Many times people have asked me: “Do spells exist? And the evil eye?“. The answer to these questions is yes, but it is necessary to explain several things. First of all, spell, evil eye, witchcraft, black magic, designate an evil action against someone.
The actors are four: the one who makes the spell, the one who receives it, the one who materially procure the damage, the devil. The fourth actor is God, that allows it, to the extent that He wants to, and for the purposes that He wants, or does not permit it. The devil acts at the request of the first actor who, free, gives him his soul, in exchange for a continuous vexation of the person who he wants to hit. Satan, in order to act, wants something in exchange: the soul of the applicant and the latter, believing he can lead the situation, agrees. In reality, the first actor agrees to have the devil as his master, and of being a slave. The material fulfilment of the curse by means of the evil one is subject however to the permission of God, because the devil can never overtake the sovereignty of God, unless – hypothetically – the victim of the witchcraft has also elected the devil as his master.
The one who receives the witchcraft is also an actor: active part for his reaction to the spell.
The role of God
The action of a witchcraft is certainly prevented by God if it would hit one of his faithful, alive in faith, in charity, in hope. In the Bible in fact, we have the case of the soothsayer-sorcerer Balaam, an expert in oracles and blessings as well as in curses with sorceries (22-24 Nm). He blesses and curses in the name of God but he is an accomplice and a slave of the devil, so much so that he passes off his perverse situation as a power that comes from the Lord, even if he recognises who God is. Here, the first actor is Balaam, moved by money and by the hatred of Barak, king of Moab. Satan is not mentioned in the narration. God does not allow the people to be cursed. Israel cannot be struck because it is linked to God by the alliance (Nm 23, 23). It will fall into disgrace when it will disobey, fornicating, instigated by Balaam, in Baal Peor, with the women of Moab (Nm 31,16); then God will hit it, because the people went against the alliance. The only action that was possible to Balaam was to instigate the people to corruption, because then it was hit by God. For the rest Balaam was forced to bless the people and to proclaim its great future. You can argue that this is about a people, but the essence is that the people of God cannot be cursed. And therefore, also a person united to God cannot be: the Lord does not allow it. Right are therefore the popular proverbs: “Evil do not commit, fear not” and “Accidents go to pasture and come back to those who wish them”.
The tests of Job
In the book of Job, we see a person that is not guilty oppressed by the devil, but the situation is very different. The situation falls within the envy (Sap 2,24) that Satan has towards God, and in the repulsion towards the saints who have conquered Heaven, from where he was casted out. The devil is the accuser, and he accuses Job before God claiming that he loves God only for the convenience of the many blessings received. It follows that God cannot draw glory from Job, a man who loves only because he is a beneficiary in all. And this is what we read in the book of the Apocalypse (12,10-11): “The accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night”. God accepts the challenge, not leaving however Job alone in the battle against the pain of the misfortunes and especially against the theological perplexity instilled by those three phantoms of the devil who went to meet him (Gb 2,11s). Of course, the case of Job is striking, I would say exemplary, but it may reappear under various proportions.
Spell and possession
We must therefore be careful not to tell with superficiality to he who is vexed that has a spell, because in this way you put him in the search of the culprit, without hope of result for him or with wrong result, and he is led to a deep anguish. What we need is the presence of a wise priest to bring him back to the truth. In order to reaffirm that the spell is not always the cause of situations of vexation, we may recur to the epiphenomenon of diabolic possession occurred in people of great spiritual relief. These cases can be counted on the fingers. Noteworthy are the cases of Father Juan del Castillo, 1596-1628 Jesuit, of Father Jean-Joseph Surin, Jesuit 1600- 1663, of Sister Maria Crucified, Arab Carmelite 1846-1878). The purpose of these possessions was, as already in Job, that they may grow in humility, trust in God and charity towards all.
