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A curse is a prayer or invocation expressing a wish that harm, misfortune, injury, great evil, etc., be brought upon another person, place, thing, clan, nation, etc. People are also said to be cursed if harm comes to them regularly or in seeming disproportion to the rest of us.
Curses seem to have been a regular part of ancient cultures and may have been a way to frighten enemies and explain the apparent injustices of the world. There is no evidence that anyone has successfully invoked occult powers to do harm to others, but there is evidence that those who believe they have been cursed can be made miserable by exploiting that belief. Fear and the human tendency to confirmation bias and selective thinking can sometimes lead the believer to fulfill the curse.
Belief in curses may make it easier to explain why bad things often happen to good people: they are cursed because of some bad thing an ancestor did. A little bit of reflection, however, should reveal that this is not a very satisfactory explanation. Whether it is a god or nature doing the cursing, neither seems very just in punishing the children for the sins of their mothers or fathers.
Belief in curses makes it possible for people to pose as psychics, gypsies, clairvoyants, and the like who are capable of removing curses for a fee. The removal sometimes involves requiring the client to give money or jewelry to the con artist for a "cleansing ritual." It works like magic. The client is cleaned out and the con artist disappears.
The curse is a favorite literary theme in Greek mythology. Modern writers such as William Faulkner use the family curse theme to great effect. The Old Testament is a litany of curses. In the New Testament, even a fig tree gets cursed. The curse is also a favorite theme of the mass media whenever something bad happens to one of the Fitzgerald/Kennedy (FK) clan.