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.
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.
Ogmios is a vaguer deity than the Irish god Ogma. Most of what we know about him comes from the Roman writer Lucan, who called him Hercules and described him as a master of persuasion and rhetoric. One inscription seems to record a dedication to him in fulfillment of a vow, and two curse tablets invoke him.
In Norse myth Hel is a place and a person, like the Greek Hades. The word hel means “hidden,” linked to hylja, “to cover”. Lindow speculates it may have referred to the grave at first, since that is where the dead live (171). Both he and Rudolf Simek (138) seem to think Hel was just a personification of the place, perhaps because unlike Hades, she has very little myth attached to her.
In the Irish myths a mysterious phrase crops up: the gods and the non-gods (or un-gods). We all know what a god is, but what is an non-god?
Check out my piece on Cernunnos and Flidais on the Dun Brython blog.