The Exorcist: Priest performs mass exorcism on hundreds in Ethiopia

The Exorcist: Priest performs mass exorcism on hundreds of people who paid up to a month’s wages to rid themselves of demons at Ethiopian ceremony

  • Hundreds queue up to meet with a priest and ‘exorcist’ at a rural church outside Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
  • Exorcism rituals to ‘rid the body of demons’ sometimes take place in the  Ethiopian Orthodox church
  • This instance saw 150 line up to see a priest charging up to one-month’s wages for an ‘exorcism’
  • Images show the priest touch believers on the forehead with a cross and spraying them with ‘holy water’

A mass exorcism ritual involving hundreds of Ethiopian Christians, who paid up to a month’s wages to be punched by a priest and doused in ‘holy water’, has been captured in a fascinating photo series.

Some 150 people had been queuing up at a church outside the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa in order to meet a local celebrity healer whom they believe would be able to free them from ‘demons’.

The photos show people of all ages crying hysterically as a cross touches their forehead, or being held down by relatives as they try to avoid being ‘exorcised’, kicking and screaming.  

Set me free: A woman is being held in place by two men as she screams while being sprayed with holy water

‘God’s work’: A man is seen crying hysterically as priest and healer Memehir Girma Wedimu touches him with a cross

The exorcist: Memehir Girma Wedimu puts his hand on top of a man’s head, who breaks down in tears, while a bowing woman is sprayed with ‘holy water’ from a hose

Other striking shots show a woman seemingly screaming with all her might as she is brought up to the priest, grown men in tears, and dozens of people being hosed down with holy water.

They were taken by Czech photographer David Tesinsky who had ventured to Ethiopia specifically to capture exorcism rituals.

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After two weeks of trying to convince locals to let in photograph the religious events, he found the Yerer Selassie church, not far from Addis Ababa, where locals were lining up to meet Ethiopian Orthodox priest Memehir Girma Wedimu. 

‘People were crying, screaming and Memehir was punching them,’ said Tesinsky. ‘Memehir, I learned, had rejected all other churches, because he earned more money than the church itself. 

‘He kept asking for money – I saw one very old woman give him a $100 (£76) bill to ‘expel’ her of demons and he still wanted more, even though that $100 was most likely all she could earn in one month.’ 

Popular past-time: Some 150 people had lined up at the church outside Addis Ababa to meet with the priest

Rain in abundance: A young woman who had lined up to be ‘freed’ from evil spirits is doused in water

Fear and faith: A man needs to be held in place and struggles as Memehir Girma Wedimu performs a ritual 

Price for freedom: Memehir Girma Wedimu reportedly charged those who turned up for an exorcism up to one-month’s wages for a ‘spirit cleanser’ ritual

Strong beliefs: Nearly three quarters of Christians in Ethiopia claim to have experienced or witnessed an exorcism

‘These exorcism rituals are usually performed if someone is not responding to modern medicine or if they are misbehaving. 

‘Their families think they are possessed by a “demon spirit” or “buda” – the power of the evil eye. They must be performed by a local priest.’

Ethiopia has had a significant Christian population for centuries, and the Ethiopian Church is the largest pre-colonial Christian church in Africa.

The belief in demons and the devil found across the religious spectrum is strong, in particularly in rural areas, and according to a 2010 survey, nearly three quarters of Christians in Ethiopia claim to have experienced or witnessed an exorcism. 

The unwilling: A young woman screams as she tries to resist being forces to undergo the exorcism ritual

Dramatic: The photographs have been taken by David Tesinsky from Prague, Czech Republic who had travelled to Ethiopia specifically to document exorcism rituals

Come one, come all: The queue of people lining up to meet the priest began in the street outside the church 

Violent: Mr Tesinsky said he also witnessed the priest punching believers during the rituals

Efficient exorcism: A handful of believers get sprayed with holy water and fight to get in the firing line


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