I Think I Witnessed an Exorcism

Yesterday, I think I witnessed an exorcism.  I’m currently in Uganda.  My friends and I were working at a Catholic primary and secondary school on the island of Buvuma (in Lake Victoria).

There was a lot of strange noises coming from the adjacent Catholic church.  I walked over and entered through a door in the transept.  In front of the altar were two older girls wreathing and moaning on the dais.  There were about 25 young people situated in the front nave, near the altar.  I sat and watch for a few minutes.

Whenever anyone with a crucifix would come close, the two “possessed” young women would freakout.  One of the girls was able to wiggle into the audience, and had to be returned to the dais.

There was apparently no priest present, the two men “officiating” were not in priestly attire.  The ceremony seemed like a strange mix of Catholicism and African witchcraft.  I couldn’t watch for very long, it was too uncomfortable.

I think I’ve convinced myself that this was not something staged or some form of demonstration.  I’m pretty sure it was supposed to be a real exorcism.  It was happening in a Catholic church, but with no apparent clergy present.  So your guess is as good as mine.  The ceremony was still going on 2 hours later when we departed the school.

Since I didn’t stick around, I’m not sure of the outcome.  But I hope they were able to successfully cast out the devils from the two “possessed” girls.

While it’s easy to scoff at this informal exorcism.  As a lukewarm Mormon, I have to face Mormonism “magic” past.  Is this any crazier than some of things in Mormon history?  Probably not.

I would hope that my own personal religion (everybody has there own and no two are alike) is rational, that science and religion can coexist. But even though I like a lot of Mormon theology, I find it’s past history of magic disturbing.  But then Christianity as related in NT also has a very magic past.  So Mormonism isn’t unique in this regard.

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One Response to I Think I Witnessed an Exorcism

  1. silver price says:

    On the other hand, if we define the magic-religion spectrum as I have suggested above (and never lose sight of the fact that every faith is some middle-ground compromise between the two), magic remains an important presence in Mormon cosmology (as I have argued elsewhere; see DIALOGUE 19 [Winter 1986]: 25-26). In contrast to other forms of Protestantism, Mormonism continues to insist upon the interpenetration of spirit and matter, and continues to seek the progressive perfection of man’s ability to comprehend and master the cosmos through ritual. Today’s Mormons are set off from their progenitors less by their renunciation of a magic world view than by their concession to their church leaders of a monopoly over the exercise of rituals that can be defined as magical (what Quinn refers to as “essential priesthood ordinances of eternal consequences,” p. xx). Rather than extinguishing magic, Mormon leaders have (since 1830) steadily renamed, consolidated, centralized, and regulated its practice. Reconceiving the transition in this way resolves certain puzzles identified by Quinn: throughout life Joseph Smith, Jr., collected seer stones but ordered others’ destroyed whenever they competed with his revelations (p. 201); the prophet publicly denounced phrenological publications other than those he controlled (p. 219); similarly, Brigham Young endorsed astrology but discouraged a separate society devoted to its practice (pp. 215-16). The Mormon church has so successfully monopolized and renamed magic that twentieth-century believers can live in an overtly rational culture but continue to satisfy the universal human hunger for a medley of magic and religion.

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