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Exorcism (from Greek ἐξορκισμός, exorkismos – binding by oath) is the religious or spiritual practice of evicting demons or other spiritual entities from a person or an area they are believed to have possessed.

I’m not sure what to think about exorcism. I’d always believed that possessed people are mentally ill, but I recently read a book that describes the thorough process the Roman Catholic Church follows before agreeing to perform an exorcism. One of those processes is exhaustive testing for mental illness. And being mentally ill wouldn’t explain how so many of these people are suddenly able to speak languages they’ve never known, including dead languages.

While my thoughts on exorcism are conflicted, my thoughts on exorcists are not. These spiritual demon hunters have devoted their lives to the protection of others, and that’s pretty awesome, no matter what your religious beliefs.

I recently read The Devil Hunter, an account of the work of exorcist Dr. Donald Omand. Excited and nervous, I dove in, expecting plenty of spooky accounts of otherworldly possession.

I was disappointed.

The majority of the book was filled with tales of Dr. Omand exorcising a supposedly haunted spot in England, some roads that are prone to car crashes, the Loch Ness monster, and the Bermuda Triangle.

According to Dr. Omand, it’s not only people who can become possessed–landmarks and even monsters like Nessie can fall victim too. I have to admit, the thought of a reverend exorcizing the Loch Ness monster was a bit much for me, and I usually have an open mind.

What do you think? Is exorcism real? Can people or locations (or monsters) really be possessed by demons and evil?

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36 Comments

  1. Susan Scott

    Golly J.H. Well, here goes, I’ll say a few words. We all have demons, and daimons. I guess there is excessive demon possession as well as ‘ordinary’ demon possession. In a psychological sense we all have our demons, addiction, OCD, anorexia or whatever and in a psychological sense they do possess us. I reckon they can be exorcised with tough looking inward e.g. paying attention to one’s dreams – and one may find a daimon therein, a helpful guide. Socrates had his own personal daimon.

    Reply
    • JH

      Good morning, Susan. True enough. That kind of possession I can definitely believe in, although I’m not sure looking inward and paying attention to our dreams can help with all of them.

      Someone who is addicted to heroin, let’s say, may need a little more help. 😉

      Reply
  2. Stephanie Faris

    I’ve never really liked to explore demon possession much. The concept of ghosts fascinates me and I really do believe in that…but when it gets into the darker stuff, I prefer not to know any more than I do. My concept of ghosts is more of the haunting, sentimental type where someone simply is so attached to a place, he/she can’t leave it after death. But demons possessing someone? That’s a whole other kind of darkness!

    Reply
    • JH

      I agree, Stephanie. I think I’ve never believed in it because it’s nicer that way. Also, I do think your religious background plays a roll. The people I know who were raised Catholic–whether or not they still “practice” their religion–are a lot more apt to believe in demons and fear possession. I suspect the same is true for other religions that believe in demons.

      Reply
  3. Haneen Ibrahim

    I really don’t know what to believe when it comes to demons possessing humans anymore, but I totally agree with you on the Loch Ness monster, too ambitious don’t you think?
    “Haneen/I Will Never Give you Up (479)”

    Reply
    • JH

      Too be honest, Haneen, I thought it was ridiculous. The Loch Ness monster isn’t evil. It’s just some kind of animal we haven’t discovered or identified yet.

      Some witnesses or experts believe Nessie could be a plesiosaur, and I’m inclined to agree with them.

      Reply
  4. Frank

    Exorcism is one of those things I want to be real but can’t quite wrap my head around completely. Playing host to a demon means demons exist which makes the world a more fascinating place and leaves open the door to other worlds far more fascinating than our own.

    As for exorcising Nessie….really?

    Reply
    • JH

      Yep, the Bermuda Triangle one got me too. So ridiculous! (I say with all due respect to those who believe.) Those ones I really couldn’t entertain, especially since accidents have continued to happen in the triangle with the same regularity as before. Perhaps the exorcism failed?

      You’re right–if it is real, it definitely means a lot of other creepy things could be real as well. Frightening to think about!

      Reply
  5. C. Lee McKenzie

    I believe possession is a literary gem, but I don’t think there’s any basis for fact.

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, C. Lee. I’m not entirely sure where I stand on this, but I suspect you may be correct.

      Constantine is certainly an excellent story.

