When you hear the word possession what is the first thought that comes into your mind? Like most of us in the western world the image of an innocent young girl tied to a bedpost while spewing green pea soup as two priests stand over her desperately attempting to expel the violent invading supernatural force that has taken the girl captive.
The above image is one that has been permanently burned into the mind of the psyche of pop culture. In 1973 the film, “The Exorcist”, introduced the world to the terrifying prospect that one of Satan’s minions can worm their way into our lives. Turning your world upside down as it bends you to its will.
Now, what if I told you that the concept of possession as introduced by The Exorcist is all wrong? Furthermore, what if I told you that certain cultures around the world actually seek out, and willingly invite these spirits to come into their body? You may think that such a thing was completely wrong.
I have always maintained the belief that the study of culture and humankind, anthropology, should be an essential part of the paranormal investigators research. You would be surprised how much cultural beliefs play a part in how a person perceives a haunting and what manner of spirit they may or may not be dealing with. Even possession.
The notion of a foreign supernatural entity invading the mind and will of a human is as old as mankind itself. Practically every culture that has called this rock home has stories concerning supernatural beings that can take control of natural man. And that have a special talent in dealing with these beings.
Oftentimes sceptics of spirit possession will claim that possession is nothing more than mental illness. In many cases this is a correct assumption. Certain mental illnesses such as Schizophrenia and Bi-polar disorder feature some pretty powerful hallucination, visual as well as auditory. Perhaps this is why the Catholic Church goes to such great lengths to ensure they are dealing with the demons from hell. Not the demons of the mind.
Over the next few articles I wanted to cover various facets of spirit possession. Anthropological views on possession. The role mental illness plays in spirit possession and revisits a tragic exorcism that changed the way possession and exorcism is approached. As you read, please keep in mind that I am neither a medical doctor, a clergyman nor a demonologist. Just a curious party.