Exorcism and Mental illness (A Contemporary Shamanic Perspective)

( I wrote this article a few years ago. As this blog is relatively new I thought you, the reader might find this perspective helpful)

Exorcism (from Late Latin exorcisms, from Greek exorkizein – to abjure) is the practice of evicting demons or other evil spiritual entities from a person or place, which they are believed to have possessed.

All those who were said to be the messengers or mediators of the gods practiced exorcism in many cultures throughout history.  The majority of religious pathways have exorcism practices and those who perform the exorcisms are known as Priests, Rabbis, Shamans, Medicine men and Brahmans etc.

They would exorcise the demon or entity from the person who was thought to be possessed.  It was only practiced by those who were seen as having knowledge in this field. They needed a strong constitution and faith in order to rid the person of a powerful dark demonic force. (The origins of the word Demon originated from the Greek word ‘Daemon’ which is a word for spirit, which did not have any malevolent indications)

That mantle usually went to the one in the village that was blessed with, took the orders of a holy man or inherited this ability to understand the workings of the spirit world. Others however tended to use this ritual as a means to gain power and instill fear in the community.

Shamans particularly experience this rite of passage themselves in contrast to Priests or Rabbis. They encounter their own entity invasion, which frequently lead to periods of madness, physical illness, depression and great suffering. Often taking on the pain and imbalances of the village and the land around them.

Recovering from this rite of passage the Shaman would be held in high esteem for their survival with the ability to re-emerge stronger from such an ordeal.  They would then be of service to the community members that asked and needed spiritual guidance and healing. The shaman understood the state of possession, madness and all the elements that attributed to the persons state of torment.  Without walking the path oneself, one is unable understand and navigate the worlds both in reality and non- ordinary reality.

It has been well researched that those who have been possessed by unwelcome energies have a belief in the possibility of being possessed. So if someone were an atheist, he or she would not be seeking this kind of help.

Parapsychologist and Author Jeffrey Mishlove PHD points out that beneath the attack of entity attachment will be found something within the person which has allowed for the possession to occur [Auerbach, 1993].

In my experience there is always an open vulnerability in the person who feels beset by entities. There is a sensitive predisposition that makes that person susceptible to feeling hosted or equally it could be an awakening or trauma that leaves one open to this kind of experience.

Exorcism was commonplace before the advent of psychiatry took the reigns and with that the belief in spirit possession was shunned and kept to a minimum through the church or temple. Those that practiced the exorcisms would not go ahead with the practice until a psychiatrist had seen the person first.

Possession was replaced by the logic of  ‘mental illness’ a disease of the brain. ‘No you are not possessed, you have a mental illness and what you experiencing and seeing are called delusions and hallucinations’.

Throughout history both the church and the psychiatric body have gone to extremes to justify their beliefs. Far too many people were burnt, hung, and tortured and in the not so recent times, murdered in the name of cleansing the devil from someone’s soul. And even today there are reports in Africa that children are being exorcised in a harmful and hurtful way to cleanse them of evil.

Interesting to note that the Catholic Church did revise the rite of exorcism in 1999

In January 1999, the Vatican issued a revised Catholic rite of exorcism for the first time since 1614, reaffirming the existence of Satan and revamping his image for the millennium. Officials stressed that the church was not revising scriptural references to the Devil or suggesting that people should cease believing in the Evil One. But priests who conduct exorcisms should now deal with evil as a force lurking within all individuals, rather than one that threatens people from without. 

However, flipping to the other side which is chock full of medication. People are afraid to talk about spiritual encounters of any kind, as it constitutes various conditions related to mental illness. The Hearing Voices Network is doing much to debunk this theory. As you can have experiences of hearing voices and altered states of non -ordinary reality and still find your way to a state of balance without a label to go with it.

The mental health world is bent on telling people that this experience is a disease of the brain. If it is a disease, why then do people recover?

