Instructions For Exorcising Evil Spirits
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
If you have not already received a satisfactory answer to the letter signed E. in your magazine for November last, p. 431, you may possibly be inclined to give a place in your miscellany to the following imperfect conjectures and notices.
The vulgar notion that ghosts are laid in the Red Sea, I suspect to have arisen from that passage in the Book of Tobit, where the Evil Spirit is said to fly to the utmost parts of Egypt, and to be bound there ;* coupled with an idea that unclean spirits delight in dry places. f The former naturally led the vulgar to fix the place of banishment in Egypt ; and the latter suggested the opinion, that the Red Sea must be a more painful prison than any the dry land could afford.
Mr. Brand's " Popular Antiquities "$ will furnish E. with a formulary for exorcising an haunted house ; as will " Fuga Satanæ Exorcismus," with another for driving the unclean spirit out of a man. I must apprize him, however, that both these operations are matters of no little difficulty and labour, and require some time before the demon can be dislodged. Thus he will find that the priest is required to visit the haunted house every day for a whole week ; and when he has at last driven the devil out, it is necessary to wash the house with holy water, from the top even to the bottom, and to secure the four corners of it by crosses, etc., lest he should enter again. The proper manner of doing this, he will find at length in Mr. Brand's book.
As the little tract, entitled " Fuga Satanæ Exorcismus "§ will not easily be met with, I shall extract from it a few of the most remarkable directions to the exorcist.
After various passages of Scripture have been read, prayers offered up, and commands delivered to the demon, which occupy seventy pages, the exorcist is instructed to ask the name of the demon, and whether he is one, or more, and to write it on a paper ; but if he will not speak, or shall conceal his name, then the exorcist is to feign one
As Milton expresses it :
" Though with them better pleas'd
for him, and to write it down.—He is likewise directed to ask the cause of the demon's troubling the possessed, and by whose authority he ought to be expelled, that is, by what exorcist, etc.-If, after other questions, and various commands, conveyed in sentences from Holy Writ, the demon continues obstinate, the exorcist is to pronounce a solemn protest, taken from the 30th chapter of Isaiah, at the 12th verse.
All this, however, is supposed not to be sufficient ; for the readings, as before, are continued for fifteen pages more, when the possessed is said to be delivered.
Then follows the mode of burning the instruments of witchcraft, in a fire heightened with sulphur and pitch. These three, in a separate state, are first to be signed with the cross; then the fire is to be blessed, and sprinkled with holy water ; after which the sulphur and pitch are to be cast into it ; and last of all the instruments ; various texts of Scripture being repeated during the operation.
Instructions for suffumigating the possessed are next given ; but the exorcist is told that it is to be exercised with caution, and very rarely, for this most excellent reason, " ne dum infirmis succurrere intendimus, eos graviori morbo afficiamus."—If, however, it is found necessary to be done, the patient is so to be placed with respect to the fire before mentioned, that the smoke may ascend to his nostrils ; and this is to be continued as long as may be deemed expedient, whilst different texts are repeated.
The next rule gives the mode of burning the name and the image of the demon. The first of these operations is so curious, that I have given it at length. Your readers, Mr. Urban, who may have occasion to speak of, or to, the devil, may learn from this document to give him his proper title.
To the figure of the demon is to be added that of the witch employed by him in the witchcraft ; and both are to be cast into the fire together. In making the latter figure, a name must be added ; as " Pytho, Maleficus, Magus, Strigha, vel aliquod simile."
Then follow forms for blessing various things, as victuals, drink, candles, houses, etc. ; after which a cross, or crosses, must be placed in the house.
Another method of driving out a demon is now given : it consists in putting a stole upon the possessed, and tying it about his neck with three knots, in the form of a cross, pronouncing at each knot the name of one of the three persons in the Trinity. This operation is to bind the Old Serpent, and the loosing of the knots will free the patient from his power.
Such, Mr. Urban, are the Popish formularies : I have sought in vain for a Protestant one.
Mr. Selden says, that the Papists account for our having none possessed with devils in England, by affirming that " the Protestants the devil hath already, and the Papists are so holy that he dares not meddle with them."* If this reason ever were assigned, it would serve equally well to account for our possessing no forms for exorcising.
Since the time of Selden, however, matters seem to have altered a little, for we all remember that George Lukins, of Bristol, was, not many years since, possessed by seven devils. He was, I presume, a Dissenter, as the ceremony of exorcising him was conducted by five ministers, who were not of the Established Church. It was owing, doubtless, to the want of a regular formulary. that the exorcism was conducted in such a manner as to tire out even the devils themselves, and to force them to cry out in a plaintive tone, Why do you not adjure ? Yours, etc., R. R.