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When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?”
Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. The demons begged Jesus, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.”

He said to them, “Go!” So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water.

MAT 8:28-32 (NIV)

Basic Information

Exorcism is a magical - or, more normally, a theurgical technique used to expel a possessing entity from a person, place or thing1. The exact technique will depend on the exorcist's tradition - a priest is likely to borrow or directly invoke the authority of his god, wheras a shaman might instead call up a friendly spirit to force the resident out. A magician is likely limited to his own power and ingenuity. Props may include sacred relics, ritual tools or a magic circle of some kind. "Folk" techniques used by unskilled practitioners may include beating or otherwise tormenting a possessed person (with similar techniques for objects and places) in the hope that it will annoy the possessing entity enough to make it leave. This almost never works2. Truly powerful exorcists work on the "You! Out! Now!" basis as per the flavour text.

Besides the obvious, exorcisms may also help to expel ghosts, destroy fetishes and dispell any lingering magical effects on an area.

Depending on the technique used and various other circumstances, the possessing entity or resident effect may fight back - for example, having a possessed person attack the exorcist or being generally abusive and insulting in the hope of undermining the exorcists focus on the ritual in hand. Besides this there is also the problem of determining when a possessing entity has actually gone (and when it is just hiding) and then making sure that it doesn't return afterwards.

“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.”

LUK 11:24-26 (NIV)

Obviously, dealing with the circumstances that lead to possession in the first place is a big help, as are various forms of ritual purification. Failing that, Ward magic may help.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • As noted, exorcism is useful for all sorts of things.
  • And amateur exorcists are often worse than useless.
  • The notion of re-possession is probably useful for plot as well.
  • Potentially a way to remove powers granted by a non-hostile possessor.
  • Note that different types of exorcism might not work against particular spirits. Calling in a replacement requires having a spirit ally both powerful enough to evict the current tenant and trusted to not take up residence itself. On the other hand, invoking a higher authority requires that the spirit recognize that authority; not necessarily something that can be taken for granted in the theological mess of fantasy religions. In either case, it may be necessary to find an appropriate power if those available are insufficient.
  • In some cases - especially where ghosts need to be disposed of - invoking a psychopomp may be useful. Other spirits may be susceptible to other spiritual predators.
  • Something of a rules decision as to whether it is possible to exorcise an incarnate spirit (such as a soul) from its material body. That may turn out to be something well known to be impossible … which then occurs.
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