Exorcism (from Greek ἐξορκισμός, exorkismos – binding by oath) is the religious or spiritual practice of purportedly evicting demons or other spiritual entities from a person or an area they are believed to have possessed. Depending on the spiritual beliefs of the exorcist, this may be done by causing the entity to swear an oath, performing an elaborate ritual, or simply by commanding it to depart in the name of a higher power. The practice is ancient and part of the belief system of many cultures and religions.
Requested and performed exorcisms had begun to decline in the United States by the 18th century and occurred rarely until the latter half of the 20th century when the public saw a sharp rise due to the media attention exorcisms were getting. There was “a 50% increase in the number of exorcisms performed between the early 1960s and the mid-1970s”.
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In Christianity, exorcism is the practice of casting out demons. In Christian practice the person performing the exorcism, known as an exorcist, is often a member of the Christian Church, or an individual thought to be graced with special powers or skills. The exorcist may use prayers and religious material, such as set formulas, gestures, symbols, icons, amulets, etc. The exorcist often invokes God, Jesus and/or several different angels and archangels to intervene with the exorcism. A survey of Christian exorcists found that most exorcists believe that any mature Christian can perform an exorcism, not just members of clergy. Christian exorcists most commonly believe the authority given to them by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (the Trinity) is the source of their ability to cast out demons.
In general, people considered to be possessed are not regarded as evil in themselves, nor wholly responsible for their actions, because possession is considered to be unwilling manipulation by a demon resulting in harm to self or others. Therefore, practitioners regard exorcism as more of a cure than a punishment. The mainstream rituals usually take this into account, making sure that there is no violence to the possessed, only that they be tied down if there is potential for violence.
In Catholic Christianity, exorcisms are performed in the name of Jesus Christ. A distinction is made between a formal exorcism, which can only be conducted by a priest during a baptism or with the permission of a Bishop, and "prayers of deliverance" which can be said by anyone.
The Catholic rite for a formal exorcism, called a "Major Exorcism", is given in Section 11 of the Rituale Romanum. The Ritual lists guidelines for conducting an exorcism, and for determining when a formal exorcism is required. Priests are instructed to carefully determine that the nature of the affliction is not actually a psychological or physical illness before proceeding.
In Catholic practice the person performing the exorcism, known as an exorcist, is a consecrated priest. The exorcist recites prayers according to the rubrics of the rite, and may make use of religious materials such as icons and sacramentals. The exorcist invokes God—specifically the Name of Jesus—as well as members of the Church Triumphant and the Archangel Michael to intervene with the exorcism. According to Catholic understanding, several weekly exorcisms over many years are sometimes required to expel a deeply entrenched demon.
In general, possessed persons are not regarded as evil in themselves, nor wholly responsible for their actions. Therefore, practitioners regard exorcism as a cure and not some kind of punishment. The Catholic rite usually take this into account, ensuring that there is no violence to those possessed, only that they be tied down if deemed necessary for their own protection and that of the practitioners.
Beliefs and practices pertaining to the practice of exorcism are prominently connected with Hindus. Of the four Vedas (holy books of the Hindus), the Atharva Veda is said to contain the secrets related to exorcism, magic and alchemy. The basic means of exorcism are the mantra and the yajna used in both Vedic and Tantric traditions. Vaishnava traditions also employ a recitation of names of Narasimha and reading scriptures, notably the Bhagavata Purana aloud.
According to Gita Mahatmya of Padma Purana, reading the 3rd, 7th and 9th 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, Hanuman, Brahma, Shakti, etc.) (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.
A complete description of birth and death and also about the human soul are explained in Katō Upanishad, a part of Yajur Veda. A summary of this is also available as a separate scripture called Kāttakaṃ.
In Islam, exorcism is called ruqya. It is used to repair the damage caused by sihr or black magic. Exorcisms today are part of a wider body of contemporary Islamic alternative medicine called al-Tibb al-Nabawi (Medicine of the Prophet).
Islamic exorcisms consist of the treated person lying down, while a sheikh places a hand on a patient’s head while reciting verses from the Quran, but this is not mandatory. The drinking or sprinkling of holy water (water from the Zamzam Well) may also take place along with applying of clean non-alcohol-based perfumes, called as ittar.
