Spirit Possession around the World

Possession, Communion, and Demon Expulsion across Cultures

by Joseph P. Laycock, Editor


In the Islamic world, evil djinn or "genies" are believed to possess people.

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Cover image for Spirit Possession around the World

May 2015


Pages 414
Volumes 1
Size 7x10
Topics Religion/General
  World History/Religion

This book provides a fascinating historical and cultural overview of traditional beliefs about spirit possession and exorcism around the world, from Europe to Asia and the Middle East to the Americas.

Possession and exorcism are elements that occur in nearly every culture. Why is belief in spiritual possession so universal? This accessible reference volume offers a broad sample of the traditions and cultures involving possession and exorcism, presenting thoughts on this widely popular topic by experts from the fields of anthropology, sociology, religious studies, history, neuroscience, forensics, and theology. The entries cover the subject of possession and exorcism across all inhabited continents, from the Bronze Age to the 21st century, providing information that is accessible and intriguing as well as scholarly and authoritative.

Beyond addressing the Christian tradition of possession and exorcism, Pentecostalism, and "New Age" and less widely known Western concepts about possession and exorcism, this work examines ideas about possession and exorcism from other world religions and the indigenous cultures of Asia, Africa, and the Americas. It also covers historic cases of possession and presents biographies of famous theologians, exorcists, and possessed individuals. High school and undergraduate readers will learn about world history, religious and spiritual traditions, and world cultures through a topic that figures prominently in popular culture and modern entertainment. Bibliographies that accompany each entry as well as a selected, general bibliography serve to help students locate print and electronic sources of additional information.


  • Provides an interdisciplinary perspective on the subject of spirit possession, reflecting the work of scholars and experts from many fields
  • Covers a wide range of cultures, traditions, and phenomena with up-to-date, little-known information that is difficult to find through independent research
  • Includes primary documents that give students accounts of exorcism and spiritual possession and serve to foster critical thinking skills and media literacy
  • Features sidebars that illuminate key points and present related information, with special attention paid to exorcism and spirit possession in popular culture
Author Info

Joseph P. Laycock, PhD, is a scholar of religious studies. His published works include ABC-CLIO's Vampires Today: The Truth About Modern Vampirism as well as The Seer of Bayside: Veronica Lueken and the Struggle to Define Catholicism. Laycock holds a doctorate in religious studies from Boston University.



"[A] useful, readable work addressing an array of topics related to spirit possession. . . . Summing Up: Recommended. Undergraduates and beginning students; general readers."—Choice

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