Fortean Times

Anal exorcism


I thoroughly enjoyed SD Tucker on Trump Derangemen­t Syndrome [FT429:50], which brought to mind Ken Campbell’s unlikely tales of London Gastromanc­ers at the 2009 FT UnConventi­on, and the Golgothan confronted by Jay and Silent Bob in Kevin Smith’s Dogma.

However, he did not include what, for my money, is one of the most entertaini­ng tales of ‘anal exorcism’. This can be found in the autobiogra­phy of the Renaissanc­e goldsmith and sculptor Benvenuto Cellini. As well as being a master craftsman with an ego to match – he did not rate Michelange­lo, considerin­g him an inferior talent to himself – he is an enormously entertaini­ng writer who recorded every last detail of his tumultuous exploits as he fought, shagged and drank his way across 16th century Italy, putting himself in the best possible light at every turn of course.

At one point, he finds himself in Rome, working on a commission from the Pope, and falls in with a necromance­r, whom he persuades to carry out a ritual to obtain the affections of a Sicilian beauty. They decamp to the ruins of the Colosseum, accompanie­d by assistants, including a 12-year-old apprentice from Cellini’s studio, and set about summoning demons. This involves a magic circle, set up with a good deal of theatrics from the necromance­r, and a bonfire on which perfumes are burned to entice the demons. Once they set about their business, results are swift, and so successful that many legions of demons start manifestin­g in the ruins, which makes the necromance­r nervous, and he starts intoning banishing rituals, but to no effect; the demonic horde continues increasing and pressing in on the circle, becoming ever more menacing.

Cellini and companions are by now quaking with fear, and even throwing foul-smelling asafoetida on the fire fails to drive back the demons. Then, half-crazed with fear, the boy loses control of his bowels, lets out a massive fart, then fills his trousers. The stench of this was apparently truly appalling, causing the hellish horde to reel in disgust and flee back to the pit, leaving Cellini and friends relieved at their narrow escape, although the boy claims to have seen two of the worst demons flitting across the rooftops, following them as they headed home.

Ian Simmons Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex

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