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A curse is the effective action of some power, distinguished solely by the quality of adversity that it brings. A curse may also be said to result from a spell of a prayer, imprecation or execration, or other imposition by magic or witchcraft, asking that a god, natural force, or spirit bring misfortune to someone.

Belief in curses is found in many cultures and is mentioned in the scriptures of many religions. However most established religions forbid such practices outright, but others, citing the long history of scriptural curses, utilize them only in defense against evil that struck at them first. All religions offer forms of blessings of homes and objects and people, with the intent of removing curses. Typically then a curse is only a category or type of something much larger, namely the entirety of any given culture's religio-magical paradigm.

History of Curses:

The use of curse has been practiced by many cultures. The most universal method of laying on a curse is by effigy, which is an image or representation of the victim, or the person who is wished to be harmed. Waxed effigies were common in ancient India, Persia, Egypt, Africa and Europe, and currently are still used. Also, effigies can be made of clay, wood and stuffed cloth. Often the effigy is marked or painted to look like the victim. It is thought that the closer the effigy resembles the victim, the more the victim will suffer when the effigy is harmed or destroyed. The theory behind the harming or destroying an effigy to do harm to a victim is pure sympathetic magic. As the effigy is harmed, so the victim is harmed. Likewise, when the effigy is destroyed, so the victim dies.

The ancient Egyptians often used waxed figures of Apep, a monster who was the enemy of the sun. The magician would write Apepís name in green ink on the effigy, wrapped it in new papyrus and throw it into a fire As it burned he kicked it with his left foot four times. The ashes of the effigy were mixed with excrement and thrown into another fire. The Egyptians also left waxed figures on tombs.

Like blessings, curses have universally been bought and sold throughout the centuries. With the exclusion of the neo-Pagan Witches, witches and sorcerers throughout history have performed both blessings and curses as a service to others because both are calling upon supernatural powers to effect a change. They have rendered these services to client for fees, or in carrying out judicial sentences. 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."

Waxed figures were popularly used during the Middle Ages and Renaissance in Europe by numerous witches. King James I, of England, described such activities in his book Daemonologie (1597):

To some others at these times he [the Devil] teacheth how to make pictures of wax or clay. That by the roasting thereof, the persons that they beare the name of, may be continually melted or die away by continually sickness.

They can bewitch and take the life of men or women, by roasting of the pictures, as I spake of before, which likewise is verie possible to their Maister to performe, for although, as I said before, that instrument of waxe has no vertue in that turne doing, yet may he not very well, even by the same measure that his conjured slaves, melts that waxe in fire, may he not. I say at these times, subtily, as a spirite, so weaken and scatter the spirites of life of the patient, as may make him on the one part, for faintnesses, so sweate out the humour of his bodie. And on the other parte, for the not concurrence of these spirites, which causes his digestion, so debilitate his stomake, that this humour redicall continually sweating out on the one part, and no new good sucks being put in the place thereof, for lacke of digestion on the other, he shall at last vanish away, even as his picture will die in the fire.

Alternatives to the melting of effigies have been to stick them with pins thorns or knives. Animal and human hearts have been used for substitutes. Hearts, animal corpses or objects which quickly decompose, such as eggs, are buried in the ground with spells that the victim will die as the objects deteriorate.

In Ireland "cursing stones" are stones that are stroked and turned to the left as the curse is recited. It has been frequently claimed that gems and crystals possess the power to hold curses. . The Hope Diamond purchased by Louis XVI from Tavernier in 1668, is thought to be cursed, because its owners have suffered illness, misfortune, and death.

The alleged "mummy curse" is on the tomb of Tutankhamen. It was discovered when the Earl of Carnarvon and Howard Carter excavated Tutankhamenís burial chamber in 1922. Legend has it that in an antechamber they found an inscribed clay tablet which read:

 

Death will slay with its wings whoever disturbs the peace of the pharaoh.

 

Six moths later Carnarvon died of an infected mosquito bite. Even though six of the seven principle members of the excavation team experienced strange or sudden deaths, thought to have been the result of the curse, the tablet was never photographed and strangely disappeared from the artifacts. Bob Brier, an American parapsychologist and Egyptologist, speculated the tablet never existed. In Ancient Egyptian Magic (1980), Briar notes that it is not typically Egyptian to write on clay tablets or to refer to death as having wings. Also, no other reliable sources exist that cite the curse.

Various legends abound in the United Kingdom and Europe of curses laid upon families, especially of the aristocracy. One of the most horrible curses was that of childlessness or death to the heirs, to the family lineage died out.

 

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