Friday, February 03, 2017
When I was in my teens my father inexplicably gave me a copy of the very scary novel, The Exorcist, as a little light reading. My bedroom was at the back of the old manse in which we lived, with it's own staircase to the kitchen. In that atmosphere was absolutely terrified by the novel but I couldn't stop reading. I'm not sure I've recovered yet.
Peter Blatty's story is of a 12-year-old-girl named Regan who is inhabited by a satanic force, and the exorcist priest who does battle with this evil presence. Blatty, who died recently, was educated in a Jesuit school, and was inspired by an actual incident that unfolded in the States while he was in college, The Exorcist was published in 1971, followed two years later by the film. I was so traumatized by the book I couldn't bring myself to watch the film, but it was a big success. The book sold more than 10 million copies, so we obviously have a love/hate relationship with the devil.
Many years later Blatty claimed "when I was writing the novel I thought of it as a super-natural detective story, and to this day I cannot recall having a conscious intention to terrifying anybody, which you may take, I suppose, as an admission of failure on an almost stupefying scale."
The interesting thing is that the Roman Catholic church does have exorcists, although there is a shortage of qualified priests as current church-sanctioned exorcists age, and shuffle off to their reward. There was actually a job fair of sorts in the United States not long ago where a hundred priests were given some background to the ancient practice.The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "When the Church asks publicly and authoritatively in the name of Jesus Christ that a person or object be protected against the power of the Evil One and withdrawn from his dominion, it is called exorcism."
Goya painting of an exorcism
The rite was updated in 1999 and it's clear that an exorcism can only be performed under the strictest guidelines and after ascertaining that the individual is not suffering from a medically diagnosis.
It may surprise you to hear that the requests for exorcisms are on the rise, even in this age of science. Were you aware that exorcisms actually occur in the 21st century? What do you think about this? Do you believe in evil and dark powers, or is this all hocus pocus? Do you know someone who would be a likely candidate for an exorcism? I would like to nominate our cats!