Originally published 6 July 2012. © Torey B. Scott
I was asked by a dear friend what my thoughts were concerning the concept of Demonic Possession. Of course, being a Satanist, my perceptions tend to diverge from many commonly-accepted “facts” pertaining to spirit possession. Regardless of perspective, the truth is that Demonic Possession, for nearly everyone who dabbles in magick or the paranormal, is perhaps the most feared and dreaded consequence imaginable. Additionally, it is believed that one of the most at-risk demographics amongst those who seek the Unseen is that of paranormal investigators and Ghost Hunters.
Q: What is a “Demon”?
A: This depends entirely on the perspective of the individual. The term “demon” has been corrupted over the centuries. The term was originally applied to entities which influenced the lives of human beings for good or for evil. Many cultures and world religions document the existence of such spirits – spirits which, by most accounts, were regarded as guardians, teachers, messengers and even protectors. Likewise, most world cultures and religions documented accounts of “evil spirits” – however, “demons” became synonymous with “evil spirits” with the advent of Abrahamic religion, namely Christianity and erroneous interpretations of the translated Hebrew Bible having been influenced by accounts of evil spirits within ancient Semitic traditions. The Christian Medieval Era facilitated and cemented the sensational concept of Demons as the evil beings They are still believed to be by many even today.
After the death of Christ, most notably from the 12th Century to the 19th Century, some Christian and occult scholars began to document and categorise mythological “demons” into hierarchies, developing various magickal techniques by which these entities could supposedly be controlled or destroyed. Accounts of these entities and the practices by which magicians could enslave them were archived in tomes known as Grimoires.
Modern Neo-Pagans may note that many of these so-called evil spirits are actually pre-Christian deities. Gods and goddesses such as Nergal, Ereshkigal, Shiva, Astarte, Persephone and Hades have all been described as “demons” and categorised as such. Of course, most Neo-Pagans are well aware that these deities are not evil spirits at all, but such was the mindset of pseudo-Christian occult authors responsible for many of the famous Grimoires. In addition to known pre-Christian deities, the Grimoire scholars also included the names of various entities from world cultures and religions such as that of the Babylonians, ancient Semitic cultures, Islam, ancient Greece and Rome, the Egyptians and others and classified them as demons. Even with this context, many people still fear these entities.
Q: What is the difference between a Demon and a “negative entity”?
For those who are familiar with the occult, the concept of a “negative entity” should be relatively well-understood. To the Satanist or the Demonolator, the difference between a “Demon” and a “negative entity” is a matter of terminology. Demons, within most theistic Satanic and Demonolatry traditions, are Divine Beings. Most Demonolators accept the original positive connotations of the term “daimon” and equate these with the entities described within the Grimoires. Thus, for example, the Demon known as Agares within the Lesser Key of Solomon is considered to be a good spirit – a god. Many Demonolators believe that the historical tradition of equating Demons with evil was a deliberate attempt on the part of Christians to vilify pagan deities – a theory not without merit. To Demonolators and most Theistic Satanists, Demons are gods and mentors – something wholly different to “negative entities”.
There are many forms of “negative entities”. When we use this term, we are referring to entities or energies which either deliberately or inadvertently cause distress or harm to another being. A “negative entity” is not necessarily wholly malevolent, though we may perceive its actions or motivations to be harmful. Such entities and energies may include, but are not limited to:
- Astral “Nasties” – entities which are spawned and reside within the Astral Realm, capable of latching onto the Astral Body of another being. Auric Leeches – entities or thoughtforms, natural or created, which feed upon the auras or spiritual/life forces of other beings. Otherworld Parasites – entities which are spawned and reside within the various divisions of the Otherworlds, diverse in form and function, which have the capacity (though rare) to attach themselves to the Spiritual Body of the traveller and/or manipulate the energetic link to the physical body as a means of possessing the individual. Vampiric Servitors – thoughtforms created via either deliberate magickal action or intense emotional/psychic projection whose function is to feed upon the vital or emotional energies of another being. Sentient Poltergeists and Imps – spiritual entities residing between Planes which create malicious mischief and discord, often attached to specific individuals and families. Projected Poltergeists – paranormal anomalies inadvertently created and projected by human beings, usually unbeknownst to the creator and which often mimic the behaviours of Sentient Poltergeists. Household and Land Spirits – sentient entities attached to a particular home or location. Residual Hauntings – psychic impressions left behind upon a specific structure or location, usually the result of a traumatic event. Ghosts/Earthbound Spirits – sentient spiritual beings bound to the earthly Plane, sometimes (rarely) seeking to possess the physical bodies of other beings; are usually confused or melancholic. Gremlins – earthbound spirits which delight in mischief, especially pertaining to mechanical devices. Soul Parts – detached portions of animal, plant or human souls which are capable of attaching themselves to the souls or spiritual bodies of other beings.
