Sunday, March 20, 2011

Exorcism - A Model for Classical Evocation?

I have read a few books and some blog articles that have stated the possibility that the classical model for evocation was derived from the ritual of exorcism. I have typically accepted this statement as a likely fact, but I decided to verify it by comparing the two from the perspective of their ritual patterns and the specific qualities of their ritual actions. Could the classic ritual for exorcism posed as a model for classical evocation?

In order to answer this question, one must do what apparently others have been unwilling to do, and that is actually examining the Roman Rite of Exorcism. The most accessible version of this rite is from the 1952 pre-Vatican II version, which has been only marginally changed (translated and somewhat modernized) from the ancient version used in the middle ages. I will assume that little has substantively changed in this ritual in the intervening centuries. What I discovered after comparing them is that there are some compelling similarities between the rites of exorcism and evocation, but there are some very strategic differences between them as well.

First of all, let’s quickly go over the five stages of a classical evocation. These five stages have been examined in a previous article, but I will copy what I wrote there, and you can find the full article here.

“Classical theurgy and evocation has five basic steps that the magician performs in order to successfully complete the magical working. These steps were considered critical to the work, and had to be performed fully and completely. These steps were called in their Latin terminology, consecratio, invocatio, constrictio, ligatio and licentia. (See The Goetia of Dr. Rudd, p. 91 - 94)

Consecratio, or consecratio dei, represented all of the activities that the magician performed to prepare for the work, including sacred baths, aspurging the temple and tools with holy water, burning incense, and performing psalms, prayers and orisens to achieve the favor and benediction of the Godhead, a required state prior to performing the work. These activities would be performed even after the magician had sealed himself up in the magic circle, and might include the preparation and sanctification of the circle, vestments, tools and temple area, as well as burning incense, reciting psalms, and engaging in a final bout of contemplative prayer.

Invocatio was the invocations and incantations that the magician declared once he was safely ensconced in the magic circle, fully vested and prepared for the work. All preparations were minutely addressed and successfully accomplished, and all that was required at this point was to perform the invocation of the spirit, angel or demon. The magician might begin with a general invocation, such as of the angels of the four parts of the world that rule over the air. To invoke a demon, the magician might first invoke one of the corresponding angels of the Ha-Shem, since they were believed to be the rulers of the Goetic demons. Often there were anywhere from one to several invocations, and if the spirit did not appear, then there were even more severe conjurations. However, it was assumed that if the preparations were correct, the timing auspicious, and the integrity and faith of the magician impeccable, then the spirit invoked would materialize in some form or another. The magician could use his talismans and protective lamen to assist in adding greater force to the invocation, but if after a time, the spirit failed to appear, then the magician had to perform either a single or several exorcisms, burn obnoxious herbs and generally banish anything that might have been summoned before breaking the magic circle and leaving the work place.

Constrictio was where the magician constrained the manifesting spirit. He also had to ensure that the spirit was what it claimed to be, or what the magician had summoned in the first place. If a demon was summoned, then the magician had to force it to assume a favorable aspect and to desist in acting in a threatening and evil manner. Constraining the spirit was usually required of a demon, but often the magician had to verify an angelic entity as well, at least to ensure that he was not being deceived by some lesser spirit or demonic influence. The magician used his special ring, talismans, pentacles, and various words of power to constrain the spirit. Once this was accomplished, the invocation process was considered to be stable, and the magician could move on to the objective of his work.

Ligatio was the act of binding the spirit, usually with an oath, words of power, threats (if it were a demon), to perform a task suited to its nature, and for it to be accomplished in a specific duration. Binding a spirit could be considered a kind of pact, except that there was no quid pro quo - the spirit obeyed the magician because of his acquired (although temporary) holiness and because of his assumed authority granted by God and his angels. The constraint was performed in a less severe manner with an angel (or not at all), and was extremely important and quite severe with any other spirit, especially a demon. To harness the spirit, the magician also required it to reveal its secret name and mark (usually as a sigil), which the magician noted down in his magical book. The sigil that the magician used to summon the spirit may also be marked or charged in some special manner, and collected later to be kept in the magician’s book. The charged sigil or special name and mark could be used in the future to summon the spirit without all of the required protections and the ordeal of invocation, at any time that the magician desired it. The spirit is constrained to obey the magician, and over time, the magician collects other such names and marks, and his workbook becomes a treasure trove of obedient spiritual servants, ready to do the will of the magician whenever required - at least for the duration of the period stated in the binding. In some situations, a magician may permanently bind a spirit to his will, making his eventual death into an event of instant unbinding of all of the spirits kept in the book. A truly legendary and catastrophic event! The magician might also constrain the spirit to reside in a receptacle, such as a sealed lamp or brass jug, to be available whenever commanded to appear.

