Possessed: The History of Demonic Possessions

By Joel Garcia

Demonic Possession: the belief that individuals can be possessed by evil beings, commonly referred to as demons or devils.

 Beliefs in spirit possession have remained virtually unchanged since the beginning of civilization and still exist to this day. As long as demonic possessions have been claimed there have been exorcisms. Exorcisms include the use of prayers, commands, fumigations, holy water, hellebore, rue, salt, and roses.  In 2013, the Roman Catholic Church announced that they were training up a new “army “of exorcists to meet the growing demand for experts to rid people of evil spirits.  The Church claims that the rise in requests for exorcism comes from more people dabbling in the ‘dark arts’ with the help of information found on the internet.

The Catholic Church is not the only religious organization that conducts rites to rid a person of demonic possessions. Basically, every religion and culture worldwide has supported the idea of spirit possession and the need for some form of exorcism. In ancient Mesopotamia, it was believed that all forms of sickness came from powerful spirits entering a person’s body and attaching to a person’s body and soul. Ancient Babylonian priests performed rituals by destroying a clay or wax image of a demon.

In Christianity, there are many references to Jesus performing exorcisms, and the ability to cast our evil spirits was a sign of a true disciple. In the Hindu religion, the ancient texts known as the Vedas, which were composed around 1000 BC, refer to evil beings that interfere in the work of Hindu gods and harm the living.

Many scientists believe that so-called demonic possession is simply a form of mental illness, such as hysteria, mania, psychosis, Tourette’s syndrome, schizophrenia or personality disorder.  Sceptics claim that the illusion that exorcism works on people is really just the placebo effect, or put simply, a cure by strongly believing in something.

Beliefs in spirit possession have remained unchanged since the beginning of civilization and still exist to this day.  Whether possession by demonic forces is real or simply the result of psychological issues is still debated.