It was discovered in 2022 by Paul Shepheard and his wife Joanne during a metal detector rally in Haconby, Lincolnshire. Gamble, Sketches of History, Politics, and Manners, in Dublin, and the North of Ireland, 48. It was used for both cursing and blessing. The Boccough, Londonderry Sentinel, 12 Dec. 1835, 1; Niall Ciosin, Ireland in Official Print Culture, 18001850: A New Reading of the Poor Inquiry (Oxford, 2014), 756. Irish cursing was a potent art. It did not always ensure peoples compliance, but it did have other grimly consoling uses, in assuring frustrated people that their pains would be avenged. Privately, amongst their families at home, the reality was different. That all belonging to ye may die with the hunger!! Kevin Danaher, Irish Country People (Cork, 1976), 14. I would never have spoken of the occurrence at all only that the priest cursed those who knew about it off the altar for not exposing it, a witness admitted.120 Well into the twentieth century, priests threw imprecations at land-grabbers, who rented or purchased estates from whence the previous tenants had been evicted.121 A priests curse was useful in a boycott because it meant that neither the grabber nor his or her customers would prosper. First Report from His Majestys Commissioners, 687. It is a form of Insular Celtic, descended from Proto-Celtic, a theorized parent tongue that, by the first half of the first millennium BC, was diverging into separate dialects or languages. Ultimately though, cursing was no longer being embedded in youngsters minds. Thomas Waters, Cursed Britain: A History of Witchcraft and Black Magic in Modern Times (Yale, 2019), ch. The first comprehensive study of early Celtic cursing, this work analyses both medieval and ancient expressions of Celtic imprecation: from the binding tablets . OFallon, Irish Curses, 32; Robin Flower, The Western Island or Great Blasket ( Oxford, 1979), 49. Cursing was rife in nineteenth-century Ireland because many people valued it, not only poor peasants and beggars, but priests, parents, and others needful of influence and consolation. The time has come for redress. In 1972 the Reverend Paisley attacked what he called the curse that has blighted twentieth-century Protestantism, this curse of ecumenism.155 Infamously, in the late 1970s and 1980s he and other senior members of the DUP used similar rhetoric to attack another target: if homosexuality were legalized in Ulster, they said, it would bring Gods curse down upon our people.156 The scandalous claim has haunted the DUP ever since; whether it damaged or enhanced their electoral prospects is debatable. Michael knew a woman who threw the widows curse. Roman Curse Tablets 3. Curses figured in several of the Churchs ceremonies, including the most severe form of excommunication (the anathema) and some ordination liturgies for nuns and bishops. To be intimidating and cathartic, cursing required knowledge, practice, wit, skill and composure. J. J. M. Vingerhoets, Lauren M. Bylsma and Cornelis de Vlam, Swearing: A Biopsychosocial Perspective, Psychological Topics, xxii (2013). They could take the initiative, however, by throwing curses at land-grabbers. Statutes Passed in the Parliaments Held in Ireland. Imprecations like: the curse of my orphans, and my falling-sickness [epilepsy], light upon you, which a woman from Athlone pronounced in court, on the people prosecuting her for theft.2 Or: the curse of God and the curse of the flock be upon any men who vote for Higgins, repeatedly bellowed by a priest from County Mayo, during a fractious election campaign.3 Or: may the curse of God alight on you and your family throughout their generations may the curse of Gods thunder and lightning fall heavily, prayed by a farmer from Limerick, on the landlord who had evicted him.4, Those maledictions were uttered between the 1830s and 1850s. Borrow, Wild Wales (1862), iii, 417, 422, 434, 436. Andrew Sneddon, Witchcraft and Magic in Ireland (Basingstoke, 2015), 53. Heroic Epic and Saga: An Introduction to the Worlds Great Folk Epics (Bloomington, Ia, 1978), 302. ], Focaloir Gaoidhilge-Sax-Bharla (Paris, 1768). 