Exorcism is the expulsion of spirits believed to be possessing a human being or disturbing a place that humans frequent. Exorcisms range from friendly, persuasive conversations to elaborate Rituals commanding the entity to leave in the name of God or a god.
The word exorcism comes from the Greek exorkizein, meaning oath, and translates as adjuro, or “adjure,” in Latin and English. To “exorcise” does not mean to cast out so much as it means “putting the spirit or Demon on oath,” or invoking a higher authority to compel the entity to act in a way contrary to its wishes. Exorcisms of spirits, Demons, ghosts, poltergeists, elementals, and unwanted or negative spirits, energies, or thought -forms are commonplace around the world. Traditionally, they are performed by qualified persons of religious or magical skill. Magical grimoires contain instructions for exorcism rituals.
Literature of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn provides information for performing exorcisms. In a record of a personal experience, Frater Sub Spe said that he concluded that he and his wife were possessed by a vampirizing elemental after his wife’s bout of infl uenza left both of them in a state of inexplicable exhaustion. Frater Sub Spe at first thought to consult a fellow adept , but during a state of intense concentration he was instructed by a nonphysical guide to perform the exorcism himself with the guide’s instructions. A vision of a stately man in black magical robes appeared and responded to the secret Golden Dawn salutes given him by Frater Sub Spe. The magician merged with the body of Frater Sub Spe, taking possession of it and giving instructions via words and impressions.
Frater Sub Spe was told to do the following: Turn down the gas; burn incense; trace an invoking pentagram of Fire toward the East; trace the sigil of Leo in the center of the pentagram; vibrate the name of Power “Adni ha Aretz”; return the coal to the fire; and face East and make the qabalistic cross; and trace an invoking Pentagram of Earth.
Frater Sub Spe did as instructed, and at the end of the ritual he ordered the possessing spirit to appear before him:
As I did so a vague blot, like a scrap of London fog, materialized before me. At the same time I sensed my guide, standing close to my right hand, raising his hand in the attitude of the 1=10 sign [a grade of the Golden Dawn]. I felt him (my guide) mentally order me to command the appearance of the obsessing entity, using the Names JHVH, ADNI, AGLA, AHIH. I did so and the mist thickened and formed a kind of nucleus. My guide then instructed me, “Use the Name of the Lord Jesus.” I did so, commanding in that name a fuller manifestation. I saw, at first dimly, as “in a glass darkly,” and then with complete clarity, a most foul shape, between a bloated big-bellied toad and a malicious ape. My guide spoke to me in an audible voice, saying Now smite it with all your force, using the “Name of the Lord Jesus.” I did so gathering all the force I possessed into, as it were, a glowing ball of electric fire and then projecting it like a lightning flash upon the foul image before me.
There was a slight feeling of shock, a foul smell, a momentary dimness, and then the thing was gone; simultaneously my Guide disappeared. The effect of this experience upon me was to create a great tension of nerves and a disposition to start at almost anything. Afterwards, when going upstairs, I saw floating balls of fire; this may have been hallucination.
Both my wife and myself rapidly recovered our full health. Afterwards, a message came to me that “the unclean spirit is gone out, but it remains to purge away his traces from the house of life.”
The Christian church has formal exorcism rites for expelling Demons, such as the Catholic Rituale Romanum. Protestant rites also are performed. In June 2005 an exorcism ritual was taken to an extreme in Tanacu, Romania, when a 23-year-old nun died during a Russian Orthodox exorcism at the Holy Trinity monastery. A schizophrenic, the nun’s behavior convinced her sister nuns that she was possessed by the devil. Father Daniel ordered the nun to be chained to a cross in a mock crucifixion. Her mouth was stuffed with a towel. Denied food and water, she was found dead after three days of hanging on the cross. Father Daniel and several nuns were arrested on murder charges.
A Jewish exorcism ritual concerns the dybbuk, an evil spirit or doomed soul that enters the body of a person, latches onto the victim’s soul, and causes mental illness and a personality change. The exorcism ritual calls for expelling the dybbuk through the victim’s small toe and either redeeming it or sending it to hell. Pamphlets describing famous cases once were published; the last appeared in 1904 in Jerusalem.
Modern versions of the dybbuk are found in the treatments of personality and mental disorders. Dr. Carl Wickland, American physician and psychologist (1861–1945), and his wife, Anna, believed that possessing spirits were the dead who were not evil but trapped on the Earth plane and confused. The Wicklands said that the possessing dead caused multiple and dissociated personalities, and insanity. The practice of “spirit releasement,” a modern definition of exorcism, continues the Wicklands’ work with applications for the stresses and setbacks of daily life.