cursing stones croppedMay those who love us, love us
And those that don’t love us
May God turn their hearts
And if He doesn’t turn their hearts
May He turn their ankles
So we’ll know them by their limping.

May the curse of Mary Malone and her nine blind illegitimate children chase you so far over the hills of damnation that the Lord himself can’t find you with a telescope.

The Irish have long believed in the power of the spoken word. While they are well known for their blessings they are perhaps less well known for their cursings. And it’s a strong heritage. The stones in the photo are cursing stones on abandoned Inishmurray island just off the coast north of Sligo – one of two sets remaining in Ireland. And yes, that’s an altar they are resting on. Rotating a stone would invoke the curse and rotation in the opposite direction would undo the curse. If the curse was made falsely it would come back on the curser with a vengeance. From the number of stones on this altar it was clearly a popular ritual.

Cursing. It does come to mind as we step into the holiday season. Families gather together with a mixture of joy, anticipation, angst, and dread. The baggage of past years to be opened like Christmas presents. What also comes to mind is this blessing by John O’Donohue. A more gentle, gracious, and perhaps more effective way to work though these issues.

Though its way is to strike
In a dumb rhythm,
Stroke upon stroke,
As though the heart
Were an anvil,
The hurt you sent
Had a mind of its own.

Something in you knew
Exactly how to shape it,
To hit the target,
Slipping into the heart
Through some wound-window
Left open since childhood.

While it struck outside,
It burrowed inside,
Made tunnels through
Every ground of confidence.
For days, it would lie still
Until a thought would start it.

Meanwhile, you forgot,
Went on with things
And never even knew
How that perfect
Shape of hurt
Still continued to work.

Now a new kindness
Seems to have entered time
And I can see how that hurt
Has schooled my heart
In a compassion I would
Otherwise have never learned.

Somehow now
I have begun to glimpse
The unexpected fruit
Your dark gift has planted
And I thank you
For your unknown work.