Additionally, there are instances in which deities, angels, animal totem spirits and other beings which are more commonly perceived to be benevolent take possession of the physical body of a living creature for a variety of reasons.
Q: What is possession?
A: Possession most often refers to the act of an external entity (spiritual) entering the physical body of another being. While spirit possession is most often regarded with fear and negativity, some religions and cultures practice a deliberate and willing form of possession, commonly referred to as “ritual possession”. Most Wiccans familiar with the concept of Drawing Down the Moon will already be familiar with this practice. In ritual possession, the priest/priestess/magician willingly invites an external spiritual entity into his or her physical body for the purpose of magickal workings or Shamanic rites.
However, most people are more familiar with the Hollywood depictions of “Demonic possession” in which a “demon” invades the body an innocent (usually female) person in monstrous contortions, speaking with an Otherworldly voice (often using profanities or blaspheming the Christian God and Christ). To the rescue is usually the seasoned Catholic priest who performs an exorcism and expels the “demon” from the body of its victim. The reality of the manner and frequency of such possessions is debatable.
It has been posited that many historical accounts of Demonic possession were more likely due to the alleged victim(s) suffering from some form of mental illness such as Schizophrenia or Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder). It has even been suggested that Biblical accounts of Demonic possessions were quite possibly the result of a lack of understanding of neurological conditions such as epileptic seizures or brain injuries, both of which can produce symptoms similar to those found within alleged cases of true possessions. However there have been and continue to be instances of “spirit possession” which cannot be readily explained by science and medicine. Many modern practitioners of Neo-Pagan and occult traditions agree – spirit possession can and does occur.
Q: What is an exorcism?
A: According to Catholic tradition, an exorcism is a rite in which prayer is used as a tool to banish or repel negative entities from a person. Most often, however, these entities are referred to within Catholic tradition as “demons” or “Satan” – to a Theistic Satanist or Demonolator this is not the case. Nonetheless, the Catholic Church has maintained a reputation as the foremost authority concerning so-called Demonic Possessions.
There are, of course, many rites non-specific to Catholicism which are designed to deliver the possessed from the oppression of the responsible entity or entities. For instance many Neo-Pagans and practitioners of New Age paths serve as consulting authorities in suspected cases of spirit possession and are, at times, responsible for clearing homes and individuals of negative entities. Today, the term “exorcism” generally refers to the expulsion or banishment of a negative entity from a home or an individual.
Q: If I visit a haunted location, can I be followed or even possessed by a Demon?
A: Again, I will use the term “negative entity” in place of “Demon” as I do not believe that Demons are responsible for random possessions and hauntings. But the answer to the question is ‘yes’, it is possible (though uncommon) to be followed home by a negative entity or to become the victim of an attachment. It is unlikely that individuals who have taken measures to protect themselves both spiritually and physically will be as open to attachments and possessions as would someone who has no experience in the occult.
Q: What kinds of precautions should I take to ensure that I am protected from negative entities?
