Prayers to exorcize cloven-hoofed demons appeared in 4th century

One can see loads of announcements advertising effective ways of “driving out demons” and “getting rid of an evil eye” in today’s newspapers and on the Internet. Nearly all of those wizards and magicians who specialize in driving out demons are professional con artists. However, all world religions admit to the existence of evil spirit. Moreover, there are people who can effectively tackle wicked creatures even without using fortune-tellers. An Izvestia correspondent speaks with theologians about the origins of demons and ways to control the nasty supernatural.

According to Judaism, demons are incorporeal. They can take form of humans, though. But demons are easily recognizable because they are cloven-hoofed. Some demons prefer chicken feet. Needless to say, demons tend to hide their hoofs and gallinaceous feet. Still, they stand out.

There are males and females in the world of demons. They “report” to Asmodeus, a fallen angel. Lilith, a female master of the night, is considered one of the most mischievous demons. She is portrayed either as a long-haired woman or a fowl-like bird. According to Borukh Gorin, head of a public relations department of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, Lilith is a very powerful demon.

“She managed to bewitch Solomon even though he was able to charm demons. It is believed that a man who commits adultery is influenced by Lilith. Our sages believe Lilith’s mission is to kill children who were conceived in sin. By and large, she is thought to be responsible for killing young children. If a child laughs on a Saturday night, Lilith is thought to be playing with him.

There are a number of theories as to the origins of demons. One theory maintains that Asmodeus created them by sorcery. Another theory says that Adam and Eve produced the original demons.

The number of demons is continually growing, according to Borukh Gorin.

“Demons live forever, they never die out, and new demons are born every day by people who play with themselves. There are myriads of demons around,” says Gorin.

Well, there are also quite a few bits of advice for those who wish to ward off demons. Judaists place the mezuz, a vial with a piece of papyrus bearing a special prayer, on a door jamb to protect their dwellings. A bowl filled with water should be put at the bedside so that one can reach out and wash the night demons off his fingertips before getting up. By the way, Judaists should wash their hands after visiting a cemetery because cemeteries are inhabited by demons too.

“According to the teachings of Judaism, demons do not challenge the Almighty, they only act as a blind tool of rage,” says Gorin.

Gorin says persons who consider themselves possessed at times seek help at a synagogue. In most cases they suffer from some kind of a mental disorder so they actually need a doctor, not a rabbi. “I’ve never seen the possessed myself,” says Gorin.

Russian Orthodox Church also acknowledge the existence of demons. However, the original demons are believed to have been good until they became morally perverted and wicked due to too much pride. Demons can not be seen just like infrared beams.

“There was a concept of ‘ethereal bodies’ in the 19th century. A man can be possessed by a demon but only when God shows tolerance. It is not necessarily a bad sign if a man becomes a possessed person,” says Alexei Osipov, a professor with the Moscow Seminary of the Moscow Patriarchate.

Prof. Osipov is opposed to exorcism. The prayers for driving out demons were put together back in 4th century. The Metropolitan of Kiev Pyotr Mogila devised a respective order of services (a form of religious worship) for Russian Orthodox Church in the 17th century. The order was based on Catholic texts dealing with exorcism.

According to Prof. Osipov, Russian Orthodox Church has never used that order. Practicing ceremonies in the guise of exorcism by some priests is a very worrisome tendency, says Osipov. He is confident that those priests, the self-proclaimed exorcists, have an exaggerated self-esteem and a total unawareness of their spiritual mediocrity.

“Expelling evil spirits is a miracle, a ceremony that has been performed by the Savior, apostles, holy men graced by the presence of the Holy Spirit. These days some priests practice exorcism, normally they do not have a blessing from a bishop. In other words, they are not authorized to conduct any religious ceremony without getting permission from their superiors.

Izvestia Nauki

Translated by Guerman Grachev

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov