Lecture The History of Demonic Possession - A Lecture by Dr Andrew Sneddon

Fri 30 Oct, 7:30PM

Part of an exclusive Halloween lecture series

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The History of Demonic Possession - A Lecture by Dr Andrew Sneddon


Ulster University lecturer in International History Dr Andrew Sneddon will be taking you on a fascinating journey back in time to look at the facts around real exorcisms in Ireland. Prepare to explore all things weird and wonderful as part of series of talks around the Halloween season at Riverside.

Vomiting, levitating, speaking in tongues, screaming obscenities, recoiling from Holy objects, and the use of the ancient rite of exorcism to dispel the evil spirit responsible. In 1973, the controversial box office hit, The Exorcist, opened up new audiences to such grisly subjects. The film heralded a wave of demonic possessions that would haunt parts of the Christian world for decades, even if few were as severe as that shown on screen. Strangely, the events portrayed in The Exorcist would not have looked out of place in 1573, during the period historians have called the ‘golden age’ of possession, c.1450-1750.

This talk will consider this epidemic and the skilled amateurs, Protestant ministers, and Roman Catholic exorcists who dealt with it. Along the way, we will meet Russian ‘shriekers’ who stripped off their clothes, convulsed and screamed, individual demoniacs (possessed people) who played host to scores of demons, and whole convents of possessed nuns in seventeenth-century France, Spain and Italy. We will also encounter demoniacs who claimed witches had summoned demons to enter and control their bodies.


From the nine year old girl in Antrim in 1698 who had an old woman murdered by her neighbours for orchestrating her possession, to the 11 year old in Paisley, Scotland, who had seven people executed for a similar crime and went onto invent the Paisley pattern. Sometimes history is stranger than fiction…

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