Monday, October 18, 2010

Ritual Curses Then and Now

If against a man his companion lifts the tongue, or if he
invokes the gods against him, this is the ritual suitable for him: They
bring out to the grassland a loaf of bread and a jug of wine. He
breaks the loaf on the left and puts it on the ground, then he offers
wine on the left, and speaks in the following way: “Whatever
person has lifted the tongue before the gods, whoever invoked
the gods against me, as this grass is dry, let himself and his house in
the same way go dry too.
-KUB 17.28 ii 33-47

The above is part of an ancient Hittite ritual invoking a simile curse against slanderers and cursers. Imagine my surprise the other day when my Ukrainian wife mentioned similar rituals in Slavic magic, as practiced by village znakhari*
A search of the internet revealed one example which I'll reproduce here.
In your garden pick some weeds and recite over them:As this grass becomes dry, thus shall every tongue cease to speak of me and spread slander about me. The grass shall become dry and my enemy shall cease from troubling me. Amen.
When the grass becomes dry, cast it to your enemies. They will forget about you- they will have their own troubles to overcome.

Of course the two are not identical, nor is there any reason to suppose that spells are stationary, yet the combination of tongues, grass and dryness in context of a ritual involving a curse is remarkable.

*A znakhar or znakharka is both a healer, fortune-teller and witch.

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