What is exorcism?
Exorcism is the Christian practice of driving evil spirits or demons out of a person they are believed to have strongly influenced or physically possessed.
The practice of exorcism occurs in non-Christian religions, but it is mostly associated with orthodox Christianity.
What is an exorcist?
An exorcist is a Christian authority figure, frequently a Catholic priest, who has been identified as having unique spiritual gifts, which enable him to perform exorcisms.
The Roman Catholic Church has established an ecclesiastical position for the exorcist, yet non-Roman Catholic Christian ministers may also receive exorcism training through seminary or mentorship training.
Christian ministers who perform exorcisms are given guidelines for assessing when an exorcism is the best course of action. The assessment often involves an examination and interview of the afflicted person. If it is determined the hardship is psychological or physical in nature, exorcism is bypassed in favor of other treatment. Otherwise, an exorcism is planned.
What happens at an exorcism?
Exorcists are also taught how to perform an exorcism, including what prayers to say, what words to say to the afflicted person, and in some cases, what to say to the evil spirit or demons.
Some exorcists incorporate crucifixes and other Christian symbols as well as readings from the Bible. Nearly all exorcists evoke the name of the God of the Bible and Jesus Christ. Some also evoke the names of various saints. Less common are those exorcists who evoke the name of angels to help in an exorcism.
What does exorcism involve?
Exorcism is commonly performed by means of a ritual that often consists of prayer to God, Bible readings, and sometimes conversing with the evil spirit for the purposes of identification in order to utter direct commands to leave the afflicted person.
Rituals vary depending on the exorcist and the person believed to be possessed.
Exorcisms may be considered successful after one session; other exorcisms take countless sessions, sometimes spanning years.
What is believed about the influenced or possessed?
There is significant debate in Christian theology concerning the extent to which a Christian can be influenced or possessed by an evil spirit.
The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit indwells believers, which some understand to create a barrier that evil spirits cannot penetrate to the degree of possession.
Others suggest that through behavior such as habitual sin or occult activity, evil spirits may possess a believer.
Exorcism in other non-Christian religions
The idea of expelling evil spirits from a person is found in most major world religions. Hinduism refers to using mantras for exorcism. In Islam exorcisms are the means by which people are healed from the damage evil spirits have done. Judaism also includes the practice of exorcism. Christianity’s teaching about exorcism is the most comprehensive and systematic treatment of exorcism among the world’s major religions.