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Spirit possession is paranormal, supernatural, psychological and/or superstitious spirits, gods, demons/daemon (demonic possession), animas, ET's or other disincarnate or extraterrestrial entities taking control of a human body, resulting in noticeable changes in health and behavior. The concept of spiritual possession exists in Christianity and other contemporary religions and can also be seen in the mythology, regression therapy and folklore of many cultures.

Haitian Vodou and African traditions

One way that those who participate or practice Haitian Vodou and related traditions can have a spiritual experience is by being possessed by the lwa. When the lwa descends upon a practitioner, the practitioner's body is being used by the spirit, according to the tradition. Some spirits are believed to be able to give prophecies of upcoming events or situations pertaining to the possessed one, also called "Chwal" or the "Horse of the Spirit." Practitioners experience this as being a beautiful but very tiring experience. Most people who are possessed by the spirit get a feeling of blackness or energy flowing through their body as if they were being electrocuted. According to Vodou believers, when this occurs, it is a sign that a possession is in the works. The practitioner has no recollection of the possession and in fact when the possessing spirit leaves the body, the possessed one is tired and wonders what has happened during the possession. Not all practitioners have the ability to become possessed, but practitioners who do generally prefer not to make excessive use of it because it drains immense energy from them. It is said that only the spirit/lwa can choose who it wants to possess, for the spirit may have a mission that it can carry out spiritually. Also, it is believed in Haitian Vodou and related traditions that those possessed by the lwa probably are at a very high spiritual level such that their soul is mature and at an advanced level.

It is also believed in Haitian Vodou and related traditions that there are those who feign possessions because they want attention or a feeling of importance, because those who are possessed carry a high importance in ceremony. Often, a "chwal" will undergo some form of trial or testing to make sure that the possession is indeed genuine. As an example, someone possessed by one of the Guédé spirits may be offered piment, a liqueur made by steeping twenty-one chili peppers in kleren, a potent alcoholic beverage. If the "chwal" consumes the piment without showing any evidence of pain or discomfort, the possession is regarded as genuine.

In Sudanmarker and certain other East African cultures exists the Zār Cult, an ethnomedical healing ceremony involving possession typically of Muslim women by a Zār spirit.

Cultural references

Spiritual possession, especially malign spiritual possession, has been a favorite theme of fictional works, especially in horror novel and film. The novel and film The Exorcist may be the best-known examples of the latter. A version of benign possession is Deadman, a ghostly superhero who uses his possession ability in the cause of justice. Jericho, a member of the Teen Titans, could also take possession of someone else's body through eye contact (and was able to control their motor skills, and sometimes speech). Powerful fictional telepaths of the Marvel Universe particularly X-Men characters such as Jean Grey and Professor X can possess other bodies.

  • In The Matrix agents possess people by temporarily changing them into suit wearing archetypes, fighting against their foes on a mission to stabilize the program.

  • The Puppet Masters is a 1951 science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein in which American secret agents battle parasitic invaders from outer space. These invaders have the ability to possess their hosts.

  • In the anime and manga Saint Seiya, spirits are able to take total control of characters, using them to carry out their plans. Possession is generally denoted by a change in the hair and eye color; the temporary possession of Shun of Andromeda, for example, turned his green hair red and changed his eye color to a pale blue. Later, his hair turns black as he is completely possessed. An apparent exception to this rule is Julian Solo, who is never completely possessed until the end of the Poseidon Saga.

  • Similarly, the animated hero Danny Phantom (half-ghost) and other ghosts in the series can 'overshadow' human beings, so-called presumably to avoid sounding occultic. Fact|date=September 2007}} Frank E. Peretti's books This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness deal heavily in demonic possession and spiritual warfare from an Abrahamic religious standpoint.

  • Spiritual possession, though not necessarily malign, also appears as a secondary theme in The Dune Chronicles, a series of novels written by Frank Herbert. The video game Geist's primary game mechanic revolves around possessing people, animals and objects in order to progress.

  • In the animated series South Park, Kenny was killed off for a year in Kenny Dies. Eric Cartman then drank his ashes thinking they were chocolate milk powder and became possessed by Kenny. Chef and Cartman's mom took him to Chef's Parents who exorcised Kenny.

  • In the manga and anime series Shaman King, shamans team up with ghosts and spirits to achieve their goals. The greatest dream of any shaman is to become the Shaman King, who is able to contact the Great Spirit (the spirit that every soul will eventually go back to) in order to be the savior of the world. Various magical and religious teams are scattered around the world but they come together as the plot progresses.

  • Often in the manga and anime Card Captor Sakura, characters are possessed by spirits. Some examples include Rita by The Sword Clow Card, and Sakura herself in the movie by its main antagonist.

  • In Lois Duncan's Stranger With My Face, Laurie is taught to project her soul from her body. Her sister Lea ends up taking over Laurie's body by projecting her soul.

  • In the video game The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Princess Zelda is possessed for the first part of the final battle. She is returned to normal after Link defeats her.

  • In Blood Omen 2: The Legacy of Kain, the Bishop of Meridian is temporarily possessed by Marcus to provide an obstacle in Kain's path to the Sarafan Keep.

  • In Oddworld series, the protagonist Abe is capable of controlling many creatures after chanting.

  • In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Tom Riddle (a younger Voldemort) possesses Ginny Weasley through his Horcrux diary, where he stores part of his soul, and makes her open the Chamber of Secrets and harm Muggle-borns.

  • In the action cartoon Dragonball Z, the wizard Babidi is able to possess Vegeta by taking control of the evil tendencies within Vegeta's heart.

  • In Pokémon Battle Frontier, Ash touches a stone ball in an ancient temple, and is possessed by the spirit imprisoned inside, the King of Pokelantis.

  • In Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, it was believed that Rena Ryuugu, Mion Sonozaki, and Shion Sonozaki were possessed by a god named Oyashiro and his demons until it was revealed that it was a disease making them delusional.

  • The Ghost Whisperer, starring Jennifer Love Hewitt, is about a young woman named Melinda Gordon who can see and talk to spirits. Throughout the course of each episode she helps them crossover into "the light." The third season prominently showcases spirit possession as her life is endangered when her father becomes possessed by a ghost who wants revenge.

See also


  1. Mark 5:9, Luke 8:30
  2. Janice Boddy, "Wombs and Alien Spirits: Women, Men and the Zar Cult in Northern Sudan (New Directions in Anthropological Writing) University of Wisconsin Press (30 Nov 1989)


  • Clarke, S. (2006): "What is spiritual possession", SSRF
  • Heindel, Max, The Web of Destiny (Chapter I - Part III: "The Dweller on the Threshold"--Earth-Bound Spirits, Part IV: The "Sin Body"--Possession by Self-Made Demons—Elementals, Part V: Obsession of Man and of Animals), ISBN 0-911274-17-0, www
  • Klimo, John (1987). Channeling: Investigations on Receiving Information from Paranormal Sources. St. Martins Press. ISBN 0-87477-431-4.
  • Lang, Andrew (1900) Demoniacal Possession, The Making of Religion, (Chapter VII), Longmans, Green, and C°, London, New York and Bombay, 1900, pp. 128–146.
  • Peck, M. Scott, (1985) People of the Lie ISBN 0684848597

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