FAFE, Portugal (Reuters Life!) – Surrounded by clean hospital beds in his new Occult Sciences Center in northern Portugal, Fernando Nogueira makes exorcism sound almost mundane.
A metal plaque above one door says, matter-of-factly, “Exorcism room.” Inside, a pale, female patient lies under a blanket, a crucifix hangs on the wall alongside dozens of newspaper clips about Nogueira’s paranormal abilities.
“She is suicidal. This is basically my emergency room,” says 46-year-old Nogueira, popularly known as The Sorcerer of Fafe. Fafe is the place where he started practicing trance mediumship, and later also exorcisms, around 25 years ago. Before that, he spent some time in a psychiatric clinic as a patient.
There are six more rooms in Portugal’s first and only occult center with in-patient admission — and Nogueira plans further expansions. Patients normally stay up to three days.
Crucifixes and wooden statues of Catholic saints stand behind a large glass wall like in a museum in his modern reception office and a line of half a dozen patients forms outside. A testament to the sorcerer’s popularity.
Nogueira pays his taxes as a parapsychologist although he considers himself a medium who communicates with spirits. The center functions in the backyard of his home and as a private, non-medical practice requires no special license, he says.
Although the Iberian country is strongly Catholic, popular beliefs in spells, witches and evil spirits have endured for centuries in the north, full of semi-isolated mountain hamlets.
Nogueira’s center, where he receives over 300 people a month, is a novelty which certainly has its critics.
Dr. Alexandre Castro Caldas, neurology and brain specialist and ex-President of the International Neuropsychological Society said the use of such faith healers can be dangerous.
“Spirit possessions are inventions, they have no scientific basis. Sometimes people who have been treated by doctors for a long time turn to a person like that and stop taking prescribed medicines, which leads to some pretty bad results,” he said.
“I blame failures in the medical system, when doctors don’t show the necessary interest and care for the patient.”
Nogueira argues that he never intervenes with a prescribed medicine treatment, only handling “the spiritual part.”
“Priests have no spiritual power for exorcisms, only those with the same powers to contact the spirits as mine,” he said.
The Vatican states that only priests are allowed to perform exorcisms and only with permission of the local bishops.
Nogueira says most of his patients do not require exorcism, the name for a process in which a spirit that possesses someone is cast out. Nogueira says exorcism is the last resort.
There is no fee for staying in the center and Nogueira says people pay “what their conscience tells them.” His spacious villa and a big car suggest business is pretty good.
He says that money is not the main reason he treats people. The work also helps to keep himself healthy.
“What I have is a gift and a grave spiritual disease. Before my gift was discovered by a Spanish medium, I used to land in a psychiatric clinic a lot because of faints I had when being close to those spiritually sick,” said Nogueira.