Specific verses from the Quran are recited, which glorify God (e.g. The Throne Verse (Arabic: آية الكرسي Ayatul Kursi)), and invoke God's help. In some cases, the adhan (call for daily prayers) is also read, as this has the effect of repelling non-angelic unseen beings or the jinn.
In more recent times, Rabbi Yehuda Fetaya authored the book Minchat Yahuda, which deals extensively with exorcism, his experience with possessed people, and other subjects of Jewish thought. The book is written in Hebrew and was translated into English.
Rabbi Gershon Winkler of New Mexico explains that the procedure for a Jewish exorcism is intended not only to drive away the possessing force, but to help both the possessor and the possessed in an act of healing. The Jewish exorcism ritual is performed by a rabbi who has mastered practical Kabbalah. Also present is a minyan (a group of ten adult males), who gather in a circle around the possessed person. The group recites Psalm 91 three times, and then the rabbi blows a shofar (a ram's horn).
The shofar is blown in a certain way, with various notes and tones, in effect to "shatter the body" so that the possessing force will be shaken loose. After it has been shaken loose, the rabbi begins to communicate with it and ask it questions such as why it is possessing the body of the possessed. The minyan may pray for it and perform a ceremony for it in order to enable it to feel safe, and so that it can leave the person's body.
Demonic possession is not a valid psychiatric or medical diagnosis recognized by either the DSM-5 or the ICD-10. Those who profess a belief in demonic possession have sometimes ascribed to possession the symptoms associated with physical or mental illnesses, such as hysteria, mania, psychosis, Tourette's syndrome, epilepsy, schizophrenia or dissociative identity disorder.
Additionally, there is a form of monomania called demonomania or demonopathy in which the patient believes that he or she is possessed by one or more demons. The illusion that exorcism works on people experiencing symptoms of possession is attributed by some to placebo effect and the power of suggestion. Some cases suggest that supposedly possessed persons are actually narcissists or are suffering from low self-esteem and act demonically possessed in order to gain attention.
Within the scientific community, the work of psychiatrist M. Scott Peck, a believer in exorcism, generated significant debate and derision. Much was made of his association with (and admiration for) the controversial Malachi Martin, a Roman Catholic priest and a former Jesuit, despite the fact that Peck consistently called Martin a liar and manipulator. Other criticisms leveled against Peck included claims that he had transgressed the boundaries of professional ethics by attempting to persuade his patients to accept Christianity.
Exorcism and mental illness
One scholar has described psychosurgery as "Neurosurgical Exorcisms", with trepanation having been widely used to release demons from the brain. Meanwhile, another scholar has equated psychotherapy with exorcism.
Notable exorcisms and exorcists
- The October 2007 mākutu lifting in the Wellington, New Zealand suburb of Wainuiomata led to a death by drowning of a woman and the hospitalization of a teen. After a long trial, five family members were convicted and sentenced to non-custodial sentences.
- Mother Teresa allegedly underwent an exorcism late in life under the direction of the Archbishop of Calcutta, Henry D'Souza, after he noticed she seemed to be extremely agitated in her sleep and feared she "might be under the attack of the evil one."
- Anneliese Michel was a Catholic woman from Germany who was said to be possessed by six or more demons and subsequently underwent a secret ten-month-long voluntary exorcism in 1975. Two motion pictures, The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Requiem, are loosely based on Anneliese's story. The documentary movie Exorcism of Anneliese Michel  (in Polish, with English subtitles) features the original audio tapes from the exorcism. The two priests and her parents were convicted of negligent manslaughter for failing to call a medical doctor to address her eating disorder as she died weighing only 68 pounds. The case has been labelled a misidentification of mental illness, negligence, abuse, and religious hysteria.
- Bobby Jindal, former governor of Louisiana, wrote an essay in 1994 about his personal experience of performing an exorcism on an intimate friend named "Susan" while in college.
- Michael Taylor in 1974.
- A boy identified as Robbie Mannheim, was the subject of an exorcism in 1949, which became the chief inspiration for The Exorcist, a horror novel and film written by William Peter Blatty, who heard about the case while he was a student in the class of 1950 at Georgetown University. Robbie was taken into the care of Rev. Luther Miles Schulze, the boy's Lutheran pastor, after psychiatric and medical doctors were unable to explain the disturbing events associated with the teen; the minister then referred the boy to Rev. Edward Hughes, who performed the first exorcism on the teen. The subsequent exorcism was partially performed in both Cottage City, Maryland and Bel-Nor, Missouri by Father William S. Bowdern, S.J., Father Raymond Bishop S.J. and a then Jesuit scholastic Fr. Walter Halloran, S.J.
