Curses are generally understood as magick spells (frequently of a vulgar kind and lacking elaborate ceremony) often found in old stories, fairy tales, or gypsy folklore, which are employed to cause various maladies or problems to the recipient or victims thereof. The parallel operation in ecclesiastical magick is the anathema.
In the historical practice of cursing, effigies sometimes have been used. The victim is afflicted with pain or similar injury by the application of pins/needles/heat, or other such damage to the doll in an analogous fashion. Such dolls were popular by witches of the middle ages, as noted in Daemonologie(1597) by King James I of England:
To some others at these times he (the Devil) teacheth, how to make Pictures of waxe or clay: That by the roasting thereof, the persones that they beare the name of, may be continuallie melted or dryed awaie by continual sicknesse.
Classical medieval curses include burying eggs or livers of animals beneath the ground under a waxing moon and cursing the victim to 'rot' with it, his or her life being supposedly drawn out along with the waxing moon and rotting meat.
Curses pronounced upon ones death-bed are assumed to be more powerful, as all of the life force is put into the curse. A classic example is of the fabled curse of the final Grand-Master of the Knights Templar, Jacques de Molay, who when burned at the stake in 1314 with him and his order accused of 'heresy' was purported to shout "Vamehk Adonai!" to curse those who he believed had falsely accused him and his brethren. Several weeks afterwards, the king Phillip IV of France, who had been thought to have organized the capture of the templars in order to attain their wealth after he had lost his in exile (upon which he had sheltered with the Templars in sanctuary for some time) died of a sudden illness and several months later, the Pope Clement V and his prosecutor Guillaume de Nogaret supposedly died of strange causes.
With a definite article, "the curse" denotes menstruation, suggesting that the English curse may be related etymologically to the Latin cursus, meaning "run" or "flow," from which derive such words as course, discourse, cursory, cursive and excursion.
Crowley & curses
Aleister Crowley used the term in regards to constraining or coercing demons, as in the practice of Goetia. In Magick, Book 4 (Ch.16) he writes:
- "some demons are of a nature such that they only understand curses, are not amenable to courteous command."
From "Liber B vel Magi", Crowley speaks of the "Curse of the Grade" of Magus in the A.'.A.'.:
- 14. "For the curse of His grade is that he must speak Truth, that the Falsehood thereof may enslave the souls of men"
- 20. "And woe also be unto Him that refuseth the curse of the grade of a Magus, and the burden of the Attainment thereof."