In the February 1987 number of Psychiatry, a journal for
the trade held at least at the time in high esteem by not a few
of my colleagues, there is a paper on the seemingly obscure yet
nonetheless burningly relevant subject of intercourse with demons.
'Cacodemonomania', both the title of the paper , written by Salmons
and Clarke(1) and the term given to the practice, reviews the subject
and even provides the reader with several case studies of more than
Implicit in the citation from the Mallelus Maleficarum (the Inquisitors' handbook for diagnosis
and spiritual treatment of demonic possession) at the very head of
the piece is a supposition that can hardly be denied. Namely, the
subject matter is grave, disputatious, dangerous, and not in the
least trivial. Countless thousands have lost their standing as respected
citizens in the community--not to mention their heads, their
lives, perhaps their souls-- as a direct result of prosecution for
Before proceeding I would like to
offer the briefest sketch of a case I recently encountered. The
patient (victim? rube? schlemiel?), a 50 year old physician otherwise
successful in his professional and personal dealings, arrived at
my office in a near-terminal state of duress. He was unhappy with
The patient, Hector P., was like a
very much like one of those illicit
skulking on a canvas by Hieronymus
This, he asked, this was the girl
This was the virginal jewel, the Ophelia
wrested from the flowing Stygian waters?
All of the crimes, every form of violence,
been committed in the name of consanguinity
Perhaps the reader can determine the
to which this patient's bore the stamp
of the paranoiac?
'Defamation, deforestation, moral
derogation, rupture of limbic hymen
[men have these too], slander, libel,
taunting, mockery, belittlement, emasculation,
strangulation, vagina dentata,
devaluation, ball-churning, betrayal,
bad taste, negligence and cruelty
I reminded him that his statement
thus far was
a dangling clause. 'Finish the thought,'
P. felt he had suffered each and every
one of these
abrogations of decency.
P. then continued much in the same
'This harridan, this monstrous eruption
mother's cursed cloaca, from that
that should have been sewn and oversewn
least a thousand times, this hideous
belch from the
dyspeptic pouch of Satan, whose rantings
are fecal bastinadoes, has robbed
me of my self, my dignity, my moral
valence. Yet still
she walks the earth. Still she breathes
God's pure air.'
There are those among both the professional
and lay community who still subscribe to a belief in witchcraft.
Heaven help those to whom they offer help. I personally have seen
several tragic examples of common mental diseases misdiagnosed as
demonic possession and have witnessed the pitiable outcomes of professional
intervention--well-intended or not--with the same.
Salmons and Clarke do an adequate
job reviewing some of the extant literature on modern demonology.
Appropriately enough they cite Vinchon's(2) paradigm of possession,
and are further to be commended for their mention of Yap's series
of 66 cases in Hong Kong.(3)
Cacodemonomania has even been described
in children. I worked with a pediatrician who when the mood was
upon him would deliver a diagnosis of satanic stomatitis or inform
expectant already distraught parents that their baby's delivery
would not only be breech but what he called Beelzebub breech.
A spiritual leader in Kew Gardens, after determining that I could
be trusted with the potentially damning information, informed me
that his kabbalistic congregation routinely held exorcisms, along
with the more customary and less alarming bake sales and bingo tournaments.
What, as V. I. Lenin once asked the
non-psychiatric Soviet community, is to be done?
First, the diagnosis of cacodemonomania
must never be made casually. Recognize too that parallel psychic
anomalies exist. Unwonted incursions by werewolves, vampires, salamanders
[the alchemical, metaphorical variety], gnomes, sylphs, faeries
and wendigoes are rare but by no means unheard of.
The most insidious form taken by these
invaders from the other side is what is usually and mistakenly I
might add considered as secular. That is, 'routine' marital conflict,
'routine' friction between personalities at war at work and at home,
may be far indeed from routine. We are taught, regardless of our
tradition of faith, that we are here to seek happiness, garner wisdom,
and to give of ourselves freely to the poor, the infirm, the lost.
Those who are saddled with spouses, colleagues, grocers and pets
who constantly inveigle them, who burden them with sorrow, grief,
and worry, may in fact be targets of a far darker, far more remote
diocese. Do not accept the advent let alone persistence of such
troubles without help. Recognize the devils for what and whom they
are. Avoid pre-nuptial agreements with these creatures at all cost
or you will find yourself signing decrees weightier and more ponderous
than those tacked to the walls and doors of Wittenberg by Martin
And by all means stock up on garlic
at the greengrocer's. The efficacy of the so-called 'elephant' variety--a
genetically modulated variant of the vegetable that has otherwise
adorned tables rich and poor for centuries--remains to be proven.
1. Salmons PH, Clarke, DJ: Cacodemonomania. Psychiatry
2. Vinchon J, in Laignel-Lavastine (ed). The Concentric Method
in the Diagnosis of Psychoneuroticism. London, Kegan Paul,
Trench, Trubner, 1931.
3. Yap, PM: The possession syndrome: a comparison of Hong Kong and
French findings. J Mental Science (106): 114-137, 1960. About the
author: David Brizer's fiction has been published in Kit-Cat
Review, Pindeldyboz, and in failbetter.com.
He practiced psychiatry in Connecticut but as this piece shows,
'I [the author] now longer can tell the difference between what's
real and what's not.'