      Reply
  6. Patricia Lynne

    I’ve watched a few ghost hunting shows that will talk about it and have a priest on hand. Not sure what I believe about it. Then again, I’m not sure I believe in ghosts. I just like seeing what they find in the shows.

    ~Patricia Lynne aka Patricia Josephine~
    Member of C. Lee’s Muffin Commando Squad
    Story Dam
    Patricia Lynne, Indie Author

    Reply
    • JH

      When they *do* find something. I hate those stupid shows that always end on a big cliffhanger before a commercial, only to reveal afterwards that (once again) nothing happened.

      “Oh my God! What was that?”

      ** cut to commercial **

      “Oh my God! What was that?”

      “Sorry, guys. It was me. I–I might have let one go.”

      “Joe! You’re disrupting the entire investigation!”

      Sigh. Hate those shows.

      Reply
  7. Anne

    I believe in the supernatural but not so much always in organized religion. I’ve had some interesting experiences especially when I did door-to-door ministry with a Christian group and sometimes you would wonder how much is in people’s heads. As others have said, I believe it’s important to stay positive. If not, we can simply feed into the “devils” and encourage “them” (or our own darker sides.) So that’s mostly what I believe now, in part because I do believe in evil and I think we only help it out by looking for it everywhere. (Ie. “demonizing” people.)
    Interesting question though and interesting choice for E!

    Reply
    • JH

      And interesting and thoughtful response, Anne. Welcome to my blog. I hope to see you back here.

      I do think what’s in our heads plays a huge part in it. So far as I know, no atheist or agnostic person has ever been possessed. But maybe they have been, and just didn’t refer to it that way.

      Reply
  8. Samantha Bryant

    I like exorcism in stories…but rather like blood and guts and violence, I like to leave in fiction only, please.

    Reply
    • JH

      Me too. Much more fun to read about than to experience, that’s for sure!

      Reply
  9. Elle

    I’m not a big fan of exocising (or exercising, but that’s another post) but the thought of trying to take the demon out of a monster (ie-Loch Ness) sounds like a wasted effort to me. I like the thought of exorcising a place thought – that has good plot potential.

    Reply
    • JH

      Oh, it wasn’t a wasted effort, Elle. That reverend got publicity like you wouldn’t believe for “exorcising” the Loch Ness monster. It’s his big claim to fame.

      If nothing else, he excels at marketing. 🙂

      I’ll use exercising for my next evil line-up of A to Z posts.

      Reply
  10. Chrys Fey

    I love the movie Constantine! This is a tricky one for me. I’m not sure if I really believe in demons, but I do believe bad energy, spirits, and ghosts can haunt people and places.

    Reply
    • JH

      Me too, Chrys. I think Keanu Reeves did an awesome job in that movie.

      I definitely believe bad events can echo in a place too. Not sure about demons, either. Color me undecided.

      Thanks for commenting!

      Reply
  11. S. L. Hennessy

    I can’t say that I think it’s real, but I like to keep and open mind. And ps. Constantine was my A post! Great choice.

    Good luck with the 2015 A to Z Challenge!
    A to Z Co-Host S. L. Hennessy
    http://pensuasion.blogspot.com

    Reply
    • JH

      Hmm…I’ll have to see how you used him for A, S.L. Obviously great minds think alike. 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by, thanks for co-hosting, and thanks for the luck. I need it!

      Reply
  12. Tarkabarka

    There was a famous case in Hungary a while back when everyone thought a kid was possessed, they showed him raving on TV and everything. The catch? He was yelling in mangled English, except none of his family spoke English. Everyone else clearly heard him yelling “exercise book…” 😀 (or maybe “exorcise”?…)

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    Multicolored Diary – Epics from A to Z
    MopDog – 26 Ways to Die in Medieval Hungary

    Reply
    • JH

      So was there ever a reason for him yelling in English? Did he know English even though his parents didn’t?

      Thanks for commenting and welcome to my blog, Tarkabarka! Hope to see you back here.

      Reply
  13. Kern Windwraith

    I tend to waffle on possession, much as I do on ghosts and hauntings and so on. Some days I’m all “well, I highly doubt that’s likely to be true,” and other days I’m all creeped out because clearly part of me believes. Maybe that’s why I have such a hard time with horror movies. If I fully believed they were entirely fiction, I might not find them so scary. Interesting post. Thank you!

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks Kern, and welcome to my blog! Always great to meet new people through this challenge.

