Possession, dispossession, and exorcism in early modern England: Casting out divells in the light of John Darrell’s cases
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This study analyzes the phenomenon of demonic possession and the rite of exorcism in early modern England and traces the debates over the reality of demonic activity such as possession in both Catholic and Protestant circles, particularly through the dispossession cases of the controversial minister, John Darrell. It examines the pamphlets, treatises, and texts which shaped the demonology of the early modern period, and which contributed significantly to the development of the image of the Devil as man’s tormentor and corroborated his influence in the physical world. In doing so, it argues that demonic possession was regarded as an actual phenomenon in the early modern English society which cannot be explained only through medical and/or psychological reasons, and that it was a combination of social, economic, religious, and political factors in addition to medical explanations that gave rise to cases of demonic possession and ensuing exorcisms.