Pad of Definitions
As the Pad of Definitions (Phantom Traveler) says, "exorcism is the act of driving out or warding off demons from persons, places or things that are possessed or infested by them, or are liable to become victims or instruments of their malice. During the exorcism ritual, a solemn and authoritative adjuration of the demon is applied in the name of God or any of the higher powers to which the demon is subject."
In the series, exorcisms have two parts. The first expels the demon from the occupied vessel (as black smoke) and the second sends the demon back to Hell (shown as the black smoke being sent downward leaving charred marks on the floor). The second part is not mandatory, or can be interrupted, allowing the demon to escape and possess another vessel. Later, this changes to the demon being simply expelled from their vessel and generally disappearing through the nearest opening such as a vent. However, even though they are not seen burning through the floor or ground, it is stated that they have in fact been sent back to Hell.
It is clear from what Sam Winchester says in Phantom Traveler and Devil's Trap that the boys skip the Invocation and Psalms and jump directly to the Exorcism proper. It is understandable, given that it is not as though they have all the time in the world, especially in Phantom Traveler.
It is probably the method with the best survival rate for possessed humans, even if some do not make it after the possession is lifted. On rare occasions, after the demon is exorcised out of an injured host, they can still be saved if medical attention is sought quickly and their injuries are not too severe as with the Captive Demon's vessel.
The ability to save the vessel depends on the sort of damage the vessel has sustained while possessed: if the demon incurred fatal injuries for the vessel's body, they will reappear and the vessel will die. This was first seen when the demon Meg was exorcised from her vessel of Meg Masters. Veteran hunter Bobby Singer warned that completing the exorcism would prove fatal to the human Meg as the demon had earlier been flung from a window. Indeed, once the demon was gone, the human Meg's injuries returned and she died shortly thereafter. Dean saw this as putting the human Meg out of her misery and Meg thanked the Winchesters for freeing her from the Hell she had been trapped in. On another occasion, Sam suggests exorcising Marco to save his vessel with Marco even promising not to tell Crowley about the encounter if they do so. However, the Winchesters then discover that the vessel has already suffered a fatal gunshot wound and kill Marco instead since the vessel is beyond saving. In Hunted, Gordon Walker tells Dean about a demon he captured, tortured and exorcised. Because Gordon tortured the demon, its vessel didn't survive the exorcism, disgusting Dean.
The sadistic Crossroad Demon Jael was known for brutally killing his vessels during exorcisms to prevent them from being saved even after he was gone, killing a young First Nations girl when he was originally exorcised by Asa Fox and then snapping Elvis Katz's neck to the point that his head pointed backward when Dean tried to exorcise Jael out of Elvis. After killing Elvis, Jael fled in smoke form before the exorcism could be finished. Jael's only known surviving vessel is Jody Mills because Jael was too focused on spilling Bucky Sims' secret and getting revenge to kill Jody before the exorcism could be completed. He also left Alicia Banes alive, but this was another method of torture for his intended victims rather than an act of mercy. In Let It Bleed, the demon possessing Lisa Braeden purposefully forced Lisa to fatally stab herself so that Lisa would die if Dean exorcised the demon. Dean exorcised it anyway, but Lisa was left mortally wounded until Castiel healed her injuries and saved her life.
Exorcisms are not permanent with the exorcised demon being able to eventually come back from Hell. After Meg was exorcised, she was able to return within months. In 1997, hunter Asa Fox exorcised the Crossroad Demon Jael, but Jael was eventually able to return because, as Bucky Sims points out, an exorcism is not a permanent solution. In 2016, Jael was exorcised again by Sam, Dean, Max and Alicia Banes and Mary Winchester despite the hunters being armed with two weapons that could kill him. This was because he was possessing fellow hunter Jody Mills and an exorcism was the only way to save her despite the fact that it means that Jael can return again one day.
In later seasons, exorcisms are used rarer and rarer by hunters as demon-killing weapons such as angel blades become more prevalent. Exorcisms generally become used if a hunter is trying to save a specific vessel or as a last resort in a fight when they can't kill the demon they are fighting. On at least one occasion, the Winchesters used an exorcism to get rid of a relatively harmless Crossroad Demon they summoned into a devil's trap rather than releasing or killing her, annoying the demon. On two other occasions, attempted exorcisms work as a distraction allowing a hunter to kill the demon they were fighting.
