Nancy Possession
(1620)
   Case of demonic POSSESSION of a young woman in Lorraine, France. Elizabeth de Ranfaing, the DEMONIAC, was exorcized in Nancy. The DEMON possessing her demonstrated a remarkable command of several foreign languages.
   De Ranfaing was a virtuous woman who was widowed in 1617. A doctor named Povoit proposed marriage to her, but she declined. Povoit attempted to force her to fall in love with him by slipping her herbal love philters. The ingredients damaged her health. The doctor then tried other magical concoctions, which worsened her condition. The concoctions must have had a psychological effect, for symptoms of possession manifested. The doctor soon was accused of SORCERY, convicted and burned at the stake. De Ranfaing consulted other physicians but none could relieve her symptoms. As a final recourse, they recommended that she seek EXORCISM. The exorcisms began on September 2, 1619, in Remiremont. When no relief was obtained, de Ranfaing was sent to Nancy, the capital of Lorraine, where she was interviewed and examined by more physicians. They affirmed that her symptoms were caused by diabolical possession.
   The EXORCISTs included church officials, theologians, monks, physicians, and representatives of the royal court. They interrogated the demon in various languages, including Hebrew, Greek, Italian, and Latin, and the demon responded accordingly. Once an attempt was made to trip up the demon with incorrect Greek; the demon pointed out the grammatical error. Sometimes the demon’s answers were split in languages, with part of a sentence in French and part in Latin.
   Using different languages, the exorcists gave various instructions to the demon, which it understood and carried out. The demon forced de Ranfaing to make signs of the cross, carry holy water, kiss the feet of the bishop of Toul, and make body movements and postures. The demon gave correct answers to questions about Catholic theology and revealed secret sins of those present. Sometimes the exorcists did not even have to speak out loud; the demon understood movements of their lips and even movements of their hands. The demon also pointed out Calvinist and Puritan witnesses who were present to watch the exorcisms.
   Critics of the possession were reprimanded. Claude Pithoy, a Minimite monk, declared that he should become possessed himself if the case were real. Pithoy was silenced by his superiors.
   De Ranfaing was finally exorcized of the demon and founded an order of nuns. The exorcists signed statements attesting to the validity of her possession, and the case was documented in 1622 by a respected physician named Prichard.
   FURTHER READING:
   - Calmet, Dom Augustin. The Phantom World: Concerning Apparitions and Vampires. Ware, England: Wordsworth Editions in association with The Folklore Society, 2001.

Encyclopedia of Demons and Demonology. . 2009.

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