• Cursing stones in Ireland

    One of the most enigmatic sites from early Ireland are ‘cursing stones’. Only two are known to survive today, the others having been reportedly destroyed, usually by the Catholic Church authorities, during the early 19th century. The evidence for cursing stones and how they were used comes almost exclusively from folk traditions, but some early historic sources suggest that they may have early origins. Cursing, which can be defined as the wishing of evil upon a person by invoking a power – divine, demonic or magical – against a person, is an international phenomenon that is found in many past cultures. In other parts of the world the placing of a curse frequently involved a formula accompanied by a symbol or image. In Ireland such symbols are represented by stones which always have an early ecclesiastical association, typically invoking the power of an early Christian saint. The formula accompanying the use of these stones always involved their ritual turning, always anti-clockwise or against the sun, and sometimes included prayer. Often the ritual of turning the stones was pre-empted by a ritual fasting in preparation for carrying out the curse. There is a consistency evident in the use of cursing stones in Ireland, but this appears to have been similar to the use of conventional ecclesiastical relics for swearing oaths. Much of the evidence for cursing stones comes from the west and north-west of Ireland, but it seems likely that they were once more widespread across the country.

    For a comprehensive description and discussion of cursing stones in Ireland see my paper in the most recent volume of the Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society (Vol. 64: 2012).

    1 Comment

    • 1. Feb 1 2013 4:05PM by Regina M. Geither

      Tory Island has its own cursing stone. In the late 1800's the HMS Wasp was headed to Tory to collect taxes. The islanders supposedly used their cursing stone to sink the ship. I was so interested in this story, I used it as the basis for my ya paranormal novel, ISLAND OF TORY. Its sequel, named appropriately as CURSING STONE, is due to release this March. You can find out more at www.reginamgeither.com.


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