Exorcisms don't need to be spoken aloud by the user to work. In Jus In Bello and Mother's Little Helper, exorcisms recorded by Sam and played over a PA system and his phone respectively were also effective upon the demons they were used upon. In the latter case, after the demon in question choked Sam to prevent him from exorcising her, Sam activated one he had recorded upon his phone and then tossed the phone across the room so the demon couldn't easily stop it, leaving her in tremendous pain and forcing her to literally crawl across the floor to the phone to destroy it before the exorcism could be finished.
Exorcisms can be performed by multiple people in sequence. In Swap Meat, amateur witch Gary Frankle begins an exorcism upon Nora's demon and when the demon turns on him, Dean takes over. Dean and Gary end up trading verses with the demon caught between them, unable to go after one to stop them. In Celebrating The Life Of Asa Fox, Sam begins an exorcism to get Jael out of Jody Mills. When Jael stops Sam, Dean picks it up followed by Max and Alicia Banes together and then Mary Winchester, working in sequence, each hunter picking up the exorcism where the one before them left off when they were stopped by the demon. This proves to be a successful tactic with Jael being forced out of his vessel and back to Hell, unable to stop the hunters.
As seen on multiple occasions, a demon will fight to stop an exorcism from being performed. In Phantom Traveler, the Winchesters had to hold the Disaster Demon as Sam performed the exorcism before it escaped into the plane in smoke form and tried to crash it before Sam could finish. In Crossroad Blues, Dean leveraged an exorcism against a Crossroad Demon to get her to break a deal. Although she initially refused, the demon ultimately gave in rather than let Dean finish. In Born Under a Bad Sign, Meg used a binding link to keep herself locked in Sam's body, but fled on her own once the binding link was gone. In Jus In Bello, the FBI Demon fled his vessel before the exorcism was done and took another one to continue his attack. Alastair did something similar when Sam tried a mental exorcism on him in Death Takes A Holiday. In Let It Bleed, the demon mortally wounded her vessel Lisa Braeden to try to get Dean to stop as he cared about Lisa. Dean continued on with the exorcism anyway. In Swap Meat and Celebrating The Life Of Asa Fox, the demons fought back but were defeated by the hunters in question performing the exorcism in sequence. The best way to prevent a demon from interrupting an exorcism is to lock them in a devil's trap which renders them powerless and from which they can't escape unless the trap is broken. This prevents the demon from fighting back against the exorcism.
Several adaptions are used in the series, all of them being taken from the Rituale Romanum. The following is a direct line-by-line translation of the Psalms for rites of exorcism and the Rituale Romanum, with annotations on differences observed in various episodes.
As seen in Phantom Traveler, a version of the Psalm 68(67) is recited by Sam Winchester as he read it in his father's journal: "Regna terrae, cantate Deo, psallite Domino (...) per caelum, caelum antiquos, (...), glori Patri", which can be translated to English as: "Kingdoms of the earth, sing unto God, sing praises to the Lord by way of heaven , the heaven of the ancients, and the glory of the Father,". However, a lot of differences from the Psalm are presented. Others...
"Exorcizamus te, omnis immundus spiritus, omnis satanica potestas, omnis incursio infernalis adversarii, omnis legio, omnis congregatio et secta diabolica. Ergo, omnis legio diabolica, adiuramus te... cessa decipere humanas creaturas, eisque æternæ perditionìs venenum propinare... Vade, satana, inventor et magister omnis fallaciæ, hostis humanæ salutis... Humiliare sub potenti manu Dei; contremisce et effuge, invocato a nobis sancto et terribili nomine... quem inferi tremunt... Ab insidiis diaboli, libera nos, Domine. Ut Ecclesiam tuam secura tibi facias libertate servire, te rogamus, audi nos.
