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Friday, August 9, 2013

On Exorcisms
You’ll find references to an exorcism I attended if you check the blogs for December 2012. Writing about Sister Daphne in the last foray into my biography reminded me of another one. (Memory is like thousands of bags full of substance but which are tied at the neck to each other so that you have a metaview, like a list of contents but have to untie each neck to get at what is harboured there.)
As I said, I worked as a social worker in a convent. We had about a dozen extremely emotionally disturbed adolescent girls, twenty or so staff and used a technique called regression therapy to enormously beneficial effect for most of them. Despite its efficacy it was never taken up country-wide because of its sophistication and cost in terms of skilled staff required. Anyway, imagine the premises we worked in on the convent estate. A truly gothic, mullioned, slit windowed red brick building with turrets. Very tall, particularly in morning and evening mist. Bedrooms along narrow corridors. A chapel which frightened the girls, situated between their rooms and my flat. Better than a thousand locks.
One girl came to us and Sister Daphne and the head of the unit, Sister Rita, were soon perturbed by  the girl’s smell. So were the other boarders. Though she washed and had clean clothes she exuded something which made the hair rise on the nape. She had a thin small voice coming from somewhere deep within her overweight body. She seemed to look from a depth so deep in her skull that you could not imagine its source. She heard voices.
One day we heard a noise that antennae told us wasn’t right and raced into the kitchen just in time to disturb the girl strangling another and thereby saving her life.
The priest to the convent at the time was called Godwin, believe it or not. Because we were not equipped to deal with psychopathy, the would-be strangler was moved to secure accommodation elsewhere. There were those among the staff who swore that she was possessed. Despite her leaving and much use of powerful cleaning products, her room retained her otherworldly odour. Father Godwin conducted an exorcism of the room. The smell disappeared. As girls left, so did its temporary history of  succour to the malevolent.
Twitter: @profjacksanger


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