Family curse

A family curse or an ancestral curse, a generational curse, hereditary curse, is a curse, on a family. The belief in them crosses many religious beliefs. There is no reliable scientific evidence that curses exist.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, with his wife, Jacqueline, and Texas Governor John Connally with his wife, Nellie, in the presidential limousine, minutes before Kennedy was assassinated. A family curse, or just bad decisions?[1]

Religious beliefs and family cursesEdit

Christianity and JudaismEdit

Christianity and Judaism have somewhat conflicted views of generational curses,

19 Yet say ye, Why? doth not the son bear the iniquity of the father? When the son hath done that which is lawful and right, and hath kept all my statutes, and hath done them, he shall surely live. 20 The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.

— Ezekiel 18:19–20, King James Version[2]


18 The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.

Greek mythologyEdit

In Greek mythology, the Erinyes exacted family curses.[4][5] Certain dynasties have had tragic occurrences happen upon them.

The House of Cadmus, who established and ruled over the city of Thebes, was one such house. After slaying the dragon and establishing Thebes upon the earth that the dragon terrorized, Ares cursed Cadmus and his descendants because of the dragon’s sacredness to Ares. Similarly, after Hephaestus discovered his wife, Aphrodite, having a sexual affair with Ares, he became enraged and vowed to avenge himself for Aphrodite's infidelity by cursing the lineage of any children that resulted from the affair. Aphrodite later bore a daughter, Harmonia, the wife of Cadmus, from Ares' seed.

Cadmus, annoyed at his accursed life and ill fate, remarked that if the gods were so enamoured of the life of a serpent, he might as well wish that life for himself. Immediately Cadmus began to grow scales and change into a serpent. Harmonia, after realizing the fate of her husband, begged the gods to let her share her husband's fate. Of the House of Cadmus, many had particularly tragic lives and deaths. For example, King Minos of Crete’s wife fall madly in love with the Cretan Bull and bore the Minotaur. Minos would later be murdered by his daughters whilst bathing. Semele, the mother of Dionysus by Zeus, was turned into dust because she glanced upon Zeus’ true godly form. King Laius of Thebes was killed by his son, Oedipus. Oedipus later (unknowingly) marries the queen, his own mother, and becomes king. After finding out he gouges his eyes and exiles himself from Thebes.

Another dynasty that was cursed and was subject to tragic occurrences was the House of Atreus (also known as the Atreides). The curse begins with Tantalus, a son of Zeus who enjoyed cordial relations with the gods. To test the omniscience of the gods, Tantalus decided to slay his son Pelops and feed him to the gods as a test of their omniscience. All of the gods, save Demeter, who was too concerned with the abduction of her daughter Persephone by Hades, knew not to eat from Pelops’ cooked corpse. After Demeter had eaten Pelops’ shoulder, the gods banished Tantalus into Tartarus where he would spend eternity standing in a pool of water beneath a fruit-bearing tree with low branches. Whenever he would reach for a fruit, the branches would lift upward so as to remove his intended meal from his grasp. Whenever he would bend over to drink from the pool, the water would recedes into the earth before he could drink. The gods brought Pelops back to life, replacing the bone in his shoulder with a bit of ivory with the help of Hephaestus, thus marking the family forever afterwards.

Pelops would later marry Princess Hippodamia after winning a chariot race against her father, King Oenomaus. Pelops won the race by sabotaging of King Oenomaus’ chariot, with the help of the king’s servant, Myrtilus. This resulted in King Oenomaus’ death. Later, the servant Myrtilus, who was in love with Hippodamia, was killed by Pelops because Pelops had promised Myrtilus the right to take Hippodamia's virginity in exchange for his help in sabotaging the king’s chariot. As Myrtilus died, he cursed Pelops and his line, further adding to the curse on the House of Atreus.

