Demonology: Exorcism Procedures

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"Rituals [of exorcism] vary from a more spiritual laying-on of hands by a clairvoyant exorcist, taking the entity into his or her own body and then expelling it, to the formal procedure outlined in the Catholic Rituale Romanum (Guiley 89)."

In order to fully understand the goals of an exorcism, it becomes crucial that one understand actual procedure. Vincentius von Berg's famous exorcism manual, Enchiridium, supplied a list of tests to determine whether the possessing spirit were good or evil. The spirit was said to be wicked if it: 


(Robbins 182)

Fled at the sign of the cross, holy water, the name of Jesus, etc.
Said anything against the Catholic Faith.
Excited the mind of the possessed to pride, vainglory, despair, etc.
Refused to discuss the possession with a priest.
Appeared with a loathsome or dejected appearance, or departed leaving a stench, noise, frightfulness, or injury.
Approached mildly, but afterward left behind grief, desolation, disturbance of soul and clouds of the mind.


If the exorcist felt confident that the person was truly possessed, the next step was to conduct an exorcism. Therefore, it became imperative that the exorcist determine how the evil spirit entered into the afflicted's body. There were only two ways in which a person can be possessed: the permission of God for the demon to enter the body or a witch's incantations inducing the demons to take possession.

Even if the exorcist suspected the possession was a witch's doing, he was forbidden to question the name of the suspect, for doing so would be obtaining help from the devil. The Sorbonne in 1620 proclaimed that the testimony of demons could never be accepted. Demons always lied, even under the influence of an exorcism.

If after all of these tests, the exorcist believed that the evidence was insufficient to reach a conclusion, he would perform a general exorcism. When the exorcist was finally convinced of an actual possession, he would ask the devil a series of questions. The most important task was naming the demon(s) torturing the victim. In so doing, the exorcist was able to have control over him, according to a primitive animistic theory. In addition, the knowledge of the demons could help in treatment and the exorcist was allowed to specially tailor the exorcism to cure a victim of a particular demon. Other questions included how many devils were possessing the sufferer, how long the devil planned on staying, and how it entered the body. These questions as part of the exorcism occurred between prayers. 

Finally, the practice of exorcisms was not to be taken lightly. Certain safeguards were made, such as the presence of witnesses, especially concerning women demonics, and warning existed to caution the exorcist from saying or doing anything that may provoke obscene thoughts. The exorcist must also be keenly aware that they are placing himself in great danger. He must be prepared to have his entire life bared by the paranormal knowledge of the Devil.


(Guiley 89)

 While no two exorcisms are exactly alike, they tend to unfold in similar stages:

1. The Presence. The exorcist and his assistants become aware of an alien feeling or entity.

2. Pretense. Attempts by the evil spirit to appear and act as the victim, to be seen as one and the same person. The exorcist's first job is to break this Pretense and find out who the demon really is. Naming the demon is the most important first step.

3. Breakpoint. The moment where the demon's Pretense finally collapses, a scene of extreme panic and confusions accompanied by a crescendo of abuse, horrible sights, noises and smells. The demon begins to speak of the possessed victim in the third person instead of as itself.

4. The Voice. Also a sign of the Breakpoint, the Voice is inordinately disturbing and humanly distressing babel. The demon's voices must be silenced for the exorcism to proceed.

5. The Clash. As the Voice dies out, there is a tremendous pressure, both spiritual and physical. The demon has collided with the "will of the Kingdom". The exorcist, locked in battle with the demon, urges the entity to reveal more information about itself as the exorcist's holy will begins to dominate. As mentioned above, there is a direct link between the entity and place, as each spirit wants a place to be. For such spirits, habitation of a living victim is preferable to Hell.

6. Expulsion. In a supreme triumph of God's will, the spirit leaves in the name of Jesus, and the victim is reclaimed. All present feel the Presence dissipating, sometimes with receding noises or voices. The victim may remember the ordeal or may have no idea what has happened. 


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