A cure for curses

  • Question from MF, USA

    What are curses? Are they real, and how do you make them go away? Can you make a curse on someone else go away?

    A recent news story from England, reported on BBC online, relates to this in very interesting way. The city of Carlisle in Northern England has a bloody history relating to a time when the ‘reavers’ of the lawless English and Scottish borders exerted a reign of terror during the Middle Ages. [On a tangent, that’s where the English word ‘bereaved’ comes from.] During this period the Archbishop of Glasgow issued a ‘curse’ upon the reaver families in 1525.

    As reaver history centres on Carlisle, a local artist carved the words of the Archbishop’s curse on a special 14-tonne stone commemorating the turn of the millennium. In early 2005 a number of people requested that Carlisle Council remove the stone because since it had been installed the city has suffered widespread flooding, a large city-centre toxic fire and had borne the brunt of the foot-and-mouth epidemic that significantly affected the agricultural economy on which Carlisle depends. To make matters worse, the local soccer team were relegated from the Football League. [Full details of this story can be found online]

    Ironically, a ‘white witch’ argued against destroying the cursing stone because: “A curse can only work if people believe in it… if the council destroys it, they would be showing their belief in the curse… destroying the stone would be very bad for Carlisle because it would feed that power.” [Kevin Carlyon, quoted in a BBC Online article ‘White Witch Warns of Curse Stone Power’, 8 March, 2005]

    While it is not freelance theology’s intention to endorse Wicca or paganism, there is a certain element of truth in this statement. The Bible is fairly consistent in believing that words do have power, whether ‘blessings’ or ‘curses’. Oaths and vows are treated as seriously binding. However, while curses are regarded as, in that sense, ‘real’ by the Biblical authors, there is also a clear paradigm where God counteracts a human-uttered curse: Balaam’s curse on the Israelite nation is turned to blessing (Deuteronomy chapter 23, verses 4-5; see also Numbers chapters 22-24).

    Within a Christian theological framework, curses are rendered powerless. A significant aspect of the crucifixion is that it included an aspect of being cursed because Jesus was ‘hung on a tree’(see Galatians chapter 3, verse 13/Deuteronomy chapter 21, verse 23). Every curse invoked against a Christian is therefore dealt with, just as any sin or wrongdoing is dealt with, through Jesus’ death on the cross.

    In terms of making curses on other people ‘go away’, in Matthew chapter 18, verse 18, Jesus tells his disciples that: “Whatever you bind on earth will be (or has been) bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be (or has been) loosed in Heaven.” This is a commission of authority to those who choose to follow Christ and it would naturally follow that curses and the subsequent effects of curses are included in this, as much as anything else.

    Thanks for your question, MF.

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