Family, Health, Relationships, Work & Money

Once tormented by a demonic spirit, she now brings hope to others through her paintings

By Peck Sim , 30 April 2024

Swasti Wonowidjojo was sitting in front of her doctor.

Suddenly, like the infamous scene from the movie, The Exorcist, she felt her head turning involuntarily.

“I was not moving my head – it was just turning on its own,” Swasti, now 39, recalled.

“I was very scared.”

“I was looking for answers so I turned to the occult.”

She asked her doctor – a psychiatrist treating her for bipolar disorder – if this was normal. Her doctor said “no” and looked worried.

In the following days, Swasti felt herself drift in and out of consciousness as she heard voices saying they wanted to kill her.

She knew then she needed supernatural help to get rid of them.

Life of excess

Things started going downhill for Swasti when she left Singapore for college in the US with her siblings.

Swasti (pictured with her brother) was five when they moved from Indonesia to Singapore with their parents.

Reeling from a broken relationship, she threw herself into living “a life of excess, indulging in fast cars, luxury handbags and parties” in Los Angeles.

She went to the hottest clubs and got intoxicated by alcohol and popularity.

“I thought that would fill me but life was meaningless,” she said.

Swasti spent her university days in Los Angeles living life in the fast lane.

Trying to find her identity, Swasti passed those days drinking and smoked up to 30 cigarettes a day.

She was drunk every other day. Sometimes she was so hungover, she could not drive her younger sister to school the next morning.

She chalked up massive bills on her parents’ credit card with her extravagant spending sprees.

“It got really bad,” Swasti said. “It was a wonder nothing happened to me.”

She also chalked up massive bills on her parents’ credit card with her extravagant spending sprees that included expensive bottles of liquor at clubs.

At the age of 22, she flunked out of school and returned to Singapore in 2007.

“I wasted five years in the US,” she said. “I was at a very low point.”

Dark thoughts, dark spirits

Back in Singapore, Swasti continued to seek solace in shopping and partying – until a year later, when she met the man who would become her husband.

Subsequently, Swasti discovered she was good at creating 3D avatars for online gaming, and made a business out of it for the next decade.


Twelve years ago, Swasti created a hamster avatar for the metaverse Second Life. Today it has a Hamster Festival showcasing the hamster in clothes and accessories designed by other creators. Screenshot from video by Second Life.

But it placed a heavy demand on her time and energy – especially ahead of showcasing her creations at virtual art fairs when she worked three days in a row without sleep.

To gain some direction in life, Swasti began dabbling in feng shui and New Age practices such as reading tarot cards and using crystals. She also joined a New Age meditation group that invoked different spirits.

The following year, in 2015, Swasti started experiencing hallucinations, during which she heard random voices. By then, she was married and had her first child.

Swasti met her husband, Andrew Tanoto, a year after returning to Singapore.

Her doctor diagnosed her with bipolar disorder, a mental illness that is characterised by extreme mood swings.

“The sleep deprivation over many years likely triggered it,” she admitted.

She experienced episodes of consciousness alternating with voices threatening to kill her.

“I overdid it.”

During depressive episodes, she felt hopeless and down. The highs were characterised by a lack of sleep, excessive spending and loss of focus. 

Swasti was admitted to hospital twice for manic attacks.

“Both occurred when I was unable to sleep. I felt like I was being possessed and there was a fight to take over my consciousness,” she said.

Then came the terrifying incident at her psychiatrist’s office – with her head turning by itself, uncontrolled.

“I knew it wasn’t me,” Swasti said.

“I felt it was a spirit moving me. I felt like I was being possessed.”

She tried using New Age methods and various religious rituals to cast out the spirit.

But things got worse.

“She knew that the evil spirit could only be overcome by a higher power.”

She experienced episodes of consciousness alternating with voices threatening to kill her, and was convinced that she was possessed by an evil spirit.

She knew that it could only be overcome by a higher power.

By then, she had forgotten about how she felt God listening to her when she prayed during her years at a Christian kindergarten. She had forgotten about Jesus, whom she had learnt about.

Swasti and her mother (right) with teachers at the Christian kindergarten.

However, she remembered movies in which Christian priests had the power to exorcise evil spirits.

Her family members were not Christians and didn’t know any priests.

Desperate, Swasti’s mother phoned her hairdresser who attended City Harvest Church. The hairdresser said that she would be able to help.

Power of a song

The hairdresser and her husband came to pray over Swasti. They appeared to speak in a foreign language. Later Swasti learnt that they were speaking in tongues – the language of God’s spirit.

Then they asked her to sing a children’s worship song, “Jesus Loves Me This I Know“.

“Right after I sang it, I felt a heavy weight lift off me. I heard angels singing in my spirit.”

“Right after I sang it, I felt a heavy weight lift off me and I heard angels singing in my spirit.

“I felt I was in heaven, listening to a choir singing,” she said.