      I feel the same, although I’ve had some experiences with ghosts that have totally opened my mind to what is possible. I tend to be most skeptical when it comes to demons and UFOs.

      Horror is always scariest when you believe just a little.

      Reply
  14. Paul

    The Exorcist is by far my favourite Horror film and is in my top 5 films of all time (never comes out of the top 5 either). That film actually made me want to know more about Exorcism in general and the more fact based stuff behind it. A friend from the States sent me a whole load of Roman Catholic radio programmes with real life “in service”(?) Priest Exorcists. I have listened to a few of them and I really can’t get to grips with the Church in general, but for the most part they are interesting and they do occasionally have some interesting stories to tell.
    If you want the scandal though, you would be better off trying to find the old Art Bell Coast 2 Coast broadcasts with Malachi Martin (hint: there are quite a few on The Internet Archive that you can listen to and download for free).

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks for the tip, Paul! That’s awesome. Always glad to find new resources for stuff.

      I have to admit…and I know this is sacrilege in some circles…I’ve never found The Exorcist scary. Most of the Catholics I know find it terrifying, so I think the fact that I wasn’t raised in the faith might have something to do with it.

      Reply
      • Paul

        I think the very first time I saw The Exorcist was on a bootleg VHS tape (it was banned here in the UK for the longest time) and I found it scary in a very few places. It could have been the atmosphere, Halloween, lights off etc.

        Once the film was released properly at the Cinema and I went with friends to see it, I saw it as more of a comedy and a fun film to watch and laughed more than anything. Obviously I had been desensitised to that kind of thing by then.

        The only thing that still didn’t make sense and didn’t right up until the prequel films was the opening 20 minutes in Iraq. I never understood that part of the film and thought it bloody pointless.

        Reply
        • JH

          Yes, it doesn’t make sense in the film, but the book explains it. I suspect they tried to follow the source material closely, but something integral got left on the cutting room floor.

          Why was it banned in the U.K.? I didn’t know you were from that area, Paul! I have an English story for you tomorrow. 🙂

          It’s too bad that people try to keep kids from watching horror movies. I understand why, but that’s the only time they’re truly scary. As adults, we’re so desensitized, like you say, that we often find them funny. I was the same way with ‘Salem’s Lot. Found it terrifying as a child and ridiculous as an adult.

          Reply
          • Paul

            I was mistaken (not the first time) the film itself wasn’t banned, but the British Board of Film Classification wouldn’t release the film for Home Viewing (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Video_nasty#Other_films_grouped_with_video_nasties)
            That brief piece can explain it quicker and better than I could.

            I was lucky, my mum, let me watch Horror films from a young age and just made sure that I knew that they were just another form of story. Sometimes an Elephant with Big Ears can fly and sometimes a big fella with a knife is going to stalk some teenagers. Obviously there were limits and we respected that.

          • JH

            Three cheers for your mom, Paul! My mom was the same way with books–she never censored what I read, and I’m very grateful for it.

            Thanks for the info! I never knew that the Exorcist was so controversial.

  15. Tui Snider @TuiSnider

    What concerns me with exorcism is when someone is accused of being possessed by the devil when they epilepsy or a mental illness.

    I think a person could convince themself that they were possessed via a sort of nocebo (the opposite of placebo) effect.

    I also think that thought forms are a possibility, as in the Phillip Experiment. Have you heard of that? You’d love it! Essentially, a group of Canadian parapsychologists invented a back story for a ghost, and were then able to create a haunting and experience paranormal activity … all from a ghost that they created themselves!

    So, are demons a real thing?

    I don’t know what the answer is, but as someone who grew up in a haunted house, I do think there is *something* going on.

    Reply
    • JH

      Ooh, you grew up in a haunted house? I DEFINITELY have to interview you for the blog!

      I have heard of the Phillip Experiment. The power of the mind is startling. I don’t think we’ve learned half of what is possible yet.

      Thanks for the comment!

      Reply
  16. Heather M. Gardner

    I believe there are good people and bad people. I believe vibes/energy can be left behind where good/bad things happened. I don’t really need to figure it out more than that.
    🙂

    Heather M. Gardner
    Co-host: Blogging from A to Z April Challenge
    Blog: The Waiting is the Hardest Part [http://hmgardner.blogspot.com/]

    Reply
    • JH

      I believe that too, to a certain extent.

      Reply

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