Look at John Nash (The film ‘A Beautiful Mind ‘was based on his story) he went through great suffering and was medicated for a long time and then withdrew slowly and learnt to deal with his own otherworldly experiences in his own way. Or take a look at the website of http://www.successfulschizophrenia.com there is a great resource of success stories that the mental health industry does not want to be to widely known.

Statement that many hear:

‘You will have this disease for the rest of your life and you will NOT be able to manage without being medicated for the rest of your life regardless of the side (direct) effects of the medication.’

This statement is a death sentence for many and I see it in the eyes of those who contemplate suicide after being caught in the mental health system and being unable to find a way out of what they see as a life long prison sentence with no reprieve. In the last two years I have been to the memorials of two beautiful brothers who took their own lives a year apart for this very reason.

The mental health world condones giving any attention to what is happening on a spirit level as they say it just exacerbates the imbalance. But ignoring, suppressing and referring to anything that sniffs of that world as a delusion or hallucination is clearly not helping, and to now drug children as young as two years old for their behavior being inappropriate is just way to extreme!

I understand for those of you who perceive from the left side of the brain how possession seems ridiculous. But this does not mean we should negate the broader subject of spirit attachment or imbalance and throw the baby out with the bath water.

Demonic possession is not a valid diagnosis and is not present in the DSM-IV manual. It is now identified as: hysteria, mania, psychosis, epilepsy and schizophrenia.  Those that say they are possessed are viewed by many psychiatrists, psyche nurses and mental health workers as someone’s way of getting attention who suffers from low self esteem or who are narcissists.

Here are a few interesting points from a paper written by Marc Bancroft MA which shows you that this concept of spirit attachment is not uncommon even in the halls of psychiatric and psychological understanding.


  • British psychiatrist novelist and author, Arthur Guirdham M.D., who wrote on ESP and reincarnation has concluded after 40 years of practice that every severe mental illness can be caused by spirit interference [Fiore, 1987].


  • In Thirty Years Among the Dead Dr Carl Wickland writes, ‘Humanity is surrounded by the thought influence of millions of discarnate beings. A recognition of this fact accounts for a great portion of unbidden thoughts, emotions, strange forebodings, gloomy moods, irritabilities, unreasonable impulses, irrational outbursts of temper, uncontrollable infatuations and countless other mental vagaries’. [p.17, 1974].”
  • Dr. Edith Fiore published a book on spirit attachment and its effects on mental and physical health.  Her book, The Unquiet Dead, generated new interest in the possibility of spirit attachment from therapists and the public alike.  Spirit attachment is the term used to describe the presence of entities “attached” to a living person who affect the person’s thoughts, actions, emotions or behaviors to some degree. Fiore’s work on sprit attachment came as a result from her work in past-life regression therapy.  Discrepancies in past life regressions revealed that many of her client’s past lives were really the past lives of discarnate entities attached to the client.  Out of 30,000 cases Fiore estimates that 70% of all clients have at least one spirit attached to them [Guiley, 1991].
  • Some investigators in the field claim that between 70-100% of the population are affected by entities at some time in their lives.
  • An exorcist seeking to dialogue with possessing spirits is far less likely to encounter the traditional demonic behaviors of hissing, convulsions, foaming at the mouth, and the screaming of obscenities, as is the exorcist who believes he is “doing battle with the forces of hell”.
  •  William James, a psychologist and philosopher who was found to be the 14th most eminent psychologist of the 20th Century, also believed that if there were entities they would have to enter through a cracked or fragmented self. He was one of the strongest proponents of the school of functionalism in psychology and of pragmatism in philosophy. He was a founder of the American Society for Psychical Research, as well as a champion of alternative approaches to healing. He challenged his professional colleagues not to let a narrow mindset prevent an honest appraisal of those phenomena. In an empirical study by Haggbloom using six criteria such as citations and recognition, psychological factors are discussed which inadvertently bring the notions of spirit possession and psychological explanations much closer together.  Baldwin’s observation that “most attached spirits do not make their presence known to the host [Baldwin, 1991]” is indicative of how the subconscious mind typically operates.  The author goes on to elaborate that entities “seem to function at the level of the subconscious [Baldwin, 1991].
  • Carl Jung said: The chief danger is that of succumbing to the fascinating influence of the archetypes, and this is most likely to happen when the archetypal images are not made conscious. It may even happen that the archetypal figures, which are endowed with a certain autonomy anyway on account of their numinosity, will escape from conscious control altogether and become completely independent, thus producing the phenomenon of possession