514, 19; vol. During the modern era, the currency and style of magic words varied considerably, and over short distances. II: Containing from the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Years of Charles the Second, ad 1665, to the Eleventh Year of Anne, ad 1712, Inclusive (Dublin, 1794), 2578. Exceptions include: Patrick C. Power, The Book of Irish Curses (Aurora, Ill., 1974); Eugene Hynes, Knock: The Virgins Apparition in Nineteenth-Century Ireland (Cork, 2008), 4347; Ian Lynch, The Widows Curse: Legend and Belief, Continuity and Change (Univ. In practice, they amounted to things like ill-wishing, the evil eye, and leaving rotting meat or eggs on a neighbours land to bring bad luck.33 Cursing, by contrast, was a just form of supernatural violence. But we should not exaggerate the extent of its decline, or imagine that it disappeared. However, by repurposing an older way of thinking about magic, I argue that historic Irish cursing is best understood as an art, because it required knowledge, practice, wit, skill and composure. Alexander Macbains An Etymological Dictionary of the Gaelic Language (Stirling, 1911) recorded five Scotch Gaelic words for a curse: ainchis, condrachd or contrachd, mallachd and trusdar. Mostly though, Irelands cursers were women. Southern Reporter and Cork Commercial Courier, 30 Apr. Think. It also reminds us that not all types of magic share the same chronology of rise and fall, growth and decline, enchantment and disenchantment. Find many great new & used options and get the best deals for 19thC Antico 63 Cromata Agata Ancient Celtic Viking Amuleto Contro Draghi at the best online prices at eBay! I. It mattered because curses were believed to be most powerful when their victims remained silent, as if dumbstruck by the lyrical ingenuity of the dreadful utterances.52 By contrast, people who instantly countered with clever replies could turn curses back on their authors. Some female beggars wore their hair down, as if to imply that they were already in the cursing pose. For the imprecators themselves, cursing was a powerful form of coercion. The consequences were catastrophic: the curse didnt fall on the people she give it too but it fell on herself. Here are some prominent curses in history. I did. These clever formulas were the basis for the unnerving art of real cursing, a scary but widespread occult attack that Irish folk used in their struggles over vital areas of life, from land and food to politics, religion, gender and family disputes. Matthew Dutton, The Law of Masters and Servants in Ireland (Dublin, 1723), 11417; [Anon.] In 1888 Thomas secretly disposed of the dead body of his little daughter, who he had conceived out of wedlock with his cousin and housekeeper. The most dangerous malediction, Irish commentators and ordinary people agreed, was a priests.98 I mind nothing but the priests curse, one of Lady Anne Dalys tenants told her in 1872, when describing how he could endure any intimidation from his neighbours except that.99. [Anon. Julian Adelman, Food in Ireland since 1740, in Biagini and Daly (eds. !.51 But workaday curses were not particularly suitable for proper cursing because they invited easy retorts. First Report from His Majestys Commissioners, 52530, 560, 585. Then another witness, a cottager, chimed in: I know my wife always gives when she is big with child, and she says she must do it, or she would have a miscarriage.95 His remarks feel genuine. Cursing was demanding, sophisticated, formidable and imposing. Curse . To signify this, real cursing used scarier and more complicated wordplay. The history of Irish cursing underlines how mystic forces and supernatural powers can resonate incredibly strongly in modern societies, if they chime with peoples struggles and are indulged by complacent authorities. Maria Trotter and Robert De Bruce Trotter, Galloway Gossip Sixty Years Ago: Being A Series of Articles Illustrative of the Manners, Customs, and Peculiarities of the Aboriginal Picts of Galloway, ed. Also: First Report from His Majestys Commissioners, 525, 530, 537. It was terrifyingly brutal, mustering dark feelings that marked people who had seen or maybe just heard about the events in question. THE MORRGAN. 2 and 3. Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic: Studies in Popular Beliefs in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century England ( London, 1991), 599611. Curses in the Bible It was simpler, informed more by biblical imagery than oral tradition, yet it did have elements of public performance. Like cursing African Americans in the early 1900s, Irish cursers revelled in luxuriant fantasies about their enemies being destroyed in specific, irremediable ways, with bones broken, flesh rotted, heads smashed, stomachs exploded, arms withered and eyes blinded.75 Curses expressed peoples deepest anger and most elaborate fantasies, making them a great relief of the heart, as one prolific Irish imprecator put it.76 If you could not stop an eviction, get a tolerable meal, recover your stolen possessions or ensure that your relatives behaved loyally, it was invigorating to imagine that, in time, an artful malediction would wreck the evildoers. To take a few examples: in 1960 Mary Feehily knelt down on the road to use her widows curse, calling for God to smite her neighbour Patrick Watters, who had berated her during an argument about trespassing animals.140 After an inheritance dispute, Ellie Walsh of Carrick spent the five years between 1957 and 1962 solemnly and publicly cursing her neighbour Harry Walsh, going