I managed to get rid of my squatting demon about a year after I first became initiated as an animist, after a year of intensive training. It happened about 2 months after I realised what was going on and got some advice from a couple of experienced practitioners who had dealt with the issue before.

So, did I get ‘exorcised’? No.

Exorcism is the word that’s commonly used to talk about de-possesion, and for reasons that will become clear I don’t used it. There was no great ritual, no great final struggle and no rescuing priest when I got rid of the demon. There was a very gentle release during a standard energy medicine healing. The person doing the healing for me didn’t even know that’s what was going on at the time. It was not a dramatic, painful or dangerous resolution. The actual de-possession itself couldn’t have been easier.

I believe that this was because I was in such a state of energetic health and power that I wasn’t a great host anymore. I had been slowly squeezing the demon out by filling myself with my own power and healthy energy, and had dealt with a lot of the hooks that it was using to hold onto my energy. It simply couldn’t hold on any longer. All I had to do was give it a final push.

Usually, when we hear a story about exorcism it’s controversial and dramatic. It’s blood and pea soup, crucifixes and interminable religious rites. But from my own experience, I know that this isn’t just untrue, it’s also unhelpful. It’s dis-empowering. De-possession is an active process undertaken by the person hosting the demon, not by some spiritual genius who swoops in and saves the hapless host (much as I love it when Dean and Sam do it – guilty pleasure!).

I believe that possession is possible because we’ve lost a crucial power. The greatest harm that possession does us is further loss of power. It makes sense that to resolve the problem, we need to recover all of that power. To be rescued by someone else from the situation does nothing to recover our power, but only puts us again at the mercy of others. It does nothing to resolve the original problem that allowed the possession to happen in the first place.

Is it any wonder that forcible religious ‘exorcism’ has a poor safety record and is admitted even by exorcists to be often ineffective or worse?

This isn’t to say that I wouldn’t ever support an attempt to help someone de-possess themselves, even in a religious context. I simply believe that, unless they do the work to recover as much of their power as possible and resolve the wounds that are being used as hooks, the attempt will probably be dangerous and futile.