“Are there any demons? Dark angels? An angel of death? Elementals of earth, water, fire, air or wood? Any negative animals? Birds, insects, reptiles or vermin?” The young woman lying on the couch considers each question and, in a low dull voice, answers with hardly a trace of emotion. “A hawk demon. A demon of self-deception. An eagle. A group of ants. A group of rats and mice.” The woman sitting at her head nods and continues the questioning: “Any ghosts or spirits? Any agreements with Satan?”
“Yes,” says the girl.
“What is the symbol of the agreement?”
“Claws, blood, evil. A devil in a black cloak. He’s not even a man – he’s a decayed skeleton with a sword.”
“Fine,” says the woman with a brisk nod of the head, “Now you’ve recognised it, it can no longer have any power over you. We will break up the energy and take it away. It is all going to break up like a black powder and collect on the surface of the brow and the crown of your head.” She picks up a rattle from a table by her side and shakes it as she lists the demons that she is asking to leave. “They are all going – the hawk demon, the demon of self-deception, the eagle, the group of ants, the group of rats and mice and the agreement with Satan – they are all breaking up. They are all to do with the past and are all collecting on the surface. You no longer need this energy and now you have recognised it, it no longer has the power.”
The rattling gets louder and louder and now it is joined by a high vibrant humming that fills the small room. Maybe it is a trick of the light but the girl’s face seems darker, older, almost evil. “Your aura is opening to release this negative energy,” continues the woman and, with her arms aloft, she invokes: “I call on the four archangels, Gabriel, Michael, Uriel, Raphael, the Living Christ, the Holy Mother and St Peter, to take this energy.” There is a perceptible pause, as if time were standing still for a moment, and then the girl’s face seems to clear and her body visibly relaxes on the couch. The atmosphere subtly changes and a ray of weak winter sunlight strikes through the small window onto her face.
The woman rings a bell with a curious high tinkling tone. “Vibrant energy is now flowing into your head. Beautiful pink and silver energy filled with the special qualities of your guardian angel.”
She moves around the bed, making sweeping gestures over the girl and sprinkles rose water over her face, stroking her forehead. Then, with her hands raised, like a priest at the altar, she intones: “We thank you, all the powers and angels that helped us with this work. We thank you. We thank you. We thank you.” Taking off the red stole, embroidered with two gold crosses, she kisses it and returns it to a satin bag. Wrapping the girl up in a blanket, she asks her to turn onto her side and rest for a few minutes until she feels quite well.
This is a standard morning’s work for Dr Francesca Rossetti who performs around 150 exorcisms a year. Felicity, whose exorcism I had just witnessed, is 24 and a beauty consultant. She had come to Dr Rossetti because she had an overwhelming fear of death and a terrible fear of hurting other people. Her terrors had been triggered following a party when someone had laced her drink with LSD and she had had a bad drug experience. Rather than seek help from a psychotherapist, she had turned to exorcism.
“I feel much better,” she says when she joins us in Dr Rossetti’s sitting room, “much lighter. And the terrible pressure at the back of my head has gone.”
Dr Rossetti performed her first exorcism over thirty years ago. It wasn’t a conscious career choice but something that just happened and she firmly believes she is simply carrying on work she started in previous incarnations. “I had quite a lot of supernatural experiences when I was very young and then people just started coming to me with their problems. By the time I was in my teens I was a bit of a Marj Proops.” She spent years studying and travelling round the world, learning from priests and medicine men and women of all cultures. She’s a doctor of Divinity and also an ordained priest in the Holy Orthodox Catholic Apostolic Church.
Rossetti is a warm, bright woman with a healthy sense of humour. Amidst the books, videos and ornaments that clutter any home, there are stained glass images of the saints adorning her windows and a crucifix and candles sit on top of the mantelpiece.
She talks of demons and spirits as if they were nothing more than irritating ailments and lists angels of death, mischievous entities and elementals like a long, dreary shopping list. But, despite her matter of fact approach to exorcism, she insists her work is in deadly earnest and that demonic possession is a very real fact of modern life. Demons, she says, are attracted by negative emotions and will positively thrive in an atmosphere of fear, hate, envy, lust or jealousy. Add excessive alcohol or drugs to the picture and you have a good possibility of infection. Even worse, she is convinced that many of us are carrying demons from previous incarnations, from lifetimes during which we made pacts with the devil, indulged in black magic or performed acts of cruelty. “To think that, after thousands of lives, you have not had some dealings with Satan, is very naive,” she says.
It is also naive, she insists, to imagine you can remove the demon and expect everything to be alright. Most exorcists, she says, simply get rid of the demon and don’t worry about either the underlying emotion or filling the gap. “It’s simply not taken seriously enough in the West,” she says. “In fact, the church takes it really rather lightly; exorcist is one of the very minor orders of the church. So when a person becomes an exorcist they really don’t know what the hell they are doing. They simply haven’t had the training.” She says she has seen exorcisms in which the demon has simply waited until the rite was finished before “popping back in.”
And, she also points out, exorcism has to be tailored to the individual’s system of belief. “If someone comes from Islam there is no point in treating them with Christian symbolism. If you have a Jewish demon, it’s hardly going to respond to Islamic symbolism. You have to adapt to individual needs.”
Demons, she says, come in all shapes and sizes. People are often surprised that she questions them about animal and insect possession but, she explains, it can be very common and, certainly in the East, it’s not unusual to see people writhing on the floor like snakes or jumping around the room while being exorcised. Personally, she tries not to actually “see” the demons as they are being removed but on occasions she has inadvertently noticed strange forms. “Sometimes I just see a dirty powder coming out or I feel unpleasant-looking creatures and so forth. Once though I saw this little creature – it was a sex entity and it was trying to put me off the exorcism with little jokes and so on. It had an oversized penis which it was waving at me. And sometimes the smell can be unbelievably bad. It’s generally ammonia I smell but the angels take it away so I don’t suffer for more than about thirty seconds.”
