A lot of people stumble across this site and look for hard facts about exorcism , so I added this section which offers informations about the real historical backround. Enjoy reading it!
Exorcism is (1) the act of driving out, or warding off, demons, or evil spirits, from persons, places, or things, which are believed to be possessed or infested by them, or are liable to become victims or instruments of their malice; (2) the means employed for this purpose, especially the solemn and authoritative adjuration of the demon, in the name of God, or any of the higher power in which he is subject. The word itself is not biblical.
– IN ETHNIC RELIGIONS
– AMONG THE JEWS
– EXORCISM IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
(1) Exorcism of the possessed
(2) Baptismal exorcism
(3) Other Exorcisms
What is an Exorcist?
IN ETHNIC RELIGIONS
The use of protective means against the real, or supposed, molestations of evil spirits naturally follows from the belief in their existence, and is, and has been always, a feature of ethnic religions, savage and civilized. In this connection only two of the religions of antiquity, the Egyptian and Babylonian, call for notice; but it is no easy task, even in the case of these two, to isolate what bears strictly on our subject, from the mass of mere magic in which it is embedded. The Egyptians ascribed certain diseases and various other evils to demons, and believed in the efficacy of magical charms and incantations for banishing or dispelling them. The dead more particularly needed to be well fortified with magic in order to be able to accomplish in safely their perilous journey to the. But of exorcism, in the strict sense, there is hardly any trace in the Egyptian records. Babylonian magic was largely bound up with medicine, certain diseases being attributed to some kind of demoniacal possession, and exorcism being considered easiest, if not the only, way of curing them For this purpose certain formula of adjuration were employed, in which some god or goddess, or some group of deities, was invoked to conjure away the evil one and repair the mischief he had caused.
AMONG THE JEWS
There is no instance in the Old Testament of demons being expelled by men. In Tobias 8:3, is the angel who “took the devil and bound him in the desert of upper Egypt”; and the instruction previously given to young Tobias to roast the fish’s heart in the bridal chamber, would seem to have been merely part of the angel’s plan for concealing his own identity. But in extra-canonical Jewish literature there are incantations for exorcising demons, examples of which may be seen in Talmud.
EXORCISM IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
A ssuming the reality of demoniac possession, for which the authority of Christ is pledged, it is to be observed that Jesus appealed to His power over demons as one of the recognised signs of Messiah ship. He cast out demons, he declared, by the finger or spirit of God, not, as his adversaries alleged, by collusion with the prince of demons and that He exercised no mere delegated power, but a personal authority that was properly His own, is clear from the direct and imperative way in which He commands the demon to depart.
Besides exorcism in the strictest sense — i.e. for driving out demons from the possessed — Catholic ritual, following early traditions, has retained various other exorcisms, and these also call for notice here.
(1) Exorcism of the possessed
We have it on the authority of all early writers who refer to the subject at all that in the first centuries not only the clergy, but lay Christians also were able by the power of Christ to deliver demoniacs or energumens, and their success was appealed to by the early Apologists as a strong argument for the Divinity of the Christian. As is clear from testimonies referred to, no magical or superstitious means were employed, but in those early centuries, as in later times, a simple and authoritative adjuration addressed to the demon in the name of God, and more especially in the name of Christ crucified, was the usual form of exorcism. But sometimes in addition to words some symbolic action was employed, such as breathing (insufflatio), or laying of hands on the subject, or making the sign of cross. The present rite of exorcism as given in the Roman Ritual fully agrees with patristic teaching and is a proof of the continuity of Catholic tradition in this matter.
(2) Baptismal exorcism
At an early age the practice was introduced into the Church of exorcising catechumens as a preparation for the Sacrament of Baptism. This did not imply that they were considered to be obsessed, like demoniacs, but merely that they were, in consequence of original sin (and of personal sins in case of adults), subject more or less to the power of the devil, whose “works” or “pomps” they were called upon to renounce, and from whose dominion the grace of baptism was about to deliver them. Exorcism in this connection is a symbolical anticipation of one of the chief effects of the sacrament of regeneration; and since it was used in the case of children who had no personal sins.
(3) Other Exorcisms
According to Catholic belief demons or fallen angels retain their natural power, as intelligent beings, of acting on the material universe, and using material objects and directing material forces for their own wicked ends; and this power, which is in itself limited, and is subject, of course, to the control of Divine providence, is believed to have been allowed a wider scope for its activity in the consequence of the sin of mankind. Hence places and things as well as persons are naturally liable to diabolical infestation, within limits permitted by God, and exorcism in regard to them is nothing more that a prayer to God, in the name of His Church, to restrain this diabolical power supernaturally, and a profession of faith in His willingness to do so on behalf of His servants on earth. The chief things formally exorcised in blessing are water, salt, oil, and these in turn are used in personal exorcisms, and in blessing or consecrating places (e.g. churches) and objects (e.g. altars, sacred vessels, church bells) connected with public worship, or intended for private devotion. Holy water, the sacramental with which the ordinary faithful are most familiar, is a mixture of exorcised water and exorcised salt; and in the prayer of blessing, God is besought to endow these material elements with a supernatural power of protecting those who use them with faith against all the attacks of the devil. This kind of indirect exorcism by means of exorcised objects is an extension of the original idea; but it introduces no new principle, and it has been used in the Church from the earliest ages.
In Christian countries authentic cases of possession sometimes occur and every priest, especially if he be a parish priest, or pastor, is liable to be called upon to perform his duty as exorcist. In doing so, he is to be mindful of the prescriptions of the Roman Ritual and of the laws of provincial or diocesan synods, which for most part require that the bishop should be consulted and his authorization obtained before exorcism is attempted.
What is an Exorcist?
Possession is not lightly to be taken for granted. Each case is to be carefully examined and great caution to be used in distinguishing genuine possession from certain forms of disease.
· The priest who undertakes the office should be himself a holy man, of a blameless life, intelligent, courageous, humble, and he should prepare for the work by special acts of devotion and mortification, particularly by prayer and a fasting.
· He should avoid in the a course of the rite everything that savours of superstition, and should leave the medical aspects of the case to qualified physicians.
· He should admonish the possessed, in so far as the latter is capable, to dispose himself for the exorcism by prayer, fasting, confession, and communion, and while the rite is in progress to excite within himself a lively faith in God’s goodness, and a patient resignation to His holy will.
· The exorcism should take place in the Church or some other sacred place, if convenient; but if on account of sickness or for other legitimate reasons, it takes place in a private house, witnesses (preferably members of the family) should be present: this is specially enjoined, as a measure of precaution, in case the subject is a woman.
· All idle and curious questioning of the demon should be avoided, and the prayers and aspirations should be read with great faith, humility, and fervour, and with a consciousness of power and authority.
· The Blessed Sacrament is not to be brought near the body of the obsessed during exorcism for fear of possible irreverence; but the crucifix, holy water, and, where available, relics of the saints are to be employed.
· If expulsion of the evil spirit is not obtained at once, the rite should be repeated, if need be, several times.
· The exorcist should be vested in surplice, and violet stole.
Summary, taken from the the Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume V
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