Catholic Church has even developped an own ritual for the exorcism. The Roman Rites Register dated 1614 is a classical guide for exorcists that is still applied today. It contains prayers, bible recitations, litanies and formulas of banishment.
Demons as well as angels are invisible for the human eye. But both can assume a shape or slip into the body of an animal or a man. When the demon has taken possession of a man, then it will be spoken of a demonic possession. The expulsion of demons out of a man is called exorcism and is spread throughout all religions. Exorcism belongs to the tasks of shamans and medicine men.
In East-European Judaism the religious master (Zaddik) is responsible for the exorcism of the devil. His main opponent is the Dibbuk, an embracer and a shocker who climbs up from the realm of death to take possession of a human soul. Incense, prayer and blowing a schofar horn will drive him away.
Priests feel as well called upon to the expulsion of the devil because Jesus was considered to have been a great exorcist. Catholic Church has even developped an own ritual for the exorcism. The Roman Rites Register dated 1614 is a classical guide for exorcists that is still applied today. It contains prayers, bible recitations, litanies and formulas of banishment.
How can a possessed be recognized? There exist four different criteria how to reveal the devil:
- The person must understand or speak in a language that is completely unknown to him.
- He must possess the abilities of clairvoyance, mind reading or has to give information about events at a distant locality and
- must dispose of extraordinary physical strength.
- During the interrogation by the exorcist, the demon in the person has to give true information.
The rules in the Roman Rites Book warn the priest explicitely not to exceed his competence. He is not allowed to advice or give any medicine to the possessed. If possible, the exorcism should be carried out at a church, in camera but in presence of relatives. The priest should always carry a crucifix with him and should place relics on breast and head of the possessed. Each catholic priest is allowed to pratice exorcism.
How can a physical or psychic abnormity be distinguished from an obsession? It can be stated by performing a trial exorcism. When the person shows no reaction to it afterwards, he is not possessed. When he falls into a trance, speaks or understands strange languages, develops supernatural powers, is able to clairvoyance and reacts aggressive towards holy objects, so the suspicion is confirmed. The possessed feels the difference between a holy and an unholy rosary. He will rush at it and tear it into pieces. Possibly he reacts also physically and gets blisters.
For the devil/s him/themself/ves possession is a terrible punishment because he/they is/are locked up in the man like in a prison.
But why God let happen the haunting of a man? Possession could be considered a punishment of God or the effect of a curse. Nevertheless, there exist also innocent victims who were attacked “out of the blue”. Catholic Church sees in the possession an educational measure of God. It is considered a pedagogical example of God to demonstrate what a devil can make out of a person. Afterwards the person can repare everything. It is said to be also instructive for the environment when God helps to overcome the possession.
In the year 1973 the famous American movie “The Exorcist” entered the cinemas. The director consulted with Jesuits. His story explains the fear of growing up what plays a major role in most cases of possession. Strange powers have taken possession of the girl Regan and have changed her character. The movie demonstrates this according to classical sample of possession: Regan speaks in a changed pitch, talks in a strange language. Paranormal phenomena appear. She retches green pulp, her facial skin changes. Levitations happen: She herself floats over the bed. Objects fly through the air.
Why this movie has become such a success? Students’ riots in Paris and Berlin, Anti-Vietnam demonstrations, bomb attempts, attacks on ambassies, hijackings, the Watergate affair, Allendes’ fall in Chile: The world threatened to break asunder. In the mirror of the fate of the possessed Regan an entire fatherless generation found itself again who also have to live between those times.