A: There are a great number of things that you can do to protect yourself from external entities. One of the most important things that you can do is to be sure that you are physically well and mentally and emotionally stable before undertaking a Ghost Hunt or travelling to a location that is alleged to be haunted. As within Nature, predatory entities will prey upon the weak and the vulnerable. Being physically well ensures that your body is in prime condition to withstand any potential spiritual, energetic or physical attack by an external entity. Being mentally well ensures that you have the presence of mind and the soundness of emotion to cope with energetically-charged environments in which external entities often accumulate.
In addition to these measures, it is wise to carry a ‘Spiritual First Aid Kit’ with you when exploring areas which are potentially haunted or excessively charged energetically. A Spiritual First Aid Kit may consist of anything you feel to be protective. An example of a Spiritual First Aid Kit may be a small pouch or a larger bag or purse filled with items such as:
- ~various coloured candles and matches ~protective herbs such as Sage or smudge sticks ~incenses attributed to protection, exorcism or healing (e.g. – Asafoetida, Dragon’s Blood, etc.) ~an athame or similar ritual blade used for directing energy ~aspergillum, blessed water and oils for spiritual cleansing ~ink and paper for on-the-spot creation of amulets and talismans ~brick dust for creating protective boundaries
It is a good idea to research any items which you may find to be beneficial for protection, exorcism, cleansing and healing and include them in your Spiritual First Aid Kit before entering an area known or suspected to be haunted. Additionally, before entering such a space, it is wise to prepare yourself ritually (if you are so inclined) by immersing yourself within a cleansing ritual bath followed by a self-smudging with a cleansing and protective herb or incense. Some people choose to wear amulets consisting of special symbols attributed to protection before participating in a Ghost Hunt; you may also choose to physically draw protective symbols upon your body with a smudge-proof marker before embarking upon such an endeavour.
For those more religiously inclined, it may also be a good idea to consult with any Spirits or Deities with whom you are aligned in order to attain Their protection. Many Neo-Pagans assume that they are automatically protected from anything “bad” because they so happen to have a Patron or Matron Deity; this is not always the case, however. It is always advisable to ensure that you keep an open line of communication between yourself and the Spirits with whom you work. Many Mediums have Spirits known as “Gatekeepers” which can serve as guardians and discerners of other entities; such relationships are possible for non-Mediums who seek protection and aid in discernment from external sources. An example of this form of protective entity is that of the Familiar Spirit, an entity which serves the witch or magician within a magickal context. It is important to understand that a Familiar is not the same as the “familiar” that many new to Neo-Paganism, especially Wicca, have come to understand a beloved animal to be. While it is true that some Familiar Spirits can assume the form of a cat or a dog, it is quite rare. Most Familiars are generally non-corporeal in nature and may be attained through special arrangements with Deities or Demonic beings.
Q: I think I might be possessed! What do I do now?
A: Many people make the assumption that they or someone whom they know is “possessed” or otherwise being harassed by a negative entity when they begin to notice strokes of bad luck, sudden illnesses, depression or other coincidences surrounding them which cannot otherwise be explained. It must be understood that while true possession and spiritual attack can and does happen, it is exceedingly rare on a major scale. More common are energetic attachments, unbalanced chakras and auric leaks which can cause many of the same “symptoms” as true possessions or spiritual attacks. Additionally, the presence of intense fear can greatly influence the perceptions of the individual and can even result in temporary delusions, paranoia and psychotic symptoms.
It is important to always assess the “symptoms” carefully before jumping to the conclusion that you or have been or anyone else has been possessed, spiritually attacked or even cursed. Even the Catholic Church requires its formal exorcists to be fully trained in recognising and assessing the symptoms of mental illness, epilepsy and attention-seeking behaviour. According to Catholic tradition, true possession can often manifest in the form of the afflicted person:
- ~speaking in foreign languages of which they have no former understanding ~sudden personality changes not otherwise explainable by mental illness, stress or physical disease and injury ~blaspheming the Christian God, Jesus Christ and the Saints ~unexplainable displays of super-human physical strength or feats
However, even these criteria are questionable as many mental illnesses also manifest in similar manners. The truth is that there is no fool-proof way to diagnose true possession with one hundred percent certainty. There are a series of questions which should be asked when considering the possibility of a true possession. These questions are designed to ensure that the afflicted individual has been evaluated for the presence of any medical condition which would mimic the classical symptoms of possession and that said condition or conditions has been ruled out.
