How to Avoid Demonic Possession, According to an Exorcist
Getting possessed is probably one of the most frightening things that can happen to a person, if horror movies like The Conjuring and the Exorcism of Emily Rose are anything to go by. And according to Fr. Jocis Syquia, director of the Archdiocese of Manila Office of Exorcism, the number of demoniacs in the Philippines has grown exponentially over the past decade.
Fifteen years ago, he was the only exorcist in the Philippines, since cases of possession were quite rare. Today, the Archdiocese of Manila has difficulty meeting the demand for exorcisms, and Fr. Syquia sometimes finds himself doing three in one day. “Now all the bishops are appointing exorcists,” he says. “We have 94 members of the Philippine Association of Catholic Exorcists, which is supported by the CBCP. Right now there is a growing, alarming number of cases. Just [recently] we had a school with more than 50 possessed children. They had to be exorcised one by one.”
Fr. Syquia attributes this increase in cases of possession to people’s growing interest in the occult and New Age practices, along with a lack of knowledge about spiritual warfare among Catholics. So, how does one protect oneself against spiritual attacks? Here’s what you need to know.
Today, the Archdiocese of Manila has difficulty meeting the demand for exorcisms, and Fr. Syquia sometimes finds himself doing three in one day.
Types of Demonic Attack
Nobody just gets possessed out of nowhere. According to Fr. Syquia, demonic attacks usually begin with oppression and obsession, and increase in intensity until they turn into full-blown possession. The first attacks can be so subtle that people often aren’t aware of them.
Examples of oppression include when one suddenly experiences negative emotions while praying, or when memories are triggered that make one angry.
In his book Exorcism: Encounters with the Paranormal and the Occult, Fr. Syquia defines oppression as “burdens or afflictions that torment and which are wide ranging and diverse in nature. Oppression can affect one’s health, emotional and psychological well-being, spiritual life, relationships, and work. It would seem that these areas of one’s life deteriorate with no apparent cause. It is sad that sometimes people do not realize where their ‘bad luck’ is coming from and may even end up blaming God for their lot.”
On the other hand, obsession is when one cannot stop entertaining self-destructive, suicidal thoughts. “It begins out of nowhere, and you can see a link between something you did that had to do with the occult, or you had a very traumatic experience, or you did something really sinful and even before that you were already rather sensitive or psychic. And after that you have these obsessive thoughts that try to destroy your self-worth and put you down, and they’re very powerful in the sense that they’re almost like voices. It’s not you thinking anymore, it’s a voice outside of you that you cannot control,” Fr. Syquia explains.
Demonic Possession Gateways
But what makes oppression and obsession possible in the first place? People only become susceptible to demonic attacks when they repeatedly create openings that give evil spirits more power over them. “The devil is like a mad dog on a chain. He can only go so far, so stay out of his range so you won’t get hurt,” Fr. Syquia says. In a talk given at Sta. Maria della Strada Parish on February 25, 2017, he lists some of these doorways:
1. Occult involvement
This includes going to albularyos, faith healers, or mangkukulam, using anting-anting, and calling on spirits through a Ouija board or playing “spirit of the glass.” For example, in the case mentioned earlier, Fr. Syquia found out that all 50 of the schoolchildren he exorcised had psychic powers, because their parents had taken them to albularyos whenever they were sick.
This occurs when one becomes a victim of occult practices—say, if someone hires a mangkukulam to put a curse on you.
3. Traumatic experiences
Deep-seated emotional wounds, intense negativity, and unforgiveness can make one more susceptible to evil spirits.
4. Psychic vulnerability
This happens when one is born with the ability to see spirits, has their third eye opened, or uses drugs to enter altered states.
5. Sinful lifestyle
If one continues to be obstinate about certain sins—especially mortal sins, spirits can attach themselves to one’s body little by little.
6. New Age practices
Practitioners of reiki and tarot card reading often say that what they do is harmless, since all they do is read energies. However, the Catholic Church maintains that any practice that has to do with healing or manipulating energies creates openings for demonic attack.
“If you’re trying to tap into spiritual powers, whether it’s from the human psyche (they call it psychic energy) or from around you—some form of occult energy or occult power—that is very dangerous,” Fr. Syquia says. “Because remember that in the spiritual world there are only two sources [from which] you can get spiritual power. It is either the kingdom of God which is what we call supernatural power or the spiritual power of the fallen angels which is what we call preternatural power. There is no third kingdom where you can access power. God did not create any third kingdom wherein you can access some form of spiritual power that is neither good nor bad.”
He adds that for Catholics, there is no such thing as good or bad luck, since “all good things come from God.” Therefore, engaging in practices like feng shui or using good luck charms like fortune frog or cat statues is not only redundant but harmful, since they attract evil spirits as well.
No Such Thing As Lost Souls
A general rule of thumb is that you should never, ever speak to or interact with the spirits, even if they seem harmless enough. During the same talk at Sta. Maria della Strada parish, Fr. Syquia explained that Filipinos tend to believe in nature spirits like diwatas, engkantos, dwendes, and kapres, but that these are all really demons in disguise. “Never say ‘tabi-tabi po.' You’re submitting yourself to fallen angels,” he adds.
There is also no such thing as wandering spirits. According to Fr. Syquia, the souls of the departed know where to go, especially since they are escorted by their guardian angels. “A soul in purgatory will only manifest before those who know them to ask for prayers,” Fr. Syquia says. Even then, if a “ghost” of your relative or friend appears to you, it’s best to be on the safe side and avoid interacting with the spirit, and pray for their soul instead. If that “ghost” of your friend starts to harass you or make you afraid, then it is definitely a fallen angel.
