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The Evil Spirit that Terrorized a Medieval Village

Today’s horror movies could make use of this story from the ninth-century, of how an evil spirit terrorized a village, and the attempt to get rid of it, which seems to be one of the earliest recorded exorcisms from the Middle Ages. 

evil spirit - photo by craig Cloutier / Flickr
Evil spirit – photo by craig Cloutier / Flickr

The account from the Annals of Fulda, an East Frankish account that offers a history of events taking place in Carolingian Europe during the ninth-century (the annals end in the year 901). While most of the Annals deal with internal conflict among the Carolingians as well as the Viking raid across Europe, it also offers the story of a strange event that take place in the year 858:

There is a certain villa not far from the town of Bingen, called ‘Caput Montium” because the mountains along the valley of the Rhine begin here (though the common people corrupt the name to ‘Chamund’). Here an evil spirit gave an open sigh of his wickedness. First, by throwing stones and banging on the walls as if with a hammer, he made a nuisance of himself to the people living there. Then he spoke openly and revealed what had been stolen from certain people, and then caused disputes among the inhabitants of the place.

Finally he stirred up everyone’s hatred against one man, as if it were for his sins that everyone had to suffer such things; and so that he might be the more hated, the evil spirit caused every house which the man entered to catch fire. As a result the man was forced to live outside the villa in the fields with his wife and children, as all his kin feared to take him in. But he was not even allowed to remain there in safety, for when he had gathered in and stacked his crops, the evil spirit came unexpectedly and burnt them. To try to appease the feelings of the inhabitants, who wished to kill him, he took the ordeal of hot iron and proved himself innocent of the crimes which were alleged against him.

Priests and deacons were therefore sent from the town of Mainz with relics and crosses to expel the wicked spirit from that place. As they were saying the litany and sprinkling holy water in a house where he had been particularly active, the old enemy threw stones at men coming there from the villa and wounded them.

After the clerics who had been sent there had departed, the same devil made lamentable speeches in the hearing of many. He named a certain priest and said that he had stood underneath his cope at the time when the holy water was being spread around the building. Then, as men crossed themselves in fear, he said of the same priest, “He is my servant. For anyone who is conquered by someone is his servant; and lately at my persuasion he slept with the daughter of the bailiff of this villa.” This crime had not before been known to anyone except those who had committed it. It is clear that as the Word of Truth says, “nothing is hidden which will not be revealed” (Matthew 10:26).

With these and similar deeds the apostate spirit was a burden to the above-mentioned place for the course of three whole years, and he did not desist until he had destroyed almost all the buildings with fire.

The Annals of Fulda were translated by Timothy Reuter and published by Manchester University Press in 1991. Click here to visit the publisher’s site for more details.

See also: The Medieval Walking Dead



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