Mysteries of Demonic possession
Demonic possession is often the term used to describe the control over a human form by a demon. Descriptions of demonic possessions often include: erased memories or personalities, convulsions, “fits” and fainting as if one were dying. Unlike in channeling or other forms of possession, the subject has no control over the possessing entity and so it will persist until forced to leave the victim, usually through a form of exorcism. Other descriptions include access to hidden knowledge and foreign languages, drastic changes in vocal intonation and facial structure, sudden appearance of injury (scratches, bite marks) or lesions, and superhuman strength.
Many cultures and religions contain some concept of demonic possession, but the details vary considerably. The Roma people believe that demons can also possess animals, plants, deceased persons or inanimate objects.
The oldest references to demonic possession are from the Sumerians, who believed that all diseases of the body and mind were caused by "sickness demons" called gidim or gid-dim . The priests who practiced exorcisms in these nations were called ashipu (sorcerer) as opposed to an asu (physician) who applied bandages and salves. Many cuneiform tablets contain prayers to certain gods asking for protection from demons, while others ask the gods to expel the demons that have invaded their bodies.
Most illustrations portray these spirits as small, sadistic-looking or tormented-looking beings with a human likeness. Demons are often referenced as familiars. Witches would provide shelter and nourishment via the witches' teat in exchange for the valuable services of familiars.
Shamanic cultures also believe in demon possession and shamans perform exorcisms too; in these cultures often diseases are attributed to the presence of a vengeful spirit or (loosely termed) demon in the body of the patient. These spirits are more often the spectres of animals or people wronged by the bearer, the exorcism rites usually consisting of respectful offerings or sacrificial offerings.
The Malleus Maleficarum speaks about some exorcisms that can be done in different cases. Depending on the severity of the alleged possession, solutions range from prayers of deliverance to the Solemn Rite of Exorcism as practiced by the Catholic Church.
A person thought to be demonically possessed is said to suffer from a complete behavior takeover by a demonic entity. The entity may dominate the victim so the person becomes the demonic entity.
Christian theology, in the Middle Ages, deemed the concept of demonic possession heretical, so anyone displaying unusual behavior or a strange personality was automatically suspect of being possessed by the Devil. (The Devil or his demons who did the possessing were called the 'energumenus,' and the possessed person was the 'energumen'). In this era people were closer to Christ and God, and therefore more fearful of the Devil. Also, they were more attuned to the belief that there was a constant war being waged between God and the Devil for their souls.
It was thought that there were two ways of becoming possessed by the Devil. Either, the Devil passes directly into the person, or someone, in collaboration with the Devil -- ususally said to be a witch or wizard -- sends a demon into the victim through bewilderment. In this way many medieval unfortunates found themselves in peril because they were old, ugly, or poor. This could very well work the other way too. Many widows lost their homes and property by being declared witches.
In medieval times people generally believed God allowed the Devil to test people with hardships. One basis of this belief is derived from the Biblical story of Job. The Devil or one of his demons with the assistance of a witch were said to lay such difficulities as childhood sickness or seizures -- which presently would be medically diagnoised as epilepsy -- or dead livestock or crop failures on people. Each time such events occurred the general population looked for a witch. Frequently if a witch was not found, an unfortunate person was declared a witch.
Often unfortunate persons having terrible bodily deformities especially of the face, such as the evil eye, were thought by the general population to suffer from the Devil's mark. Such prejudice was similar to the fear and mocking of the Elephant Man in nineteenth-century London.
Here it might be added that a carry over of medieval thought still persists among many Christians, especially the fundamentalists. Although they are firm in their belief of man's sinful nature, they hold God still permits the Devil to try man. Such trials are tests of man's faithfulness to God.
The Catholic Church still defines true signs of possession as displaying superhuman strength, often accompanied by fits and convulsions; changes in personality; having knowledge of the future or other secret information; and being able to understand and converse in languages not previously known to the victim, such as the phenomenon glossolalia.
Early Puritan ministers and later Protestant clergy agreed on the same symptoms for declaring a person demonically possessed. In many incidences there was a complete ignorance of the person's medical condition and behavior.
Included in the list of other signs or symptoms for declaring demonic possession are: the practice of lewd and obscene acts, or even sexual thoughts; horrible smells of bodily ordors or of sulphur, associated with hell; distended stomachs; rapid weight loss where death seems inevitable; changes in the voice to a deep, rasping, menacing, guttural croak. Occasionally there may be signs of automatic writing or levitation.
Many of these signs or symptoms can be explained away by modern medical science. Seizures and convulsions are symptoms of epilepsy. Personality changes can indicate hysteria, or schizophrenia, or other psychological malfunctions. Lewd and obscene acts can indicate mental disorders. Having sexual thoughts, if taken seriously as a sign of demonic possession, would indicate nearly all of the modern population is possessed, especially the men. Distended stomachs can indicate malnutrition and other medical disorders. Also, having knowledge of future events or information is known as clairvoyance by many occultists and Neo-pagan witches which they consider a special spiritual gift. In light of such evidence it seems the term demonic possession is hardly functional anymore.
