When The Exorcist (1973) was released there were lines of people outside of movie theaters waiting to purchase tickets. There were also reports of people vomiting and fleeing the theater. Some reports even claim there was an uptick of people rushing to see priests for an exorcism, some even claiming to have become possessed after watching the movie. Why is the idea of possession intriguing? While the idea of possession is not exclusive to the Catholic faith we associate exorcisms with Catholic priest, crosses, holy water, rosaries, levitating young girls – and it always seems to be young girls doesn’t it?
So why the intrigue? I honestly don’t know. I can only think of a few things for you to consider.
- First, it’s a bit frightening this thought of being possessed. In a religious context to be possessed means to be taken over by supernatural forces. There are two thoughts behind possession; you can either be possessed by a spirit – think of a medium being taken over by a ghost (you may have seen this in movies) or demonic possession. The Catholic Church and most religious organizations that believe in possession believe in just one type of possession – the demonic. So why is this scary? Well, to be possessed by demonic forces means that you have no control over your body, and if you have no control over your body then bad things can happen to you or those around you.
- Secondly, and it connects to the first bullet point above, there’s this idea that anyone can become possessed. Some religious thoughts even believe that those people who are possessed were chosen to become possessed even before they were born. Sounds a little wild, but those thoughts are out there.
- Finally, back to the anyone can become possessed idea. In addition to the belief that someone can just wake up one day and be possessed by a demon there is also this belief that anyone can open a gateway that leads them to becoming possessed. What are some ways?
a. Ouija Board – Hollywood loves this device, but yes, there are documented cases of people claiming demonic possession occurred after playing with a Ouija board.
b. Meditation – There are some belief systems that don’t like open meditation because of the whole script that reads ‘Now open your mind to all that’s out there,’ or something along the lines of that type of language. If you’ve done a scripted meditation program then you know what I’m talking about. There’s the idea that by saying that you yourself are open to the universe and all of its possibilities that you are also saying ‘Hey demons, come on in.’
c. Yoga – yes, you all can roll your eyes, but yoga is really connected to the meditation point above. You can do yoga, just don’t say something like ‘I open myself to everything,’ or you’re just letting a big nasty demon in.
d. Witchcraft – my dearest witches do not be mad at me for including you on the list. You are all lovely. I include witchcraft to this list only because of a scenario I was told about. Now witches cast their circles (we can talk more about that later) and they close their circles. So, witches open and close their ceremonies. Witches also call upon spirits to help them with their requests. Well, I was told about one new witch who did not specify in her requests which spirits she wanted to help her in her request and well, she let them all in her house. The last I heard there were doors opening and closing in her house, voices, footsteps late at night, dark shadows and an infestation of bugs that had never been there before.
e. Spiritualism – calling upon the spirits is connected to using a spirit board. When you call upon the spirits you never know what you’re going to get.
I’m no expert in any of the above points. I’m only writing about things that I’ve read or heard about. Regardless of all of this, exorcism continues to be a device that novels and Hollywood keep coming back to, why? Because people are willing to read those stories and watch those movies and television shows. There’s something about seeing someone lose all control, or even ourselves losing all control, that’s frightening. Maybe it’s just easier to blame evil spirits and demons on the horrific things that humans do. Who knows?
Do you have any more thoughts on possession? If so, let us know on Twitter @burialdaybooks