For other uses, see Curse (disambiguation).

A curse is a prayer asking that a god or similar spirit bring misfortune to someone; an imprecation or execration, the opposite of a blessing or charm.

A curse can be said to be the effective implementation of the god's wrath against the victim of the curse. Other sorts of curses are imposed by magic or witchcraft, such as the evil eye or the use of voodoo dolls.

Cursing rests on the belief in the possibility of some power bringing down calamity upon persons or things; and that this curse can be made effective by the mere power of the spoken word, without any regard to its moral justification.

In a broader sense, 'curse' is a loose synonym for blasphemy or profanity. The curse is also another term for the original sin of Adam and Eve.

Belief in curses is a part of the vague sort of animism, similar to belief in luck, that is a part of folk religion and popular superstition. The deliberate levying of these sorts of curses is a part of the practice of magic, or perhaps lies on the boundaries between magic and religion. Some people claiming to be clairvoyants or practitioners of divination attempt to get money from the gullible by telling them they are under curses that only their apotropaic powers can remove. This is an ancient type of confidence trick familiar to the Egyptians, and a species of fraud, unlawful under the laws of many jurisdictions.


Cursed places

Certain objects or places are said to be cursed. Sometimes, the curse was allegedly laid with a purpose; the "Curse of the Pharaohs" is supposed to have haunted the archaeologists who excavated the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamen, whereby an imprecation was supposedly pronounced on anyone who violated its precincts by the ancient Egyptian priests. Tecumseh's curse was reputed to cause the deaths in office of Presidents of the United States elected in years divisible by 20, beginning in 1840 (this alleged curse appears to have fallen dormant in 1980, as President Ronald Reagan, elected that year, failed to die in office).

The most important religion for curses is the Voodoo who could bring money and good health and peace. And of course bad luck to the victim so that they wish they weren't born. And also the Voodoos have dolls which help them with their curses.

Cursed objects

Other curses seem to have neither motive nor purpose. The Hope Diamond is supposed to bear such a curse, and bring misfortune to its owner. This belief stems from a supposed record of owners of the Hope Diamond. One owner lost all his fortune and was eaten by wolves, and another was Marie Antoinette, who was executed. Supposedly, the 'curse' has been lifted since it was donated to the Smithsonian Institute. The curse supposedly stems from a deity, whose statue held the original, whole diamond, which was several times larger than it is now—due to various owners re-cutting it over the centuries.

Curses in the Bible

Some passages in the Tanakh treat curses as being effective techniques; they see a curse as an objective reality with real power. However, most sections of the Bible conceive a curse to be merely a wish, to be fulfilled by God only when just and deserved.

According to the Book of Proverbs, an undeserved curse has no effect (Proverbs 26:2), but may fall back upon the head of him who utters it (Genesis 12:3; Sirach 21:27), or may be turned by God into a blessing (Deut. 23:5).

The declaration of punishments (Gen. iii. 14, 17; iv. 11), the utterance of threats (Jer. xi. 3, xvii. 5; Mal. i. 14), and the proclamation of laws (Deut. xi. 26-28, xxvii. 15 et seq.) received added solemnity and force when conditioned by a curse.

In the Bible, cursing is generally characteristic of the godless (Ps. x. 7), but may serve as a weapon in the mouth of the wronged, the oppressed, and those who are zealous for God and righteousness (Judges ix. 57; Prov. xi. 26, xxx. 10).

A righteous curse, especially when uttered by persons in authority, was believed to be unfailing in its effect (Gen. ix. 25, xxvii. 12; II Kings ii. 24; Ecclus. [Sirach] iii. 11). One who had received exemplary punishment at the hands of God was frequently held up, in cursing, as a terrifying object-lesson (Jer. xxix. 22), and such a person was said to be, or to have become, a curse (II Kings xxii. 19; Jer. xxiv. 9, xxv. 18; Zech. viii. 13).

It is especially forbidden to curse God (Ex. xxii. 28), parents (Ex. xxi. 17; Lev. xx. 9; Prov. xx. 20, xxx. 11), the authorities (Ex. xxii. 28; Eccl. x. 20), and the helpless deaf (Lev. xix. 14).

Curses in rabbinic literature

A number of sections of the Talmud show a belief in the power of curses (Berachot 19a, 56a.) In some cases, a curse is described as related to the nature of a prayer (Ta'an. 23b); an undeserved curse is described as ineffective (Makkot 11a) and falls back upon the head of him who utters it (Sanhedrin 49a).

Not only is a curse uttered by a scholar unfailing in its effect, even if undeserved (Mak. 11a), but one should not regard lightly even the curse uttered by an ignorant man (Meg. 15a).

The Biblical prohibitions of cursing are legally elaborated, and extended to self-cursing (Shebu. 35a). A woman that curses her husband's parents in his presence is divorced and loses her dowry (Ket. 72a).

Cursing may be permissible when prompted by religious motives. For instance, a curse is uttered against those who mislead the people by calculating, on the basis of Biblical passages, when the Messiah will come (Sanhedrin 97b). Cursed are those who are guilty of actions which, though not forbidden, are considered reprehensible.

According to legend, some rabbinic scholars cursed sometimes not only with their mouths, but also with an angry, fixed look. The consequence of such a look was either immediate death or poverty (Sotah 46b, and parallel passages). (See Evil eye)

See also

External links and references

  • Maledicta: The International Journal of Verbal Aggression (ISSN US 0363-3659)
  • Rotten Library ( Article on Hexes

de:Fluch he:קללה nl:vloek


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