A History Sketch of Exorcism – John Boruff

Taken from a course syllabus.

POSSESSION & EXORCISM: England, France & Italy

See D.P. Walker, Unclean Spirits:
                           Possession and Exorcism in France & England

I. EXORCISM: CATHOLIC RITUAL
            source is New Testament exorcisms by Christ & Apostles
            exorcism as a “sacramental,” not a sacrament
            sacramental: ritual ordained by authority of church not by Christ
            efficacy depends on moral state of the priest, prayers of audience

Assaults by devil on energumen (= human victim)
possession: internal assault by demon vs
obsession: external assault (see Salem trials)

Ritual of exorcism: exorcist speaks directly to devil
“I conjure you…in the name of God and by the authority
vested in me by the Church.”

Reformation rejects exorcism as semi-magical, superstitious, “conjuring”

II. REFORMATION ENGLAND:
1534 Anglican Church separates from Rome
1559 Elizabethan Settlement: religious moderation
Puritanism grows under Elizabeth
possession cases continue, despite Anglican Church’s
rejection of Catholic ritual of exorcism

   PURITAN EXORCISM:
New Testament model — “by prayer & fasting”
1586-1597: career of John Darrell, Puritan exorcist
       1598: tried as impostor by Anglican High Commission
1604: Anglican Church prohibits all forms of exorcism
reply to Puritans: “age of miracles is past”

   CATHOLIC CAMPAIGN TO CONVERT ENGLAND
(approx 500 converts)
1586 Jesuits launch exorcist campaign in England

III. FRANCE

    1562-1589: French Wars of Religion (religious/civil war)
Catholics vs Huguenots (French Calvinists)
 1582 St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in Paris
Catholic massacre of Huguenots
    1598 Edict of Nantes: toleration of Huguenots by Henry IV
Henry IV former head of Huguenot armym victor in wars
newly converted Catholic “Paris is worth a Mass.”

    ANTI-HUGUENOT PUBLIC EXORCISMS

       1) 1566: NICOLE OBRY: the “miracle of Laon”
Beelzebub expelled after two month exorcism
Catholic Eucharist doctrine (real presence)

       2) 1599: MARTHE BROSSIER, PARIS
           reaction against 1598 Edict of Nantes (toleration of Huguenots)
  PIERRE BERULLE, Treatise on Energumens
(= possessed persons)

MERGER OF POSSESSION & WITCHCRAFT CASES

       1611 Ursuline nuns: Aix en Provence
Sister Madeleine and Father Gaufridi
       1620 University of Paris rejects testimony of demons
speaking through possessed person
       1634 LOUDON:
during exorcism, possessed nuns accuse their confessor
Father Urban Grandier, who is then  burned as witch

IV. ITALY: Will return to this during later lecture on Italy
EXORCISM AS POPULAR REMEDY FOR MALEFICIUM

(see O’Neil article on remedies in xerox packet, Wk 7)

GIROLAMO MENGHI, Franciscan exorcist and theorist

1598: Flagellum Daemonum (Whip of Demons)
describes exorcism as “ecclesiastical medicine”
useful against demons and maleficium

Inquisition trials for superstitious exorcism:
popular recourse to exorcists against maleficium

Implications for Keith Thomas’ argument on remedies:
did prevalence of “ecclesiastical remedies” in
16th-17th C, Italy help prevent Italian witch panic?

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About John Boruff

John Boruff is the founder of WesleyGospel.com, a husband, father, and sometimes an open air preacher. He graduated from UNC Pembroke in 2008 with a B.A. in Philosophy and Religion and views himself as a Wesleyan Pentecostal. As a Christian, he feels connected with all members of the body of Christ, but can identify the most with churches like the Assemblies of God and the Vineyard. In 2015, he released "The Gospel of Jesus Christ," which is meant to be a Bible study for open air preaching. For his other writings, search articles on this site or see the E-Books section.
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