Enchained Relationships and Fragmented Victims
Curse Tablets and Votive Rituals in the Roman North-West
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The majority of curse tablets from the north-western Roman provinces were deposited in temple spaces, which brought cursing into contact with other forms of ritual action, most notably votive practices. In the texts of many curse tablets, particularly from Roman Britain, something or someone was given to the gods as part of the cursing ritual. Scholars have long noted the similarities between votive offerings and some curse tablets, but their discussions have usually focused on the linguistic content of the curse texts, and tend to respect the established modern boundaries between forms of ancient religious practice. In other words, curses and votives are seen as distinct practices, to be analysed separately within their own corpora. This paper takes a different approach, influenced by recent research into ancient religious practice that emphasises lived experience, and has often sought to dissolve artificial modern divisions. In particular, this paper applies the theory of enchainment to the curse tablets of the Roman north- west, as a way of thinking about the relationships that these rituals created between people and the gods.