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The Carlisle Cursing Stone

Anyone who doubts the power of words should take note of the curse of Archbishop Gavin Dunbar. Yes, you read that right – an archbishop issuing curses! The Archbishop of Glasgow lived in the 16th Century in Glasgow, Scotland and had become very frustrated with the bandits carrying out raids along the border of Scotland and England. The ‘border Reivers’ as the bandits were known carried out robbery, rape, murder and all things horrible. So his Grace issued a ‘curse’ which ran to about 2,000 words (did I mention how angry he was?!). Part of it reads…

I curse their head and all the hairs of their head; I curse their face, their brain (innermost thoughts), their mouth, their nose, their tongue, their teeth, their forehead, their shoulders, their breast, their heart, their stomach, their back, their womb, their arms, their leggs, their hands, their feet, and every part of their body, from the top of their head to the soles of their feet, before and behind, within and without. I curse them going and I curse them riding; I curse them standing and I curse them sitting; I curse them eating and I curse them drinking; I curse them rising, and I curse them lying; I curse them at home, I curse them away from home; I curse them within the house, I curse them outside of the house; I curse their wives, their children, and their servants who participate in their deeds. I (bring ill wishes upon) their crops, their cattle, their wool, their sheep, their horses, their swine, their geese, their hens, and all their livestock. I (bring ill wishes upon) their halls, their chambers, their kitchens, their stanchions, their barns, their cowsheds, their barnyards, their cabbage patches, their plows, their harrows, and the goods and houses that are necessary for their sustenance and welfare.

.. and so it goes on. Five hundred years later, the city of Carlisle (in the Archbishop’s parish but now in England) decide to mark the start of the new millennium with an artwork. Andy Altman is duly commissioned to create a huge obelisk with the words of the curse on it (but also a blessing from the Bible). The Cursing Stone is unveiled in 2000 with due ceremony but it’s no long before bad luck strikes. First foot and mouth disease hits Cumbria, then floods and – most convincing of all – a run of bad results for Carlisle FC! A local councillor blames the cursing stone – and a number of people take the claim quite seriously. For now, the cursing stone still resides near Tullie House museum in Carlisle but if Carlisle FC don’t start moving up the table soon, expect the stone and its curse to be quietly removed.