down on her knees, holding up a crucifix, and praying that the curse of God would come to wipe out Harrys family. Anthony McIntyre, (18531856), Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (hereafter PRONI), MS D1558/2/3, 120. But evidence from other sources confirms not only that priests deployed their curses politically, but also that some Catholic bishops actively encouraged them. Sean OFallon, Irish Curses, Northern Junket, xi (n.d.), 28. The heaviest curse at the present, wrote a teacher from the same county in the same year, is Marbhadh Fisg ort the squeeze band of Death on you.145. The emphasis on justice, on curses befalling evildoers, had waned. OBriens words for curse were aingeis, aoir and airier, ceasacht, cursachadh, easgaine, irre, malsachd, mioscaith and trist. Hibernias ancient lords and chieftains were notorious cursers, as were the saints who converted the Emerald Isle to Christianity, medieval Irish churchmen, and the Gaelic bards.5 Like in other loosely Celtic societies, in pre-modern Ireland cursing was regarded as a legitimate activity, a form of supernatural justice that only afflicted guilty parties.6 The idea had important consequences. At Tully in County Mayo, farmland owned by Miss Pringle remained unoccupied for at least fifteen years during the 1880s and 1890s, because the old tenant had been evicted. Women were central to the struggle, organizing ostracisms and boycotts of land-grabbers, shouting and spitting at bailiffs, throwing stones at policemen, snatching notices and blocking roads to stop evictions (see Plate 2). In this dangerous environment, it was best to be cautious. Chief amongst these useful maledictions, during the impoverished early nineteenth century, was the beggars curse. Hibernia's ancient lords and chieftains were notorious cursers, as were the saints who converted the Emerald Isle to Christianity, medieval Irish churchmen, and the Gaelic bards. Carleton, An Essay on Irish Swearing, 3489. I will light a candle that your family will die and you will suffer grief in the next 12 months, he said: when it happens, I will take pictures and send them to you and put them up for everyone to see. 1967; Connaught Telegraph, 2 Mar. There is ample evidence to demonstrate that the ancient Celts, like many other people, believed that the soul did not die with the body. Kerry Evening Post, 19 Sept. 1835; 1 Apr. Irish maledictions can be usefully analysed using familiar academic categories such as belief, ritual, symbolism, mentality, tradition, meaning and discourse.17 Cursing contained all those things: but it was also something fundamentally more lively, active and affecting. Stories about cursing priests were told in villages and towns across mid-twentieth-century Ireland, the Irish Folklore Commission discovered.124 In Virginia, County Cavan, locals spoke about a woman who had mocked a rheumatic priests cranky gait. Plain imprecations were uttered in English: the curse of the poor and helpless cripple upon you every day you put a coat over your back, a beggar on the shores of Lough Patrick was overheard saying, in 1816.91 But beggars usually laid their worst maledictions in Irish Gaelic.92 Biadh an taifrionn gan sholas duit a bhean shalach!, for example, meaning may the Mass never comfort you, you dirty queen!.93. Irish imprecations can be analysed using familiar academic categories such as belief, ritual, symbolism, tradition and discourse. Recognizing this challenges us to reconsider our wider ideas about the history of magic. Although they shunned Catholic-sounding imprecations that begged the saints to unleash their holy wrath, Presbyterians were not above letting a curse out, as it was known, using plainer maledictions like Gods curse upon his head and bad luck to her.27 Cursing occurred in English too, which became Irelands dominant language during the eighteenth century. With these responsibilities, ecclesiastical leaders could no longer permit their priests to use such terrible language. It was the scariest manifestation of a well-established but increasingly controversial tradition, of sharp-tongued females using fearful words to scold, defame and assert themselves.139 Irish popular culture had long paid special heed to womens voices, in moments of crisis, from the cry of the keening mourner to the wail of the banshee. Inspiration for a fuller, more dynamic understanding of cursing, and perhaps other forms of magic too, can be derived from the way that magicians since classical times have imagined the ars magica the art of magic.18 Although pioneering anthropologists like Bronisaw Malinowski acknowledged the art of magic, this understanding of the controversial topic has been forgotten by many recent studies in which, as one not unsympathetic critic puts it: all too often a sense of magic is lost.19. First Report from His Majestys Commissioners, 449, 550, 565, 577, 628, 648. Janet K. TeBrake, Irish Peasant Women in Revolt: The Land League Years, Irish Historical Studies, xxviii (1992). 