The Exorcists of Heian

In the fifth episode of the neurodissent podcast, we explore exorcism in the Heian period of Japanese history which lasted from 794 to 1195 AD. During this time, priests and mediums performed rituals to exorcise spirits who had possessed people. In this episode, we delve into Heian exorcism rituals, exploring how they might have provided an important form of care for mad, neurodivergent, or mentally ill people, especially women who experienced distress caused by men’s mistreatment. Also, Molly was struck by a hiccups demon in the middle of the episode. We hope you’ll check it out!

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I use open access sources in my scholarship, so that listeners and readers can engage with the texts I use. The sources referred to in this episode are listed below.

References for Season 1, Episode 5, “The Exorcists of Heian”

  1. Andreeva, Anna. 2014. Childbirth in aristocratic households of Heian Japan. Dynamis. 
  2. Foucault, Michel. 1965. Madness & Civilization: A History Of Insanity In The Age Of Reason. Random House. 
  3. Grubits, Matthew. 2009. Things That are Near Though Distant: Extramarital Affairs in Heian-Period Japan. New Voices in Japanese Studies. 
  4. Iyanaga, Nobumi. 2022. Healing by Spiritual Possession in Medieval Japan, with a Translation of the Genja sahō. Religions. 
  5. Khachidze, Ellis. 2021. Women’s fan writing and transformative works in eleventh-century Japan. Transformative Works and Cultures. 
  6. Lakić Parać, Iva. 2015. Social Context of the fujo: Shamanism in Japan through a Female Perspective. Asian Studies. 
  7. Leitner, Bernhard. 2018. For Body, Mind and the Nation: An Archaeology of Modern Japanese Psychiatry. Vienna Journal of East Asian Studies
  8. Murasaki Shikibu. c. 1010 / 1920. The Diary of Murasaki Shikibu. In Diaries of Court Ladies of Old Japan. Translated by Annie Shepley Omori and Kochi Doi. Houghton Mifflin. 
  9. Murasaki Shikibu. c. 1021 / 1925. The Tale of Genji. Translated by Arthur Waley. Houghton Mifflin. 
  10. Reider, Noriko. 2010. Japanese demon lore: Oni, from ancient times to the present. Utah State University Press. 
  11. Sei Shonagon. c. 1002 / 1967. The Pillow Book. Translated by Ivan Morris. Penguin Classics. 
  12. Sprague, April. 2011. Writing the irogonomi: Sexual politics, Heian-style. New Voices in Japanese Studies. 

Other credits

Music: “Grit” by Shaolin Dub, licensed use