ByAntonio Ferme, writer at
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Antonio Ferme

Exorcisms have become an essential part of the horror genre as so many movies use the belief that demons exist and have the ability to possess people. Interestingly, exorcisms aren't just a fiction created by Hollywood, but one of the most widely-held religious beliefs in the world. Upwards of 60 percent of US citizens believe in demonic possession and that number is only growing.

The concept of exorcisms have really intrigued people as there have been many real life cases where a person is possessed by spirits of the dead use their bodies to communicate. While many people associate exorcisms with the Dark Ages and view them as a religious belief of the past, they are still performed today on mentally disturbed people.

Incarnate, a movie that revolves around exorcisms, is possessing theaters on December 2 and it appears to be an absolutely thrilling film (watch the trailer above). The horror flick follows an exorcist, played Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Knight), who taps into the subconscious mind of a bedeviled boy, played by David Mazouz (Gotham), who's possessed by a demon. In the spirit of the upcoming thriller, let's take a closer look at what exactly an exorcism is and what happens to the body before, during, and after the process.

The History Of Exorcism

The obsession with exorcisms haven't just risen to the surface in these past couple of decades; their history goes back thousands of years. Believe it or not, exorcisms also aren't just a part of the Catholic culture but nearly every religion on Earth has the concept of possession — which is a vital detail towards the argument that exorcisms are indeed real. From the Babylonians to the Asian cultures of China, Taiwan, Korea and Japan, to the isolated Native Americans who used sand painting to expel unhealthy spirits from the human body, the concept of exorcism has taken many forms.

Obviously, with so many different cultural beliefs, it is arduous to narrow down specifically what an exorcism is considering there is little to no science behind the idea. However, that doesn't take anything away since science is our understanding of the world around us and it seems spiritual understandings on a scientific level won't be discovered in any of our lifetimes. For this article, we can narrow our focus to the Christianity practice of excreting demons from a person since it is the most well-known — and beloved by Hollywood — method. Shockingly, there have been many exorcisms performed by priests throughout history.

Exorcism is used in the Roman Catholic faith to cure those who are believed to be possessed by a demon. The practice of excreting demons out of human bodies goes all the way back to the 15th century. It was believed that any Christian had the power to perform exorcisms. Therefore, the exorcists were generally performed by normal, unexperienced Christians. All they had to know was the Benedictine formula, where the exorcist would repeatedly yell "Vade retro satana" to the victim being possessed, which translates in English to "Step back, Satan."

Centuries passed and there were hardly any cases of possessions. By the 1960s, there was a very infrequent amount of exorcisms being performed. Despite the infrequency of cases, the incidents that did occur were being brought to the surface for the very first time in centuries and the idea of demons possessing people scared yet intrigued many Christians and non-Christians around the world.

In the mid-1970s, with the amount of exorcist cases seemingly skyrocketing and the sudden interest of exorcisms in popular film and literature, exorcisms instantly became a huge part of pop culture in the United States. Thousands of incidents popped up and maverick priests and exorcists realized all of the advantages of executing these cases and began performing them. Some of these exorcists even began making a profit off these cases and all of them were done without the authority of the Roman Catholic Church, who were not happy about this. It wasn't until 2014 where an organization known as the International Association of Exorcists received the approval of the Vatican.

Recently, exorcisms have been thriving in the United States, according to experts. The Roman Catholic Church remains extremely cautious in approving these procedures. In fact, most exorcisms performed today are by a variety of protestant and Catholic religions.

J. Gordon Melton, a Methodist minister (ABC News)

What Are The Causes Of Possession And What Happens To The Body?

Exorcisms are still performed today on mentally disturbed people all around the world. Many people do not believe that those undergoing an exorcism are truly possessed by spirits but simply mentally disquieted. Whether or not demons possessing humans is a reality or not, exorcisms are a real-life procedure.

According to the Christian belief, there are different types of demons that have various reasons for seizing a person. There are many signs that could indicate if a person is possessed by an evil spirit, such as:

  • A cold feeling in the room
  • Supernatural strength
  • The victim could enter a violent rage, lashing out at others
  • Change in voice or face/body
  • Biting/scratching their skin
  • Speaking another language that the victim was not familiar with before
  • Throwing objects
  • Refuses to enter a church, speaking the name of Jesus, or hearing a scripture
  • Levitation of objects or of victim's body
  • Knowledge of things that are kept distant/predicting future events
  • Aversion to holy water
  • Spitting, cursing, and excessive masturbation

To perform an exorcism, there is a very specific procedure the exorcist must follow. First, it is vital that the exorcist and the victim's family isolate the victim and confine them so that they do not harm themselves or any person present. As seen in film and other popular media, the victim is usually restricted inside their bedroom and placed on their bed. The exorcist or the Catholic priest will meet the possessed victim's family, sit them down, and talk to them, asking them about any unusual signs they have picked up on and telling them what is about to happen.

Read up on exorcism:

The Catholic Priest will enter the room of the possessed person and inspect the victim. The exorcist will then bless the person with blessed water to commemorate the purification received during Baptism and proceed to recite certain Catholic prayers such as the Our Father, Hail Mary, and the Athanasian Creed.

After this, the priest will torment the sufferer with a crucifix and by this point, the demon tries to interrupt the exorcist and expresses his anger. Believe it or not, rage is quite uncommon like seen in movies such as The Exorcist. If the evil spirit reveals itself to the priest, he will continue to ask a series of questions with the goal of freeing a person.

What Happens To The Body After An Exorcism?

An exorcism can last a couple of minutes and be successful on extracting the evil demon on the first time. However, not all exorcisms are successful the first time as it could take hours, days, weeks, or months of constant prayer and exorcisms. It is possible that the exorcised person could experience healing in between exorcisms.

It is common for exorcisms to be conducted several times on a single victim to the point until the victim is freed of the evil spirits. When they are freed, the victim will usually not have any memory of their possession or in some cases, remember it very minimally. Other cases have shown the victim remembering more of what happened over time. History has also shown that the victim may not be one hundred percent cured until they pass away and become a spirit themselves.

Have demonic possessions and exorcisms caught your attention now? Luckily for you, Incarnate is being released in theaters very soon. The trailers for the movie look very promising and I would definitely recommend that we all check out the film on December 2, 2016.

What do you guys think about exorcisms? Do you believe in demonic possession? Tell me below!

Sources: Wikipedia,, ABC News, LiveScience


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