Licentia was the license to depart that the magician gave to the spirit once it had been properly bound. It was important for the magician to understand that the spirit was to be treated with some respect, and that he would not therefore perform any kind of banishing if the binding of that spirit was successful. The idea was to conditionally allow the spirit to return to its natural abode, there to await future summons and willed appearances. The license to depart was therefore quite different than performing a banishment or an exorcism, which would only be performed if the magician either failed to manifest the spirit or failed to constrain it. Once the spirit was properly and completely departed via the license, the magician might perform banishments and exorcisms to ensure that nothing else was lurking outside of the magic circle.”

So now that we have gone over the above five steps, we can look at the basic pattern for the Roman Rite of Exorcism. The rite of exorcism has eight basic steps to it, but these could be condensed into five steps to compare directly with the five steps of evocation, Still, we will look at the eight steps and show where some of the steps can be joined.

If you want to examine the source document that I used to make this analysis, you can examine a rather lengthy web page here. There is a lot of extraneous material on that page, but if look down far enough you will find the Roman Rite of Exorcism.

The Roman Rite of Exorcism begins when the specially sanctioned priest, who is performing the rite, draws a great sign of the cross before him and then sprinkles the area with holy water. The priest and assistants (family members or close friends of the victim) have performed the proper penance, with fasting, prayers, and having received the sacraments of the Eucharist and made a full confession of their sins. Thus fortified, the rite is enjoined. The assistants range around the victim and seek to keep him or her still and silent during the exorcism. If the victim is female, then the assistants should be female family members or friends of high moral repute. The following eight steps are performed in the following sequence.

1. Litany of the Saints is read with a special antiphon and the Lord’s Prayer. (As is typical, the prayer is spoken inaudibly from after the “Our Father” to the “And lead us not to temptation..,” which is spoken out loud. Attendants and the priest also read the responses to the Litany together.

2. Priest reads Psalm 53 and other special prayers. He makes the sign of the cross and then orders the demon to be cast out of the victim’s body. At this point, the priest commands the demon to obedience, and seeks to get it to speak its name, including the place, day and hour that it first inhabited the victim. The priest then lays hands on the victim as if to heal him/her of some disease and asks the hierarchy of the trinity to heal the victim.

3. Priest reads sections from the Gospels - John 1.1-14, Mark 16.15-18, Luke 10.17-20, Luke 11.14-22. The priest then crosses himself and takes the end of the stole that he is wearing and touches the victim with it, thus creating a bridge between himself and the victim. This final act is the prelude to the actual three exorcism prayers.

Then comes the three part exorcism commands followed by pious prayers. These exorcisms are performed in increasing intensity, and one would suppose that a successful completion of the exorcism at any point would cause the priest to skip over the rest of the exorcism prayers to the conclusion of the rite. 

4. Exorcism Prayer 1: This prayer is begun with the declamation “I cast you out..,” which is where the priest seeks to command the demon to leave the body of the victim. This exorcism is followed by a prayer. During this first exorcism prayer, the priest will make six signs of the cross, with three traces on the brow of the victim, and four additional signs of the cross, with one on the brow, and three on the victim’s chest.

5. Exorcism Prayer 2: This second prayer is begun with the declamation “I adjure you..,” which is where the priest more forcefully commands the spirit to depart. The second exorcism is broken into three parts, the second part begins with the declamation “Depart..,” and the third begins again with “I adjure you..,” and all three are followed by a brief prayer. The exorcism command followed a pious declaration seems to be a kind of attempt to coerce the demon backed by pious invocations of the spiritual hierarchy. The three part exorcism has numerous points where the sign of the cross is made, with passes made to the brow and breast of the victim, as well as general crosses, and one made for the sake of the bystanders. The number of the signs of the cross are 14 in the first part, none in the second and 9 in the third part.

6. Exorcism Prayer 3: This exorcism is even more powerful and intense than the previous two, and begins with the declamation of “I adjure every unclean spirit..,” which would seem to be focusing on the demon hierarchy as well as the specific spirit inhabiting the victim. This exorcism is broken into two parts, with five signs of the cross being made in the first part, and seven in the second. The declamation of the second part begins with “Depart then..,” and the intensity of the commands become ever more powerful, with a cross being made at the two utterances of “Begone Now!” There is no prayer for either the two parts of the third exorcism, but if the demon is still resident in the victim, then the priest begins with the first exorcism and starts the whole cycle anew.

