclean spirits and healing the sick. However, some physicians and medical professionals even into modern times have postulated demonic interference as a cause of certain health problems.Epileptic seizures are characterized by unconsciousness, violent behavior, vomiting, and visual, auditory, and olfactory hallucinations that may seem supernatural. Epileptics report feeling the presence of God, angels, or other spirits, including the dead. They may smell terrible stenches resembling brimstone or rotting flesh. Tourette’s syndrome, often misdiagnosed as schizophrenia, starts in childhood and manifests with facial contortions, upward eye rolling, bizarre growls, barks, and grunts, and verbal outbursts of a sexual, blasphemous, or scatological nature— all characteristics of demonic possession.Schizophrenia sufferers, who also experience altered states of consciousness and various hallucinations, may project fragments of their own personality as external “demons” or spirits. A theory about multiple personality sufferers, however, holds that the repression of a great deal of hatred, common in the disorder, acts as a magnet for evil influences. Obsession always represents an abnormal condition, and once one admits the existence of spirit influence, the idea of spirit obsession cannot be ignored. Severe physical or psychological trauma may so upset the victim that a “window” in the mind opens, allowing spirit influences to enter. In many cases of multiple personality, some psychiatrists find that only exorcism, perhaps simply invoking the Lord’s name, eliminates one or more of the troubling personalities so that the patient can eventually become one person.DR. JAMES HERVEY HYSLOP, an American psychologist famous for his research of obsession cases, states in his book Contact with the Other World (1919) that if people believe in telepathy, then invasion of a personality over distance is possible. And if that is true, he found it unlikely that sane and intelligent spirits were the only ones able to exert influence from beyond. Hyslop also stated that persons diagnosed as suffering from hysteria, multiple personality, dementia praecox, or other mental disturbances showed, in his view, unmistakable signs of invasion by discarnate entities. He called on medical practitioners to take such situations into account during treatment. The American psychiatrist Dr. M. Scott Peck, a graduate of Harvard University, claims that two of his patients suffered from possession in addition to their other symptoms of multiple personality. In both cases, Peck found the spirits to be evil, actively working to destroy the mind of the host patients.In People of the Lie (1983), Peck describes these patients, their awareness from the beginning of an alien presence, and the exorcisms that eventually cleared the way for spiritual healing. When the demonic entities finally revealed themselves, the patients’ faces were completely transformed into masks of utter malevolence. One patient became a SERPENT, with writhing body, hooded reptilian eyes, and darting efforts to bite the exorcism team members. But what really overwhelmed Peck was not the performance but the feeling that a tremendous weight—an ageless, evil heaviness, or the true Serpent—was in the room. He reports that everyone present felt such a presence, only relieved when the exorcism succeeded.Peck’s experiences have corroborated those of the California psychiatrist Dr. Ralph Allison, trained at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Medicine and Stanford Medical Center. According to Allison, some cases of multiple personality may be the result of spirit possession, both nonthreatening and demonic. His controversial book Minds in Many Pieces (1980) discusses some of these patients and the inexplicable paranormal occurrences surrounding them. At least one personality in each patient—sometimes the primary but usually a secondary one—displayed striking psychic abilities.One case cited by Allison was that of a young man who began hearing a voice in his head after being struck on the head by a heavy object. He had convulsive seizures that could not be explained neurologically. The voice told him he was about to die. Under hypnosis, the voice identified itself as the Devil and said it had entered the man when he was on military duty in Japan. The man had rushed into a burning house to rescue someone and was blown out by an explosion. The Devil entered him at that time and was the cause of all his physical and mental problems. Allison consulted a religious expert, who opined that the spirit was not the Devil but a stupid but evil entity who thought it was the Devil. He performed an exorcism, and the man was relieved of all symptoms.In the 1920s and 1930s, Dr. Titus Bull, a well-respected physician and neurologist in New York City, treated many of his patients spiritually as well as physically. With the assistance of a medium, Mrs. Carolyn Duke (a pseudonym), Bull claimed to treat and sometimes cure schizophrenics, manic-depressives, and alcoholics. As had his predecessor DR. CARL A. WICKLAND, a pioneer in the spiritual exorcism of unwanted spirits as treatment for mental disorders, Dr. Bull believed that the possessing spirits were not necessarily evil but merely confused. With help from either the doctor or other spirits, the entities could pass on to their proper plane, leaving the victim in peace and finding happiness themselves. On the basis of his experiences, Bull found that spirits enter the victim through the base of the brain, the solar plexus, or the reproductive organs. He also postulated that pains suffered by the living might be pains produced by the obsessing dead spirit, especially if that spirit suffered in life.FURTHER READING:- Blai, Adam. “Demonology from a Roman Catholic Perspective.” Available online. URL: http://www.visionaryliving. com/ghosts.html. Downloaded August 14, 2006.- Crabtree, Adam. Multiple Man, Explorations in Possession and Multiple Personality. New York: Praeger, 1985.- Ebon, Martin. The Devil’s Bride, Exorcism: Past and Present. New York: Harper & Row, 1974.- Eliade, Mircea. Shamanism. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1964.- Fortea, Fr. José Antonio. Interview with an Exorcist: An Insider’s Look at the Devil, Diabolic Possession, and the Path to Deliverance. West Chester, Pa.: Ascension Press, 2006.- Goodman, Felicitas D. The Exorcism of Anneliese Michel. Oreg.: Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1981.———. How About Demons? Possession and Exorcism in the Modern World. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988.Ibn Taymeeyah’s Essay on the Jinn (Demons). Abridged, annotated and translated by Dr. Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips. New Delhi: Islamic Book Service, 2002.- Kapferer, Bruce. A Celebration of Demons. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1983.- Kelly, Henry Ansgar. The Devil, Demonology, and Witchcraft: The Development of Christian Beliefs in Evil Spirits. Eugene, Oreg.: Wipf & Stock, 1974.- Martin, Malachi. Hostage to the Devil. New York: Harper & Row, 1987.- Oesterreich, T. K. Possession: Demonical and Other among Primitive Races, in Antiquity, the Middle Ages and Modern Times. New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1966.- Peck, M. Scott. Glimpses of the Devil: A Psychiatrist’s Personal Accounts of Possession, Exorcism and Redemption. Detroit: Free Press, 2005.———. People of the Lie. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1983.- Wickland, Carl. Thirty Years among the Dead. 1924. Reprint, N. Hollywood, Calif.: Newcastle, 1974.- Wilkinson, Tracy. The Vatican’s Exorcists: Driving Out the Devil in the 21st Century. New York: Warner Books, 2007.- Zaffis, John, and Brian McIntyre. Shadows of the Dark. New York: iUniverse, Inc., 2004.
Encyclopedia of Demons and Demonology. Rosemary Ellen Guiley. 2009.