The Devil within: Possession and Exorcism in the Christian West

Terry Eagleton writes:

Early modern Europe was awash with cases of demonic possession. Thousands of men, women and children conversed in languages of which they had no knowledge, tore at their own flesh and uttered blasphemies and profanities. They vomited vast quantities of nails, pins, blood, feathers, stones, coins, coal, dung, meat, cloth and hair, and grunted and barked like animals. Some of them writhed in convulsions, floated above the ground or demonstrated preternatural physical strength. Their eyes bulged, their limbs stiffened, their faces became grossly distorted and their throats and stomachs grew monstrously swollen. A number of them lapsed into trances, foresaw the future or disclosed secrets it was hard to see how they could have possessed.

(LRB 9 May 2013)

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