507, 554; vol. The words for curses and cursing did not really overlap with the vocabulary for witchcraft and piseogs, as evil spells were sometimes called. ), Cambridge Social History of Modern Ireland. Patrick Kennedy, Legendary Fictions of the Irish Celts (London, 1866), 547; Reidar Th. When the evicted tenant prayed the widows and orphans curse upon him , Mr Dowd suddenly reneged on his purchase, frankly telling the vendor: Ill have nothing to do with that place I so unwisely bid for. From an emotional perspective, evicted tenants consoled themselves with the thought that dire supernatural punishments awaited the new occupants. Ellen Collins of Ballina, for instance, who thought a curse killed her mother, made her child disabled and gave her depression. Taking a broad approach like this, and enhancing it through comparisons with maledictions elsewhere, is obviously not the only way to undertake a history of magic. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide, This PDF is available to Subscribers Only. These Celtic literary maledictions thus appear closer in style to a third type of Greek and Roman imprecation - other than katadesmoi and conditional curses - one known only from ancient literary sources. A solemn curse was uttered with poise and determination, with a hair-raising seriousness seldom found in everyday life. In 1786, for example, Munsters Catholic bishops announced their determination to sanction clerics who habitually poured forth from the altar the most shocking curses and imprecations.23. Michael L. Doherty, The Folklore of Cattle Diseases: A Veterinary Perspective, Baloideas, lxix (2001), 556. Curses sprung from bitter passions at trying times. Every time misfortune struck they would mention your curse, whispering how you had never had any luck since that fateful day. In court, hundreds of witnesses described how the local Catholic clergy and others had used various intimidating practices, from violence to threatening letters to sermons calling for the Conservatives to be ostracized. Your soul go to the Devil might be nullified with my soul from the Devil.53. Ian Lynch, a researcher at University College Dublins National Folklore Collection, discovered something similar in 2011, when he sent out questionnaires asking about widows curses. Lindsey Earner-Byrne and Diane Urquhart, Gender Roles in Ireland since 1740, in Biagini and Daly (eds. Finally, towards the end of the nineteenth century, Irelands priests stopped throwing political curses. With outstretched arms and windswept hair, they roared maledictions using magnificent words and gestures that were totally uncharacteristic of their usually reticent temperament.66 Flowing hair, incidentally, was important. The same is likely to be true, though perhaps to a lesser degree, of other magical techniques. Cinema, radio and television all diminished popular knowledge of cursing. A few tried to send the maledictions back. Particular thanks to Dr Crostir Mac Crthaigh and Mr Jonny Dillon of the magnificent National Folklore Collection, University College Dublin. Partly this was because the church hierarchy was now firmly in control. For interpretations of witchcraft as discourse, see: Willem de Blcourt, Keep that woman out! Notions of Space in Twentieth-Century Flemish Witchcraft Discourse, History and Theory, lii (2013), esp. OHiggins, Blasphemy in Irish Law, 156. Between the 1820s and 1860s, Protestant missionaries strove to persuade Irish Catholics to abandon Rome and embrace Reformed faiths. (Dublin, 1834), i, 34950. CC BY. Pg mo thin. For victims, it was threatening, disturbing and humiliating. Even so, cursing was not dead. Curses had many connotations and Irish people used them to joke, flirt, lament, insult, threaten and rage. Caesar ( 6.14) states that the druids taught "that souls do not become extinct, but pass after death from one body to another.". yourself! The Most Rev. Henry Glassie, Passing the Time in Ballymenone: Culture and History of an Ulster Community (Philadelphia, 1982), 83. The tablets were requests for intervention of the goddess Sulis Minerva in the return of stolen goods and to curse the perpetrators of the thefts. She died in torture, of kidney disease: it come back on herself, back on herself Im telling you she suffered for the curse she gave to other people.151 Michaels trembling words underscore the powerful emotions swirling around this topic. Cursing blended lyrical and ritualistic spell casting with something like prayers to God, Mary, Jesus, the saints (and occasionally the Devil), begging these awesome entities to smite guilty parties. Christiaan Corlett, Cursing Stones in Ireland, Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society, lxiv (2012). Cambridge Social History of Modern Ireland; Antain Mac Lochlainn, The Famine in Gaelic Tradition, Irish Review, xvii/xviii (1995). Bound over to keep the peace, Ellie remained unbowed saying: I cursed Walsh, and I will continue to curse him until I die.141 Less dramatically, in 1967 Mary McCormack of Cloonard in Castlerea put her widows curse on informants who told the police she was holding unlicensed public dances.142 The Republic of Ireland was a patriarchal and conservative place, where until the 1970s married women were largely kept at home and out of the workforce. 