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By Spellbook & Candle
By Spellbook & Candle
My latest book, By Spellbook and Candle seems to have caused a bit of a stir in some Circles – simply because it deals with the subject of cursing. This not the usual motley collection of superstitions and folklore, but as Michael Howard, editor of The Cauldron observed in his review: “It is refreshing in these days of vanilla-lite witchcraft that someone actually acknowledges that modern witches can and do curse.”
In Traditional British Old Craft we do curse – not very often but when it is necessary to resort to a Higher Law and we have exhausted all other methods of obtaining justice. Like the character in How Green Was My Valley who was dissatisfied with the outcome of a legal dispute saying: “We’ve tried English law, now we’ll try a bit of Welsh law!” before going out to thump a neighbour! It was also an observation confirmed by Keith Thomas in Religion and the Decline of Magic, concerning a method of obtaining justice for those who did not have a voice in a court of law.
This does not mean, however, that Old Crafters go around cursing with impunity. There is always a price to pay and any experienced magical practitioner accepts the consequences of their actions. A curse thrown in a fit of rage or jealous pique might be extremely effective, but a knee jerk reaction might also rebound on the sender if the proper procedures aren’t in place. The old saying about revenge being a dish best served cold suits the witch’s approach to cursing but, more often than not, they will not expend the energy necessary for a successful curse when a bottling or binding can be just as effective.
Research for By Spellbook and Candle revealed that when it comes to the most virulent of curses, you can’t beat Christianity when it comes to throwing examples that can last for generations and make witches appear as rank amateurs in the game! While ‘The Cursing Litany’, translated from the ancient Egyptian by Margaret Murray, however, is probably the most deadly of all, because it is not only aimed at the living, but also the obliteration of a person’s spirit and memory after death This particular curse requires the participation of two or more people: one to speak the curse, the other(s) to repeat the refrain ‘Mayest thou never exist’.
By contrast, a more ‘homely’ and user-friendly curse is The Gage, an interesting adaptation from the Walter de la Mare poem of that name and used in revenge for the killing (or deliberate injuring) of a pet dog, The Gage offers an example of an extremely powerful curse. For example:
“O mark me well!
For what my hound befell
You shall pay twenty-fold,
For every tooth
Of his, i’sooth,
Your life in pawn I’ll hold.”
Here we are bringing down a curse that is twenty times the number of teeth in the dog’s mouth, which for an average healthy, adult dog is around 42. This means that the magical practitioner must weigh in the balance whether the punishment fits the crime. After all, it would be rather extreme if someone had merely given your dog a clout for attempting to ravish their prize-winning bitch. That said, this curse used against any act of cruelty against a dog - intentional or unintentional - might be seen to be justifiable. Cursing, like most areas of magic, is a question of personal responsibility and/or morality but once thrown cannot be retracted and even the mildest accident magnified 20 x 42 is going to have serious repercussions.
My own personal favourite is the curse of the Hell Hounds, also known as the ‘Curse of Macha’ and adapted from the version in E A St George’s The Book of Ghastly Curses. This appears to be a very old witches’ curse that calls upon the spectral Hell (or Gabriel) hounds that normally accompany the Wild Hunt. These ghostly hounds are a widespread and integral part of British native superstition to such a degree that the mournful howl as an omen of death has almost reached the status of cliché in folklore writing. The victim experiences the sensation of being harried and pursued, especially during the hours of darkness, and the fear of being torn apart.
Gather up a magic spell, summon forth the hounds of hell,
Over sea and over land, answer to a witch command
Changing moon from bright to dim,
The hounds of hell must follow him
Cursing, however, is not always the answer to an insult or injury and it is important to remember three pertinent points: (1) Curses once thrown cannot be retracted and may rebound on the sender; (2) there is always a price to pay by the sender; and (3) an effective curse requires a tremendous application of physical and psychic energy and can be extremely debilitating for the sender.
So why go to the bother of cursing when a bottling or binding can be just as effective.
REVIEW: BY SPELLBOOK & CANDLE Cursing, Hexing, Bottling & Binding by Melusine Draco (Moon Books UK£4.99 US$9.95 89pp) “It is refreshing in these days of vanilla-lite witchcraft that someone actually acknowledges that modern witches can and do curse. After all the historical evidence is there in spades and the Church did not make it all up. What is pretty amazing, or will be for some people, is how many of the curses in the book have a Christian origin. As well as cursing charms and rituals the book also covers the magical arts of binding, the use of the witch-bottle and returning hexes to their senders.” Recommended. Michael Howard, Editor of The Cauldron
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