For the past year or so I’ve been obsessed with the study of ecstatic religion and the phenomenon of spirit possession in antiquity and beyond. If I had to give a reason for my unwavering interest, it’d probably be two-fold: (1) ecstasy – a type of altered state of consciousness – is present in practically every religion, and (2) historical accounts of spirit induced behavior and exorcism are arguably the most captivating and obscene readings in existence.
It is this last point which I wish to demonstrate in this Halloween post – which probably shouldn’t even be called such since the stories below aren’t even scary. They’re mostly just plain “what the f***.” Though I suppose much of what you’ll encounter, like a description of Satan’s genitalia, is scary in the disturbing sense. But I’ll leave that up to you to decide.
So without further ado, here are just some of the many horrific accounts of spirit possession and obscene behavior I’ve come across in my exhaustive study. Note that these come straight from the secondary sources referenced below.
WARNING: THESE ARE NOT YOUR AVERAGE HALLOWEEN STORIES. IF YOU ARE EASILY OFFENDED GO READ SCARY STORIES BY ALVIN SCHWARTZ; THEY ARE FUN AND NOSTALGIC AND DO NOT INVOLVE SEX, GENITALIA, BODILY FLUIDS, OR INFANT-CANNIBALISM. ACCOMPANIED ARTWORK IS ALSO NSFW.
If you’d like to be fed other interesting nuggets on ecstatic religion and view an organized display of the books I used for research, check out my tumblr page Belly Talkers
A few months ago, Pope Francis elevated former popes John XXIII and John Paul II to sainthood. What does that mean? While the word “saint” carries a baggage of different meanings today depending on the denomination it’s used in, generally speaking a saint is a holy individual (i.e. believer in Christ) who has earned the rewards of heaven after death. In the more Catholic sense, a saint is someone with whom Christ dwells, giving them an exceptional level of holiness as displayed through heroic and philanthropic deeds one earth. After their death, the Catholic Church comes to recognize and canonize some of these individuals who are now in heaven. 
While the Catholic Church recognizes a great number of individuals as saints, they by no means claim to have a complete or even a nearly complete list. How many have they canonized so far? The answer isn’t an easy one to find. Using official church sources it tallies close to 1,000. Elsewhere, it appears to exceed 10,000. That’s a lotta saints marching in. Note that these are numbers within the Roman Catholic religion. The numbers may be even higher among the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox congregations, since their “canonization” process isn’t nearly as fixed. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that with so many saints to choose from there are a handful of individuals whose legends are worth reading about purely for entertainment in addition to historical interest. Never did I imagine how surprisingly bizarre they would turn out to be, aided especially by artwork which has strongly preserved their tradition. So without further ado, here’s my top eleven.
If you’d simply like to view their depictions in art, check out my gallery of each saint here.
- St. Catherine of Siena (1347 – 1380): The woman Christ married with his foreskin
- St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090 – 1153): Breastfeed by the Virgin Mary
- St. Christopher (? — c. 251): A giant Cynocephalus (i.e. dog-headed man)
- St. Moses the Black (330–405): Former bandit leader and all-around badass
- St. Stephen (? — 34): Switched at birth for a changeling by Satan
- St. Margaret of Antioch (? — 304): Escaped the belly of a dragon
- St. Joseph of Cupertino (1603 – 1663): The Flying Friar
- Blessed Agostino Novello (1240 – 1309): Your friendly neighborhood monk
- St. Roch (c. 1328 – c. 1376): Saved from the plague by Lassie
- St. Gall (550 – 646): Acquired a pet bear
- St. Veronica (1st century AD): Obtained Jesus’ face on a cloth (Veil of Veronica)