- Salvador Dalí is reputed to have received an exorcism from Italian friar Gabriele Maria Berardi while he was in France in 1947. Dalí created a sculpture of Christ on the cross that he gave the friar in thanks.
- Clara Germana Cele was a South African school girl who claimed to be possessed in 1906.
- Johann Blumhardt performed the exorcism of Gottliebin Dittus over a two-year period in Möttlingen, Germany from 1842–1844. Pastor Blumhardt's parish subsequently experienced growth marked by confession and healing, which he attributed to the successful exorcism.
- George Lukins in 1778.
- In the 2005 Tanacu exorcism case, a mentally ill Romanian nun was killed during an exorcism by priest Daniel Petre Corogeanu.
Exorcism has been a popular subject in fiction, especially horror.
- Manichithrathazhu (1993 Malayalam film by director Fasil Starring Mohanlal, Shobhana and Suresh Gopi)
- Tulasi Dalam (1980 Telugu serial)
- The Dybbuk (1914 play by S. Ansky)
- The Exorcist (1971 novel by William Peter Blatty, adapted into the classic 1973 film, was inspired by the exorcism of Robbie Mannheim)
- Repossessed (1990 comic movie starring Linda Blair and Leslie Nielsen)
- Blue Exorcist (manga written and illustrated by Kazue Kato, then adapted to anime television series by A-1 Pictures during 2011 and adapted into an anime film in December 2012)
- The X-Files (1995 TV series Season 2, Episode 21)
- Days of Our Lives (1995 saw the first ever exorcism performed on a daytime soap opera)
- Marley Davidson (1995 comic book series debut of Marley Davidson, an exorcist in a fictionalized South Bronx)
- Stigmata (1999 film starring Patricia Arquette and Gabriel Bryne)
- Possessed (2000 film inspired by exorcism of Robbie Mannheim)
- Exorcism (2003 film).
- Exorcist: The Beginning (2004 movie) a prequel to the 1973 film The Exorcist.
- Supernatural (2005 television series) features the protagonists Sam and Dean Winchester occasionally performing exorcisms, as demons are one of the most common elements of the show.
- Constantine (2005 movie) is based on the DC/Vertigo comic book Hellblazer.
- The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005 movie) was inspired by the Anneliese Michel case.
- Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist (2005 movie) was an alternate prequel to The Exorcist directed by Paul Schrader.
- A Haunting (2005 Discovery Channel TV series about reportedly true stories, many involving demons and exorcisms.)
- Natsume's Book of Friends (2005 Japanese manga and later anime series by Yuki Midorikawa)
- Requiem (2006 German-language movie by Hans-Christian Schmid) is based on the Anneliese Michel case.
- D.Gray-man (2006 Japanese animation series by Hoshino Katsura)
- Apparitions (2008 BBC TV series)
- Boys Do Cry (2007 Family Guy episode about the town of Quahog trying to exorcise Stewie, forcing the family to leave Rhode Island)
- Penn & Teller: Bullshit! (Showtime TV series) Season 5, Episode 5 – "Exorcism", air date: April 19, 2007. Provides some skeptical commentary on the usefulness and scientific validity of exorcisms.
- Babylon 5: The Lost Tales (2007 direct-to-DVD anthology) has one episode where a worker arrives back on the Babylon 5 space station after a trip to Earth with a biblical demon possessing him, and one of the few remaining priests (religion is waning) is requested to exorcise the demon... a request made by the demon itself!
- 1920 (2008 Bollywood movie)
- True Blood (2008 HBO television series)
- Paranormal State (2008 A&E TV series)
- The Unborn (2009 film)
- Paranormal Activity series (2009–2015)
- The Last Exorcism (2010 American mockumentary horror film)
- Exorcismus (2010 horror film)
- The Rite (2011 film) a young priest named Michael Kovak is sent to a class on exorcism to help bolster his faith and witnesses Father Lucas perform an exorcism. When the girl Father Lucas exorcised dies, Father Lucas himself is possessed by Baal leading to Michael performing an exorcism himself. Michael ultimately manages to successfully exorcise the demon, regaining his faith and becomes an official exorcist afterwards.
