Branding the Devil in New Age, Catholicism and Pentecostalism: A Sociology of Exorcism

Thursday, 14 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 42 (Main Building)
Distributed Paper
Adam POSSAMAI, University of Western Sydney, Australia
Giuseppe GIORDAN, University of Padua, Italy
In Medieval Europe, it can be argued that people believed more in the devil than in ghosts. This cultural focus was carried by, for example, Catholics who increased the performance of exorcisms during the Reformation to justify the strength and veracity of their doctrine. During Victorian times, the perspective on the supernatural changed and ghosts became more important than the devil. Today, perceptions of westerners with regards to ghosts, possessions and the devil are multifarious. The current literature on exorcism claims that we are witnessing an increase in the need for exorcist rituals, especially, among other things, because of the growth of New Age spiritualties. With channelling and other alternative spiritual practices, New Age is offering a different ‘brand’ on how to access the other world. As a reaction to this, the amount of exorcists and exorcism has increased within, for example, Catholicism and Pentecostalism, and offer another type of ‘brand’. This paper will argue that the perceived increase of the presence of the devil in our society, and the need to protect vulnerable believers, is largely due to a religious competition in the devil’s market.