- A state of being besieged by DEMONs. Obsession is derived from the Latin obsidere and refers to a state of siege or an attack on a person or personality from without. Sometimes the term is used interchangeably with OPPRESSION or even POSSESSION; however, this is not accurate, for possession entails being completely taken over within.The literature of saints, monks, and hermits describes numerous cases of obsession as part of a holy person’s spiritual challenges. The Life of St. Hilary describes how the saint’s “temptations were numerous; . . . how often when he lay down did naked women appear to him.” St. Anthony endured the most famous obsession during his withdrawal into the desert. When he tried to sleep, the DEVIL assumed the form of a woman and tried to seduce him with feminine gestures. (See SUCCUBUS.) Other holy or biblical figures, such as Saul, also suffered obsessive spirits.In the 17th century, a young Spanish nun, Doña Micaela de Aguirre, was obsessed by the Devil. Irritated by Doña Micaela’s perfection, the Devil began tormenting her, appearing one night in the shape of a horse. He stood on Micaela with his full weight, kicking and trampling her and leaving her severely bruised. Sometimes the Devil immersed Doña Micaela in the convent well up to her neck, leaving her there all night. In the end, according to her biographer, Doña Micaela triumphed. “Mocking his cunning she bade him fetch an ax and chop wood. And the enemy could not disobey her [for she was a saint]; he took the ax and chopped the wood up with all haste and departed in confusion, roaring with anger at being defeated by a young nun.”In modern psychiatry, obsession refers to total domination by a fixed idea, which controls or affects all other actions, such as constantly checking to see whether a door is locked or believing that deadly germs are everywhere.
Encyclopedia of Demons and Demonology. Rosemary Ellen Guiley. 2009.