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Monday, September 13, 2010

A Deal with the Devil - Dæmonic Possession

The case of Clara Germana Cele is a bit more specious, yet if the details are to be believed, dæmonic possession is about the only thing that could explain her behavior and, most importantly, the supernatural phenomena which surrounded her at two separate points in her life. You can dismiss all other online accounts of this case (or the majority of them), as they work from one another, and are incorrect at their foundation.

What makes Clara Cele's case less believable from the jump is that she claimed to have made a pact with the Devil - or so she told her confessor, Father Erasmus Horner. Another thing is that the priests and nuns of the Marianhill Order mission school in Umzinto, South Africa1, which Clara had attended since she was four, always considered her "somewhat erratic." What that means, exactly, is anyone's guess, but for skeptics, these are signs that something else may have been at-play, such as mental illness or simple fraud. Finally, Cele claimed to have actually entered a pact with the Devil, himself.

The phenomena reported is what makes Cele's case striking:

At 16, Cele confessed to Father Erasmus that she had made a pact with the Devil, yet no one apparently thought much of this until a few weeks afterward, when her behavior changed dramatically. On August 20th, 1906, she began tearing off her clothes, grunting and growling like an animal. Her strength was so great that she broke one of the posts on her bed. She then began conversing aloud with unseen forces.

While this was shocking enough, the sisters were truly alarmed by the sounds she was making. One nun who witnessed at least one of Cele's outbreaks is alleged to have written, "No animal had ever made such sounds. Neither the lions of East Africa nor the angry bulls." In a moment of lucidity, Clara begged them to fetch Father Erasmus: "I must confess everything," she told them, "But quick, quick, or Satan will kill me. He has me in his power! Nothing is blessed with me." She confided in them that she had thrown away all things holy she'd ever been given. Later that day, she cried out, "You have betrayed me! You... promised me days of glory, but now you treat me cruelly."

Over the next several weeks, Cele began showing "classic" signs of dæmonic possession, such as wretching and blaspheming ferociously whenever holy items were present, even if they were heavily concealed. Holy water burned her, but when regular, unblessed, tap water was substituted in attempts to trick her, she merely laughed.

Cele manifested far-reaching clairvoyance, detailing the daily sojourn of one priest through Africa to Rome, naming the addresses at which he stayed along the way. She revealed the scandalous details of one man's life -- down to the names, dates, and times -- to shame him for ridiculing her.

Somewhat similar to the Bruner boys, Clara began contorting her body impossibly without apparent harm, but her contortions took a far more darkly sinister twist: Clara transformed into a serpent-like creature -- her entire body became like rubber and her neck elongated -- and she writhed across the floor. Once in this state, several of the nuns tried to restrain her. Clara darted from the midst of them like lightning, sped across the floor to a nun who was kneeling in front of her, and bit her on the arm. The bitemark is said to have shown the impression of Cele's teeth... and a small, red puncture, like that of a snakebite.

Germana's levitations are among the most frequent and dramatic in the history of dæmonic possession, having occurred numerous times in front of throngs of witnesses, some of whom attempted to hold, or pull, her down -- to no avail. She levitated in church, was seen levitating by "outsiders" (non-Church members, or possibly non-Christians), and levitated several times above her bed. Germana:

Floated often three, four, and up to five feet in the air, sometimes vertically, with her feet downward, and at other times horizontally, with her whole body floating above her bed... in a rigid position. Even her clothing did not fall downward... instead, her dresses remained tightly attached to her body and legs.

Holy water sometimes stopped the phenomena, but on September 10th of that same year, permission was granted to perform an Exorcism. It was a long and grueling effort which lasted at least two days. At some point, whatever was possessing her said it would signal its departure with a levitation.

This levitation occurred in the mission chapel. In front of 170 witnesses.

In 1907, while Father Erasmus was away, Germana was said to have entered a new pact with Satan. Another Exorcism was performed, lasting another two days. Its success, and the departure of the Devil from her body, was marked by an "incomparably foul stench."

Despite the concept of pacts and all else, Clara Germana Cele's case remains one of the strongest in all the recorded accounts of dæmonic possession.

1 - Not St. Michael's, as is stated in several reports across the Web. Many of these same sources report the school to have been located in Natal, which is closer to the truth; Natal is about 20 miles from Umzinto. It is possible that this was intentional misinformation meant to shield Germana Cele from further questioning, ridicule, or even ostracism and/or physical harm, but more likely the fault of the authors'.

© C Harris Lynn, 2010

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