Why exorcisms are on the rise in France?


I am a fan of the book Freakanomics. Trying to find the cause and effect makes life seem a little bit more interesting. So in the vein of the book, here is an interesting phenomena: Exorcism is getting popular in France. Look online and a host of private exorcists, healers, mediums, kabbalists, shamans and energiticians offer similar services, for fees as high as €500 per ceremony. Some offer to help a business out of a bad patch, or to restore love to a failing relationship. Many help with supposed hauntings of properties. One self-declared exorcist near Paris says he earns as much a €12,000 a month (before tax) by working 15-hour days, including consultations by phone. The exorcism business is on the rise in France. Why?

According to the exorcists they thrive because customers get much-needed benefits from the rituals. An exorcist, Mr Moscato, for example, describes an “avalanche” of demand following prominent terrorist attacks in France late in 2015. He suggests three parts of France are particularly vulnerable to “black magic”—Paris, Lyon and the French Riviera, where local mafia are said to be active—and this can be countered by sufficiently strong exorcists. Alessandra Nucci, a writer on Catholic matters who attended a course run by the International Association of Exorcists (IAE) in Rome, argues “absolutely, there are more and more” private operators in Europe who charge for their services. She says they fill a vacuum left by priests reluctant to do the job: the “church has, for too long, neglected exorcisms, despite strong demand from the public”, she says.

The demand is real, but reasons for it are mixed. Roughly half of the customers for one exorcist near Paris, for example, are immigrants, notably Africans ready to turn to fee-charging and charismatic exorcists rather than church-sanctioned ones. Word of mouth is also another key referral channel for some. Many are encouraged by the ease of finding and booking an exorcist online. It could be that demand for private practitioners previously existed but is now revealed thanks to the internet and exorcists who advertise their services. Television shows, such as Fox’s “The Exorcist”, could also be encouraging customers to try a ritual.

It remains a niche business, but could get more popular among those not of the traditional church, such as immigrants. House blessings, like those conducted by Mr Moscato, appear to be harmless entertainment. But risks exist: occasionally victims of violent rituals, including children, have been killed in beatings that are supposed to chase evil spirits from a person. The more responsible fee-charging exorcists say a diagnosis or exorcism of a person should happen only after a patient has consulted a doctor or psychiatrist. In general, those who pay for such rituals appear to believe they get some result, just as others opt for homeopathic medicines or astrological readings and expect some benefit. Any supposed benefit follows from the fact that the customer first believes in the service.

So in part, the spread for niche services or the long tail services have been enabled by the internet. The ease of going online to find someone to do something for you that ordinarily the only way would be through the introductions of a friend or a trusted individual. Other than e-commerce however, services seem to lag behind. Looks like there will be more to come. In the meantime, don’t be afraid of what’s in your cupboard or something that goes bump at night.

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