The dark spirt had fled, afraid of the worship song.

“I was so shocked. I had expected the deliverance session to involve sprinkling with holy water, with a lot of pinning down and contortion – like what you see in the movies.

“But it was surprisingly peaceful.”

Everything fell into place for Swasti as she found the answers she had sought all her life. 

In that instant, Swasti had an epiphany: She had been on the wrong path all her life – and Jesus was the only right path.

“I knew about Jesus but I didn’t know He was God,” she explained.

The New Age group she belonged to taught that Jesus was an enlightened being who was worshipped.

Swasti said: “But now I know Jesus is the Light Himself.”

Immediately after, she fell into the first deep, peaceful sleep she had in a long time.

The answer

Continuing on her new spiritual journey, Swasti looked for a church, where she grew in her faith. She and her family now attend New Creation Church.

“I came to realise that the occult was harmful to me and my mental health.”

She also found a Bible a friend had given her during her party days in Los Angeles.

She had tried reading it but stopped because it had not made sense.

Then her sister-in-law introduced her to a friend who prayed with her every day and studied the Bible with her. 

Everything fell into place for her as she found the answers she had sought all her life. 

“I was looking for answers so I turned to the occult,” she said.

“I came to realise that the occult was harmful to me and my mental health.”

Swasti, her husband Andrew and their sons, three and nine.

However, even after she turned to Christ, she continued to hear deep, angry voices saying they wanted her dead and that they would kill her son.

“Every time I tried to read the Bible, I would hear the angry voices. It was very scary,” she said.

The voices stopped after Swasti was baptised.

Even Andrew ended up believing in God. Swasti had enlisted his help to pray for their two children when she had bipolar episodes.

From Post-It notes to paintings

Swasti went for follow-up healing sessions at churches to maintain the stability of her mind and to help her sleep. She also benefited from therapy with a psychologist.

However, her condition was exacerbated by the Covid pandemic.

Whenever she suffered low moods, she countered the voices of self-hate by writing Bible verses on Post-It notes to remind herself of God’s promises.

After pasting so many Post-It notes around the house, she decided to paint her interpretation of Bible verses instead. She also paints interpretations of sermons.

She was inspired by the work of Grace Bailey, an Australian Christian artist who paints prophetic art – conveying to the observer a message from God. 

“I prayed I could do what she does,” said Swasti, who had stumbled across Bailey’s website.

After her prayer, Swasti painted her first faith-based work – the feet of Jesus walking on water. 

Swasti Wonowidjojo

Swasti’s first faith-based painting – the feet of Jesus walking on water. She had taken art classes with her mother when she was young, and likes experimenting with different styles from artists like Van Gogh and Picasso.

Each time she comes across a promise from God that resonates with her, she paints it.

One is Psalm 5:12, which she prays over her children every night: “For You, O Lord, will bless the righteous; With favour You will surround him as with a shield.”

“When I see the pictures around me, they remind me of what to hold on to.”

She said: “I may forget the promises or the Bible verse, but when I see the pictures around me, they remind me of what to hold on to,” said Swasti, who had taken an art certification course at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA).

She prays over every piece of her art, that it will convey to the observer a message from God.

She gives many of her paintings to friends, each accompanied by a letter explaining the message and the Bible verse on which the painting is based.

Georgie Lee

Swasti also sells her work through local faith-based gallery Sound of Art co-founded by Georgie Lee and his wife Evelyn.

Two of her friends experienced miracles after they received Swasti’s paintings.

One was a friend in Thailand whose baby was born premature at seven months. The child was at risk of permanent blindness.

“I wanted to pray for them. So I did it through painting.”

Swasti felt prompted to paint a hummingbird – a small bird that is a miracle because it defies science with its ability to fly up and down and also backwards.

She brought the painting to Thailand for her friend and prayed for her. A few weeks later, her friend told her that the baby could see – and all his bodily functions were in order.

Another was a friend who had suffered three miscarriages and failed to conceive by in-vitro fertilisation. This friend was on the verge of giving up after multiple attempts.

Swasti painted a baby in a womb shaped like a fruit, based on Psalm 127:3: “The fruit of the womb is a reward from the Lord.”

Swasti Wonowidjojo

“The fruit of the womb is a reward.”: Swasti painted this for a friend who had been trying to conceive.

A year after gifting the painting to her friend, she found out that the friend was pregnant.

“Both of my friends are not Christians,” Swasti said. “I didn’t know how to share the gospel with them but I wanted to pray for them. So I did it through painting.”


Swasti with her painting, “Donut Worry about Tomorrow”. She has not been on long-term medication since 2017. Her bipolar highs are mild and few and far between; the last was at the beginning of the year.

Swasti admits she does not always know what she is doing. But seeing how God is using her talent to encourage others keeps her going.

“When people see my paintings and are encouraged by the message and the promises of God, that is enough for me,” Swasti said.

This is a version of an article that first appeared in Salt&Light.

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