What is Possession?

by Martha Jette
(Hamilton, Ontario)

Goya's depiction of a devil.

Goya's depiction of a devil.

The idea of possession whereby a demon takes over a person’s body goes back to ancient Mesopotamia when people believed spirits brought all forms of physical and psychological sickness. Priests in ancient Babylonia served as exorcists who performed a ritual to get the demon out that involved destroying a clay or wax image of a demon signifying the destruction of the attached evil spirit. The priest would offer up prayers and incantations to the gods and challenge the demons within a person.

In ancient Persia, a religious leader called a Zoroaster, performed exorcisms during the 6th century BC with rituals, prayer and holy water. In Jesus day, He was what can be called an exorcist, as he cast out many demons. Acts 19:12. "Jesus rebuked the foul spirit saying unto him, Thou deaf and dumb spirit, I charge thee, come out of him and enter no more into him. And the spirit cried and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead, insomuch that many said, He is dead. But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose."

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus had just come off a boat when a man from the tombs came to him. This man had been bound with chains yet always broke free, showing supernatural strength. Jesus said to this man, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit.” When Jesus asked the man his name, he replied, “My name is Legion; for we are many.”

According to The History & Psychology of Possession, “There are many instances of exorcisms being performed throughout history.” The Roman Catholic Church developed the formal rite of exorcism during the medieval era. “By 1614, the Rituale Romanum was complete” and is still in use today. The site goes on to say: “between 1970 and 1980 the Catholic Church conducted over 600 exorcisms.”

See Part 4 - Possessed by Spirits of the Dead?

Demons A-Z at weird-encyclopedia.com

Video: Exorcism (National Geographic)

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