Up the page a bit someone mentions the role of Taoist priests as being similar to the Jesuits in the movie the Exorcist. I have no idea whether or not this is a servicable analogy. I’m not going to debate it -frankly speaking I think far too much arguing goes on in these forums.
The analogy did remind me of a very interesting event I witnessed up on Yen-Ping North Rd. in 1990. At that time I was living at the Happy Family Hostel. In those days we teachers had very irregular hours, so often, without morning classes, I would go out for long walks in the middle of the cool summer night.
I was cruising around the very interesting old distirct of Taipei, when I happend upon a temple with lots of commotion going on. As I approached I came within earshot of the chanting and wooden-bell beating coming from the temple.
Taiwanese temples are so wide-open and informal compared to the stuffy churches of my childhood - I was drawn to the noise, the crowd, and the fact that the outer rim of the crowd was made up of the largest convocation of nuns and priests that I had, and have ever seen.
As I drew up to the back of the group of clergy, everyones attention focused into the temple, I began to see what the point of focus was. A boy of perhaps twelve was bound securely to a wooden chair facing the pantheon of “Tu-di gongs”, and gods.
Around him some senior looking clerics were resiting scripture, and working around him with incense sticks. The mood was intense. As I became more aware of the scene I saw what I can only assume were the boys parents huddled together on the sidelines, the mother in tears.
My view of the boy was from behind, and over the shoulder of the outermost monks and nuns. What I saw was his head rolling in circles, as the the rest of his body flexed against the restraints that held him imobile to his chair. The boy was groaning continuously, as the level of the groups chanting attempted to drown his voice out. Flecks of foam flew from the boys mouth as his head shook about.
I left only a couple of minutes after I wandered up to the temple, not because I had been chased away (no one seemed to register my arrival), or because I was afraid of what I had witnessed. I left because I felt that this was a very personal ceremony, I left because I felt conspicuous, and intursive being a spectator to such a somber enterprise held at 3:00am in an otherwise dark and quiet residential neighborhood.
My conclusion about what I had happened upon up on Yen Ping North Road, in the wee hours of the night, was that it was something of a Taiwanese equivalent of what we would describe as an “excorcism”.
My story has nothing really to do with Satan, so perhaps it’s a bit of a digression from the thread. It’s just a very unusual experience that I had in Taiwan, that offered me a brief insight into a very private local ritual. None of my Taiwanese friends have ever, themselves, witnessed anything like this, and some were even a bit hostile to the story because I think they assumed (incorrectly) that this would lead me to view Taiwanese religous culture as “backwards”, or odd.
I wonder if anyone has had any simmilar experiences?