Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 48.djvu/83

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By Prof. E. P. EVANS.


AN article published in the Popular Science Monthly for December, 1892, and entitled Modern Instances of Demoniacal Possession, gives an account of the casting out of a devil from a boy named Michael Zilk, by Father Aurelian, a Capuchin monk, in Wemding, Bavaria. The exorcist accused a Protestant woman, Frau Herz, of having conjured the devil into the boy and denounced her as a witch, and was prosecuted by the woman's husband for defamation. The trial, which took place in November, 1892, resulted in the condemnation of the defendant, who was sentenced to pay a fine of fifty marks, with costs, and, in default of payment, to five days' imprisonment. The case derives its chief interest from the testimony of two ecclesiastical experts, whom Father Aurelian called in for the purpose of proving that he had acted strictly in accordance with the rules and regulations of the Catholic Church. These experts were Dr. J. E. Prunner, provost of the cathedral in Eichstadt, and the cathedral capitular. Dr. Schneidt, both of whom approved of Father Aurelian's method of proceeding. That men may enter into a league with Satan, says Dr. Prunner, is affirmed by Holy Writ and by canon law; both the truth of Scripture and the teachings of the Church establish the possibility and actuality of demoniacal possession beyond a peradventure, which must therefore be accepted as incontestable. As regards Michael Zilk, Father Aurelian was perfectly justified in assuming that he was possessed with a devil, since all the signs favored this presumption, such as sudden paroxysms, abnormal bodily strength, hagiophobia, or strange dread of holy things, and demoniac ecstasy. The demon becomes firmly established in the organism and uses it as a base of operations, causing the individual to curse and rage and foam, using his tongue to speak languages unknown to him, and endowing his muscles with preternatural force. When these manifestations convinced Father Aurelian that the devil was to pay, it was his duty to investigate the matter and to ascertain the causa possessionis, and whether it was produced by ars magica or witchcraft. "Maleficium always presupposes factum cum dæmone"; in other words, sorcery implies a compact with Satan. In the course which he pursued. Father Aurelian followed the instructions and obeyed the injunctions of the ritual, even to the assumption that the dried pears given by Frau Herz to the boy had been the means of conveying the demoniac infection, since the ritual expressly enjoins