The Real Poop
Lucifer. Satan. Beelzebub. Baal Davar. Leviathan. Antichrist. Beherit. Iblis. Leonard. (Leonard?) Prince of Darkness. The Devil. Axl Rose. (Oh wait—maybe not that last one.)
Whatever you want to call him, her, or...it, this moody, pitchfork-wielding, horn-sporting, fire-breathing guy is the star of the show when it comes to exorcisms and other rites involving the removal of devils/demons from bodies/souls/buildings/rooms. When evil decides to act like a squatter and take up illegal residence in some poor slob's body or house, who you gonna call?
Ghostbusters? Probably not.
So who can fight this battle against evil? There's only one man—and yes, it's almost always a man—whose job it is to take on the devil inside through any means necessary, be it by fisticuffs or fountains of holy water: that's right, your local exorcist.
This guy is an expert at what he does. During the day he may be a mild-mannered parish priest dutifully performing weddings, hearing confessions, and living up to his vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, but when the phone rings its particularly ominous ring (the priest sets up a special ring tone for calls of this nature), his job changes.
A soul is in danger and our hero has just the tools to tackle this enemy: permission from his bishop, notes from a two-day conference in Baltimore, and a certificate showing that he's a card-carrying member of Athenaeum Pontificium Regina Apostolorum, the Vatican-backed college in Rome.
Despite thrusting himself into a danger more terrible and unholy than most of us will never know, this exorcist may or may not be paid (specifically) for his demon banishing services. He likely already makes a tidy salary of about $44,000 per year as a priest, and many argue that banishing Satan from his Earthly victims falls under the duties he's already being compensated for (source). On the other hand, some exorcists consider themselves specialists, and charge a per exorcism rate.
This fee can vary, but at least one exorcist out there charges a going rate of $295 to knock your demons out over Skype (source).
A priest who has expertise at performing exorcisms first must be able to ascertain whether or not the afflicted person (or structure) really is possessed by demons or if this person's self- or layperson-observed signs of possession could simply be attributed to the mundane.
Like doctors, exorcists must subscribe to a "first do no harm"-style oath, and generally don't want to invite a devil in who wasn't in there to begin with. Calling his name too much might do just that.
There isn't an official checklist or anything, but typically speaking, there's a set of symptoms that people commonly confuse for internal demonic tinkering. These may or may not include character shifts and mood swings, sudden onset of physical ailments, or poor concentration.
Our hero's got to be able to discern demon possession from everyday modern ailments.
Once he's sure that the devil is throwing a rager inside his host, it's time to bring out the big guns (though truth be told—for obvious reasons—there aren't really any guns used). Here are just a few tools in the wily exorcist's tool belt:
Holy water. This can't actually cast the demon out, but it can prevent him from moving around to other rooms in the house. The priest blesses the water (turning regular H20 into, uh, well it's still H2O but, like, also magical now), and then wets his fingers with it and dabs it across the top part of all the doorways and windows of the room where the possessed person is.
The water creates a barrier that won't let the evil spirits move freely about the rest of the house. Note that this also works with salt (Kosher is best).
A good banishing ritual. The priest writes down the problem (bad-tempered demons, devils making the possessed play Heavy Metal in thin-walled apartment buildings) on a piece of parchment (or, you know, paper), and concentrates on it before burning it.
A counting remedy. This is a remedy that's easy to do using just about any type of grain—yes, grain—that the host has in his pantry. Devils, demons, ghosts, etc. apparently don't like to count for counting's sake...but are compelled to. So the priest grabs a handful of rice—maybe quinoa, maybe couscous—and spills it on the ground in front of the body that the devil's taken over.
When the demon is forced to count these tiny particles and is unable to pick them up as he goes, he's filled with anguish and frustration—so much so that he may get super annoyed and give up and leave his host's body altogether, perhaps skulking off to find someone who won't force him to count meaningless foodstuffs.
Talk. Satan (and his ilk) are often really good talkers. They like to communicate every dreadful deed and nasty thought they have. They enjoy conjuring up the voices of dead mothers who rail at their sons for letting them rot away in an old folks' home without so much as a visit. They get a real kick out of shocking the loved ones of the person whose body they've taken over with foul language (not to mention lascivious acts).
When attempting to have a heart-to-heart with the offending devil, the priest knows that trickery and skullduggery are in the air and he knows not listen to a word the chatterbox says. Instead, the exorcist must read certain passages from the Bible (which really irks the demons), hold up a big Crucifix often, and try to get the demon to tell him what his name is.
Now, some folks believe that that since the word "exorcism" doesn't occur in the bible it must be a word not of the Lord but of...the Devil. (And some people reading this may think that the Devil came up with that idea in order to avoid as many exorcisms as possible.)
One thing to consider: Why does God allow a believer in Him to have to deal with these pesky monsters in the first place? Apparently, it's to draw the oppressed people closer to him, to enable them to turn to Him in prayer and renew their trust in Him. (Seems a bit passive aggressive, but whatever.)