When Clara Germana Cele was 16 years old, she made a pact with Satan—or so she told, her confessor, Father Erasmus Horner, at the mission school she had attended since she was four years old. In the weeks following her confession, Germana began to behave wildly, and on August 20, 1906, she alarmed the sisters in charge by tearing her clothes, breaking one of the posts on her bed, growling and grunting like an animal, and seeming to converse with invisible beings. In a more lucid moment she called out: “Sister, please call Father Erasmus. I must confess and tell everything. But quick, quick, or Satan will kill me. He has me in his power! Nothing blessed is with me; I have thrown away all the medals you gave me.” Later that day she again called out: “You have betrayed me. You have promised me days of glory, but now you treat me cruelly.”
Until these outbursts began, the priests and nuns of the Marianhill Order mission school in Umzinto, about 50 miles south of Durban, South Africa, had considered Germana a normal, healthy, although somewhat erratic young person. As her condition worsened, Germana began to manifest the signs by which the Roman Catholic Church identifies cases of demonic possession. Holy water, for example, burned her when she was sprinkled with it or given it to drink, but when she was sprinkled with ordinary water with which the font had secretly been filled, she simply laughed. She complained vigorously whenever a cross was brought near her and could detect the presence of a religious object, such as a small fragment of a cross, even when it had been heavily wrapped or otherwise concealed.
Germana also developed a more wide-ranging clairvoyance. She was able to describe the daily details of a priests journey from Africa to Rome, including the addresses of the places where he stayed along the way. And, to shame one young man who made fun of her, she revealed scandalous details of his private life, complete with dates, times, and names.
Among Germana s physical manifestations, her confessor reported numerous instances of levitation:
Germana floated often three, four, and up to five feet in the air, sometimes vertically, with her feet downward, and at other times horizontally, with her whole body floating above her bed. She was in a rigid position. Even her clothing did not fall downward, as would have been normal; instead, her dresses remained tightly attached to her body and legs. If she was sprinkled with holy water, she moved down immediately, and her clothing fell loosely onto her bed. This type of the phenomenon took place in the presence of witnesses, including outsiders. Even in church, where she could be seen by everyone, she floated above her seat. Some people tried to pull her down forcibly, holding on to her feet, but it proved to be impossible.
Another curious physical capacity that astonished the attending priests and nuns was her ability to transform herself into a snakelike creature. Her whole body would become as flexible as rubber, and she would writhe along the floor. At times her neck seemed to elongate, thereby enhancing the serpent like impression she gave. Once, while she was being restrained, she darted, like lightning, at a nun kneeling in front of her and bit the poor woman on the arm. The wound showed the marks of Germana's teeth and a small red puncture resembling a snakebite.
On September 10, 1906, permission for Germanas exorcism was given, to be performed by Father Erasmus, her confessor, and by Father Mansuet, the mission rector. The rites began in the morning, lasted till noon, began again at 3 p.m., and continued well into the night. The next morning they began at 8 and lasted until 10. Under fierce pressure from the two exorcists, the possessing demon said that he would signal his departure by an act of levitation; this occurred before 170 witnesses in the mission chapel. Prayers of thanks were later given.
In January 1907, while Father Erasmus was away, Germana suffered a relapse and made a new pact with theDevil. On April 24 a new exorcism began. It lasted for two days and was successful, the Devil’s final departure being signaled by an incomparably foul smell.
I - Demon Children, Martin Ebon, ed., pp.154-64
II - Adolf Rodewyk, Possessed by Satan, pp.120-27