Haunted Schools, Offices, Hospitals, and Houses
Why is it that every school and office seems to have its own ghost stories?
“Well, you have to understand that right now in our age, we have lost the sense of the sacred,” Fr. Syquia says. “You don’t see so many sacramentals [Christian objects like holy statues, crucifixes, holy water, and holy salt] and they don’t take office or school blessings seriously.” He adds that many buildings are haunted because construction workers often offer blood to appease the spirits before breaking ground—a pagan practice that has been passed down from our ancestors.
“Yung iba nagpapa-feng shui pa, using rituals from another religion,” Fr. Syquia adds. “We also know that many people from the provinces go to albularyos, so they can also bring the spirits there into the place. That’s why sometimes when a person leaves, all the infestations and paranormal manifestations stop. So there can be many causes but most especially with regards to our homes and buildings there’s a lack of the use of sacramentals to make a sacred atmosphere. Especially homes can easily get haunted when there’s a lot of fights, violence, that sort of thing attracts spirits.”
“The ghosts are actually afraid of Christians. Whenever you use a prayer in the name of Christ and you tell it to go, it will go."
As for creepy hospitals? Considering the amount of people who pass away there and the prevalence of demonic oppression, some of them were bound to have had evil spirits attached to them. Once they die, the spirits are left behind looking for something else to latch onto. “They prefer a soul, but they can go to a place like an old tree,” Fr. Syquia says.
Nothing To Fear
As contradictory as it may sound, evil spirits are really nothing to be afraid of, Fr. Syquia says. “The ghosts are actually afraid of Christians. Whenever you use a prayer in the name of Christ and you tell it to go, it will go. Even at home, if binabangungot ka or you’re having a nightmare, even if you’re half awake and you command it in the name of Christ, it will go. Or if you’re in a haunted place and you feel you’re being harassed, you stand up and use holy water and a prayer of deliverance, it will always go because we have the authority given to us by Christ. Whatever power Christ had, he has given it to all the Christians. That’s why they’re afraid of those few persons who know their identity and power over the spirits. . . those who know that they are children of God and have the power of God.”
Of course, if one encounters a white lady in a dark hallway, it’s normal to want to run away screaming. But Fr. Syquia says that, so long as you haven’t been continually opening yourself to oppression and firmly believe that Jesus is more powerful than any demon, that white lady will be more afraid of you than you are of it. If you don’t have any holy water or a crucifix on you, making a sign of the cross will do. The most important thing is to command them in the name of Christ. If you miss out on that part, your prayer will be completely ineffective. While there is a nifty Catholic Handbook of Deliverance Prayers, the basic formula of a liberation prayer goes like this:
1. "In Jesus’ name..." (like we said, the most important part of the prayer)
2. Command spirit to depart to the foot of the Cross
3. Pray to Holy Spirit to fill up whatever has been abandoned (since the spirit was occupying an opening, you’ll want to fill up that opening so it can’t come back)
This prayer is pretty handy for any time you’re feeling oppressed or afraid. But as Fr. Syquia explains, the prayer becomes much more powerful with the use of spiritual weapons or “sacramentals” like a crucifix, holy water, holy salt, holy oil, rosaries, scapulars, and blessed statues of saints (spirits can attach to unblessed statues. Which might account for why they tend to give us the creeps). The medal of St. Benedict can serve as powerful protection against evil spirits, too. At the same time, it’s very important to accompany the use of these sacramentals with prayer. Without it, these items just become objects of superstition.
“Usually the spirit mocks [your prayers] because it has a right to remain,” Fr. Syquia says. “The person has not yet removed the hole or the right that the spirit has over him. You have to be able to check your life. Are you in a state of grace?"
Another important thing to know is that you have spiritual authority over your house, your children, your car, and even your office cubicle or desk. That means you can bless these places and people, and drive demons away from them yourself with the use of prayer and sacramentals. “Christ has defeated them already and all we have to do is mopping up operations,” Fr. Syquia explains. “All they can do is harassment here, harassment there, but we already have the weapons.”
But what about all those ghost stories about people encountering ghosts, and then being mocked by them when they pray the Lord's Prayer? “Usually the spirit mocks because it has a right to remain,” Fr. Syquia says. “The person has not yet removed the hole or the right that the spirit has over him. You have to be able to check your life. Are you in a state of grace? Did you make a pact with Satan on the Internet, or play spirit of the glass? If the spirit mocks, pray a prayer of protection then leave the place. If you remember something you have done, renounce it and have the Blessed Sacrament, confess it. Pray for Mother Mary’s protection.”
At Sta. Maria della Strada parish, Fr. Syquia mentioned some uses of the sacramentals, as well as other ways Catholics can protect themselves and their families from spiritual attack.
- Holy Water can be ingested (if it’s potable, of course) and used to bless places with prayers of liberation.
- Exorcised Oil can be applied to the body and forehead, and in the corners of the room and objects like large antique mirrors.
- Exorcised Salt can be thrown at the boundaries of the room or ingested. If you’re having trouble with nightmares, you can also throw a pinch of exorcised salt on the four corners of your bed and pray a cleansing prayer before going to sleep.
- Blessed candles and St. Benedict’s medal can be placed on windows, doorways, and the four corners of the home
Other best practices for avoiding demonic attacks:
- Praying together as a family
- Receiving sacraments as a family
- Seeking help from guardian angels, as well as St. Michael the Archangel
- Family devotion to Mother Mary
- Closing all open doorways
- Forgiving those who have hurt you
- Doing charitable works of mercy as a family
- Parents teaching children about God and modeling virtues
- Offering holy Masses for protection and deliverance of the family