IT’S a ritual you might expect to see in a horror film.
But for the people of Ethiopia, exorcism is their reality.
A priest stands among a large crowd in a village on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital.
The crowd has come to this particular spot for a reason, as so happens every weekend: to expel the devil from deep inside.
For a hefty fee these believers travel to see controversial healer Memehir Girma Wondimu, who claims he can mend damaged souls.
“Victims of black magic or different kinds of demons believe in his help,” photographer David Tesinsky, who captured an exorcism ceremony in action last year, told news.com.au.
“I can see it in their faces. People pay a lot for the healing, when I saw an old woman giving him [Wondimu] a $US100 bill I thought, ‘wow’, because I know it might be even more than half of her monthly income.
So much so is their faith, they endure incredible pain to remove the “evil” from within.
Tesinsky watched as the “possessed” took part in the exorcism, which involves being punched in the head and stomach in order provoke a reaction from the demons.
“It’s part of the practice, he [Wondimu] wants to make the demons scared, and talk to them”, Tesinsky explains.
“Someone who seemed calm before starts to scream and be aggressive, they really change their voice.”
The priest takes his cross and begins to ask the demons questions through the “host’s” body.
“Who are you and how many?”
The victim proceeds to scream while the priest continues to punch them and showers them in holy water from a hose.
“You don’t have any power above me, I’m not going to leave,” Tesinsky recalled the spirit replying.
The priest keeps talking, continuing to punch the victim until the devil stirs.
“We are sent to waste her lifework, make her useless for her family and until now we were successfully draining her life,” booms a voice from within the possessed.
“Such a shame you found us, we cannot resist the burning sensation of your cross … it’s too much for us”.
The soul, it seems, has been cleansed.
Onlookers join the screaming, some cry from excitement.
“The people are very serious about it,” explains Tesinsky.
But Wondimu “earns more money than the church”.
According to a case study by Amsalu Tadesse Geleta, there is a reasonable explanation for the behaviour of the possessed. Geleta claims the irrational demonisation is simply less about the spiritual and more about the social.
“Socially induced depravity, low status, or feelings of inadequacy or inferiority produces psychological reactions in individuals, which become manifest in the odd, but socially acceptable, behaviours that accompany spirit possession,” he writes.
But for these people, it’s real, says Tesinsky.
“These people believe that they will be cured, if they are they believe it’s because of their faith, but that’s between the sky and us.”
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