Spirit Possession Around the World: Possession, Communion, and Demon Expulsion Across Cultures. Edited by Joseph P. Laycock. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2015. 414 pages. Acid free $89 (ISBN: 978-1-61069-589-3). E-book available (978-1-31069-590-9), call for pricing.

This book has proven a welcome addition to the reference collection at my private, Catholic, liberal arts institution. In an effort to draw a comparison between other works on the topic of spirit possession, I found myself surprised to discover that there are currently few comparable resources in our collection, the collections of libraries in our consortium, or available on Amazon. While I have encountered works addressing the spiritual, medical, psychological, religious, geographical, and cultural aspects of the phenomenon of demoniac possession at an individual level, it is rare to find all of these together.

The book consists of A-to-Z signed entries on various aspects of demoniac possession, all written by appropriately qualified scholars. Also included are suggestions for further reading, cross-referencing, and profiles on the editor and contributors. Particularly useful features include a guide to related topics that groups the entries by geography, religion and traditions, political movements, popular culture, psychological/medical and sociological interpretations and a chronology that spans from 1600 BCE to 2013 CE.

The contributors to this volume demonstrate a knowledgeable and even-handed treatment of subject matter that I feared could easily be mired in ideology. It proved refreshing that the scholarly tone has been maintained throughout the entries while still penetrating areas such as popular culture that could easily become sensational. For example, the entry addressing the film The Exorcist could have been easily derailed by hearsay regarding a rumored “curse” on the film that has thrived online and around campfires for decades. While abstaining from ignoring the incidents from which the urban legend has sprung, yet not becoming mired in the debate, the contributor skillfully addressed all aspects of the topic and related phenomenon while espousing no particular causative factor. Academic users of this volume will find that this treatment extends throughout the work and provides helpful information, both of popular and scholarly nature, without devolving into the recounting of urban legends and subjective hearsay about the supernatural. This encyclopedia will prove particularly useful for undergraduate students or any individual with an interest in religious studies. I expect that this will be a well-used item in Ursuline College’s collection.—Anita J. Slack, Reference and Instruction Librarian, Ursuline College, Pepper Pike, Ohio


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