Blessings and curses can be found in practically all religious traditions and faith systems across the world. Typically, they tend to reflect a person’s position with the deity they worship. Blessings are a pronouncement of good fortune because that person has found favour with their deity or initiated themselves into divine plans. Curses are just the opposite: they tend to suggest that a person or, in some cases, an entire nation is somehow opposing that deity and there is a pronouncement of bad fortune upon them.
However, cursing isn’t restricted to gods. There are also people who believe they have the ability to change someone’s luck for the worse, even to the point where they can affect that person’s health, wealth or, in extreme cases, cause death. But are curses real?
A Supernatural Influence?
In many ways, it depends on how you look at them. While there is no scientific evidence to support the idea that a person can somehow project a change of fortune onto another, there are plenty of anecdotal and reported stories in which someone has behaved in a particular way or even died, shortly after being cursed by someone else. Both the Voodoo religion and the gypsy nation are synonymous with curses and they are still widely used today. However, what’s interesting is that in the vast majority of reported cases, the victim firmly believes that they are the subject of a curse; a supernatural influence over which they have no control. It may be this factor that is the key to understanding how some curses appear to work.
For those who believe that they have the ability to send curses, the theory is that their minds are strong enough to transmit negative energies into the subconscious of their intended target. These energies are absorbed by that person and embed themselves deep within their psyche, causing them to fulfil the intended destiny. The curse itself – the vocal or physical act – is little more than a statement of intent. However, given that there appears to be some ability to influence the way some people think, there surely must be something to their belief that they can cast ill fortune.
The Role of the Victim
Peculiarly, the important person in the equation is the victim and not the cursing party. Those who believe in curses tend to be those with an unshakeable faith in the power of the religion or belief system that they are part of. Alternatively, they are people who are somehow slightly vulnerable; people who have a deep-rooted insecurity in themselves, are possibly depressive or are lacking basic self-confidence. These are people for whom life doesn’t run smoothly and who feel they have no control over their existence.
The human brain is designed to fill in the gaps and draw conclusions based on our database of experience. A good example of this would be a child who is repeatedly told he is stupid. If someone is told this enough times, eventually, it becomes a perceived fact. Any challenges that they fail to overcome as they go through life are processed according to that database of experience and the brain, however incorrectly, joins the dots. All their perceived failures must be as a direct result of their perceived stupidity. In other words, they have become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Curses work in a similar way. If the victim of a curse believes that the curse is a real phenomenon, then that information, consisting of negative energies, will embed itself in their psyche. As a result, they will begin to perceive the world in a different way, seeing threats and danger where there was none before. They may even begin to see people in a different light.
Consequently, the victim’s behaviour will start to change; they may find themselves trying to avoid certain situations or people or even be wary of the food they eat. Whatever the symptoms, the results are the same. The negative thoughts are changing the way they interact with the world, as their minds fill in the gaps with information that relates to the curse they believe themselves to be under. In this way, the curse can be seen as to have a reality of sorts. If it’s real enough to the person who is the intended target, then they will engender its reality by behaving in ways that are out of character and in keeping with what has been predicted for them.
Spells, Rituals and Arcane Rites
Without doubt, there are those who believe that they have an ability to send curses. It may be that the incantations and rituals they use serve a double purpose; firstly to convince the victim that the curse has some substance to it. Whether you believe in Voodoo or not, the presence of an effigy of someone has a certain sinister ring to it. It appeals to the parts of our rational brain that are unsure about the possibilities behind these things.
However, its other purpose may be to create a state in the caster through which they believe that they truly are in possession of some supernatural ability and, as history has proven time and time again, self-conviction is the first step towards convincing others. If you fully believe in what you are saying and doing, it’s far easier to persuade another to believe that it has some credence. In many ways, the spells, chants and ritual aspects of curses can be likened to a psychic or mental warm-up, preparing the caster to enter the right state to unleash their perceived powers.
According to science, there is no such thing as a curse. However, for many victims, they are a very real phenomenon. The mindset of those who use curses and those who believe themselves to be affected by them are enough that, for certain sections of the population, they can be considered a reality and no amount of scientific evidence can persuade them otherwise.
Curses are as old as many of the religions and faith systems that use them and are still used in the 21st Century. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Blessings are still a focal point for many religions, and its darker twin is also alive and kicking.