In April 2007 I got an e-mail from a Western New York woman, yet another on the hunt for “an exorcist.” Had she written to the wrong upstate “paranormal expert” she'd doubtless have got one, of whatever repute. Those of you who have read my columns this spring will know what a pet peeve that is for me, and what a growing trend it is for surveillance ghosthunters to offer themselves as psychic Mr. Fixits. Some things they may know. A lot they don't.
Many people take the term “exorcist” to mean "wizard" or “supernatural exterminator.” You got a problem, they make it go away. This is actually not at all what the term means. In fact the job description of an exorcist – a true and trained one – is very specific, and it is in answer to a definite and rare condition. No amount of verbal quibbling, though, will take away the damage that can be done to individuals and families by improper handling of even false possession cases, to say nothing of the potentially real ones. Though I would definitely be interested to know what was going on, I wouldn’t touch a case of suspected possession as a potential deliverer without twenty years of full-time training. This is what the matter is all about.
At any one time I might have five or six e-mail correspondences going on with total strangers, most of them troubled by psychic influences. Since my profile is at its modest height in my home region, most of these cases are local, and usually the matter is settled or dropped within two or three exchanges of notes. Still, I don’t know the folks. I don’t have a face to hang with a first name. I usually update the new correspondence to all of them during the same half-hour in the late morning. Once in a while I even get their first names mixed up. Sometimes they get mad at me for needing to be refreshed about some detail in their long fourth note that I was supposed to call up, I guess, when making my seventh reply. Maybe I should have. It was important to them, and I certainly would be sure to do so before making strong and specific recommendations to them. But let me give you the profile of these people who feel tormented.
It starts with a file of potentially psychic events in their homes. A lot of it didn’t register with them till a pattern seemed in place. Some if not all of the reports could be true and indeed have psychic/paranormal causes. I seldom judge. I believe psychic phenomena exists, but I certainly can’t tell yea or nay with single cases from a distance in space and time.
But people can make wrong judgments about things. Individual(s) in troubled situations are suggestible. Once they think they see a pattern they put all the new developments into it.
They also feel targeted. This is the biggest question for all of us to face. There's a huge difference between psychic events that are merely incidental to a site or situation and that will likely subside, and psychic events that are signs of an intent to harm and that will likely escalate. (The great possession cases, I might add, featured targeted effects, as did many of the most famous poltergeist cases. But what’s the source? That’s where you need the real expert – to decide. Is this "evil"? Is it even paranormal?)
Within the families of those who contact me with these matters there's a high tendency to social, emotional, and psychological problems. These situations cause a lot of misery and tension. When potential psychic phenomena develops in an already troubled environment, one can seem to have caused the other, and it can become truly traumatic. The people need real help.
Usually the psychologists could give it them, but the families don't trust them, for good reasons and bad. A bad reason to distrust a psychologist would be because a family doesn't hear the answers it wants. A good reason might be because they get the feeling the psychologist never seriously considered all the possibilities. At least I can try to do that, as do the people I work with.
With the local woman who started out wanting the exorcist: I asked her what made her think someone in her family was possessed by a demon from Hell. She had no quick answer. I sent her to my website to read my four early-2007 articles on the subject. They may have been helpful, because she was fairly quickly certain that she had different problems. She didn’t know what, though.
As our correspondence went on I got the location of her house. The site itself didn’t ring any bells, in fact seeming to be in a very un-haunted area. I didn’t want to put thoughts into her head, but since the site was an early blank I was suspecting something involving individuals. My Native American friends would certainly have said that she was giving the signs of being the target of a malicious curse.
I am not saying I believe literally in black magic and curses. But I try to keep an open mind about most everything, and in my acquaintance with many Native American healers and elders I have heard some amazing things. Most importantly, though, in the milieu with which we’re dealing – psychological turmoil – something that merely gives someone a suggestion could be the true source of it all and work just as effectively as "magic." It needs to be met head-on.
I asked the woman if she had any bitter enemies who might practice magic, particularly among cultural groups likely to have kept traditional supernatural practice. This didn’t ring any bells with her, but mention of the idea got her writing on her own about some objects she was very proud to possess: a Native American drum with some mysterious object inside it. Another was a rattle or a coup stick, I honestly forget what. She didn’t know much about their past, but under my questioning it appeared to her that her current cycle of troubles had started after – soon after – the acquisition of these objects. At least it fit a hypothetical pattern.
When he counseled people with these complaints the late Tuscarora medicine man Mad Bear always asked them, “What came into your life about the time these troubles started?” I was already leaning to the possibility that she should get rid of the items.
Then she started describing her dreams – nightmares – that may have been the first signs of the issues that worried her. All were filled with Native American imagery, particularly relevant to the Iroquois of our region. One that haunted her recurrently was an image of a giant snake. I devoted at least one full note to this symbol, existing everywhere in the world, of course, but a sinister image only to Westerners.
To Asian and Native American societies the big snake is usually thought of as a symbol of the earth-force, even the geomantic – earth-magical – currents known to feng-shui. Though big, ominous, and representing a completely incomprehensible force, the big snake/earth force is not evil, no more so than the wind or fire. Still, you better stay out of its way. You have to work with its direction, not against it.
Of course her troubles could have been completely material, too: emotional and psychological if not connected with some bad geomantic karma where she lives. They could also have been psychic/paranormal ones associated with those Native American objects. Getting rid of the objects properly could do the trick either way.
No one knows the uses or associations of any object that just comes into one's possesssion like those objects did into this woman's. Undoubtedly many of these artifacts have a past. They were important to people who believed in psychic energy and put a lot of their own into their use. Museums often get outbreaks of psychic report when exhibits of grave-goods come to visit. Jewelry of any manufacture can come with a hefty pedigree and a world of karma that, at least in the thinking of Mad Bear, could cause trouble for its owners.
If our correspondence continues I’ll recommend that the woman arrange a visit from a feng-shui expert or a geomancer. Energies at the site could quite well show themselves as psychic/emotional disturbances and be nothing of the sort. This is the most innocuous source of trouble, and the least intrusive possible remedy.
If the problems don’t go away with those measures I'd still go on presuming they might be site-related. I’ll suggest a house-clearing by a Native American elder or someone thoroughly trained in that tradition. This is Native American land, don’t forget, and most Native American societies have kept tradition. They usually have something productive to say about anything that happens in their former territory.
If all that fails I will suggest that the woman get some advice about proper disposal of those objects. Getting rid of them the wrong way could be worse than holding on to them.
There are more things in Heaven and earth than our philosophy has dreamt of, but I don’t think we need look to demons from Hell for many of our problems.