- Religion and Philosophy
Curses in the Modern World
Most Christians understand how the sins of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden became a curse upon humanity. Their God placed specific curses on the serpent, woman and man.
· The serpent would crawl upon his belly and enmity would be place between him and the woman and between his offspring and hers. Gen 3:14-15
· The woman would have pain in child birth and was placed under the authority of her husband. Gen 3:16
· The man and the woman were driven out of the Garden of Eden. The man, representing humanity, was cut off from the tree of life. The ground was cursed with thorns and thistles so man would have to work by the sweat of his brow to produce crops until he died. Gen 3:17-19
"All these curses shall come upon you, pursuing and overtaking you until you are destroyed, because you did not obey the Lord your God, by observing the commandments and the decrees that he commanded you. They shall be among you and your descendants as a sign and a portent forever."Deuteronomy 28:45-46
But what about curses today…are they still relevant? According to the above scriptures they are. However, curses in today’s world, appear to be more centered on black magic and the occult. Basically, curses are magic spells. They are commonly used for revenge or protection of homes, treasures or grave sites. They can become effective immediately or lie dormant for years. Family curses are thought to last for generations.
Supposed misfortunes intended can range from illness, physical injury or death. Curses are considered the most potent form of magic. Often called black magic, it is alive and well and thriving in virtually every corner of the world.
Curses have been practiced by many cultures. The usual means is by effigy, an image or representation of the person who is to be cursed. Waxed effigies were common in ancient India, Persia, Egypt, Africa and Europe and still used today. They can be made of clay, wood or cloth. An effigy is created to resemble the intended recipient. It is believed the more an effigy resembles the target, the more effective the curse. The theory is as the effigy is harmed, so is the person. Likewise, when the effigy is destroyed, so is the victim.
The ancient Egyptians often used waxed figures of “Apep,” an entity who was the enemy of the sun. The magician would write Apep’s name in green ink on the effigy, wrap it in new papyrus and throw it into a fire. As it burned it was kicked with the left foot four times. The ashes were mixed with excrement and thrown into another fire.
Like blessings, curses have been big business throughout the centuries. Plato mentioned in the Republic, "If anyone wishes to injure an enemy; for a small fee they (sorcerers) will bring harm on good or bad alike, binding the gods to serve their purposes by spells and curses."
The Irish had "cursing stones." These stones are stroked and turned counter clockwise as the curse is recited. Many others believe gems and crystals possess the power to hold curses. The Hope Diamond purchased by Louis XVI from Tavernier in 1668, is a prime example. It is thought to be cursed, because its owners have suffered illness, misfortune, and death.
Then there is the "mummy curse" on the tomb of Tutankhamen. The Earl of Carnarvon and Howard Carter excavated Tutankhamen’s burial chamber in 1922 and found an inscribed clay tablet which read: “Death will slay with its wings whoever disturbs the peace of the pharaoh.”
Six months later Carnarvon died of an infected mosquito bite, followed by six of the seven members of the excavation team. However, the tablet was never photographed and mysteriously disappeared. Bob Brier, an American parapsychologist and Egyptologist, expressed doubt the tablet ever existed. In Ancient Egyptian Magic (1980), Briar explains it was not typical for Egyptians to write on clay tablets or to refer to death as having wings.
Many tales abound in the United Kingdom and Europe of curses placed upon aristocratic families. One of the most horrible curses that could befall a family was childlessness or death to heirs…meaning the family lineage would cease.
Sometimes the word hex is used synonymously with curse. Among the Pennsylvania Dutch Witches hex can either be a good or bad spell. Some Witches use the term hex to designate a binding spell, which is different from a curse.
Supposedly anyone can lay a curse, but it is believed the authority of the person placing the curse can increase its potency. Such persons would be priests, priestesses, witches, sorcerers and magicians.
However, many Witches and sorcerers say that they would never let a victim know they have been cursed. They might go to another witch seeking to get it removed. It happens frequently. Persons will go to a witch or sorcerer, sometimes to the same person who place it. This makes for good business, since the witch or sorcerer can charge a fee for taking it off. And when two opposing witches or sorcerers are involved, a war might erupt to see whose magic is stronger.
In some traditions of neo-Pagan Witchcraft it is against ethics and laws to lay curses. It is assumed the curse may return to the curser. Although others believe cursing one’s enemies is justified.
There are as many methods for breaking cursers as there are in making them. If a magically charged object has been hidden in someone's dwelling it may be discovered by divination or clairvoyance. They must be ceremonially destroyed. Sometimes other protective methods are used. Protective talismans or amulets can be worn. Or magical oils and washes can be used to to lift a curse. A major hazard in removing curses is it can backfire on the person who cast it.