Cursing your enemies: horse’s heads on poles and other methods

Here’s another of Marie Brennan’s posts at Book View Cafe: New Worlds: Curse You!

I don’t mean profanity (though there’s a degree of overlap there). I mean actual malevolent attempts to cause someone harm by supernatural means. Sometimes people do this deliberately, out of a desire for power or revenge; other times it’s a subconscious process, the metaphysical consequence of negative emotions like anger, jealousy, or fear. … Many curses amount to codified ill-wishing, with a profoundly fuzzy boundary between religion and magic.

Interesting post, lots of great ideas for worldbuilding, and if in the future I have someone put up a horse’s head on a pole, facing their enemy, you can definitely blame Brennan.

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2 thoughts on “Cursing your enemies: horse’s heads on poles and other methods”

  1. The Witcher series of books is by a Polish author who loosely copies the mythology of the region. The computer games based on the books are really excellent. “Witcher” is a job description, focusing on monster-hunting and curse-breaking. The games in particular have some very lengthy quest lines involving breaking different curses. One of them includes the horse-head curse! (As a general matter, the curse-breaking quests are great. They tend to be long, involve a lot of investigation, and the magics of a given curse tend to be highly idiosyncratic. Breaking a curse often involves finding loopholes, which is only possible after you develop a good understanding of the motivations for the curse and how it came about. Some of the most difficult ones are those that came about more or less by accident. Ones where people intentionally used folk magic tend to be easier because the mechanism is more obvious, but even there folk magic usually doesn’t include a “to break this curse do X” clause, so they have challenges as well.)

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