Katadesmoi, curse tablets, are relatively small tablets, inscribed with a desire asked of the Theoi to fulfil. The Katadesmoi that have survived were generally made out of very thin sheets of lead, which were then rolled, folded or pierced with nails. Wax, papyrus, stone, precious metals, and precious minerals would also have been used as a medium. Some katadesmoi were accompanied by a small doll representing the intended victim or even a lock of their hair, especially in the case of love spells. In general, the katadesmoi always included the name of the intended victim and the name(s) of the appropriated Gods--most often Hades, Kharon, Hekate, and Persephone. Exceptions have been found, of course.

The ancient Hellenes were a competitive people, and struggled with many of the issues we do today: the urge to perform well, the desire for justice to be served, and a need for love. Prayers for these things were made often, usually in their normal ritualized form at the house altar. If these requests were made against, or at the expense of another person, however, they were generally taken out of the realm of regular worship and kharis, and into the realm of the khthonic.

There have been around 1600 katadesmoi found around the whole of Hellas, and the practice was wide-spread. In fact, for the Olympic Games, competitors had to vow to Olympian Zeus that they would not cheat, and that they would not curse their opponents. Divine retribution would befall those competitors who did.

I wanted to share this very interesting lecture with you by Dr. Esther Eidinow, entitled "Greek Inscribed Curses And The Social Historian," which goes into depth on katadesmoi. Happy Olympics!