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Spirit possession is paranormal, supernatural, psychological and/or superstitious spirits, gods, demons/daemons (demonic possession), animas, extraterrestrials, or other disincarnate or extraterrestrial entities taking control of a human body, resulting in noticeable changes in health and behavior. The concept of spiritual possession exists in Christianity, Buddhism, and Haitian Vodou and African traditions.[1]

A constant feature of possession is involuntary, uncensored behavior, and an extra-human, extra-social aspect to the victim's actions.[2] He is dehumanized, bereft of normal powers of recognition and reaction, and his speech and movements are distant from the societal norm. In the cases of animal possession, the individuals deportment suggests that of an animal.[3]



According to the Indian medical literature and Tantric Buddhist scriptures, most of the "seizers," or those that threaten the lives of young children, appear in animal form: cow, lion, fox, monkey, horse, dog, pig, cat, crow, pheasant, owl, and snake. But apart from these "nightmare shapes," the impersonation or incarnation of animals could in some circumstances also be highly beneficial, according to Michel Strickmann.[4]

Ch'i Chung- fu, a Chinese gynecologist writing early in the thirteenth century, for example, wrote that in addition to five sorts of falling frenzy classified according to their causative factors, there were also four types of other frenzies distinguished by the sounds and movements given off by the victim during his seizure: cow, horse, pig, and dog frenzies.[5]

Haitian Vodou and African traditions

One way that those who participate or practice Haitian Vodou 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 in Haitian Vodou and related traditions that those possessed by the lwa probably are at a very high spiritual level such that their soul is mature and at an advanced level.

It is also believed in Haitian Vodou 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 liqueur made 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.[6]

Roman Catholicism

As an exorcist, Martin stated that next to diabolic possession, angelic possession also exists and that angels could have use of preternatural powers in certain circumstances.[7]

See also


  1. ^ Mark 5:9, Luke 8:30
  2. ^ Strickmann, Michel. (2002) Chinese Magical Medicine, edited by Bernard Faure, Stanford University Press. p. 65
  3. ^ Strickmann (2002), p. 251
  4. ^ Strickmann (2002), p. 251
  5. ^ Strickmann (2002), p. 251
  6. ^ Janice Boddy, "Wombs and Alien Spirits: Women, Men and the Zar Cult in Northern Sudan (New Directions in Anthropological Writing) University of Wisconsin Press (30 Nov 1989)
  7. ^ Bell, Art, Interview with Malachi Martin, Coast to Coast AM, October 18, 1996


  • Clarke, S. (2006): "What is spiritual possession", SSRF
  • Heindel, Max, 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 Demons—Elementals, Part V: Obsession of Man and of Animals), ISBN 0-911274-17-0, www
  • Klimo, John (1987). Channeling: Investigations on Receiving Information from Paranormal Sources. St. Martins Press. ISBN 0-87477-431-4.
  • Lang, Andrew (1900) Demoniacal Possession, The Making of Religion, (Chapter VII), Longmans, Green, and C°, London, New York and Bombay, 1900, pp. 128–146.
  • Peck, M. Scott, (1985) People of the Lie ISBN 0684848597

External links

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