In some religions, an exorcist is a person who is believed to be able to cast out the devil or other demons. A priest, a nun, a monk, a healer, a shaman or other specially prepared or instructed person can be an exorcist. An exorcist is a person who performs the ridding of demons or other supernatural beings who are alleged to have possessed a person, or (sometimes) a building or even an object.
Exorcists in various religions
Since the Council of Trent in 16th century, "Exorcist" was one of the four minor orders in the Roman Catholic Church, received after the tonsure. At the time this order was formally defined and confined exclusively to exorcism of the catechumen in the rite of Baptism, leaving exorcisms of demons to priests; but its role was later expanded. By the twentieth century, the order had become purely ceremonial. As a minor order, Exorcists wore the surplice. The office of Exorcist was not a part of the sacrament of Holy Orders but as a sacramental was instead first conferred on those who had the special charism to perform its duties and later to those studying for the priesthood. Nevertheless, until recent times, Catholic exorcists were both clerical and lay, since every Christian has the power to command demons and drive them out in the name of Christ.
The Exorcist order was suppressed during the reforms of the minor orders after the Second Vatican Council by Paul VI. The rite of conferral continues in societies that use the 1962 form of the Roman Rite, such as the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, or earlier forms, such as the Society of St. Pius V. Some believe that attainment of the position of Acolyte in post-Council practices implies ordination to the minor orders which used to be below it, such as Exorcist and Porter, although this has not been officially defined (although Canon Law section 1009 does specifically state that the only "orders are the episcopate, the priesthood and the diaconate").
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that: "Jesus performed exorcisms and from him the Church has received the power and office of exorcizing". Recently, many dioceses have formally appointed priests to the function of Exorcist as a result of reaffirmation of exorcism as a necessary ritual by Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. Gabriele Amorth is the chief exorcist of the Diocese of Rome, and founder of the International Association of Exorcists.
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Beliefs and practices pertaining to the practice of exorcism are prominently connected with the ancient Dravidians in the south. Of the four Vedas (holy books of the Hindus), the Atharva Veda is said to contain the secrets related to magic and medicine. Many of the rituals described in this book are for casting out demons and evil spirits. These beliefs are particularly strong and practiced in West Bengal, Odisha and southern states like Kerala.
Vaishnava traditions also employ a recitation of names of Lord Narasimha and reading scriptures (notably Bhagavata Purana) aloud. According to Gita Mahatmya of Padma Purana, reading the 3rd, 7th and 8th chapter of Bhagavad Gita and mentally offering the result to departed persons helps them to get released from their ghostly situation. Kirtan, continuous playing of mantras, keeping scriptures and holy pictures of the deities (Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma, Shakti etc. but especially of Narasimha) in the house, burning incense offered during a puja, sprinkling water from holy rivers, and blowing conches used in puja are other effective practices.
- "Exorcist". Catholic Encyclopedia.
- Believe Not Every Spirit: Possession, Mysticism, & Discernment in Early Modern Catholicism. University Of Chicago Press. Retrieved 2007-12-31. "Yet we have seen that Johannes Nider and Heinrich Kramer found nothing wrong with the performance of exorcism by laypeopl, as long as they did not usurp the clerical rite, which included some prayers only a priest could pronounce. Every Christian, Nider reminded his readers, had the power to command demons and drive them out in the name of Christ, but lay exorcists should be extremely careful not to use unknown characters and charms, and should be aware that the only mode to adjure demons is the imperative and never the supplicative."
- Vatican Catechism
- Rajaram Narayan Saletore (1981). Indian witchcraft. Abhinav Publications. p. 40. Retrieved May 14, 2009.
- Werner 1994, p. 166
- Monier-Williams 1974, pp. 25–41