Irish curses are the sinister, sometimes profane counterpart to beloved Irish blessings. As hard-working farmers with little wealth, the Irish took comfort in the idea of a heavenly reward and in the power of God to bestow prosperity upon the good-hearted.
Like many farming cultures, the Irish placed a high value on hospitality, honesty and mutual support. Those who wronged their neighbors, who were greedy or who acted selfishly earned the scorn of their neighbors. Irish curses were invoked against those people. An Irish curse is not to be spoken lightly; some invoke the power of the heavens to bring grave misfortune to others. Spoken too freely or without cause, an Irish curse can backfire, bringing hardship to the person who utters it.
Some of the best-known Irish curses were spoken against those who wanted to conquer Ireland.
May the enemies of Ireland never meet a friend.
May those who love us, love us
And those that don't love us
May God turn their hearth
And if He doesn't turn their hearts,
May He turn their ankles,
So we'll know them by their limping
I hope and pray that none may kill me
Nor I kill any, with woundings grim
But if ever any should think to kill me
I pray thee, God, let me kill him
One of the best-known traditional Irish curses is the curse of Mary Malone:
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 exact origin of this curse is unknown, as is the intent. While it could be spoken in anger, the nature of it is almost comical, unlike this next curse:
No butter be on your milk nor on your ducks a web
May your child not walk and your cow be flayed
And may the flame be bigger and wider
Which will go through your soul
Than the Connemara mountains
If they were on fire
Irish blessings and proverbs are the fruit of a culture rich in spirituality, humor and the gift of gab.
Steeped in tradition, Irish baby blessings are a proclamation of joy and a hope for a happy and fruitful life.