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Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Oh dearie me

Apparently folk in Carlisle are worried by a sculpture which 'is inscribed with a curse first invoked by the Archbishop of Glasgow in 1525 against cross border families, known as the "reivers", who lived by stealing cattle, rape and pillage.' Now I am speculating here, but this '1069-word medieval invocation' sounds to me very much like a certain proclamation of excommunication in the vernacular which is preserved in the sober pages of a sixteenth-century formulary (published by the even soberer Stair Society). In which case, while it may not be a very agreeable thing to have on a stone, it can't do much unless the local bishop actually excommunicates someone using it as the script. Not a likely prospect. But is the nature of this 'curse' so much as alluded to in the media? That'd be a 'no', then. It wouldn't hurt if the concept of excommunication were explained to the public at large. It is no bad thing if people have a concept of supernatural harm being possible, but it does no good at all to be fearful of quite the wrong things.

Of course, if upon further examination it turns out that Archbishop Dunbar was into throwing around curses as we understand the word, I will recant upon the above. But Dunbar doesn't have any reputation for dabbling in the occult, as far as I know.

Oh, Google again... Presumably this is it. Not sure if it's the same one I'm thinking of (odd source), but it's clearly an excommunication, anyway. Note especially the last sentence: the curses apply 'quhill [until] thai forbeir thair oppin synnys foirsaidis and ryse frae this terribill cursing, and mak satisfaction and pennance.'