It is logical that this question follows on from “Do Witches raise spirits?”. As I said in that post you should never conjure what you cannot control and exorcism forms part of being able to handle spirit. But what is exorcism? How does it differ from Banishing and Cleansing? Is Excorsim a Christian rite and does it have a place in pagan practice? All these questions, and more, filtered through my mind on reading the question so lets start at the beginning…
Banishing, Cleansing and Exorcisms
The words Banishing, Cleansing and Exorcism are often used interchangeable when talking about working with spirits and energy. Whilst they describe essential the same processes; that of removing of energy or entity from a space, there are differences in context, operation and timescale.
Banishing literally means to rid a space of something or someone and is a magical practice is akin to ‘housekeeping’. Done each time you have dealings with the world of spirit banishing is performed to ensure that spirits and energy are compelled to leave regardless of their characteristics.
In some cases the action is a pointed as the word implies, a command to depart containing all the force of will that a master of their Craft can muster, however more often it is a statement from one equal to another which may be better described as ‘giving thanks and farewell’. It is entirely dependant on the operation and relationships with the entities in question.
On the other hand ‘exorcism‘ is not a common occurances. The litetal meaning of the word is “the expulsion or attempted expulsion of a supposed evil spirit from a person or place.” In magical practice it is an action employed when it is necessary, when every day protection and energy work has not been sufficient or when existing energies/entities are disturbed and become ‘problematic’. The process involves removing a negative or unwanted energy and replacing it with something positive in the name of the divine. The word has strong Christian connotations but we will discuss in a moment how this does not need to be the case.
Cleansing is very similar to exorcism in that it is a process of clearing a space of unwanted energy and replacing it with positive energy. Unlike exorcism the divine play little or no part and is the term prefered by most pagans because it is not associated with any other faith.
Personally, and you may not agree with me, I think it is the involvement of deity that makes the Excorsim. The idea that one energy or entity is replaced by another, which must be raised or invoked through a series of operations or ritual practices means that cleansing and exorcism are almost identical. The main and critical difference between the two is that cleansings do not invoke the divine for aid in the operation.
Not everyone who works with spirit in helping them to move on will refer to the process by any of these three terms. They may talk about elevations, crossing over and crossings, there are probably eve of more terms which I don’t have an awareness of. These processes are likely to be spiritual processes not involving deities or religious beliefs.
To Exorcise or Not?
I’m including my thoughts on why and when a cleansing/exorcism because of the sheer number of social media posts reading “waaaa my house is haunted how do I get rid of it?” or similar.
Much can be said about learning the basics of grounding and protection on a personal and property level but once a spirit is within action needs to be taken to remove if should it not be willing to go. However, in the case of ghosts and hauntings there are other factors that should be considered before taking any action.
In the vast majority of situations the worst a ghost can do is generate a sense or atmosphere of fear. Actions and events are repeated as if in life without awareness of the modern material world, as if recorded into the very fabric of the building/location. This kind of haunting is the most common and although the experience is unnerving there is no harm intended or even caused. These ‘recordings’ are associated with the location and may have always been present or be initiated by changes made to the location (decorating, renovating etc).
On the other hand hauntings have an entirely different tone. In these cases the spirit has some awareness of the modern world around it, it may even appreciate that it is no longer of this earth and has become something ‘other’. Again the worst that can really happen is the generation of a sense of fear. Manipulation of the environment and atmosphere consistent with recordings occur however they are not simply measured repeats of actions passed and may also occur in response to our presence. Even in cases where physical manifestations occur they do little to no actual harm beyond strengthening the sense of fear, thus strengthening the spirit.
Dealing with these spirits can be as simple as accepting their presence in your environment, particularly in the case of recordings and benign hauntings. The first port of call in these instances is to establish some form of positive communication with the spirit in question. In most cases the spirit has been associated with the space being haunted much longer than the living; it may have been their home or place of work or an area they strongly associated themselves with in life. Whatever the reason these spirits have as much right of residency as the living and often view the living as interlopers in *their* space. For this reason it is important to communicate with the spirit and find ways to coexist.