14 Questions for Evaluating the Symptoms of Possession:
- 1. Does the individual have a personal or family history of mental illness, especially psychotic conditions such as Schizophrenia? 2. Does the individual have a personal history of any of the Autism Spectrum Disorders? 3. What is the present physical condition of the individual? (At this point, the individual should be evaluated visually for any obvious signs of infection, injury or disease.) 4. Has the individual recently experienced any major or traumatic events (i.e. – death of a close friend or relative, loss of a job or relationship, etc.) within his or her life that have affected him or her profoundly? 5. Could it be said that the individual, before the onset of symptoms, was a rational and level-headed person? 6. Does the individual have a personal history of attention-seeking behaviour? 7. Does the individual have a personal history of illegal substance and/or alcohol abuse? 8. When did the symptoms manifest and what was the emotional and physical environment which the individual was exposed to like at the time? 9. Does the individual have knowledge and/or practice of the Occult? 10. Does the individual know others with knowledge and/or practice of the Occult and what were/are this individual’s relationship(s) with said others? Are said relationships ongoing? 11. Has the individual recently travelled to areas known or suspected to be haunted? 12. Has the individual recently attained any object of significance (i.e. – inherited jewellery, flea market items, stolen items, artefacts, souvenirs, etc.) and from where did he or she acquire it? 13. Has the individual been evaluated by a mental health professional? 14. Has the individual been evaluated by a licensed medical practitioner?
If, after significant medical and psychological evaluation, the individual continues to display the symptoms of possession, the approach can become rather complex. Depending upon the religious convictions of the afflicted person, proceeding to “exorcise” the negative entity without the aid of a Christian pastoral official may not be recommended if, for instance, the individual is Catholic. Interestingly, most cases of alleged possession are specific to individuals of a Catholic background. Why this is, is speculative. It has been suggested that many of these “possessions” are manifestations of some form of psychosis which draws upon the religious convictions of the individual in question.
In the case of a suspected possession which involves an individual of Catholic persuasion, it is perhaps beneficial to both the individual themselves and their family to contact Catholic officials from within the individual’s local community. Besides respecting the religious convictions of the individual and their family, it must be understood that either the afflicted individual or the family of the individual should be open to receiving aid at least in some regard. As you may or may not already know, many Christians are reluctant to accept spiritual aid from others not of their own religion. This is not to say that healing and cleansing work can only be carried out upon non-Christian individuals, but if you must take into consideration the potential for non-cooperation which may be involved. Of course, if the family of the individual or the individual themselves have endorsed or requested your aid, you may proceed to carry out whatever work is necessary to facilitate healing. Otherwise, you may choose to help from a distance or provide assistance in other ways.
In a situation in which the individual’s religion is not an issue or in which you have been granted permission to proceed, it is advised that you attain as much information as possible concerning the alleged entity or entities responsible for the attack before attempting to carry out an exorcism or banishing. Many entities are not aware of the harm that they are causing to the afflicted individual(s) or places which they are occupying or affecting. In such cases, it may be beneficial to have an experienced Medium assist you in communicating with the entity if you, yourself, cannot. Some cases of “possession” or hauntings can be very easily remedied with a simple conversation.
Non-Possessive Spiritual and Energetic Conditions
There are a variety of conditions which are classified as “non-possessive” conditions of the spirit or astral body. Many of these conditions are the result of interaction with spiritual entities, but others may be caused by energetic disturbances within the environment. Concerning entity-specific conditions, parasitic entities affecting the aura or external layers of the Spiritual Body may be aware of the harm that they are inflicting or may otherwise not possess the sentience to understand. In many cases, entities such as “astral nasties” or auric leeches are simple to remove. By thoroughly inspecting the aura for heavy energetic attachments, leaks or weak spots, such parasites may be detected. Techniques for removing these entities vary according to practice and belief, but may be dispatched through what is sometimes referred to as “psychic surgery” in which the attachment is isolated, neutralised and detached with careful energetic manipulation.
