Exorcism and sexuality: The "thick description" of an 18th-century Transylvanian catholic priest's transgression

Dániel Bárth
2018 Acta Ethnographica Hungarica  
Using contemporary documents, the study presents the story of a scandalous exorcism that took place in 1726-27. At the heart of the Csíkszentgyörgy (Ciucsângeorgiu) case is the local parson and a non-local "possessed" woman. The supreme church authority sought to fi gure out the details of the months-long case retroactively through testimonies and the correspondence of the priests involved. The demonically possessed woman upset the entire village community. In many respects, the priest became
more » ... the priest became "obsessed" with the case and the woman. For his exorcism, he used methods found in alternative European manuals that were by then banned in the Church. The woman's prophecies and reports of the afterlife were taken seriously not only by the priest, but also by the wider village community. The sexual fervor of the woman did not leave the young men guarding her at night -as well as the parson himself -unaff ected. The Church authorities ultimately sought to clarify the circumstances of the woman's pregnancy, and especially the priest's role in it. Although there is no judgment to be found in church sources, all traces of the Padre later disappear. In keeping with the trends of narrative history, beyond the "thick description" of the case, the author undertakes less contextualization than usual. The case is undoubtedly edifying in terms of the history of Roman Catholic exorcism in Hungary; it presents signifi cant documentation of contemporary religious and folk demonology, contains the early traces of subsequent folk beliefs, and raises a number of cultural-historical issues (in regard to sexuality and love).
doi:10.1556/022.2018.63.1.7 fatcat:fjcuup2jv5co5mcqv7fr4lis5q