Translation: "We exorcise you, every impure spirit, every satanic power, every incursion of the infernal adversary, every legion, every congregation and diabolical sect. Therefore, diabolical legions, we adjure you ... Cease to deceive human creatures, and to give to them the poison of eternal damnation; ... Be gone, Satan, inventor and master of all deceit, enemy of man's salvation ... Be humble under the mighty hand of God; tremble and flee when we invoke the Holy and Terrible Name at which those down below tremble ... ... from the snares of the devil, deliver us, O Lord . That Thy Church may serve Thee in peace and liberty to serve, we ask Thee, hear us."
"Exorcizamus te, omnis immundus spiritus, omnis satanica potestas, omnis incursio infernalis adversarii, omnis legio, omnis congregatio et secta diabolica, ergo draco maledicte, ut ecclesiam tuam secura, tibi facias libertate servire, te rogamus, audi nos!"
Translation: "We exorcise you, every impure spirit, every satanic power, every incursion of the infernal Devil, every congregation and diabolical sect, therefore you also cursed dragon. So that your Church can serve thee in secure liberty, [We] beseech thee [as] We pray, hear us!"
In Hell's Angel
"Exorcizamus te, omnis immundus spiritus, omnis satanica potestas omnis incursio infernalis adversarii. Omnis legio! Omnis con... potestas, omnis incursio infernalis adversarii. Omnis legio! Omnis congregatio et secta diabolica! Ergo, Draco maledicte et omnis......legio diabolica, adiuramus te! Exorcizamus te, omnis immundus spiritus, omnis satanica potestas, omnis incursio infernalis adversarii. Omnis legio! Omnis congregatio et secta diabolica! Ergo, Draco maledicte et omnis legio diabolica, adiuramus te!"
"Exorcizamus te, omnis immundus spiritus, omnis satanica potestas, omnis incursio infernalis adversarii, omnis legio, omnis congregatio et secta diabolica. Ergo, omnis legio diabolica, adiuramus te."
This appears to simply be a shortened version of the exorcism that is usually performed. It is performed in sequence by Sam, Dean, Max and Alicia Banes together and then Mary Winchester. Despite the fact that it is shorter than the general exorcism used in the show, it is still successful.
"Exorcizamus te, omnis immundus spiritus. Adiuramus te, cessa decipere humanas creaturas, eisque aeternae perditionis venenum propinare"
Father Davis and another priest attempted to exorcise what they believed to be Satan out of a teenage girl. Their attempted exorcism called upon Saint Michael and had no effect as it was not a real exorcism. Furthermore, the minor demon they were trying to exorcise was not in fact Satan.
First revealed in What's Up, Tiger Mommy?, this was performed by Sam-based only on theory that it would work the opposite as the conventional rite. It proved to be effective when Sam read the verse backwards to 'reverse-exorcise' a demon, trapping it back in its host body and allowing the Winchesters to stab it with Ruby's Knife.
"Et secta diabolica, omnis congregatio, omnis legio, omnis incursio infernalis adversarii, omnis spiritus, exorcizamus!"
A new type of exorcism pioneered by Max Thompson is introduced in Clip Show that can be used as part of a ritual to cure demons. After the demon is injected with purified blood for several hours on consecrated ground until he starts to turn human, the exorcism is performed with the exorcist's bloody hand over the demon's mouth and the demon turns human again. The chant is much shorter than the original, keeping only the first two lines and replacing the rest with the Latin translation of 'Fix this soul!' and then declaring the soul to be 'Washed!' or 'Cleansed!' twice.
Although any being can perform an exorcism by reading or reciting the ritual, some beings possess the power to naturally exorcise demons without the need of a ritual. The exact method is unknown, although it largely depends on a being's focus and innate power or control over demons. This is a very rare power.
Characters with this power
- Jesse Turner
- Sam Winchester (after consuming sufficient quantities of demon blood)
Alternate Ritual Exorcism
Astaroth knew a spell that exorcised a demon. This spell was completely different from the ritual used by hunters. It also didn't affect the demon doing the exorcism. The recited spell is the language Catalan which is derived from the romance languages:
Monyé valack forsa, ulu iri regatt ruac, fieesh nieesh forthsa lé inmist infirum forthsa por un betest a té un fornalles ecclaisee
An enochian chant was used by the townspeople of a church in Blue Earth, Minnesota. It was supposedly effective in exorcising demons. However, this chant, provided by the Whore of Babylon, proved to be fake and meant "you breed with the mouth of a goat". The demons were actually under orders to evacuate their hosts upon recitation of the fake enochian exorcism.
