Jewish Exorcisms
December 21, 2009 7:27 AM   Subscribe

“We got a bit excited because we realized that people have collected lots of dybbuk stories, but our fragment describes a real event, where you see how they come together and pray in order to exorcise the ghost from a widow,”
"If a person practices "occult rites" and the content thereof is a mumble of strange words, bizarre costumes, or strange rites, it is either bogus or evil. It usually is bogus, but in those cases that he has tapped into these powers, it is evil for he has divorced it from God.

The great rabbis who performed supernatural acts, were using them to bring home a message about God. They enjoined people to recognize the Creator, develop their character, be kind to others, be honest and faithful, reign in their drives, etc. Understood in the larger context of God, Torah and morality, these unusual miracles were indeed Divine revelations."
- Witchcraft* & Judaism
*= 'witchcraft' in the sense of the Witch of Endor speaking with the dead. not a reference to European witches or modern Neopagans.
posted by ServSci (11 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
posted by maortiz at 8:04 AM on December 21, 2009

I like this post. It gets my Irish Jew stamp of approval. Unfortunately, it's me stamping the monitor as I do step dancing to "Die Rebbe Elimeylekh."
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:34 AM on December 21, 2009

Dybbuk Shmybbuk, I Said 'More Ham.'
posted by mykescipark at 10:40 AM on December 21, 2009

Interesting. It seems that exorcism entered Christianity through the Essenes which in turn derived from Jain yogis.
posted by adamvasco at 10:56 AM on December 21, 2009

I had never heard of a “dybbuk” until the opening scene of “A Serious Man” (I’m thinking of the same word, aren’t I?) My girlfriend was just commenting the other day on how she liked the sound of the word, regardless of the whole evil omen thing. It is pretty fun to say – dybbuk, dybbuk, dybbuk
posted by Think_Long at 11:24 AM on December 21, 2009

Metafilter's Own Lore with The Slumbering Lungfish Dybbuk Hostel.
posted by The Whelk at 11:33 AM on December 21, 2009

Among my culture, dybbuk is most frequently used in the context of exorcising bad spirits in machinery

As in: "No, I don't know why that software is not working. I'm dybbuking it right now!"
posted by qvantamon at 3:47 PM on December 21, 2009

Oh man, I love dybbuks! Some friends and I once did this improvisational film thing in this attic where we ended up portraying a bunch of cousins trying to deal with a centuries-old dybbuk.

From what I remember of the research I did, dybbuks were usually male spirits, and they had a tendency to possess brides before weddings. Something about the vulnerable period between when a woman belongs to her father and when she's under the protection of her husband.

There's a creepy but wonderful scene from Ansky's The Dybbuk here. The play is about a woman possessed by a dybbuk - the "ghost" of her fiancee and childhood love who died from heartbreak when her father broke his promise to led them wed.
posted by shaun uh at 6:21 PM on December 21, 2009

There's also the suggestion that claiming dybbuk possession offered Jewish women some manner of escape from the fate their fathers decided for them and the expections of their community. From the article:
Elior argues that for women, dybbuks could be a means to escape the demands of a confining society. Once possessed by a dybbuk (or at least claiming to be), women were no longer considered responsible for their own actions, and were exempt from arranged marriages and relieved of wifely duties. Thought to be the souls of sinners, these spirits gave a certain degree of power to the powerless, freeing them from the norms of routine life and its conventional ordering.
posted by shaun uh at 6:27 PM on December 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

What shaun uh describes above is exactly Shulamis's strategy in the eponymous Yiddish opera: in order to avoid marriage to anyone but her bashert, she feigns madness with a hint of demonic posession.

In addition to Ansky's Dybbuk, Paddy Chayefsky's The Tenth Man is a stage treatment with many of the same elements.
posted by nonane at 6:53 PM on December 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

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