The belief that evil spirits can possess humans has been terrifying people throughout history. Exorcism signifies freeing a place, person, or even object from some form of negative spiritual influence. Beliefs and rituals which could appropriately be labelled exorcism are found in almost all cultures and faith traditions but are encountered most frequently within Christian or Islamic settings. The reality of these exorcisms is very different from the picture presented by Hollywood. These matters are only dealt with by specially trained priests and always with the minimum of publicity.
While many people think of real exorcisms as relics of the past, exorcisms continue to be performed to this date, often on people who are emotionally and mentally disturbed. Whether those undergoing the exorcism are truly possessed by spirits or demons is another matter entirely and exorcisms are done on people of strong religious faith.
According to Father Vincent Lampert, one of the very few exorcists in America, when an exorcism is being performed no one should interject or do anything. He says the things he has seen have left his jaw wide open. That is probably why the history of exorcism is littered with horror stories. And if you thought exorcisms were a thing of the past, guess again- one of the most recent ones:
In Argentina, church officials filmed the exorcism of a 22-year-old woman named Laura by Bishop Manuel Acuna. She screams ‘no, no’ and calls one of the women holding her down a whore. Laura writhes, bangs her head, and screams profanities. The exorcism comes to an end as she suddenly gives a strangled cry and then suddenly closes her eyes and falls backwards exhausted, wiping away tears as the priest once again makes the sign of the cross over her body.
Bishops told people who had gathered at the Lutheran Charismatic Church in Buenos Aries: “The demon exists. He’s not an idea, he’s not a theory, and he’s not something abstract. The devil is a personality and therefore has a strategy. We are talking about something terrifying, a fallen angel.”
In another instance, a 16-year-old from South Africa, Clara Cele, was heard making a pact with the devil and soon began behaving erratically, tearing at her clothes, growling, speaking in tongues, and demonstrating super-human strength. In 1906 and 1907, two priests perform exorcisms on Clara, during which her skin “burned” when touched by holy water and her body levitated before 170 witnesses. But after a “noxious smell” was observed leaving her body, Clara was deemed free of evil.
In Panama last year, officers found a naked woman, machetes, knives, and a ritually sacrificed goat inside a makeshift church. The bodies of seven people have been found in a mass grave in an indigenous area of Panama where members of a religious sect were believed to be performing exorcisms.
Mehandipur Balaji Temple is broadly divided into four sections or chambers. The first two chambers have idols of Lord Hanuman and Lord Bhairav. In the third chamber, men and women would bang their heads on pillars. The sight is enough to give anyone goosebumps! It is believed that this practice is followed every day to ward off multiple evil spirits from the bodies of affected people. Also, no food or water is given to them until the spirits leave their bodies.
Exorcisms, although very rare these days, are still not over. The debate over its ethical nature is still ongoing. We need to understand how dangerous it is and not follow things simply because of past practices.
Visuals by: Rahul Haloi
Article by Pranjit Deka, The North-Eastern Chronicle