AskDefine | Define exorcism

Dictionary Definition

exorcism n : freeing from evil spirits [syn: dispossession]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. the ritual act of driving out supposed evil spirits from persons, places or things who are possessed by them.


ritual driving out of evil spirits
  • Croatian: egzorcizam
  • Finnish: manaus, henkien poismanaus
  • French: exorcisme
  • German: Exorzismus
  • Italian: esorcismo
  • Korean: 굿 (gus, gut)

Derived terms

Extensive Definition

Exorcism (from Late Latin exorcismus, from Greek exorkizein - to adjure) is the practice of evicting demons or other evil spiritual entities from a person or place which they are believed to have possessed (taken control of). The practice is quite ancient and part of the belief system of many religions.
The person performing the exorcism, known as an exorcist, is often a member of the clergy, or an individual thought to be graced with special powers or skills. The exorcist may use prayers, and religious material, such as set formulas, gestures, symbols, icons, amulets, etc.. The exorcist invokes God, Jesus and/or several different angels and archangels to intervene with the exorcism.
In general, possessed persons are not regarded as evil in themselves, nor wholly responsible for their actions. Therefore practitioners regard exorcism more as a cure than as a punishment. The mainstream rituals usually take this into account, making sure that there is no violence to the possessed, only that they be tied down if there is potential for violence.


The concept of possession by evil spirits and the practice of exorcism are very ancient and were widespread, and may have originated in prehistoric Shamanistic beliefs.
The Christian New Testament includes exorcism among the miracles performed by Jesus. Because of this precedent, demonic possession was part of the belief system of Christianity since its beginning, and exorcism is still a recognized practice of Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox and some Protestant sects. The Church of England also has an official exorcist in each diocese.
After the enlightenment, the practice of exorcism has diminished in its importance to most religious groups and its use has decreased, especially in western society. Generally, in the 20th century its use was found mainly in Eastern Europe and Africa, with some cases gaining media coverage; Anneliese Michel is perhaps the most recent of these. This is due mainly to the study of psychology and the functioning and structure of the human mind. Many of the cases that in the past which were candidates for exorcism are often explained to be the products of mental illness, and are handled as such.
However in 1973 the movie The Exorcist came out, and the idea of Exorcisms became thrust into the limelight. After its release a very large response came from the public in the United States and Europe, and belief in Demon Possession and Exorcisms found a place in contemporary society. Belief in the validity of the practice became less of a radical idea, and more widespread.

Exorcism in Christianity


In Christianity, Exorcisms are performed using the "power of Christ" or "In the name of Jesus." This is founded in the belief that Jesus commanded his followers to expel evil spirits in his name(Bible verse |Matthew|10:1,Bible verse |Matthew|10:8; Bible verse |Mark|6:7; Bible verse |Luke|9:1),(Bible verse |Mark|16:17). According to the Catholic Encyclopedia article on Exorcism: Jesus cast out demons as a sign of his Messiahship and empowered his disciples to do the same.
The Jewish Encyclopedia article on Jesus stated that Jesus "was devoted especially to casting out demons" and also believed that he passed this on to his followers, however he was superior to them in the Exorcisms."
In the time of Jesus, non-New Testament Jewish sources report of exorcisms done by administering drugs with poisonous root extracts or other by making sacrifices. (Josephus, "B. J." vii. 6, § 3; Sanh. 65b). They do not report of Jesus being an exorcist, but do mention that exorcisms were done by the Essene branch of Judaism (Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran).

Roman Catholicism

Stigmata (1999 film starring Patricia Arquette and Gabriel Bryne)
  • Grudge 2 (2006 English movie; Director - Takashi Shimizu; written by - Stephen Susco,Takashi Shimizu (movie Ju-On: the Grudge); In Tokyo, a young woman (Tamblyn) is exposed to the same mysterious curse that afflicted her sister (Gellar). The supernatural force, which fills a person with rage before spreading to its next victim, brings together a group of previously unrelated people who attempt to unlock its secret to save their lives. In a particular chapter of this movie shown a exorcism did by a very old woman to her 18 - 22 year old girl (who became the main ghost in the movie) in flashback which describe a strong and very dangerous demonic possession for cure other affected people who were attacked by demons.)
  • El Orfanato (The Orphanage) (2008 movie directed by Guillermo Del Toro) Aurora (an exorcist) comes to the house of Laura and Carlos to seek out the ghosts of the dead children in order to help the find their son, Simon.



  • William Baldwin, D.D.S., Ph.D., "Spirit Releasement Therapy". ISBN 1-88-265800-0. Practitioner & Instructor of Spirit Releasement Therapy, containing an extensive biliography.
  • Shakuntala Modi, M.D., "Remarkable Healings, A Psychiatrist Discovers Unsuspected Roots of Mental and Physical Illness." ISBN 1-57174-079-1 Gives cases, and statistical summaries of the kinds of maladies remedied by this therapy.
  • Malachi Martin, Hostage to the Devil. ISBN 0-06-065337-X.
  • M. Scott Peck, Glimpses of the Devil : A Psychiatrist's Personal Accounts of Possession, Exorcism, and Redemption. ISBN 0-7432-5467-8
  • Max Heindel, The Web of Destiny (Chapter I - Part III: "The Dweller on the Threshold"--Earth-Bound Spirits, Part IV: The "Sin Body"--Possession by Self-Made Deamons--Elementals, Part V: Obsession of Man and of Animals), ISBN 0-911274-17-0,
exorcism in Bosnian: Egzorcizam
exorcism in Catalan: Exorcisme
exorcism in Czech: Exorcismus
exorcism in German: Exorzismus
exorcism in Modern Greek (1453-): Εξορκισμός
exorcism in Spanish: Exorcismo
exorcism in Esperanto: Ekzorcismo
exorcism in French: Exorcisme
exorcism in Scottish Gaelic: Driuchaidean
exorcism in Korean: 엑소시즘
exorcism in Croatian: Egzorcizam
exorcism in Italian: Esorcismo
exorcism in Hebrew: גירוש שדים
exorcism in Dutch: Exorcisme
exorcism in Japanese: 悪魔払い
exorcism in Norwegian: Eksorsisme
exorcism in Polish: Egzorcyzm
exorcism in Portuguese: Exorcismo
exorcism in Russian: Экзерцизм
exorcism in Finnish: Manaus
exorcism in Swedish: Exorcism
exorcism in Chinese: 驅魔

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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