While exorcism is a ritual you might expect to see in horror films, for the people of Ethiopia, it is a reality. Although Ethiopia is a country with diverse cultures, ethnic groups, traditions, languages and religions, the cultural diversity among the ethnic groups makes it complex to present a general context of spiritual warfare. Photographer David Tesinsky traveled to Ethiopia to find real exorcism rituals and he wasn’t disappointed. After searching the right places and finding the right contacts, Tesinsky arrived at Addis Ababa. There, he managed to capture some of the most incredible photographs of the ritual.
Demonization is found throughout Ethiopia, among many, if not most, of its people.
Anthropological studies conducted from the 1960’s and 1970’s indicate its existence among Oromo (in different regions), Amhara (Gondar, Menz), Qemant, Sidamo, Konso, Kafa, Gurage, Somali, and others. Tesinsky, who was interested in capturing the extreme ritual, booked a cheap flight to Ethiopia; where he was greeted by rude faces right from the start.
Many of the studies conducted gives psychosocial explanations as to why so many people believe in the ritual.
Most of the them point to socially induced depravity, low status, or feelings of inadequacy or inferiority.
Tesinsky, after arriving in Ethiopia, had to walk through slum areas at 4 AM in order to find andcapture the ritual in action. At one point in a slum area where he was supposed to stay overnight, he was almost robbed,but narrowly escaped.
The photographs were taken from a place not too far from Addis Ababa – where the ritual took place.
The crowd always gathers at this particular spot for a reason, as so happens every weekend: to expel the devil from deep inside.
The priest stands among a large crowd in a village on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital.
For a hefty fee, these believers travel from different parts of the country to see the controversial healer Memehir Girma Wondimu, who claims he can mend damaged souls.
People are sprayed with holy water to rid evil spirits from their bodies.
“Victims of black magic or different kinds of demons believe in his help,” – David Tesinsky, who captured an exorcism ceremony in action last year, told news.com.au in an interview.
Memehir was thrown away from all the churches, since he earned more money than the church itself.
The locals are hard believers in the ritual and pay a hefty sum to have the priest perform the ritual on them.
“I can see it in their faces. People pay a lot for the healing, when I saw an old woman giving him [Wondimu] a $100 bill I thought, ‘wow’, because I know it might be even more than half of her monthly income.
The Memehir, no matter how much he earned, kept asking for money all the time.
Crowds gather to watch and participate in the exorcism.
A woman needs to be held down as she resists the exorcism.
So much so is their faith, they endure incredible pain to remove the “evil” from within.
Tesinsky watched as the “possessed” took part in the exorcism, which involves being punched in the head and stomach in order provoke a reaction from the demons.
“It’s part of the practice, he [Wondimu] wants to make the demons scared, and talk to them”, Tesinsky explains.
“I can see it in their faces,” says photographer David Tesinsky of the faith in exorcism in Ethiopia.
“Someone who seemed calm before starts to scream and be aggressive, they really change their voice.”
The priest takes his cross and begins to ask the demons questions through the “host’s” body.
“Who are you and how many?”
The victim then proceeds to scream while the priest continues to punch them and showers them in holy water from a hose.
“We are sent to waste her lifework, make her useless for her family and until now we were successfully draining her life,” booms a voice from within the possessed.
“Such a shame you found us, we cannot resist the burning sensation of your cross … it’s too much for us”.
The soul, it seems, had been cleansed.
Onlookers join the screaming, some cry from excitement.
The priest keeps talking, continuing to punch the victim until the devil stirs.
According to a study conducted by Amsalu Tadesse Geleta, there’s a reasonable explanation for the people’s behavior.
“Socially induced depravity, low status, or feelings of inadequacy or inferiority produces psychological reactions in individuals, which become manifest in the odd, but socially acceptable, behaviors that accompany spirit possession,” he writes.
“These people believe that they will be cured, and if they are, they believe it’s because of their faith. But that’s between the sky and us.”
What do you think of this? Is it a case of mass hysteria or something spiritual? Let us know through the comments section!
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You can view David Tesinsky’s full photographic series here.