Omnipotentis Dei potestatem invoco. Omnipotentis Dei potestatem invoco. Aborro te ut. Angelum omnium obsequendum. Domine expuet. Domine expuet. Deum adempiremus veritas
I invoke the power and authority of God. I invoke the power and authority of God. Worship earth. This Angel in [Your] service. Lord, reveal [him]. Lord, reveal [him]. This day God temper...
In We Happy Few, Amara was able to exorcise Lucifer from Castiel just through sheer will alone. While Lucifer survived, he was left weakened by the exorcism and burned through several temporary vessels quickly as a result.
Lilith claimed to have sent Ruby to hell. This feat was done by Lilith very discreetly, without any noticeable noise or visual cue. If Lilith was telling the truth, this unknown method of exorcism was one of, if not the, quickest and most effective exorcism to date. However, as Ruby later returned and was secretly working for her, it's likely Lilith was simply lying.
In Supernatural: The Unholy Cause, Dean read an excerpt of the real Rituale Romanum (one of the official ritual works of the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church) was used instead the "standard" exorcism recitation. The exorcism recitation was powerful enough to irritate Moa'ah to the degree that it opted to leave a human's body.
Deus, et Pater Domini nostri Jesu Christi, invoco nomen sanctum tuum ... et celmentiam tuam supplex exposco ut adversus hunc, et omnem immundum spiritum...
However, it later extended when he and Sheriff Jacqueline Daniels encountered demon-possessed Civil War horsemen re-enactors.
Deus, et Pater Domini nostri Jesu Christi, invoco nomen sanctum... et clementiam tuam supplex exposco ut adversus hunc... et omnem immundum spiritum, qui vexat hoc plasma tuum... mihi auxilium praestare digneris. Per eumdem Dominum
Exorcism from Late Latin exorcismus, (from Greek ἐξορκισμός exorkismos - binding by oath) is the religious practice of evicting demons or other spiritual entities from a person or place which they are believed to have possessed. Depending on the spiritual beliefs of the exorcist, this may be done by causing the entity to swear an oath, performing an elaborate ritual, or simply by commanding it to depart in the name of a higher power. The practice is quite ancient and part of the belief system of many cultures and religions.
- It appears that the Supernatural production team/writers did a cut and paste from bits and pieces of at least one version of the ritual and possibly some other prayer(s).
- When Sam first performs an exorcism in Phantom Traveler, he reads a Rituale Romanum from John's Journal. However, as time went on both Sam and Dean memorize the ritual.
- In Supernatural, exorcisms appear to cause demons great pain, as they have been used as minor torture. They also seem to cause demons great fear, as they have been used as blackmail several times, though it may be the prospect of returning to Hell that scares them.
- Not all demons appear to be affected by exorcisms: Abaddon, a Knight of Hell proved completely immune to one.
- In Hell's Angel, Sam performs an exorcism on Castiel in order to expel Crowley, who was trapped inside Castiel's vessel by Lucifer. Sam performed the entire exorcism from memory, and did so while holding up a wooden cross toward Castiel. Dean also applied holy water upon Castiel, which burnt the vessel slightly. Crowley was ultimately freed, and was able to return to his own vessel but was not sent back to Hell like most demons are when they are exorcised.
- At least one exorcism has been performed in every season to date except Season 10. In Season 4, the exorcisms were done by Sam's powers, in Season 8 the only actual exorcism seen was the one the Men of Letters tried on Abaddon to no avail. Season 9 featured Sam starting an exorcism on "Snooki", but the full exorcism isn't shown. The only full exorcism shown that season was performed by Henry Winchester and Josie Sands on Abaddon's demons. The same episode had an interrupted exorcism however.