Attacks by sentient entities which are fully aware of the damage that they are inflicting are more complex and often require extensive research pertaining to the entity. Such information may be gleaned, initially, by observing the manner in which the “haunting” or “possession” manifests. Having spiritual allies such as Patron or Matron deities, Gatekeepers, Guardians, Totems, Guides and other similar entities can prove useful for those who routinely find themselves exposed to situations in which attachments may occur. Because of the potential complexity involved in removing sentient attachments, hauntings or possessions, precautionary measures cannot be emphasised enough. Preventing such situations is crucial for they can be particularly difficult to rectify in some cases.
There may be instances in which a spiritual attack is a purposeful assault upon one person by another, usually an accomplished magician. Many such attachments take the form of vampiric servitors. These “entities” are essentially energetic robots designed to attach themselves to the auric field of another individual. In most cases, vampiric servitors are programmed by their makers to drain the energy produced by the victim’s life force or the subsequent fear and paranoia produced when the individual is aware that he or she is under attack. Many vampiric servitors are dispatched in the same manner as simple auric attachments, especially those created by inexperienced magicians. However, experienced magicians often program servitors with complex defence mechanisms, making their disassembly and destruction somewhat complicated.
A common entity responsible for location-specific “hauntings” is the Land Spirit. Land Spirits are usually present within all places, but may especially attach themselves to locations which are spiritually significant. Such locations may include, but are not limited to:
- ~Ley lines and surrounding areas ~Sites significant to ancient religious practice ~Sites abundant with natural resources such as springs, caves, rivers, geysers, etc. ~Old-growth forests
Other similar entities include ancestor spirits, gremlins and household spirits such as kobolds. Instead of banishing such entities, it is wise to remember that we are perceived as the intruders in most cases. Learning to live with Land Spirits involves a commitment by the individual to preserve, respect and maintain the land or location significant to the spirit. A great number of “hauntings” are incidents in which an unknowing home-builder, hiker, archaeologist or explorer has stumbled upon, desecrated or removed an artefact from a spiritually significant location which, in turn, has invited the retaliation of the land spirit responsible for the location. It is always a good idea to thoroughly research an area before building or treading upon it. It is never advised to remove artefacts, even seemingly harmless items such as stones, from a spiritually significant location without the permission of the land spirits. Communing quietly with the spirits of any location is always advisable regardless of your intentions, but it is especially common for individuals to experience the wrath of offended land spirits as “hauntings”.
Another situation which may mimic the “symptoms” of a true possession is what is sometimes referred to as Soul Attachment – a condition in which a fragment of the soul of another being has attached itself to the soul of the afflicted individual. Additionally, symptoms of a Soul Fragmentation, a condition in which the individual’s soul or part of it has “broken apart” and become lost within the Otherworlds (or this plane), can resemble those of a true possession. In both conditions, individuals may experience marked changes in personality, loss of appetite, psychosis and a myriad of other symptoms. Shamanic practitioners are most often called upon to address suspected cases of Soul Attachment and/or Soul Fragmentation as they usually specialise in “diseases” or conditions affecting the soul.
A common factor which is often responsible for alleged cases of “hauntings”, spiritual or psychic attacks and even possession is the presence of excessive Electromagnetic Fields or EMFs. EMFs or EMCs (Electromagnetic Currents) are produced by electricity as it circulates throughout wires, cords and electrical equipment. Many Ghost Hunters rely on a device known as an EMF detector – a specialised device used to detect the presence and intensity of EMFs within an environment. Many cases of the “heebie jeebies” are the result of high-intensity EMFs disturbing the personal energetic fields of an individual. Continued exposure to extremely high quantities of EMFs can result in a variety of unpleasant symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, paranoia, visual field disturbances and even psychosis. It is thus crucial to first rule out the possibility of high levels of EMFs within an environment in which an alleged haunting or possession has taken place.
