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Step Back Satan

Traditionally associated with the Catholic order of the Benedictines, VADE RETRO SATANA, as pronounced in Latin, is the same as saying "Go back, Satan" or "Step back, Satan", or "Back off, Satan". These commands are the equivalents of the Medieval Catholic formula used for exorcism, as recorded in a 1415 manuscript found in the Benedictine Metten Abbey in Bavaria. Words that are as valid during today, as they were 600 years ago!

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VADE RETRO SATANA!

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BACK OFF SATAN!

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For Protection Against the Devil

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The verse VADE RETRO SATANA is very similar to words spoken by Jesus to apostle Peter in the Vulgate New Testament, Gospel of Mark 8:33: “Vade retro me Satana” (Get behind me Satan).

The exact origin of the original passage is not clear. But, it is found in a manuscript from the early 13th century. It is the legend of the Devil’s Bridge at Sens. In it, an architect sells his soul to the devil, and then afterwards, he repents.

The priest of Sens, wearing his Catholic stole, exorcises the devil, finally driving him away by the use of holy water and the following words, which he had the penitent repeat.

CRUX SACRA SIT MIHI LUX / NON DRACO SIT MIHI DUX
VADE RETRO SATANA / NUNQUAM SUADE MIHI VANA
SUNT MALA QUAE LIBAS / IPSE VENENA BIBAS

An approximate translation is:

“May the Holy Cross be my light / May the dragon never be my guide
Begone Satan / Never tempt me with your vanities
What you offer me is evil / drink the poison yourself.”

The biblical passage came to everyone’s attention in 1647, when women who had been prosecuted for witchcraft declared that they had been unable to do harm where there was a cross. They added that, the St. Michael’s Benedictine Abbey in Metten, Bavaria was particularly exempt from their influence.

During the investigation into the abbey, crosses painted on the walls with the formula’s initials were found.

The meaning of those letters remained a mystery for a long time, until the complete verses were found in a manuscript, circa 1415, in the Kloster Metten library, next to an image of St. Benedict.

The same formula was again found centuries later in an Austrian manuscript circa 1345. (See illustration above.) The manuscript shows the image of Satan offering a drink to Saint Benedict.

The saint keeps the devil at bay by raising a red banner in front of him. The banner was held on a long staff and had a cross at the end. Below the staff in the image, is a single line of text, and below that six verses are found, that start with the phrase “Vade retro Satana”.

The words became an exorcist formula which got the approval of Pope Benedict XIV, and became part of the Roman Catholic exorcism ritual in 1742.

The formula’s popularity grew considerably in the 19th century, mainly due to the efforts of Venerable Leo Dupont.

According to American historian Henry C. Lea (1896), “As a rule … it suffices to wear the medal devoutly, but, if some special favor is desired, it is advisable on a Tuesday to say five Glorias, three Aves and then three more Glorias to secure the protection of St. Benedict.”

The VADE RETRO SATANA remains part of the Roman Catholic exorcism ritual following its 20th-century revision and final promulgation in 1999 via De exorcismis et supplicationibus quibusdam.

Saint Michael, defend us in battle. Saint Raphael, pray for us. Saint Gabriel, guide us.

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