Rossetti has no fear of the demons. Secure in the belief that her guardian angel and the archangels will take away anything unpleasant, she attacks her work with methodical precision. “Sometimes people have a very heavy energy. I remember one man who came to see me and I actually “saw” claws. He said he might harm me, he might damage me. It was quite unpleasant because you don’t normally see a human being with inhuman claws. But, no, I wasn’t frightened. If there is something really unpleasant, you simply break it up in stages. It’s like going into a field of bombs, you can’t diffuse them all in one go.”
For this reason she often performs exorcism over several sessions: like cancer, possession is often not limited to one part of the body or one demon. Demons of self-deception can mask pacts with Satan and sometimes it can take several hours of patient questioning to release all the entities trapped in a body.
The second exorcism I witness is that of a 50 year woman called Maureen. A self-confessed nymphomaniac, she appears nervous and suspicious. Her eyes flitter and shift from Francesca and me and occasionally she laughs in an eerie way for no reason at all. She repeatedly twists her hands as if she were trying to pull something off her fingers. “I think I have the spirits of four witches in me,” she says, almost with pride. “And I am so restless in bed; has a spirit been draining my energy in my sleep?”
Rossetti smiles gently and takes details, asking questions in much the way a standard psychotherapist would. Then we go into the small exorcism room and Maureen lies on the couch. Covered with a light blanket Rossetti places a white stole (for protection) around Maureen’s neck and calls on the powers to protect the work, to cast a circle of love and light around the room. Taking her into deep relaxation, Rossetti asks her to contact the part of her body that holds all her negative emotions. Unsurprisingly she goes straight to the vagina and brings through a demon of nymphomania. “What are the emotions?” asks Francesca. “Lust, longing for life,” she mutters. Then she gasps and shivers: “Something’s eating away at me. An animal. Four-legged. Like a horse.”
“Is there a demon of havoc in your heart?
“One, more than one or a group?”
“Is there a dark angel?”
“Yes. A group.”
“Is there an angel of death?”
“Yes. A group.”
More demons and dark angels of havoc, greed and nymphomania follow and then Rossetti asks one more question. “Is there a devil attracting all these demons?” Maureen pauses for a moment, her knuckles white with tension, before answering.
“Yes, in the solar plexus. It’s black and dirty.”
Rossetti seems satisfied and quietly calls on the powers to take away all the demons and spirits, all the Satanic energy.
“It is all going now, breaking up, giving you a feeling of wholeness, of stability and of beauty. You now have a feeling of connection with reality; a new balance that is right for you.”
Back in the living room, Maureen seems much calmer. Her eyes seek and hold contact and she holds her hands calmly in her lap. “It was very intense,” she says, with a sense of wonder. “I feel far more “here” now, more earthed. But I feel worn out.” Rossetti advises her to take it easy for the rest of the day, to take a walk in the park and then rest. She leaves with a warm smile on her face.
Before the session I had put Maureen down as a paranoid schizophrenic and privately thought that her answers lay with a psychiatrist rather than an exorcist. But it was clear that, whatever it did, the exorcism had a substantial effect.
Rossetti is quick to point out, however, that she does not automatically assume demonic possession: “One has to be very careful to check out what the physical and emotional condition is. You might get irrational behaviour if the person is eating something they are allergic to or someone might come along and say I’m so depressed it must be spirits – and their mouth is full of amalgam which is known to cause depression. I don’t think everything has to be a demon.”
Rossetti has written two books on her work. One – Psycho-Regression: A New System for Healing and Personal Growth
touches on exorcism briefly but her first, Casting Out the Devils (Aquarian, out of print), written under the name Francoise Strachan, deals solely with the subject. In it she describes how serious the effects of possession can be. One case involved a young woman who went to a spiritualist church and contacted what she imagined was the spirit of her lover who had died. She became obsessed with the spirit which eventually was able to materialise in a form solid enough to have sexual intercourse with her. Another woman became involved in black magic and made a pact with the Devil. She tried to kill herself in numerous ways: strangling, slashing her wrists, even swallowing razorblades. Both women might have been considered simply neurotic or deranged yet both responded to exorcism and made complete recoveries.
In some cases, Rossetti says, automatic writing will appear in a page of normal writing with the pen snatched and flung into the middle of a room. And, in very advanced cases, she says “the demon literally dominates the body, seizes on the organs and uses them as if they were his own. It can actuate the nervous system and produce movements in the limbs, speaking perhaps through the patient’s mouth.”
It’s quite common for demons to speak in foreign or unknown languages but Rossetti says she simply asks for a translation. She has, not quite respect or sympathy for the demons, but certainly a kind of pity. “I never scream or shout at them or send them to eternal damnation because that’s hardly very loving,” she says, “OK, a demon is a distorted form of energy but it’s still trapped. I feel, like everything, that they can be recycled and when the angels take the demons, they are transmuting them and allowing them to continue their own path of evolution. They can be transformed through the power of God.”
Her work gives her great satisfaction but, she stresses, what she wants most of all is to train more people in her profession. She would dearly love to find priests, therapists or others from the caring professions who could bring the necessary strength, compassion and understanding to the work. The modern world needs more exorcists, she believes, and good ones because, no matter how clinical and ordered life may seem, satanic energy does exist. “Satan is a big question,” she says, with a shake of the head, “and until Satan is transmuted, there will not be the completeness of God in all things.”
* Names of patients have been changed.