Such advanced knowledge is the reason why the Catholic Church has cautioned their priests to investigate the medical and psychological aspects of the person before performing the rite of exorcism. At present, the one main basis for declaring a person possessed seems to be a violent revulsion toward sacred objects and texts.
Neo-pagan witches strongly deny any association with the Devil. While some do not believe in the essence of evil and hold that the belief in the Devil is a Christian creation; almost all hold a deep and abiding respect for the free will of all living creatures, and do not believe they should interfer with this freedom of will. This theory of thought is embodied in the Wiccan Rede, which simply states, do what you will, but harm no one.
Although some modern occultists do think some people can become possessed by toying with the supernatural by such devices as the ouija board, few are certain of it. However, many occultists, especially witches, think they have been unjustly blamed throughout history for causing demonic possession.
Real-life case of demon possession documented
Woman levitated, spoke other languages, showed paranormal powers
An American woman who levitated, demonstrated paranormal psychic powers and spoke foreign languages unknown to her was clearly demon possessed, according to a board-certified psychiatrist and associate professor of clinical psychiatry at New York Medical College.
The unnamed woman, with a long history of involvement with Satanic groups, was observed by a team of priests, deacons, several lay assistants, psychiatrists, nuns, some of whom also had medical and psychiatric training, levitating six inches off the ground while objects flew off shelves in the same room, according to Dr. Richard E. Gallagher, who documented the case in the February issue of the New Oxford Review.
"Periodically, in our presence, Julia would go into a trance state of a recurring nature," writes Gallagher. "Mentally troubled individuals often 'dissociate,' but Julia's trances were accompanied by an unusual phenomenon: Out of her mouth would come various threats, taunts and scatological language, phrases like 'Leave her alone, you idiot,' 'She's ours,' 'Leave, you imbecile priest,' or just 'Leave.' The tone of this voice differed markedly from Julia's own, and it varied, sometimes sounding guttural and vaguely masculine, at other points high pitched. Most of her comments during these 'trances,' or at the subsequent exorcisms, displayed a marked contempt for anything religious or sacred."
The subject would have no recollection of speaking these phrases upon recovering from the trance-like state, according to Gallagher.
"Sometimes objects around her would fly off the shelves, the rare phenomenon of psychokinesis known to parapsychologists," reports Gallagher. "Julia was also in possession of knowledge of facts and occurrences beyond any possibility of their natural acquisition.
"She commonly reported information about the relatives, household composition, family deaths and illnesses, etc., of members of our team, without ever having observed or been informed about them," he said. "As an example, she knew the personality and precise manner of death (i.e., the exact type of cancer) of a relative of a team member that no one could conceivably have guessed. She once spoke about the strange behavior of some inexplicably frenzied animals beyond her direct observation: Though residing in another city, she commented, 'So those cats really went berserk last night, didn't they?' the morning after two cats in a team member's house uncharacteristically had violently attacked each other at about 2 a.m."
Julia requested a Roman Catholic exorcism ritual, convinced from the beginning of her consultations that she was under demonic attack.
"The exorcism began on a warm day in June," Gallagher recollects. "Despite the weather, the room where the rite was being conducted grew distinctly cold. Later, however, as the entity in Julia began to spout vitriol and make strange noises, members of the team felt themselves profusely sweating due to a stifling emanation of heat. The participants all said they found the heat unbearable.
"Julia at first had gone into a quiet trance-like state. After the prayers and invocations of the Roman Ritual had been going on for a while, however, multiple voices and sounds came out of her. One set consisted of loud growls and animal-like noises, which seemed to the group impossible for any human to mimic. At one point, the voices spoke in foreign languages, including recognizable Latin and Spanish. (Julia herself only speaks English, as she later verified to us.)
"The voices were noticeably attacking in nature, and often insolent, blasphemous and highly scatological. They cursed and insulted the participants in the crudest way. They were frequently threatening – trying, it appeared, to fight back – 'Leave her alone,' 'Stop, you whores' (to the nuns), 'You'll be sorry,' and the like.
"Julia also exhibited enormous strength. Despite the religious sisters and three others holding her down with all their might, they struggled to restrain her. Remarkably, for about 30 minutes, she actually levitated about half a foot in the air."
The purpose of Gallagher's paper, he says, is to "document a contemporary and clear-cut case of demonic possession." He explains that even those who doubt such a phenomenon exists may find this case "rather persuasive."
"Possession is only one and not the most common type of demonic attack. Possession is very rare, though not as exceedingly so as many imagine," he concludes. "So-called 'oppression,' or 'infestation,' is less rare, though hardly frequent either, and sometimes more difficult to discern accurately."
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