The great Peruvian writer Ricardo Palma (1833-1919) could not have imagined that, 54 years after his death, a blockbuster film entitled The Exorcist (1973) would be released in theaters around the world. But that did not stop him from contributing his grain of sand to the subject. What follows is a summary of one of his “Traditions”, entitled “Possessed”.
In viceroyalty Lima in the 16th century, the first archbishop of the city, Fray Jerónimo de Loayza, faced a devilish problem: Ursulita, a beautiful girl, in the flower of her youth, suffered continuous ravings that, instead of diminishing, increased in intensity and in frequency as the days passed. Convinced that the devil had possessed her and ignoring the advice of a doctor, who affirmed that Ursulita’s illness could be cured with a husband, our archbishop ordered that the young woman be taken to the Cathedral, where a monk, expert in the art of warding off evil spirits, would restore the maiden’s mental tranquility, removing Satan from her body.
But the more prayers, incantations, and rites the canon performed, the more the girl squirmed, uttering profanities and threats at the top of her voice. After a few hours, the monk declared himself defeated. The demon had won the first battle. The archbishop thought that the time had come to settle the matter personally, and he ordered the girl to be transferred to the chapel of the recently founded Santa Ana hospital. Like the canon, Archbishop Loayza could do little to make the beautiful young lady see reason. The king of hell had won the second battle.
And that is how things would have remained if the Dominican friar Gil González had not found out about the matter. Young and dashing, he hastened to visit the archbishop, assuring him that, this time, he would send the evil one to the place from which he came. Reasoning that nothing would be lost by trying, the archbishop accepted the friar’s proposal, who asked that the young woman be locked in a cell of her convent, where only the exorcist friar could enter. There, she was put on a strict diet of bread and water.
And finally, the girl regained her composure and was declared exorcised, cured, reassured. But how did Brother Gil do it? What happened? Nothing, only that at nine months Ursulita gave birth to a little devil.
REFERENCE: “Peruvian Traditions”, by the writer Ricardo Palma.