Carl Jung was a man that moved through his own states of madness. Seen as a Shaman of his time, he found his own truth in working with archetypes.  He said  ‘these images need to be made conscious’. I heartily agree with that. Whether on not the client feels that it is a spirit possession, archetype, disowned self, thought form or even the psychiatric term dissociation. The purpose is to bring the truth of the story and the players to the surface, to expose the wound in safety as something that may seem separate from you but as you work with the lesson it brings you to a deeper understanding, including your part in it as well as working on clearing the entity and embracing that aspect of the disowned self.

Professor Jeffrey Remain who served as devil’s advocate for the 1991 televised exorcism seen on 20/20 proclaimed, ‘It (exorcism) means that we don’t have to take responsibility for the conditions in our society that breeds crime and violence and other forms of evil. We can blame that on the devil as well. So I think it’s a counsel for irresponsibility’. [Exorcism, ABC Nightline, 1991]. ‘ Exorcism can easily be perceived as a quick fix for genuine physical, emotional, and psychological problems.

In today’s society it’s imperative that we do all we can to take our own power back. We have moved into a ‘fix it’ society where if there is not a tablet for everything one will be found.

The quick fix isn’t the answer to taking self responsibility, nor is it leaving it up to a psychic healer, Iman, Rabbi, Priest or Shaman that you found in the yellow pages to exorcise your attachments so you don’t have to face you own unconscious prodding’s.

‘It is not for us to judge who is and who is not really ‘possessed’. If someone is in his own cultural milieu, generally considered to be in a state of spirit possession, then he (or she) is possessed’. [Lewis, I., p.46, 1971].    

The work of the Contemporary Shaman is the path of learning how to clear the emotional body of its debris and working within the astral plane, as that’s where these unbalanced energies take form.  Taking responsibility for all that you have attracted (that doesn’t mean becoming a victim) is vital along this learning path.

That’s not to say that you cant be supported on your journey, held, guided and given a good clearing of the energies surrounding you initially. In the long term however you cant just expect someone to regularly give you an exorcism when you are playing the victim to what ever attaches itself to you. When you can empower yourself to challenge any visiting energies and learn tools of how to master and communicate with these vibrations of imbalance, you will be able to empower yourself in spirit, mind and body.

The energies/entities are coming to you or through you for a reason; there is availability within your emotional/astral body that they are attracted to. You are the most significant person in moving these energies into the light, as their relationship is with YOU.

Still, like most things being educated in how to stay safe and how to develop insight and skills can take time to learn.  I am not talking so much about intellectual based education, it is more developing emotional and spiritual intelligence. The key is to realize that in giving your fear and your power over to these energies of possession or harassment, you continue to stay the victim of their games.

The Contemporary Shaman after teaching you ways to use healthy grounding tools can guide you in how to embrace and remove these energies. They can guide you in how to work with the spirit world and empower yourself, but the true responsibility lies within you and you are the one that needs to learn how to be the master of your own spirit body rather than the entities, thought forms, archetypes or daemons that appear to possess you.

People are at their wits end in regard to getting help from the various mental health systems around the world and know that medication is not enough. So those with a strong conviction in the laws of good verse evil or those that have lapsed in their beliefs are heading back to the traditional Saturn based pathways of monotheist religions and the like.

Religion is coming back big time, as the world gets more chaotic. In some ways people are going back to traditional beliefs for a sense of familiarity and belonging. There are also New Age groups that are incorporating similar laws familiar to more traditional religious groups.