Opening guarded line of communicating and establishing the relative positions of both parties is often all that is needed to calm a haunting down. Living and dead establish boundaries between their own space and time and with the things they are comfortable with. Once coexistence is achieved it may also be possible to form working relationships with resident spirits going forward. It should be noted however that the living should approach the connection with a strong mental stance, willing to coexist on mutual terms but not be pushed around. Similarly they should be conversant with techniques to ground and protect themselves, just in case .
It is when these attempts at communication and coexistence fail that exorcism becomes the next logical step.
The Classic Exorcism
The mental image of an exorcism involves a very shouty (usually short, balding and Catholic) priest shouting latin liturgy and compelling the spirit/demon to depart “in the name of the Lord”. Along side this there is usually the sprinkling of holy water, consumption of communion and banishing of various holy items.
These concepts and actions do not fit with the Pagan mindset and whilst the Christian ritual of exorcism is irrelevant to us the concept of expelling unwanted energies or ‘exorcism’ is an operation open to us. Many cultures and sects throughout the ages have has their own set of ritials which dealt with negative energies known by different names which, if you agree with my earlier premises regarding the involvement of deity, can be refereed to as exorcism. There is no reason, therefore, why Witches may not perform an excorsim in the name of their divinities. Whether the individual witch refers to it as exorcism, banishing or cleansing will depend on their opinion and their tradition.
The Witches “Exorcisms”
So having established that not everyone in the Pagan community will use the word exorcism it is important to also note that not all Witches will perform exorcism type rituals (or feel they need to). Equally not everyone who performs this kind of ritual will consider themselves a Witch, or indeed pagan. There is a vast New Age / Spiritual community with mediums and spiritualists performing spirit cleansings.
But what may a non-Christian exorcism entail? There are some broad steps which I will outline here but the detail and exact process will vary because *diversity*.
- Protection – deity or personal protection is established for all those taking part.
- Raising Energy – this usually involves visualisation and sound/vibration and/or the invocation of deity.
- Communication – it is important that the spirit is addressed in some way, especially if no prior connection has been made. Even if there is no medium present address the spirit in firm and initially respectful tones. This step may lead to full exorcism or a negotiation between living and dead.
- Removal – how this occurs will depend on the operation and communication. In some cases it may be an invitation to cross over to the next life or leave a space, in others a compulsion and command. In either case the invoking of a deity or higher power may accompany this. Alternatively noise plays a part in this, ringing of bell, banging of drums or just raised voices.
- Replacement – once it is clear that the area has been cleared (and I stress that you should always seek confirmation) you need to replace the removed energy. Perform energy raising again to fill the void left by the departed spirit.
- Ward – Establish protective wards around the area to discourage the any other spirits taking their place.
Pots and Pans and Other Quick Fixes
There are times when rituals aren’t necessary or possibly and if I cracked out candles and incense every time my ‘sticky’ children brought home an Otherworld observer I’d be broke. My boundary wards are effective but from time to time things come through and before I can reset the wards the visitor needs to be firmly shown the door.
Usually phenomenon is little more than things going missing only to reappear, things falling over without explination and banging without source. In the more extreme cases we have had bed shaking and nightmares/terrors, objects falling out of thin air, you know the usual. Normally I do some divination and investigation before then haveing a chat with the spirit in question. I generally encounter a spirit just visiting to see what’s going on which will leave once asked to but sometimes the visitor has been more confrontational. I may LBRP, I may perform a cleansing or banishing but usually I just bring out the pots and pans and start banging.
The discordant noise both gets the attention of the spirit and disturbs it sufficiently that the location becomes an unattractive residence for them. Combined with a shouty, dare I say sweary, invitation to get out of dodge this method works well for spirits that have migrated into your space organically. Where the spirit is associated with an object there either needs to be a cleansing or removal of this object in addition to the dislodge/removal of the spirit.
There are lots of differn techniques for dealing with spirits, I’ve given a couple of recipes rather than detailed techniques so I recommend a good Google and read around the subject.