Sunday, 23 October 2011

Ancient Curses 4: a professional's counter-spell

Here is a very  interesting  curse from the Dark Ages, recorded on one of those  evocatively named 'Babylonian  Demon Bowls' . It is  a 'counter-spell'. The spell is inscribed on a bowl made of clay and this particular example - one of several illustrated here -

is a spell devised by a professional in cursing in order to protect the against any incoming spells. It dates from the 6th-7th century and is written in an Aramaic dialect (Jesus of course spoke Aramaic). It was found in the Mesopotamian  city of Seleucia-on-Tigris.

The translation is by Timothy La Vallee, The spell is a formulaic one found elsewhere, with the name of the client - in this case, 'Negray daughter of Denday' - inserted into the gaps. The translation and notes were provided by Timothy La Vallee, inserted. Here is an extract - for the complete spell go to the first link above.

Negray daughter of Denday and from her male sons and [...] I have heard and the voice of the weak [...] of the men who are fighting [...] of raging women who curse and afflict and cause pain they have descended against them [Azdai], Yazdun and Yaqrun, Prael the great and Ruphael and Sahtiel and seized them and by the tufts of hair and the tresses of their heads and broke the horns which were high and tied them by the tufts of hair of their heads and said to them "remove that which you have cursed" and they said to him "from the pain of our heart we cursed and from the bitterness of our palate we resolved to curse" I have made you swear and adjure you in the name of Azdai and Yazdun and Yaqrun and Prael the great and Ruphael and Sahtiel that you release (Panel 2) and free [...] Negray daughter of Denday and [...] male and female from [...] all the curses [...] cursed and from the curses of [...] and the mother and from the curse of the prostitute [...] and the fetus and from the curse of the employee and employer who stole the wage and from the curse of the brothers who did not divide truthfully among themselves and from the curses of all people who curse in the name of idol demons and their surrenderings you are the healer you are the healer who heals sicknesses with words you are the healer who turns away the sicknesses and the curses of those who cursed Negray daughter of Denday. . .

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Curses in Literature 1: the Jackdaw of Rheims

The Ingoldsby Legends is a charming and once enormously popular collection of myths and legends, written by  Victorian clergyman called Richard Harris Barham. The most popular piece in the collection  is undoubtedly  'The Jackdaw of Rheims,' an anti-Catholic poem which describes how a jackdaw steals a cardinal's ring and is made a saint, despite this impressive curse from the cardinal

The Cardinal rose with a dignified look,
He call'd for his candle, his bell, and his book!
    In holy anger, and pious grief,
    He solemnly cursed that rascally thief!
    He cursed him at board, he cursed him in bed;
    From the sole of his foot to the crown of his head;
    He cursed him in sleeping, that every night
    He should dream of the devil, and wake in a fright;
    He cursed him in eating, he cursed him in drinking,
    He cursed him in coughing, in sneezing, in winking;
    He cursed him in sitting, in standing, in lying;
    He cursed him in walking, in riding, in flying,
    He cursed him in living, he cursed him dying!--
Never was heard such a terrible curse!!
But what gave rise
To no little surprise,
Nobody seem'd one penny the worse!

See wiki for more on the author and his book -