How to Curse Someone with a Bullán!
Cursing someone (basically wishing bad luck or evil on someone by invoking a non-human power) is found in many different cultures around the world and, in most cases, involves the use of a formula (e.g. prayer, spell – whatever you want to call it!) and an associated prop such as a wand, personal object associated with the person you want to curse, a magic doo-dah or …. a cursing stone!
Most of what we know about cursing – in terms of cursing stones – comes from folklore and the remnants of ritual traditions but when you take a step back and look at it in context you can see that in most cases its all about a kind of reverse of ‘positive’ based powers. This ‘reverse’ motif occurs everywhere. A spell, for example, is often considered the opposite or the reverse of a prayer. This is also why, for example, you can supposedly hear the Devil’s voice when you play certain records backward (unless, of course, it’s by Cliff Richard!).
In Ireland, cursing stones are generally associated with early ecclesiastical sites and involve the invoking of power by an early Christian saint. As part of the early Christian tradition, pilgrims would often go to these sites and recite a prayer while turning the stone clockwise or, if they wanted to curse someone, anti-clockwise (against the sun and other natural processes). There is absolutely no recognition in ancient literature of the irony of a Christian Saint (supposedly positive) using such an unchristian-like power for negative effect.
My favourite Irish cursing stones are the Clocha Breacha located out in Inismurray. These are pretty hefty stones (so you know you’re getting your effort’s worth) but the real reason I like them so much was that I was out there once with a friend who’d recently been involved in a very messy and poisonous divorce process. When I showed him the cursing stones, my friend leaped forward, grasped one with both hands and stood there, head bowed, sweat pouring for his forehead with concentration for a good five minutes before replacing the stone.
Needless to say, I didn’t have to ask who the object of his concentration was directed at.