Wednesday, March 03, 2021


A Prayer of Exorcism Attributed to St. Basil

Cyril Mango (1928-2021), Byzantium: The Empire of New Rome (New York: Charles Scribners Sons, 1981), pp. 159-160, with note on p. 295:
Under the category of demons the Byzantines included a wide variety of spirits, each one of whom had a defined function or location. At the most primitive level we find the maleficent spirits of nature who hardly belong to the Christian view of things. A particularly detailed prayer of exorcism falsely attributed to St Basil gives the following enumeration of them:
Take fright, leave, flee, depart, O unclean demon . . . wherever you happen to be, . . . whether you have the form of a serpent or the face of a beast or are like a vapor or like a bird, . . . whether you appear in the morning or at noon or at midnight or at some other untimely hour or at dawn, . . . whether you are in the sea or in a river or under the earth or in a well or by a cliff or in a ditch or in a lake or in a bed of reeds or in a forest ... or in a grove or in a thicket or in a tree or in a bird or in thunder or on the roof of a bath or in a pool of water, whether we know or do not know whence you have come . . . depart to a waterless, desert and untilled land where no man dwells.20
20 J. Goar, Euchologion sive rituale graecorum (Paris, 1647), 30-1.
Richard Wünsch (1869-1915) first used the terms apopompē (ἀποπομπή) and epipompē (ἐπιπομπή) to describe two different ways of banishing evil. See his "Zur Geisterbannung im Altertum," Festschrift zur Jahrhundertfeier der Universität zu Breslau = Mitteilungen der Schlesischen Gesellschaft für Volkskunde 13/14 (1911) 9-32. Wünsch used apopompē to mean simply driving away evil, epipompē to mean driving away evil onto someone or something else or to some other specific location. In this prayer of exorcism attributed to St. Basil we see an example of epipompē.

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