Many stories, both ancient and modern, concern "possession": a supernatural entity of some sort takes over a human or animal body and controls it.
Is there a Classical Latin word for this phenomenon? Or, failing that, an Ecclesiastical one?
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A quick look at NVG Mt gave alternatives centered in the person being possessed:
I found no word for possession proper. This is consistent in the other three Gospels, with slight word variations, but always talking about a person having a demon.
I guess if Classical Latin or Greek had had a term for such a thing, it is not too far-fetched to expect it to show up in the Vulgate. So my opinion is there is no better term in the Classical period.
As for ecclesiastical Latin: (Updated 2020).
The old Roman Ritual has an entry (i.e. a rite) titled De Exorcizandis Obsessis a Daemonio. Note that it includes the command for the evil spirit to exit the body of the subject (exi!). The current ritual, though it seems to avoid referring directly to possession or the possessed, uses three times the word obsessio and six obsessus/-a/-um (either as a participle or an adjective). Meanwhile, there is no single instance of possideo, possessio or other derivatives. For what it's worth, the ritual distinguishes between obsessio and vexatio, but seemingly not between possession and obsession.
FWIW everyone in the internet seems to translate the title's obsessis as possessed. Expelling demons was part of Christ's ministry (cf. Mt 7.22, 8.16) and is part of Catholic liturgy to this day. This suggests obsessus, -a, -um as valid Latin for possessed.
Now Catholic theology (thanks brianpck) says there are distinctions between types of demonic influence in people. Possession and (demonic) obsession are different phenomena, however (as far as I can see), when there is no need for such distinction, both terms seem interchangeable. See, for example, this article by the Congregation for Divine Worship: (Italian, Spanish), and this Catholic Encyclopedia article that seems to mix both, even while explaining the difference:
He may attack man's body from without (obsession), or assume control of it from within (possession). As we gather from the Fathers and the theologians, the soul itself can never be "possessed" nor deprived of liberty, though its ordinary control over the members of the body may be hindered by the obsessing spirit. [emphasis mine]
To round things up, both versions of the ritual considered, use the following:
Along with the terms mentioned by Rafael, there is another word: arreptitius. It wasn't used in Classical Latin and in modern Ecclesiastical Latin it seems not to be used either, but in the works of St. Thomas Aquinas it's quite frequent; in questions concerning actions of demons, I found uniquely this term for the possessed. From the context (like I-II, q. 80, a. 3, in the middle of "I answer that") it's clear that the demonic possession is the primary meaning, but some ambiguity (it can mean "natural" madness as well) seems to be wanted here. No verb for possession is mentioned there, even though the process of how a demon can control material things or men is discussed in detail. The only verb which seems to denote possession is "impugno" (to assail), but it is used as a synonym of temptation, the goal is a sin, not a possession.
I didn't read in detail Aquinas' biblical commentaries, but there is at least one use of the verb "to possess". Commentary on the Gospel of John 1811 (John 13, near the end of the fourth reading) corroborates Charlie's answer: the verb used is "possideo". In the biblical commentaries, other words for a possessed person (mostly "demoniacus") are used; Thomas clearly bases the vocabulary on the text of the Vulgate.
Just a wild guess given my scarce knowledge of Latin. In Spanish we use the word poseso for that purpose. It is defined in a dictionary from 1780 as "he who has the evil spirits within his body", and gives a Latin translation as possessus, the past participe of possidere:
- possess, take/hold possession of, occupy
- seize, hold, be master of
Nonetheless, the act of possession ("the existence of evil spirits within the human body") is translated to Latin in the same dictionary as Possessio hominis ab spiritibus malignis. The fact that a whole Latin sentence was needed to translate a single word may be a sign that no single Latin word existed for this concept.