- At some point, the British Men of Letters invented the hyperbolic pulse generator as "exorcisms are so unreliable." The device drives an angel or demon from their vessel similar to an exorcism.
- Angels can't be exorcised in the same way demons can as shown when a group of priests in St. Louis attempted to exorcise Lucifer from their archbishop in LOTUS.
- In Bring 'em Back Alive, Lucifer is revealed to have the power to exorcise demons back to Hell simply by snapping his fingers.
- In both Season 9's Mother's Little Helper and Season 14's Damaged Goods, the exorcism, performed by Sam and Dean respectively, proves to simply be a distraction that allows the demon in question to be killed. In the former episode, Sam uses an exorcism recorded on his cell phone to distract Sister Agnes. The demon manages to destroy the cell phone before it can be finished, but the distraction allows Sam to retrieve the demon-killing knife and stab Sister Agnes in the back with it, killing her. In the latter episode, Dean tries to perform an exorcism on Abraxas, but the demon telekinetically flings him into a shelf before he can get too far, stopping the exorcism. However, the distraction allows Nick to come up from behind, shove Abraxas to the ground and kill the demon with an angel blade.
- Season 1
- Season 2
- Season 3
- The Magnificent Seven (performed upon Envy, Sloth, Wrath and Lust by Tamara and Bobby Singer)
- Sin City (interrupted attempt on Casey by Dean)
- Malleus Maleficarum (alternate ritual exorcism performed by Astaroth on Ruby, interrupted by Elizabeth Higgins)
- Jus In Bello (performed upon the FBI Demon by Sam and a recorded exorcism used upon the Siege Demons used by the Winchesters and Victor Henriksen)
- Long-Distance Call (medieval exorcism, failed by Dean as not used on an actual demon)
- No Rest for the Wicked (claimed by Lilith and mentioned only)
- Season 4
- Metamorphosis (mental exorcism by Sam on the Captive Demon)
- It's the Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester (mental exorcism on Samhain)
- I Know What You Did Last Summer (attemped mental exorcism by Sam on Alastair, failed; failed attempt by Sam in a flasback on the Captured Demon, successful attempt by Sam on one of Lilith's Assassins, flashbacks only)
- Heaven and Hell (angelic exorcism on Castiel by Alastair, interrupted)
- Death Takes A Holiday (attempted mental exorcism by Sam on Alastair, successful use on one of Alastair's Henchmen)
- On the Head of a Pin (angelic exorcism on Castiel by Alastair, interrupted)
- The Rapture (mental exorcism on the Amelia Novak demon by Sam)
- Season 5
- I Believe The Children Are Our Future (mental exorcism on Julia Wright's demon by Jesse Turner)
- 99 Problems (false ritual, given by the Whore of Babylon)
- Swap Meat (two person exorcism performed upon Nora's demon by Dean and Gary Frankle)
- My Bloody Valentine (mental exorcism on Famine's Soul Carrier and Famine's Servants by Famine and Sam)
- Season 6
- Season 7
- Season 8
- What's Up, Tiger Mommy? (reverse exorcism on the demon possessing Eunis by Sam)
- A Little Slice of Kevin (partial exorcism used as a test by Sam)
- As Time Goes By (ineffectual on Abaddon by the Men of Letters Elders)
- Clip Show (cure exorcism on the Old Woman demon and the Peter Kent (Demon) by Father Max Thompson)
- Sacrifice (cure exorcism attempt on Crowley by Sam)
- Season 9
- Devil May Care (tactile exorcism by Abaddon on Grandma the Crossroad Demon)
- First Born (mentioned exorcism of Abaddon's protégé by John Winchester and Tara)
- Blade Runners (performed upon "Snooki" by Sam)
- Mother's Little Helper (performed upon the Nun Demons by Henry Winchester and Josie Sands and a failed attempt on Abaddon by Henry Winchester in flashback; recorded exorcism by Sam on Sister Agnes, failed)
- Season 10
- Fan Fiction (performed in song as part of the Supernatural play)
- Season 11
- Season 12
- Season 13
- Season 14
- Supernatural: The Unholy Cause (Rituale Romanum)