Real-Life Exorcists: Guide to What This Path Entails

Updated June 23, 2021
Exorcism book on wooden floor

It's true, there are real life exorcists who know how to exorcise a demon from a possessed person. This highly specialized field is not for the weak-hearted and requires a strong will, mind, and above all else an unwavering spiritual faith.

What Is an Exorcist?

According to Your Dictionary, an exorcism is, "The ritual act of driving out supposed evil spirits from persons, places or things who are possessed by them." These ritualistic acts may vary from one culture to the next, but the ultimate goal is the same, to exorcise the demonic spirit.

When a person is possessed by a demonic spirit, an exorcist is often called upon to save the person's soul from the total and complete domination of the demon. Exorcists in all cultures undergo spiritual warfare to free the person from the evil spirit and send the dark spirit back to its own realm.

Roman Catholic Church Trains Exorcists

There is a specific process for becoming a Roman Catholic Exorcist. Former exorcist, Father Fortea, explains there were very few when he was called into the service of an exorcist. "In the United States, for example, there were only four exorcists. The Church was only beginning to name exorcists," he says. "However, things changed dramatically over the next ten years, and people were starting to complain how there was just no help for people."

An exorcist must be approved by the Vatican. There are specific criteria for becoming an exorcist.

The person must:

  • Attend(ed) a seminary school
  • Hold a bachelor's degree
  • Be ordained a Roman Catholic priest

The Vatican's Rites of Exorcism were revised in 1614 and again in 1999. Priests wishing to become exorcists attend the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum, an educational arm of the Catholic Church. Through the exorcism coursework, the priest emerges and trains as an apprentice until capable to do battle with devils, demons and evil spirits on his own.

Over the past decades, the cases of demonic possession have increased. In March 2018, Catholic officials requested the Church provide more exorcists and better training since demonic possession is on the rise.

In May 2019, concerned by the increase of demonic possession cases and devil worshipping, the Roman Catholic Church allowed non-Catholic Christians to participate in the annual exorcism training conference. There were 250 representatives from five Christian churches in attendance. These Protestant Christians are just some of the religious leaders learning how to be exorcists.

Blind man with white eyes

How to Become a Demonologist

Not all exorcists are Catholic priests or Christians. In fact, there are many exorcists throughout the world that are non-Christians. Demonic possessions occur in all religions and non-religions. More importantly, there are many lay people who become demonologists and perform exorcisms. Some of these people also participate in paranormal investigations as an official team member.

Demonologists are mostly self-taught or apprentice with an experienced demonologist since there is no official demonology degree. There are several websites that offer training and certification in demonology. These require personal discernment to assess their validity and value. Some demonologists are mediums who understand spirit and know how to exorcise demonic entities.

A Real-Life Exorcist

A real life Roman Catholic exorcist is Father Jose Antonio Fortea who no longer performs exorcisms. Of course, he never had any intentions of becoming an exorcist. Understandably, it isn't something you wake up one morning and decide you want to pursue as a profession. However, soon after completing his thesis on exorcism in the late 1990s at Spain's Navarre University, he was called upon by the Bishop to investigate a possible case of possession.

What he thought was just a onetime investigation was followed by another case within the same year. In 2004, soon after his first book on demonology was published, he began receiving calls for exorcisms. He says, "I realized that the problem was much more common than I originally thought."

How an Exorcist Investigates a Claim of Possession

There is a specific protocol that an exorcist priest follows when undertaking an investigation of a claim that a person is possessed. The exorcist priest interviews the person suspected of being possessed. Father Fortea explains, "I determine whether they are mentally healthy, and I pray for them, regardless. When I see their reaction to prayer, that is how I determine if it is demonic in nature. Only praying can give you an answer."

Priest holding Holy Bible

There are certain phenomena that only exorcists know about. It's a particular pattern of behavior that isn't seen on TV or in the movies. Father Fortea states, "We can recognize that, and we can also recognize people improving with prayer. We've had cases where psychologists are given a demonic case and they simply don't know what to do."

Signs of Possession

There are decided signs of a possession, such as violent behavior, angry outbursts over religious artifacts, and more severe phenomena. Father Fortea explains, "What I've witnessed sometimes, though not always, is the ability to speak in other languages, great strength, knowledge of things impossible for them to know, and levitation - twice."

Father Fortea shares a story of how he verified the possession of a nine-year-old girl. The girl claimed to have seen a horrible demon in her home and could not stop crying. Her health began to suffer. After a week spent in a psychiatric hospital, the doctors were stumped and consulted with him.

One way that an exorcist often outs the demon is by tricking it. In this case, Father Fortea asked the girl her name, speaking to her in Latin. "She told the people in the room that I was asking for her name. That was a test because the child didn't speak Latin yet understood." The child was transferred to his parish and within 24 hours, she was well and back home. She remains so to this day.

How a Real Life Exorcist Performs an Exorcism

An exorcism is performed by the priest in the name of Jesus Christ. The priest serves as an official representative of Jesus Christ, hence the need for the Bishop's permission to perform an exorcism. The priest will call upon God, Jesus the Christ, angels, and archangels during the exorcism.

Old priest performing exorcism ritual

However, it is through the authority of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, that the priest has dominion over the devil, demons and evil spirits. He calls them out through that authority. Prayers are recited and holy water and other religious sacraments are used.

There are various religious rituals used during an exorcism that are based on the, including the very powerful Prayer for Deliverance that can be recited by anyone. There are two other prayers that are often used during an exorcism, Prayer Against Malefice from the Greek Ritual and the Anima Christi.

Finding a Real-Life Exorcist

The best way to find a real life exorcist is to contact a priest. To find a demonologist who performs exorcisms is more difficult. You'll need to rely on referrals from people you trust.

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Real-Life Exorcists: Guide to What This Path Entails