I find it interesting that there is little found documentation on priests themselves getting exorcised, but I had to laugh to discover that Mother Teresa was exorcised in her latter years, because she had trouble sleeping and was somewhat grumpy. Obviously it had nothing to do with old age and serving people all her life!

I am curious to know if the priests who have been charged with child abuse said it was the devil that made them do it?

Again, this belief that something or someone has more power over you is giving yourself over to something outside yourself. Rather than looking within to connect to your own divinity which is part of the greater whole.

I am not saying religion is to be shunned for those that have a deep connection, but it has brought so much shame, guilt, and judgment with it and lets face it behind every war there is a strong religious backbone.

I honor those that walk the path of compassion whatever path they belong to and do not argue your right to believe in a God, Goddess, Jesus, Allah, etc. Everyone has the right to believe in what they want. But why do we have to be so black and white about everything?  E.g.: this is the only way and those that do not join us will go to hell, stay sinners, be forever lost on the path, not ascend, be left behind, be given no mercy etc.

Today we have a healthy model called Spirit Releasment Therapy, which is akin to the Contemporary Shamanic work that I mentioned before. It assists in making contact with the interfering energy, identifying its attraction to being attached and to assist it to move on and for the client to integrate the learning experience so as to feel more whole.

This fast paced world that we are adjusting to throws us back upon ourselves to be our own healers. It is one of self-responsibility, self-empowerment and that is the path we need to take in dealing with this type of experience.

I can understand the need to clear the person of the surrounding entities as an initial starting point, but there is a relationship of sorts happening and just getting them moved off for a moment will not solve the issue.

Known actor Stephen Fry did a documentary and interviewed people that suffered from what is termed Bi polar (who experience many similar otherworldly experiences when in the elevated stage as those suffering from those labeled with schizophrenia) found that when pushed to answer the question: ‘If you had a choice to press a button and eliminate all the otherworldly experiences and encounters, would you?’ Majority answered that they definitely wouldn’t want to press the button, as it was a gift as well as a curse for them and they enjoyed much of their otherworldly experiences.

Years back I had attended an exorcism as a witness for a man who was deeply religious and believed in the devil.  The born again Christians asked him to ask Christ forgiveness for him being molested as a child (I nearly lost it with anger at that point, but promised I would just be a witness) The voices returned to him within 24 hours because his mind was still fearful and he still felt shame and guilt from the wounds that pervaded his life, which of course were never addressed. I was doing journeywork with a woman in my training days who felt she was possessed by another being and when all was released she felt better but said ‘ what will I be without him?’ Within a short time of her going back to her old ways and NOT practicing what she had be guided to practice the entity was back. There is always some kind of unconscious relationship underlying the continual harassment that the energies bring.

I also went to a workshop that a friend insisted on. At this workshop much was referred to regarding   the subject of Ascension. A woman did what was perceived as a healing on me (I had a little alert button go off but did nothing) and I was getting a cold that day and felt a little weak. I did not relate to many things said and many people in the room were totally enamored of the teacher.

That night and for the next night I felt well, possessed by an energy that was not my own. It was heavy, depressing dark and malevolent. I struggled for a day or two thinking it was just my stuff, as I just didn’t pick up on what was occurring. On the third night I felt like I was spiraling into a chronic state of melancholy and feeling rather spooked and high-strung at the same time. A huge storm was blowing, blasting lightning and thunder. Something inside prompted me to get up put my raincoat on and go up onto the hill close to my home.

As I stood on the hillock with all the skies raging around me, I felt to purge whatever this was and the only way that I could do it was scream all the feeling of ‘bile’ out of me. So I went with whatever my intuition motioned me to do. I spat, screamed, screeched, flailed my arms about, moved my body in strange positions and completely let it out.   I did not resist the feelings that I felt and expressed them fully without judgment…I just wanted it out!

To any one watching (fortunately not) I looked like a bad witch possessed whilst doing some evil spell and ready to be locked up. I thought it better to dive right into it and out the other side of whatever was taking hold.

