• DEMONIC POSSESSION: belief in the control of a person by the Devil or other malevolent spirit


  • SPIRIT POSSESSION: belief in the control of a living thing or natural object by a spiritual being


Spirit possession is paranormalsupernaturalpsycho-logical and/or superstitious spiritsgodsdemons/daemons (demonic possession), animas, ET's or other disincarnate or extraterrestrial entities taking control of ahuman body, resulting in noticeable changes in health and behavior. The concept of spiritual possession exists in Christianity and other contemporaryreligions and can also be seen in the mythologyregression therapy and folklore of many cultures.

  Demonic possession is often the term used to describe the control over a human by a demon. Descriptions of demonic possessions often include: erased memories or personalities, convulsions, “fits” and fainting as if one were dying. 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 speaking foreign languages, drastic changes in vocal intonation and facial structure, sudden appearance of injury  or lesions, and superhuman strength.

Haitian Vodou and African traditions

One way that those who participate or practice Haitian Vodoo and related traditions can have a spiritual experience is by being possessed by the lwa. When the lwa descends upon a practitioner, the practitioner's body is being used by the spirit, according to the tradition. Some spirits are believed to be able to give prophecies of upcoming events or situations pertaining to the possessed one, also called "Chwal" or the "Horse of the Spirit." Practitioners experience this as being a beautiful but very tiring experience. Most people who are possessed by the spirit get a feeling of blackness or energy flowing through their body as if they were being electrocuted. According to Vodou believers, when this occurs, it is a sign that a possession is in the works. The practitioner has no recollection of the possession and in fact when the possessing spirit leaves the body, the possessed one is tired and wonders what has happened during the possession. Not all practitioners have the ability to become possessed, but practitioners who do generally prefer not to make excessive use of it because it drains immense energy from them. It is said that only the spirit/lwa can choose who it wants to possess, for the spirit may have a mission that it can carry out spiritually. Also, it is believed inHaitian Vodou and related traditions that those possessed by the lwaprobably are at a very high spiritual level such that their soul is mature and at an advanced level.

It is also believed in Haitian Vodoo and related traditions that there are those who feign possessions because they want attention or a feeling of importance, because those who are possessed carry a high importance in ceremony. Often, a "chwal" will undergo some form of trial or testing to make sure that the possession is indeed genuine. As an example, someone possessed by one of the Guédé spirits may be offered piment, a liqueurmade by steeping twenty-one chili peppers in kleren, a potent alcoholic beverage. If the "chwal" consumes the piment without showing any evidence of pain or discomfort, the possession is regarded as genuine.

In Sudan and certain other East African cultures exists the Zār Cult, an ethnomedical healing ceremony involving possession typically of Muslim women by a Zār spirit.

  Various Traditions

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 . Many cuneiform tablets contain prayers to certain gods asking for protection from demons, while others ask the gods to expel the demons that have invaded their bodies.

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.