World Religions

How is an exorcism performed?
Answered by Animal Planet
  • Animal Planet

    Animal Planet

  1. The first exorcisms may date as far back as ancient times, when shamanists believed a body could become possessed by harmful spirits that had to be expelled. Ancient Babylonian and Egyptian cultures contained many afflictions and illnesses that were blamed on evil spirits. Priest-healers would be brought in to perform elaborate ceremonies believed to drive these harmful spirits out of the possessed body. The official exorcism rite of the Roman Catholic Church is largely composed of prayers, appeals and statements. The exorcist, dressed in a purple stole and surplice, prays for God's help in freeing the subject from demonic possession. The priest also commands the devil to leave the body of the subject. During the recitations, the priest will also sprinkle holy water on whoever's in the room, and grab the possessed subject and touch him or her with a Catholic relic.

    One unofficial exorcist, a former Jesuit priest by the name of Malachi Martin, divides the exorcism ritual into four parts. The "pretense" stage is when the devil hasn't revealed itself. The "breakpoint" occurs when the evil spirit makes itself known. In the "clash" stage, exorcist and devil battle for the possessed person's soul. If the exorcist emerges victorious, the "expulsion" phase results in the devil leaving the possessed subject's body. Martin's version of the exorcism rite has never been confirmed by the church.

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