Recently, the Roman Catholic Church has been running a recruitment drive for exorcists, due to the increasing demand for exorcisms. Once trained, the Candidates will cure “Demonic” possession, which is said to manifest itself by causing victims to talk in languages they don’t understand, shake uncontrollably and vomit nails, pieces of metal and other items of hardware. According to Catholic rites, to be cured the possessed person must undergo exorcism. This involves a Priest invoking the name of God, as well as various Saints and the Archangel Michael, to cast out their demons. This might sound a bit medieval, and certainly exorcisms were used in the middle-ages, but the notion of possession reaches back long before Christianity. In ancient Mesopotamia, it was believed that illnesses occurred when spirits entered a person’s body and lingered. Assyrian tablets refer to the use of spells and prayers, as direct challenges to remove disease causing demons, whereas, Babylonian Priests performed exorcisms by destroying a clay image of a demon. Persian accounts dating from 600 BC, suggest the religious leader and founder of Zoroastrianism; Zoroaster, used exorcism rites based on prayer, ritual and holy water. And of course in Christianity, there are many references to Jesus performing exorcisms. Today, most scientists do not accept the notion of demonic possession; they argue people who seem to be possessed suffer from certain forms of mental or neurological illnesses. Nevertheless, it seems that the Catholic exorcists won’t be handing in their Holy Water just yet.
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