In this instructable I will show you how to make a simple curse tablet in the same manner as most tablets found from Roman Britain. The Latin word for these was “defixio”. I will also mention some other types of curse table and how to make them, but this will be in less detail than how to make a defixio. A defixio is a type of curse found throughout the Greco-Roman world, in which someone would ask the gods, spirits, or the dead to do something to a person or object, or in some other way make the curse happen.
Most of us have at least toyed with the idea of a voodoo doll, but we wouldn’t really curse someone… would we? The people of the ancient world weren’t so shy, and have left us a lot of their ill-wishing to study. The things that made them angry enough to curse someone aren’t so different from the things that annoy us now: lawsuits, theft, property damage, infidelity, stealing someone’s boyfriend/girlfriend, and so on.
Greg Hill’s poem ‘Gutuater’ led me to the section on the underground shrine of the Chartres ‘magician’, dated ‘to the second century AD’, in Miranda Aldhouse-Green’s Sacred Britannia (2018). In 2005, during excavations for a car park in the centre of Chartres the construction workers found a ‘basement shrine’ accessed by ‘a wooden ladder and ‘a cache of sacred material, including pottery vessels, oil-lamps and a broad-bladed knife, of the kind used in killing sacrificial animals.’
For more on how the Celtic underworld gods were worshipped, click here.
The image at the top comes from Thomas Stephan, on Unsplash.
Fulla is one of the lesser-known Norse goddesses, described in the Prose Edda as Frigga’s right-hand woman. (Closest comparison Ninshubur and Iris/Hebe?) Her name means “Bountiful”. She only appears in one myth, but we do know a few things about her, thanks mainly to Snorri Sturluson’s efforts to preserve pagan lore for poets.
Aeracura seems to have been a a goddess of the underworld and of prosperity, whose cult centered on southern Germany and the north-west of the Balkans. The Roman god Dis Pater sometimes accomapanies her, in inscriptions, a statue, and magic spells. She shares her fruitful attributes with the Mothers, and may be a patron of miners.
Serket (also known as Serqet, Selkis, and Selket) is an Egyptian goddess of protection associated with the scorpion. She was worshipped widely in Lower Egypt as a great Mother Goddess in the Predynastic Period (c. 6000- c. 3150 BCE) and so is among the older deities of Egypt. She is associated with healing, magic, and protection, and her name means “She Who Causes the Throat to Breathe”. Her symbols are the scorpion, the Ankh, and the Was Sceptre, all of which convey her benevolent aspects.
Read more at the Ancient History Encylopedia
(Image originally from Flickr, by Merce.)
The Dagda is the head of the Irish pantheon, whose name means the “Good God”. He is head of the Tuatha de Danann, and was king of Ireland between Nuada and Lugh, but he can also take on the appearance and manners of a peasant farmer. He has been compared to his fellow Celts Sucellos and Cernunnos, but he also resembles the Norse god Odin, being changeable and tricky as well as a great magician.
The Egyptian goddess Seshat is one of the lesser-known Egyptian deities, and yet she was an enduring one. Her name means “Female Scribe” and the art of the scribe was her area: the burgeoning state of Egypt needed to keep records, formalize contracts and agreements, and make blueprints for buildings. This made her a useful deity, but also limited her cult, as we shall see.