Someone screaming because he is hearing voices in his head - Possession


Online Interdisciplinary Conference

Ancient and Modern Ideas of Possession 

Nicole M. Bauer & J. Andrew Doole, Faculty of Catholic Theology

29th – 30th September 2021


Registration Details (Zoom and YouTube)


Wednesday 29th September 2021
Dr. Nicole Bauer & Dr. Andrew Doole
Faculty of Catholic Theology, University of Innsbruck, Austria
Welcome and Introduction
14:00 Prof. Inken Prohl
Department of Religious Studies, Heidelberg University, Germany
Opening Statement: Possession and Religious Studies
Anthropological and Ethnological Perspectives
Prof. William Sax & Prof. Annette Hornbacher
Department of Anthropology, Heidelberg University, Germany
Between Exorcism and Propitiation: Research from India and Bali
Prof. Andrea De Antoni
Graduate School of Human and Environmental Studies, Kyoto University, Japan
That Old Feeling: Entangling Traditional Symptoms and Experiences of Possession through Catholic Exorcism in Contemporary Italy
16:00 Prof. Carlos Watzka (Sigmund Freud University, Austria) &
Prof. Gerhard Ammerer (University of Salzburg, Austria)
Book Presentation: Der Teufel in Graz [The Devil in Graz] (Graz: Leykam, 2021)
16:30 Break
Dr. Verónica Giménez Béliveau
National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET), University of Buenos Aires, Argentina
Contemporary Possession from the Catholic Perspective: An Ethnographic Comparative Study (France-Argentina)
17:30 Dr. Svetlana Ryzhakova
Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, Russian Academy of Science, Moscow, Russia
Trance and Spirit-Possession: Distinction and Meeting Points: Reflections on the daivārādhanā Tradition of Tuḷunādu, India
18:15 Break
Religious Studies Perspectives
Dr. Sarah Demmrich   [not on public livestream]
Department of Sociology of Religion, University of Münster, Germany
The Phenomenon of Possession in an Interreligious Context: The Study by Traugott K. Oesterreich (1921) and its Contemporary Relevance                                                       
19:15 Prof. Marsha Hewitt
Trinity College, University of Toronto, Canada
Trance, Dreams and Possession: A Comparative Psycho­analytic Approach
20:00 Discussion


Thursday 30th September 2021
Historical Perspectives
Dr. Tom de Bruin
New Testament Exegesis and Early Christian Literature, Newbold College of Higher Education, UK
My Body Made Me Do It: Non-invasive Possession in Early Christianity
11:45 Milena Heussler
Department of New Testament Studies, Faculty of Protestant Theology, University of Vienna, Austria
On Ancient Soundscapes and “Spectacles” of Madness
12:30 Break
Prof. Giovanni Bazzana
Harvard Divinity School, Harvard University, USA
Dark Snakes, Enamored Spirits, and Spiritual Riches in the Acts of Thomas
14:45 Dr. Michael J. Morris
School of Arts and Sciences, University of Mary, USA
Do the Demonologies of the Dead Sea Scrolls Influence Modern Ideas of Demonic Possession?
15:30 Break
Prof. Matt Goldish
Department of History, Ohio State University, USA
Where do ‘Positive’ Possessions Fit in the History of Spirit Possession?
Discussion & Break
Modern Perspectives
Dr. Julia Rehn   [not on public livestream]
Foundation for Shamanic Studies Europe & Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy Charité Campus Mitte, Berlin, Germany
Possession within the New Shamanism
17:45 Michael Sersch
Gundersen Health System, La Crosse, USA
Demons in the Polis
18:30 Break
20:00 Discussion

Someone screaming because he is hearing voices in his head - Possession


Both in the ancient world and in modern society the idea of possession is a well-attested cultural phenomenon. People in various social contexts attribute different experiences and behaviours to spiritual possession. There are those who describe themselves as possessed and others who are labelled as possessed. Possession is an element of both ancient and modern identity. This online interdisciplinary conference will consider different constructions of possession and the cultural and historical backgrounds that influence the ways in which possession is understood from various methodological perspectives including Psychology, Anthropology, Religious Studies, and Biblical Studies. We will reflect particularly on the ways in which ancient ideas about possession exert influence on modern society or the ways in which modern ideas of possession construct ancient antecedents. 


Registration Details

If you would like simply to watch the presentations then please follow us on our YouTube Channel. If you would like to join us on Zoom for the discussions, please contact us at with your name and e-mail address. The deadline for registration is Sunday 19th September 2021.


Dr. Nicole M. Bauer
Department of Practical Theology, Faculty of Catholic Theology, University of Innsbruck
Dr. J. Andrew Doole
Department of Biblical Studies and Historical Theology, Faculty of Catholic Theology, University of Innsbruck

Administrative and Technical Support 

Johannes Härting
Patrick Kugler

In Co-operation With

Österreichische Gesellschaft für Religionswissenschaft (ÖGRW)
[Austrian Society for Religious Studies]  

Research Area “Cultural Encounters – Cultural Conflicts”

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