After it finished (of its own accord) I felt spent and somewhat limp. Walking back to the house another message came though my intuitive self. ‘The stones you took with you to the workshop, bury them in your garden for three days and nights’. I did this as soon as I came in the door, burnt sage in my room with strong intent of sending anything off that did not belong and sat down to meditate. The channel was clear. I felt back in my body and connected. I receive that this ‘Ascension New Age model’ is definitely not my path and that for me it has a great deal of unbalanced energy mixed with it. I am not criticizing the concept of ascension re moving to a higher vibration of consciousness, I am talking about the ascension movement and its cultish pseudo Christian vibration.

In my early days of madness I had to clear the entities from myself and learn about why they had come to hassle me. Its about empowering yourself to stand up and meet the imbalance head on. There is great liberation in doing this rather than relying on someone to do it for you.

Don’t get me wrong I am all for guides, teachers, path pioneers, and guru’s if that is your path. But these teachers could and should be guiding you back to empower yourself.

Exorcism/ spirit release without dogma is fine if it is part of a longer-term guidance to enable you to clear for yourself. You do not have to bring in the words of religion to be of help if that is not your path and entities tend to get mighty agro when priests say ‘ go back from whence you came’ or an Iman says to the jinn if it doesn’t get out it will be tortured and burnt by the flames of Allah

Whatever the attachment they/it, are lost in a state of imbalance and need guidance in the astral world to freedom.

The best defense is listening and learning what the message is for you. To know where to focus your attention in that area to bring true emotional healing and to strengthen yourself.  Your wound is your gift, bring it into the sunlight embrace it, give it a voice, validate its role in your life and then let it go.

Carry a good bullshit detector, find a good guide in this field, develop an open and compassionate heart, hold onto the sword of truth (not judgment) and you will gain a stronger sense of self and clarity of spirit

Exorcism can be a dangerous ritual to play around with. Wisdom comes from building your own inner grounded truth and shining your light

Do all you can to balance your world. Nurture yourself with healthy grounded spiritual practices and if you feel you are in need of clearance, make sure whatever you do is totally safe and will not exacerbate your issue more. If you are on medication, jumping off is dangerous.  Good psychiatrists will work with you to lower your dose as you gain a stronger grounding.

‘We don’t need anyone to teach us shamanism, because there is really nothing to learn. What we need is someone to convince us that there is incalculable power at our fingertips. ‘

The Power of Silence



© Odette Nightsky

5 thoughts on “Exorcism and Mental illness (A Contemporary Shamanic Perspective)

  1. Seems like the phenomena sometimes described as entities attaching, happens where theres like a residual buildup gathered from environment and circumstances. Almost like a memory builds from the story of a place. It makes sense for me that to ask the teaching of such a force, allows it to be heard, perhaps for the first time, and this having happened could increase its ability to move on back to source.

  2. What happens when you become emotionally involved with a healer? How does one fight against the imbalance of power? Is it ethical to get romantically involved with someone who is being paid to do shamanic work?

    • The first thing that comes to mind is the word ‘fight’. If there is a battle for power then something needs to be addressed. I feel it is not ethical
      in any practice to get involved with the person that one is receiving healing from. If there is more to it then the teacher themselves needs to be honourable and address the issue and look to dissolve the situation of medicine work with the client as there is a fine line between guiding and getting manipulation even if it is not totally conscious. If there is a relationship born from this it should be honoured and respected and the session work should definitely be dissolved and some space taken and then if the energy is still very strong then a connection may occur again but under honourable circumstances, not unconscious desires.

      The reason for the attraction may be strong projections of issues needing healing and if that is not seen through and worked through it can make for a psychic storm and the client is often the one carrying a lot of psychic debris that is the guides responsibility to not leak their own agenda. This is a misuse of trust and it is a form of abuse by the teacher/guide/healer.

      Hope that brings a little clarity.

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