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AfterlivesThe Return of the Dead in the Middle Ages$
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Nancy Mandeville Caciola

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781501702617

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501702617.001.0001

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Spectral Possession

Spectral Possession

(p.302) Chapter 7 Spectral Possession

Nancy Mandeville Caciola

Cornell University Press

This chapter examines the occurrences of spirit possession in Italy and Portugal. Belief in ghostly possession was an ancient idea that is traced to classical Roman paganism. However, the form in which it is encountered in Italy and Portugal appears to have coexisted with the Christian teaching that demons possessed the dead. Thus, Christian notions of spirit possession were added to earlier ideas. The possessing shades of the dead use the bodies they seize to articulate their own postmortem needs. The chapter also discusses the social implications of spirit possession. While the possessed person clearly was regarded as victimized and in need of healing, accounts of such events also often suggest a sense of compassion for the untimely dead soul, ripped too soon from life, often through violence.

Keywords:   spirit possession, Italy, Portugal, Roman paganism, Christianity, demon possession, dead, violence

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