- Season of the Witch (2011 film) has the main characters perform an exorcism after learning they are not dealing with a witch as they believed but a young girl possessed by a demon. Most of the men die during the exorcism, including the priest, but a young altar boy is able to finish it and the demon is expelled.
- 6 Days on Earth (2011 film)
- Beyond the Hills (Romanian: După dealuri), a 2012 Romanian drama film directed by Cristian Mungiu, which won Best Screenplay Award (Cannes Film Festival), as well as Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Actress (both Cristina Flutur and Cosmina Stratan). The film is based on two novels written by Tatiana Niculescu Bran, documenting the real event of Tanacu exorcism, in which a young nun died in 2005 after an exorcism ritual in Vaslui County, Romania.
- The Devil Inside (2012 film)
- The Possession (2012 film)
- American Horror Story: Asylum (2012 FX TV series)
- The Conjuring (2013 film)
- This Is The End (2013 film)
- The Last Exorcism Part II (2013 film)
- Twin Star Exorcists (2013 Japanese manga series and later anime adaption in 2016 by Yoshiaki Sukeno
- Pazuzu (2014 film)
- Exorcism (2014 film)
- Penny Dreadful (2014 Showtime TV series)
- "The Exorcism of Molly Hartley" (2015 Film)
- Dark Hour (2016 film)
- Maha Sohona
- Deliverance ministry
- International Association of Exorcists
- List of exorcists
- Yoruba religion
- Gay exorcism
- Jacobs, Louis (1999). "Exorcism". Oxford Reference Online (Oxford University Press). Retrieved 24 Jan 2011.
- Martin, M (1992). Hostage to the Devil: The Possession and Exorcism of Five Contemporary Americans. San Francisco: Harper San Francisco. p. 120.
- Mohr, M. D., & Royal, K. D. (2012). "Investigating the Practice of Christian Exorcism and the Methods Used to Cast out Demons", Journal of Christian Ministry, 4, p. 35. Available at: http://journalofchristianministry.org/article/view/10287/7073.
- Malachi M. (1976) Hostage to the Devil: the possession and exorcism of five living Americans. San Francisco, Harpercollins p. 462 ISBN 0-06-065337-X
- Libreria Editrice Vaticana; Pope John Paul II, eds. (April 28, 2000), "Part II: The Celebration of The Christian Mystery, Section II: The Seven Sacraments of The Church, Chapter IV: Other Liturgical Celebrations", Catechism of the Catholic Church (2ND ed.), Citta del Vaticano: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, p. 928, ISBN 978-1-57455-110-5, retrieved Feb 15, 2012
- THE ROMAN RITUAL Translated by PHILIP T. WELLER, S.T.D.
- http://www.liturgia.it/ritrom.pdf RITUALE ROMANUM
- The Rite by Matt Baglio; Doubleday, New York, 2009.
- An Exorcist Tells His Story by Fr. Gabriele Amorth; Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1999. Anthropological date collected by Mohr and Royal (2012), in which they surveyed nearly 200 Protestant Christian exorcists, revealed stark contrasts to traditional Catholic practices.
- p. 33, An Exorcist Tells His Story by Fr. Gabriele Amorth; Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1999.
- Rajaram Narayan Saletore (1981). Indian witchcraft. Abhinav Publications. p. 40. Retrieved May 14, 2009.
- Usha Srivastava (2011). Encyclopaedia of Indian Medicines (3 Volume Set). Pinnacle Technology. pp. 5–6.
- Werner 1994, p. 166
- Monier-Williams 1974, pp. 25–41
- Holly A. Hunt. Emotional Exorcism: Expelling the Four Psychological Demons That Make Us Backslide. ABC-CLIO. p. 6.
- "Some Asian Muslims Giving Up Western Meds for Islamic Exorcisms & Treatments". 26 September 2011.
- "Belgium court charges six people in deadly exorcism of Muslim woman". Al Arabiya. 14 May 2012. Retrieved 18 July 2016.
- Josephus, "B. J." vii. 6, § 3; Sanh. 65b.