119, 507. First Report from His Majestys Commissioners for Inquiring into the Condition of the Poorer Classes in Ireland, with Appendix (A) and Supplement (hereafter First Report from His Majestys Commissioners) (House of Commons, 1835), 496. 5 Like in other loosely Celtic societies, in pre-modern Ireland cursing was regarded as a legitimate activity, a form of supernatural justice that only afflicted guilty He found out and she gave birth to blind and crippled children after the angry cleric muttered Oh God keep her its like she knows how her own children will be yet.125 Elsewhere, people remembered priests pronouncing dreadful curses on smokers who lit up near chapel.126 The tales spoke to lingering anxieties about clerical supervision and supernatural powers. No. Hoppen, Elections, Politics, and Society in Ireland, 212. A publican and farmer from Kilmanaheen, in County Clare, told the commissioners: a woman with child would certainly never refuse relief, meaning that a pregnant woman would not dare risk a beggars curse. Dr. James Butlers Catechism: Revised, Enlarged, Approved, and Recommended by the Four R.C. Curses of Caesarea Douglas Hyde, Beside the Fire: A Collection of Irish Gaelic Folk Stories (London, 1890), 187; P. W. Joyce, English as We Speak It in Ireland, 2nd edn (London, 1910), 38. Corinne A. Kratz, Genres of Power: A Comparative Analysis of Okiek Blessings, Curses and Oaths, Man, new ser., xxiv (1989). Curses were part of many peoples begging strategies. Throughout the first half of the twentieth century, many people understood the righteous arts finer details. Edward OReilly, An Irish-English Dictionary, new edn (Dublin, 1864): acais, airire, anfhocal, aoir, aor, easgaine, inneach, irire, mallachd, moiscaith, oighrir, oirbhir and trist. Worried its clergy were abusing the terrifying priests curse, Irelands Catholic Church periodically forbade the practice. By the 1960s American movies and television shows were popular even in remote Gaelic-speaking places like Inis Beag, a windy isle three miles off Irelands north-western coast. Devil take you. Letter from Alexander McNeile, Ballycastle, to the Rt Rev. However, it thrived in the modern world of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries because it functioned not only as a potent weapon but also as a gruesome therapy and misanthropic coping strategy in fraught times. James C. Scott, Domination and the Arts of Resistance (Yale, 1990), 423. It is tempting to classify it as one of the weapons of the weak that have been most sensitively studied by the sociologist James C. Scott those everyday forms of resistance that subordinated individuals use to subtly check authority and limit powerful peoples claims upon food, rents, taxes and labour.167 To fit Irish cursing precisely into this schema would not, however, be entirely correct. Whether or not the residents really credited the curse, it was politically counterproductive. But even if the threat of a malediction did not shape someones behaviour in the way you had hoped, the evil prayer still had value. Writers like W. B. Yeats communed with banshees and fairies, but did little with maledictions except for a few fleeting references and using The Curse of Cromwell as a poem title. NFC, MS 548, 242; Schools Collection: vol. This is striking because, up to about the 1950s, cursing was probably the most valuable magic in a land where all sorts of mystic forces were treated with respect, from Marian apparitions to banshees. Whereas metaphorical curses were daily occurrences, real cursing was deeply serious and comparatively rare. They formed a sharp edge of the Catholic Association, a mass movement founded by the barrister Daniel OConnell to campaign against anti-Catholic discrimination and for the repeal of Irelands union with Britain. W. B. Cannon, Voodoo Death, American Anthropologist, xliv (1942); Esther M. Sternberg, Walter B. Cannon and Voodoo Death: A Perspective from 60 Years On, American Journal of Public Health, xcii (2002); Martin A. Samuels, Voodoo Death Revisited: The Modern Lessons of Neurocardiology, Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, lxxiv (2007), suppl.
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