This Thing of Darkness: Perspectives on Evil and Human Wickedness

By Richard Paul Hamilton; Margaret Sönser Breen | Go to book overview

Eight
The Exorcist: Personification of Human Wickedness or
Upholder of Religious Duties?

Sandeep Singh Chohan

The exorcist holds an esteemed position within Indian religious traditions. This is due to a highly developed belief in magical powers and the supernatural that harms human beings in a multitude of ways. The exorcist's role is a dual one: firstly to remove such afflictions and other supernatural malaises; and secondly to impose harm on others as requested by supplicants. However this ambivalent aspect of the exorcist's nature has yet to be explored in the study of Indian religious traditions.

The ambivalent nature of the exorcist in being able to practice good and bad magic is mirrored in the dual nature of the Vedas, the scriptural basis of the Hindu tradition. The Atharvaveda, the fourth and final Vedic samhita (collection), has a complex system of good (bheshajani) and bad (abhichara) magical practices that are reflected within the exorcist. The dualism of magical practices in the Atharvaveda and the exorcist's prowess in being able to practice and utilize both forms of magic creates a dilemma in defining the role of the exorcist. As a result, the character of the exorcist as a personification of human wickedness or as an upholder of religious duties must be addressed. In this paper I shall explore the ambivalence of the exorcist in the Indian traditions by first examining the dual nature of magical practices in the Vedas, and then by analyzing the origins and development of the exorcist in both scripture and popular religion.


1. The Dualism of Magical Practices in the Vedas

The Atharvaveda contains the majority of references to belief in supernatural malaise and practices of exorcism, although there are several references in the Rg Veda, the first and most important Vedic samhita in the Hindu tradition. Popular belief is that the Atharvaveda is of a composite authorship by the two mythological rishis (sages or poets), Atharvan and Angiras. Both figures feature in the mythology of the Vedic period, (4000BCE-3000BCE) especially in connection with the Rg Veda. Angiras is thought to have written a large number of hymns contained in the Rg Veda. The authorship of the Atharvaveda is difficult to substantiate, as is the authorship of any other Vedic samhita.

Rishi Atharvan is revered as the son of Brahma in early Vedic mythology. It is unclear at what stage of the development in the early Vedic priestly system Atharvan originates; however as the author of the

-103-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
This Thing of Darkness: Perspectives on Evil and Human Wickedness
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this book
  • Bookmarks
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
/ 159

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.