- Belanger, Jeff (November 29, 2003). "Dybbuk – Spiritual Possession and Jewish Folklore". Ghostvillage.com. Retrieved December 12, 2014.
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- Maniam, T. (1987). Exorcism and Psychiatric Illness: Two Case Reports. Medical Journal of Malaysia. 42: 317–19.
- Pfeifer, S. (1994). Belief in demons and exorcism in psychiatric patients in Switzerland. British Journal of Medical Psychology 4 247–58.
- Beyerstein, Barry L. (1995). Dissociative States: Possession and Exorcism. In Gordon Stein (ed.). The Encyclopedia of the Paranormal. Prometheus Books. pp. 544–52. ISBN 1-57392-021-5
- Tajima-Pozo, K., Zambrano-Enriquez, D., de Anta, L., Moron, M., Carrasco, J., Lopez-Ibor, J., & Diaz-Marsa, M. (2011). "Practicing exorcism in schizophrenia". Case Reports.
- Ross, C. A., Schroeder, B. A. & Ness, L. (2013). Dissociation and symptoms of culture-bound syndromes in North America: A preliminary study. Journal of Trauma & Dissociation 14: 224–35.
- Noll, Richard. (2006). The Encyclopedia of Schizophrenia and Other Psychotic Disorders. Facts On File Inc. p. 129. ISBN 0-8160-6405-9
- Levack, Brian P. (1992). Possession and Exorcism. Routledge. p. 5. ISBN 0-8153-1031-5
- Radford, Benjamin. (2005). "Voice of Reason: Exorcisms, Fictional and Fatal". LiveScience. "To the extent that exorcisms "work," it is primarily due to the power of suggestion and the placebo effect."
- Levack, Brian P. (1992). Possession and Exorcism. Routledge. p. 277. ISBN 0-8153-1031-5
- The devil you know, National Catholic Reporter, April 29, 2005, a commentary on Glimpses of the Devil by Richard Woods
- The Patient Is the Exorcist, an interview with M. Scott Peck by Laura Sheahen
- Silverman, W A. "Neurosurgical Exorcism." Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology, 15.2 (2001): 98–99.
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- "Deadly curse verdict: five found guilty". The Dominion Post. 13 June 2009. Retrieved 30 September 2011.
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- Video on YouTube
- "Bizarre exorcism draws suspended prison terms". The Press-Courier. 22 April 1978. Retrieved 26 June 2013.
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- "FLASHBACK: Bobby Jindal's Exorcism Problem".
- Bill Ellis. Raising the Devil: Satanism, New Religions, and the Media. University Press of Kentucky. p. 97.
- Powers of the mind. TV Books. May 1999. ISBN 978-1-57500-028-2. Retrieved 2007-12-31.
The Reverend Luther Miles Schulze, was called in to help and took Mannheim to his home where he could study the phenomenon at close range;
- Paranormal Experiences. Unicorn Books. 2009-06-08. ISBN 978-81-7806-166-5. Retrieved 2007-12-31.
A thirteen-year-old American boy named, Robert Mannheim, started using an...The Reverend Luther Miles Schulze, who was called to look into the matter,...
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- "Blumhardt's Battle: A Conflict With Satan". Thomas E. Lowe, LTD. Retrieved 2009-09-23.
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- Tessa Harris. The Devil's Breath. Kensington Books. p. 349.
- Gabriele Amorth. (1999). An Exorcist Tells His Story. San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
- Barry Beyerstein. (1995). Dissociative States: Possession and Exorcism. In Gordon Stein (ed.). The Encyclopedia of the Paranormal. Prometheus Books. pp. 544–52. ISBN 1-57392-021-5
- Michael W. Cuneo, American Exorcism: Expelling Demons in the Land of Plenty, Doubleday. 2001. ISBN 0-385-50176-5. Sociological account.
- David M. Kiely and Christina McKenna. (2007). The Dark Sacrament : True Stories of Modern-Day Demon Possession and Exorcism. HarperOne. ISBN 0-06-123816-3
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- "Exorcism: Facts and Fiction About Demonic Possession" by Benjamin Radford.
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- Jewish Encyclopedia: Exorcism
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- Exorcism in the Orthodox Church
- The Catholic Prayer of Exorcism in Latin