Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Exorcism II: A Jewish Ritual Against Demonic Possession

As a follow-up to my earlier entry on demon possession, I have found this exorcism text in Shashon Yesod ha-Olam (Lily, Foundation of the World), a late

[a lilith trapped by a magic circle, as portrayed on an incantation bowl. View it and the full bowl at ccat.sas.upenn.edu/.../Lilith/ancPics.html]

medieval Hebrew magical manual. Still in manuscript form, we are fortunate that the Israeli scholar Jeffrey Chajes has translated it for us:

…[t]o remove a demon from the body of a man or woman, or anything into which a male or female demon has entered…Take an empty flask and a white waxen candle and recite this adjuration in purity:

I adjure you, the pure and holy angels Michael, Gabriel, Shuviel, Ahadriel, Zumtiel, Yechutriel, Zumtziel…by 72 names I adjure you, you all the retinues of [evil] spirits in the world – Be’ail Lachush and all your retinue; Kapkafuni the Queen of Demons and all your retinue; and Agrat bat Malkat and all your retinue, and Zmamit and all your retinue, and those that were made on the eve of the Shabbat [This refers to a rabbinic dictum (Avot 5:6) that demons were spawned on the twilight of the sixth day of creation, though in his translation Chajes cites Tikkunei Zohar for this tradition] – that you bring forth that demon immediately and do not detain the mazzik [destructive spirit] of so-and-so, and tell me his name in this circle [circles are important protection against demons and warlocks - Sefer ha-Chasidim 2, Zera ha-Kodesh, Megillat Setarim] that I have drawn in your honor….Immediately they will tell you his name and the name of the father and the name of his mother aloud [demons procreate - Chag. 16a, Eruv. 18, Alef-Bet ben Sira; knowing the name of a spirit is critical to gaining power over it – Testa. Of Solomon]; do not fear.

Recite this adjuration in such a way:

I adjure you the demon so-and-so, by the utterance of the watchers and the holy ones
[Dan. 4:14] by YHWH God of the Heavens, with these names I adjure you the demon so-and-so, son of so-and-so and so-and-so, that you now enter this flask immediately and immediately the flask will turn red [Chajes reports that bottling up the spirit was commonplace and also appears in Islamic exorcism rituals - the inspiration for "I Dream of Jeanie"]. Immediately say to him these five [divine] names YHW….That demon will immediately cry a great and bitter cry from the great pressure; do not believe him until he swears by YUD HA VAV HA explicitly [more divine names in permutation, thereby binding him to do no further harm]. Then leave him alone and pay him no further heed (Shashon Yesod ha-Olam, translation appears on p. 67 of Chaje’s Between Worlds).

The passage gives a deceptively straightforward description of what will unfold. Later eye-witness accounts of exorcisms inevitably describe an involved struggle, a constant back-and-forth between the spirit and the exorcist until the demon finally submits.

To learn more, consult the Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic, and Mysticism :

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