Psalmokatara - a Christian curse

A special church rite that existed in the Byzantine Church at least from the 13th to the 17th century, which bore the name "Psalmokatar" (literally translated from Greek "curse with psalms"), made it possible to curse a person with the help of church rites. Psalmokatara was a kind of God's judgment and was used against criminals (obviously, both ecclesiastical heretics and criminals), hiding from justice.

The curse procedure is known from the Greek nomokanon of 1528 and the manuscript collection of 1542, described in Russian by A.I. Almazov in 1912.

The purpose of the psalmokatara was not only the complete excommunication of the cursed from the Church and his surrender into the hands of the Devil, but also the calling upon him and his property of all sorts of in his lifetime ruin (“May he all the years of his life on earth suffering and shaking like Cain ... And in his dwelling may not a good day be found, but may his property be found, as well as what he has and what he will do, into all destruction ... ").

It was believed that the cursed by the rank of psalmokatara "after a few days - and turns black, and swells, and disintegrates, and falls under the wrath of God."

In addition, the psalmokatara assumed that the body of the damned after death would not undergo decay, retaining an ugly appearance, which in Greek folk ideas made him akin to a ghoul.

In the case of sincere repentance of the damned, it was possible to resolve the curse, performed in a sequence similar to the psalmokatara itself, but with the recitation, of course, of other prayers and formulas.

Psalmokatara was performed in the temple, and seven priests were required to complete it. Obviously, such a number of priests involved in the rite of the Psalmokatara is a reminiscence of the church sacrament of anointing, which, as is known, in the Orthodox tradition requires the same number of priests. If blessing of oil in the Orthodox sense is healing, then psalmokatara, on the contrary, is viewed as defeat by disease and adversity. It is also likely that the indicated number of priests is associated with the number of the basic Gifts of the Holy Spirit, of which there are also seven (the spirit of the Lord, the spirit of wisdom, the spirit of reason, the spirit of counsel (prudence), the spirit of strength, the spirit of knowledge and the spirit of piety (or fear of God)). Each priest participating in the psalmokatara thus deprives the cursed one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Liturgy is performed before the psalmokatar. Then the priests in vestments (in this case, the shoes from the right foot are changed to the left and vice versa, and the clothes of the priests are put on inside out - here the influence of popular beliefs is obvious, as well as symbolism that emphasizes the exceptional nature of the psalmokatara and its purpose, which is opposite to the general goals of Christian worship) go to the middle temple, where a vessel with vinegar has already been prepared (it was customary to pour vinegar into the vessel during the Great Entrance), quicklime, in the volume of one egg, and seven resin candles of black color.

The Rite prescribed during the Great Entrance to light black candles, pour vinegar into a vessel with lime, and in the clouds of black smoke and spreading stench, read passages from the Psalter about the betrayal and "fall" of Judas. Then it was supposed to extinguish the candles by dropping them into a vessel with vinegar, to break the vessel itself, and "all this should be done so that no one understands what is being done." The charter drew attention to another important point: if the purpose of the rite was the death of the cursed, he should have been remembered among the dead, if only a terrible disease was among the living.