The classic case
Another thing is when the spell strikes a person who is far from the life of faith, or very uncertain in it. I suggest a case, which is not so hypothetical. The case of two friends. One of these has a boyfriend, but the other takes him away attracting him to her. The first feels betrayed, she sees her hoped future crumbling. In that case she can be taken by such a hatred against the other, to decide to give her soul to the devil, so that her former friend may have her life ruined. The friend has committed a betrayal, and so God let the devil attack, considering that with the betrayal she has already passed on the side of Satan. However, from the action of the devil can come as a reaction to this situation repentance. The traitor can ask for forgiveness to her friend also renouncing to the boy. She can confess and reconcile with God. These acts will give her the strength to move the curse away from her. If instead she gets upset, she rebels against the situation, she starts to hate, to despair not wanting to repent, then she gives space to the devil and really her life will be studded with pain, as long as she will relate again with the Gospel, and the liberation will be there, but with great effort, because she herself increasingly penetrated in the hatred.
Recognizing the witchcraft
The first actor of a witchcraft tries to remain hidden, but he is traceable in some way for his actions of sin, his sympathy for esotericism, Black Magic, his hostility caused by some clash with the person vexed. The presence of a witchcraft is also signalled by puppets pierced by needles, nodes of feathers, colour spots, and whatever else a morbid fantasy may produce. The person who curses can even attend the church, in order to deceive, to hide. Everything is done to confuse and scare. Other times the person who curses comes out in the open with phone calls in the middle of the night, with threatening letters and anything else. If the person targeted does not recur immediately to God through the sacraments, prayer, he or she will slowly becoming increasingly bogged down.
The genesis of possession
The dynamic of how the epiphenomenon of diabolic possession may happen is difficult to know. It is certainly not for the presence of an actor who curses. If this person is there, the possession must be attributed not precisely to him, but to the upset reaction, full of hatred of the person affected. This person sinks by himself into evil and can be possessed, for a choice of Satan and for the permission of God. It can also be a sinner practicing magic, seances, that at a certain point is possessed by the devil. It can also be an innocent, as we have seen, with the purpose of the devil to prove himself powerful and put the subject, and also those close to him in difficulty.
To this last case may be related – with good approximation – the episodes of the daughter – supposed to be a young girl – of a Canaanite woman, and of the epileptic boy alternatively possessed (Mt 17,14s; Mc 9,14s; Lk 9,37s). We still have, in these two cases, a challenge of the evil one, that God allows in view of a stimulation of the environment towards a life of alive faith. It must be said that the subject hit, in the moments of crisis of possession, is not responsible for what he or she does or says. The Canaanite woman reacted with indomitable tenacity, and the possession was the road that led her to Christ. Also the father of the young boy, acted with great tenacity. Even the Jews used to do exorcisms, (Mt 12,27), and when there was true faith and observance of the Alliance they succeeded, obviously for the power of the future Christ. Also the pagans did them, but it is impervious to evaluate the actual results. The devil, in fact, can leave, in front of the invocation of a pagan god, in order to corroborate it.
The challenge to the Community
The epiphenomenon of diabolic possession is very rare, and has as its main fact a challenge of Satan to an entire environment (“None can cast me out. I am the owner of this person”), who undergoes a torturous presence. The social context must overcome the challenge, praying and calling an exorcist of strong prayer. By coming out in a state of challenge, the devil, however, reveals himself in his hatred towards man; in fact, the devil always prefers to present himself in an apparently benevolent manner (Gn 3,1s). This causes the reactions of faith towards God. The permission of God is directed to ensure that a community leaves mediocrity touching with its own hand the hatred of Satan, and thus reflects and wins in prayer. It is clear that the subject possessed is not responsible for his actions during the crisis of possession.
When evil wins
The community concerned may flatten in cowardice and not react. It is the case of the possessed person whose possessing spirits took refuge in pigs (Mt 8,28s; Mc 5,1s; Lk 8,27s). The presence of Jesus in that village was a huge opportunity, but the village was flattened in a cowardly acceptance of the presence of the possessed, nobody cared about him anymore. The devil was winning the challenge in that village. Jesus was to be welcomed with joy in the village, but he was invited to leave. They had reached the morbid tranquillity of the cowards, that do not trust anymore in the Lord, but in the goods of the earth (the lost herd of pigs). Also the case of the possessed present in the synagogue, without being disturbed by anyone, denounces a state of cowardice and victory of the devil (Mc 1,23; Lk 4,33).