In History

ANCIENT ORIGINS

Although recorded belief in demonic possession only dates back as far as 500 BC Egypt, earlier civilizations believed in evil spirits.


The Judeo-Christian legend of Satan, a powerful evil being independent of God, probably began around 583 BC, influenced by Babylonians who ruled the Hebrew people.

Christianity furthered possession and exorcism as preeminent beliefs in the civilized world. The Bible carries many tales of Jesus driving devils out of various mortals. He then passed on the power and right of exorcism to his disciples.

SATAN VS. THE CHURCH

Satan assumed a more prominent place in daily life when Christianity became the official religion of Rome. He and his minions were believed able to possess human beings and sometimes even assume human form themselves to carry out their evil purposes.

During the Middle Ages, public exorcisms proved to be popular crowd-pleasers and were often accompanied by severe torture. Victims, many of whom were only guilty of being non-Christians or mentally ill, were often branded as witches or sorcerers, to justify the Church's actions.

POSSESSION OR NOT?

As early as 1583, the Church recognized that some forms of mental illness could cause a person to seem possessed.


In fact, the "Roman Ritual," shown in The Exorcist and first published in 1614, cautions its users to make sure the case cannot be explained by normal psychological means.

Modern psychological and medical discoveries, such as Tourette's Syndrome, have given the Church more ammunition to scientifically explain most cases of possession.

The "Roman Ritual" is now rarely used - and only in those cases where no other explanations can be found.

THE ROMAN RITUAL

  • The Litany
  • Psalm 54
  • Adjuration (calling on God’s help)
  • Gospel readings
  • Preparatory prayer
  • First exorcism
  • Prayer for success
  • Second exorcism (commands to the evil spirit)
  • Another prayer for success
  • Third and Final exorcism (similar to second exorcism)
  • Final prayer.

  • By Church law, no priest can perform a formal exorcism until he is fully persuaded of the individual's possession and receives the Church's blessing. Signs of "true possession" include speaking in foreign tongues, ability to predict the future or displaying powers beyond the person's age or natural condition.


    Before beginning an exorcism, a priest usually investigates past cases to help guard him against tricks the demon might try to play.

    The "Roman Ritual" begins with the priest going to confession and Mass and dressing in surplice. The priest starts the actual procedure by making the sign of the cross over the subject, himself and any bystanders, then sprinkles holy water around the room.



    Next, he recites the Litany of the Saints and a selection of psalms, prayers and invocations from the Gospel, interspersing "Hail Marys" and the "Athanasian Creed."

    There are also several formal addresses made directly to the demon, ordering the demon to leave the subject's body with the words "the power of Christ compels you!"

    Throughout the Ritual, the priest frequently makes the sign of the cross and tries to draw the subject into the Ritual.

    The demon is not considered exorcised until it tells the priest its name and its purpose. Once the demon leaves the subject, the subject is warned to guard themselves carefully and abstain from sin, to keep the demon from returning.



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