7. Additional prayers are said over the afflicted, although these would be said only once the demon had departed. I would assume that the purpose of these prayers is to fortify the victim and ensure that the demon was gone and could not, therefore, immediately return. Such prayers used are the Our Father, Hail Mary, the Creed (from the Mass), Canticle of Our Lady with the doxology, Canticle of Zachary with the doxology, the Athanasian Creed and a number of Psalms, such as the following: 90, 67, 69, 53, 117, 34, 30, 21, 3, 10 and 12.

8. Finally, the priest says prayers for the deliverance of the victim. Obviously after this ordeal, the victim, now restored, would be expected to perform a lengthy confession, receive a penance for those sins, and then receive the sacraments, which would have been kept inviolate during the exorcism rite.

In addition to the specific exorcism rite for a possessed victim, there is also a general exorcism of Satan and his fallen angels to purify a church or a congregation. However, this rite is obviously too general for our interest in regards to making a comparison between exorcism and evocation.

Now that we have looked at both the classical evocation rite and the exorcism rite, we can make some observations and comparisons. I might add that the three exorcisms can be combined together, and the additional prayers and the prayer for deliverance can also be combined to produce five total steps. However, the five steps are not identical to the five steps of evocation. Suffice it so say that the five steps of exorcism would only be analogous to the first two steps of evocation, and the last step of exorcism would be dropped altogether.

Similarities: There are three exorcism prayers in the rite of exorcism, and there are usually three distinct invocations that are used in classical evocation. Exorcism seeks to coerce the demon to depart the victim, evocation seeks to coerce the demon or spirit to appear. Part of the coercion ordeal requires the magician to use consecrated and purified vestments, holy devices (pentagrams, characters and seals) and the invocation of the spiritual hierarchy of God. The exorcist does the same thing to cast out a demon. The magician puts a lot of effort into preparing for the rite (consecratio deae), including reading from the Gospel, Psalms, and undergoing a rigorous period of fasting, purification and atonement - the exorcist does this as well. The exorcist needs to get the demon to identify itself, and offer the time and day that it inhabited the victim - the magician also requires the demon or spirit to identify itself.

Disimilarities: There are some rather striking dissimilarities between exorcism and evocation. Evocation employs a magick circle for protection, and a triangle of evocation outside of that circle to focus the manifestation of that spirit. The exorcist maintains contact with the victim through the stole - the only barrier is the moral authority and power of the priest. In evocation, the spirit is constrained (constrictio) and bound (ligatio). The only overlap is where both the exorcist and the magician demand that the spirit identify itself, otherwise the actions of constraining and binding the spirit or demon are solely those of the magician. Also, the license to depart (and return whenever needed) is also the sole provenance of the magician, since the exorcist is only interested in freeing his victim from possession, and guarding against any possible return.

Other Points: Perhaps the most striking similarity between the two rites is the language that is used to command and coerce the demon. If someone just replaced the “adjurations,” “departs” and the “casting outs” with the opposite commands of summoning, calling forth and conjuring, then they would have a powerful set of invocations that could be used to invoke a spirit or demon. The other striking similarity is the preparation, prayers, atonement, purification, sprinkling of holy water for both the magician and the exorcist. So the first two steps of an evocation would have matched the first six steps of the exorcism.

Constraining and binding the spirit would have been steps that could have been taken from ancient sources, but they could also have been implied by two actions that occurred in the exorcism. For instance, assistants were used to hold down the victim and to ensure that he or she obeyed the commands of the exorcist priest, which would have required that the victim be relatively silent and still during the prayers. One could consider this a form of binding, and the coercing of the demon to say its name, identify itself and reveal when and where it entered into the victim could also be considered a kind of constraint. So there isn’t any real definite distinction between the process of exorcism or evocation. For the Christian magician, they would have been easily seen as analogous.

My conclusion is that the rite of exorcism very likely functioned as a model for Christian evocation, but other elements were added to make it quite different in function and purpose. The other elements that were added to evocation may have come from other cultural sources. They could also have been taken from the techniques and practices of an existing methodology, such as either Jewish evocation, or even an underground goetic tradition, which left traces and hints, but no evidential proof of its existence.

Frater Barrabbas

1 comment:

  1. The evolution of the Roman Rite of Exorcism in the 20th century, at least according to one practicing exorcist I read, has tended towards petition (asking God to do the work) rather than the exorcist directly commanding the demon. That particular exorcist wasn't fond of the changes. While Roman exorcists who speak out about their work tend to be traditionalist, this one definitely considered the post-Vatican II version less effective. I don't know if that evidence helps your analysis or not; I can dig up that interview if I look hard enough.