In conclusion, true spiritual possession is a difficult condition to diagnose due to the presence of so many other spiritual, energetic and physiological conditions which can mimic its symptoms. It is important to remember the following steps if you are faced with the possibility of a spiritual possession:
1. Protect yourself. Take measures before exposing yourself to the afflicted individual to ground and centre yourself, align your Chakras, cleanse your Aura, converse with your spiritual allies, charge and raise your shields and adorn yourself with any protective amulets that you feel are necessary.
2. Assess. Take note of the individual and his or her physical appearance, behaviour and language. You should ask relatives or close friends whether or not he or she has a history of violent behaviour, mental illness, attention-seeking behaviour, brain injury or disease. You should then take note of when the symptomatic behaviour first occurred and the state of the individual’s mental and physical health at the time, the environment or any new objects to which he or she was exposed and any stressful or life-changing events present at the onset of the symptoms. You should take note of the victim’s choice of religion and ask both the individual and the family members whether or not it is appropriate for you to proceed on your own or if they would prefer for you to consult with a member of the individual’s church, coven, temple, etc.
2. Sense. Those trained within magickal and psychic disciplines should, after thoroughly assessing the individual and his or her environment and personal history, spend some time with the individual in order to gain a “feel” for his or her personal energy and the presence of any “negative” entity or energy either within or surrounding them. Some practitioners are able to view the Auras of others – a useful technique when assessing the Aura for leaks, dark “spots”, tendrils or other anomalies. It may also be useful to consult with a trained Medium if a true possession is suspected, although you may use tools such as pendulums, Ouija boards or dowsing rods to glean more information from the entity. Such tools, however, should be used with caution.
3. Research and network. Once you have attained an adequate amount of information through the assessment of both the individual and the responsible entity, if such is the case, you should strive to research similar cases and their outcomes in addition to the entity responsible for the affliction. Understanding the entity or forces responsible for the condition is crucial. Once you have a clearer idea of what the offending entity or force is, consult with other magickal practitioners if possible for feedback. Sometimes our limited perceptions of an entity can cause us to approach a condition with tunnel vision. Having the benefit of perceptions and experiences separate to your own is a good idea and a way to ensure that you have a full understanding of what you are dealing with and how best to remedy it.
4. Prepare. At this stage, you should gather the appropriate tools and ingredients necessary for the work to remove the afflicting entity or energy if in fact the situation calls for such. If need be, arrange for a Shamanic practitioner, healer or Medium to perform any appropriate work necessary. It not advisable to perform any work with which you are unfamiliar, uncomfortable or inexperienced. When in doubt – don’t!
5. Engage. This stage marks the point during which the entity or energy responsible for the affliction is removed, asked or helped to depart or dissipated. Again, the technique for the removal or dissipation is entirely dependent upon what manner or entity or energy is responsible for the condition. Communicating with the entity may be necessary (such as in the case of Land Spirits or spirits in transit) as may be removing the offending source of energy (such as in the case of EMFs or “haunted” artefacts). In cases which involve EMFs, removing the source of energy may be impossible; thus, one must devise an approach which may involve limiting the amount of time spent in the environment, for example.
Many people make the assumption that possessions, hauntings or spiritual attachments only happen to those who traipse about “haunted houses”, but the truth is that everyone is susceptible to spiritual attack at some point. Being prepared is be as simple as being educated. Use caution when taking artefacts from ancient sites, visiting locations known to experience paranormal activity, associating with individuals who lack self-control and learn to balance that caution with logic. Never assume that you or another is “possessed” or even under spiritual attack simply because of a stroke of bad luck or a crisis of health. Rule out any mundane explanations before jumping to the tempting conclusion that you are being assailed by rogue magicians, “demons” and “leeches” or the Flying Spaghetti Monster!