On December 9, an unidentified 41-year-old mother was killed in a hotel room during an attempt by five family members to exorcise a demon which they claim was possessing her.
According to authorities, the woman’s family exerted “massive force on her chest and stomach area,” as well an extreme amount of “violence to her neck.” A towel and a clothes hanger were shoved down her throat, reportedly to keep her from screaming.
Prosecutors say that the woman was subjected to at least two hours of “pain and agony,” before she finally died from a combination of asphyxiation and traumatic injuries, all of which were sustained during the “exorcism.”
The killers include a 44-year-old female relative, along with the relative’s children, a 21-year-old son, 19-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son. The 15-year-old son of the woman who was killed is also suspected of participating in the violence.
Instead of calling police or paramedics after the woman died, the family called a priest.
The priest immediately notified authorities, who ultimately discovered the woman’s body at the Frankfurt InterContinental hotel.
A second victim was later found, another 41-year-old woman, who is believed to be another family member. She was discovered inside a garage.
According to Fox 10 in Phoenix, the second victim was taken to a hospital, where she was treated for hypothermia, dehydration and undisclosed injuries.
The family involved in the woman’s murder is South Korean, and had recently relocated to the Frankfurt, Germany area.
The practice of exorcising demons, known as anchal-gido, is common among Charismatic Christians living Korea.
As Kyung Hong explains in the International Journal of Religion and Spirituality:
“anchal gido rituals are their own kind of abuse, since they often involve forms of physical violence against those deemed to be possessed. ‘The intensity of the healing prayers for cleansing demonic spirits…also often accompanies intense physical contact in the belief that physical assaults intimidate and assist to expel demons. Thus, the healing ritual may well become so intense as to involve physical striking, beating, poling, or choking the possessed individual, though each action is viewed by the healers as attacking the demon, not the person. There is a similarity between Korean exorcism and shamanic rituals, but the latter often lacks the violence and is more about appeasing unfriendly nature or ancestral spirits than outright spiritual warfare.’
Religion Watch reports that in Korea, protestant women “who are seen as demon possessed are often viewed as disobedient to their husbands and are subject to shame and condemnation, even in their deaths.”
The facts about anchal-gido don’t fit in with the western narrative of the Christian religion.
When 18-year-old Rayoung Kim was killed in her home during a similar exorcism in Fairfax County, Virginia, the media reported that her death was due to a “Shamanistic exorcism,” although the facts in the case show that she died during the type of violent exorcism that is associated with anchal-gido, not kut or mudang, as the media routinely reported.
The Shamanistic ritual of Kut involves singing, dancing and offering sacrifices. It is not associated with the violent “driving out of demons,” seen in these cases.
In the case of the women killed in Frankfurt, the most telling sign that the family was conducting the kind of violent, Christian exorcism associated with anchal-gido is that the first person they called was a priest.
Here in the U.S. we are constantly subjected to right-wing propaganda about the violent nature of the Muslim religion. At the same time, the media often presents us with a filtered version of current events, especially as they pertain to the Christian religion.
Whether this is done purposely or out of ignorance and unconscious bias is up for debate.
Either way, had this family killed a relative during a religious ceremony associated with Islam, the right wing would be all over that. In this case, however, the narrative will no doubt seek to shift the blame away from the Christian church and onto “Shamanism,” without a shred of evidence or single fact to support that theory.
*Featured image credit: Michal via Flckr, CC 2.0