Sei Shonagon

The Pillow Book,

 c. 1000

The priest was in his early thirties and quite handsome. Over his gray habit he wore a fine silk stole—altogether the effect was magnificent. Cooling himself with a clove-scented fan, he recited the Magic Incantation of the Thousand Hands. I gathered that someone in the house was seriously ill, for now a heavily built girl with a splendid head of hair edged her way into the room. Clearly this was the medium to whom the evil spirit was going to be transferred. She was wearing an unlined robe of stiff silk and long, light-colored trousers.

When the girl had sat down next to the priest in front of a small three-foot curtain of state, he turned round and handed her a thin, highly polished wand. Then with his eyes tightly shut, he began to read the mystic incantations, his voice coming out in staccato bursts as he uttered the sacred syllables. After a short time the medium began to tremble, and she fell into a trance. It was awesome indeed to see how the priest’s incantations were steadily taking effect. By the Hour of the Monkey, the priest had brought the spirit under control and, having forced it to beg for mercy, he now dismissed it. At this point a lady of noble rank, evidently a member of the family, edged her way up to the priest’s curtain of state and said, “We are most grateful for you visit, Your Reverence. Our patient looked as if she might well succumb to the evil spirit, but she is now on her way to recovery.”

“I fear we are dealing with a very obstinate spirit,” the priest replied briefly, “and we must not be off our guard. I am pleased that what I did today has helped the patient.” So saying, he took his leave with an air of such dignity that everyone felt the Buddha himself had appeared on earth.

Roman Catholic Church

The Roman Ritual,


A priest—one who is expressly and in special wise authorized by the Ordinary—when he intends to perform an exorcism over persons tormented by the Devil, must be properly distinguished for his piety, prudence, and integrity of life. He should fulfill this devout undertaking in all constancy and humility, being utterly immune to any striving for human aggrandizement, and relying, not on his own, but on the Divine power. Moreover, he ought to be of mature years, and revered not alone for his office but for his high moral qualities.

The priest delegated by the Ordinary to perform this office shall have gone to confession, or at least elicited an act of contrition, and offered the holy Sacrifice of the Mass, if it was convenient to do so; he ought, moreover, to have implored God’s help in devout prayer. Vested in surplice and purple stole, and having before him the person possessed (in fetters if there is any danger), he traces the sign of the cross over him, over himself, and the bystanders, then sprinkles them with holy water. Kneeling down he prays the Litany of the Saints, exclusive of the prayers which follow it, with the others making the response. Thereupon he says, “Remember not, O Lord, our offenses, nor those of our parents: neither take retribution on our sins.” Our Father, inaudibly until, “And lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from evil.”

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