From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Demonic possession is often the term used to describe the control over a human form by a demon. Descriptions of demonic possessions often include: erased memories or personalities, convulsions, “fits” and fainting as if one were dying. Unlike in channeling or other forms of possession, the subject has no control over the possessing entity and so it will persist until forced to leave the victim, usually through a form of exorcism. Other descriptions include access to hidden knowledge and foreign languages, drastic changes in vocal intonation and facial structure, sudden appearance of injury (scratches, bite marks) or lesions, and superhuman strength.
Many cultures and religions contain some concept of demonic possession, but the details vary considerably. The Roma people believe that demons can also possess animals, plants, deceased persons or inanimate objects.
The oldest references to demonic possession are from the Sumerians, who believed that all diseases of the body and mind were caused by "sickness demons" called gidim or gid-dim . The priests who practiced exorcisms in these nations were called ashipu (sorcerer) as opposed to an asu (physician) who applied bandages and salves.
Most illustrations portray these spirits as small, sadistic-looking or tormented-looking beings with a human likeness. Demons are often referenced as familiars. Witches would provide shelter and nourishment via the witches' teat in exchange for the valuable services of familiars.
Shamanic cultures also believe in demon possession and shamans perform exorcisms too; in these cultures often diseases are attributed to the presence of a vengeful spirit or (loosely termed) demon in the body of the patient. These spirits are more often the spectres of animals or people wronged by the bearer, the exorcism rites usually consisting of respectful offerings or sacrificial offerings.
The Malleus Maleficarum speaks about some exorcisms that can be done in different cases. Depending on the severity of the alleged possession, solutions range from prayers of deliverance to the Solemn Rite of Exorcism as practiced by the Catholic Church.
The theme of demon possession has been exploited by the cinema. A well-known work on the subject is the 1973 film The Exorcist, based on the book of the same name, which portrays a typical medieval case of demonic possession in which the victim shows all required characteristics to confirm the status of possessed. This was later satirised in 1990 by Repossessed. End of Days (1999) shows another form of demonic possession suggested by Hilarius.
Possession (taken seriously) is central to the recent TV series Hex (TV series). The TV series Supernatural has also explored themes of demonic possession, since Demons are a major part of the second and third season's plots and they are incorporeal, they need to possess a body to carry out their actions. The 2007 novel A Good and Happy Child deals largely with the possible subject of demonic possession.
In the famous Evil Dead films, the protagonists are all possessed by Kandarin demons, who, when resurrected are given license to possess the living. This form of possession was heavily based on The Exorcist, because the protagonists physically mutate when possessed.
In an episode of the X-Files, a substitute teacher kills a teenage girl by possessing her while dissecting a pig fetus after class. The sub also possesses a snake which eats & digests a human being within less than 5 minutes, despite Scully knowing that it would take hours or even days to digest a human being. The substitute was never hired, and the school board is also Satan-worshiping.
The main character of the 2008 BBC1 television drama series Apparitions is a priest who performs exorcisms.
Marlena Evans becomes possessed on Days of our Lives in the 90's. It was a ground breaking story written by the late James E Reilly. John Black, a priest at the time exorcised the demon along with the help of Father Francis and Kristen Blake Dimera
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