King Atreus, the son of Pelops and the namesake of the Atreidies, would later be killed by his nephew, Aegisthus. Before his death, Atreus had two sons, King Agamemnon of Mycenae and King Menelaus of Sparta. King Menelaus’ wife, Helen of Sparta, would leave him for Prince Paris of Troy, thus beginning the Trojan War. However, prior to their sailing off for the war, Agamemnon had angered the goddess Artemis by killing one of her sacred deer. As Agamemnon prepared to sail to Troy to avenge his brother’s shame, Artemis stilled the winds so that the Greek fleet could not sail. The seer Calchas told Agamemnon that if he wanted to appease Artemis and sail to Troy, he would have to sacrifice the most precious thing in his possession. Agamemnon sent word home for his daughter Iphigenia to come to him so that he may sacrifice her, framing it to her that she was to be married to Achilles. Iphigenia, honored by her father’s asking her to join him in the war, complied. Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter and went off to war.

Clytemnestra, the wife of Agamemnon and mother to Iphigenia, was so enraged by her husband’s actions that when he returned victorious from Troy, she trapped him in a robe with no opening for his head whilst he was bathing and stabbed him to death as he thrashed about. Orestes, the son of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, was torn between his duty toward avenging his father’s death and his sparing his mother. However. after praying to Apollo for consultation, Apollo advised him to kill his mother. Orestes killed his mother and wandered the land, ridden with guilt. Because of the noble act of avenging his father’s at the expense of his own soul and reluctance to kill his mother, Orestes was forgiven by the gods, thus ending the curse of the House of Atreus.


Some holy writing in Hinduism states,[6]

The thin bamboo rod in the hand of the Brahmana is mightier than the thunderbolt of Indra. The thunder scorches all existing objects upon which it falls. The Brahmana's rod (which symbolizes the Brahmana's might in the form of his curse) blasts even unborn generations. The might of the rod is derived from Mahadeva.

Hinduism has family curses, elsewhere.[7]

Japanese ShintoEdit

Family curses occur, in Japanese Shinto.[5]


The term witchcraft is not well-defined, but within at least factions, the belief in family curses persists.[8]

Historical examplesEdit

Nathaniel Hawthorne felt his family was cursed, due to his ancestors, John Hathorne and his father William. William Hathorne was a judge who earned a reputation for cruelly persecuting Quakers, and who in 1662 ordered the public whipping of Ann Coleman. John Hathorne was one of the leading judges in the Salem witch trials. He is not known to have repented for his actions. So great were Nathaniel Hawthorne's feelings of guilt, he re-spelled his last name Hathorne to Hawthorne.[9]

Family curses in fictionEdit

As he lies dying, in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet Mercutio says, "A plague o' both your houses," blaming both the Capulets and Montagues. As the play progresses, his words prove prophetic.[10]

There is a family curse in The House of the Seven Gables.[11]

In Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles, there was a feeling the Baskerville's family had legendary family curse, of a giant black hound, "... a foul thing, a great, black beast, shaped like a hound, yet larger than any hound that ever mortal eye has rested upon."[12][13]

In the 2007 South Korean psychological-supernatural suspense horror film Someone Behind You a young woman named Ga-In (Yoon-Jin-seo) sees families and friends slaughtering and attacking one another and realizes that she is followed by an unexplainable curse causing those around her to get rid of her. Despite all of this she is constantly reminded by an eerie student to never trust her family, friends, and not even herself. Ga-In has hallucinations of those who would attempt to attack her, then sees a disturbing vision of a monstrous being warning her that the bloodshed will intensify. The film was also released in America retitled as Voices.[14]

Skeptical viewsEdit

Modern skeptics deny that curses of any nature, including family curses, even exist,[15][16] even if some fervently believe.[17]

Famous examplesEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Carroll, Robert (December 19, 2013). "Kennedy curse". Retrieved 2020-06-14.
  2. ^ "Ezekiel, Chapter 18, King James Bible".
  3. ^ "Numbers Chapter 14, King James Bible".
  4. ^ Banducci, Laura (2007). "Family Curses in Modern and Ancient History".
  5. ^ a b "Family Curses in Modern and Ancient History".
  6. ^ "SECTION XVII".
  7. ^ "The Aitareya Brahmanam of the Rigveda, containing the earliest speculations of the Brahmans on the meaning of the sacrificial prayers, and on the origin, performance and sense of the rites of the Vedic religion".
  8. ^ "The Family Curse: What Modern Witches Need to Know". February 18, 2016.
  9. ^ Brooks, Rebecca Beatrice (September 15, 2011). "The Life of Nathaniel Hawthorne".
  10. ^ "Why Does Mercutio Say "A Plague O' Both Your Houses"?".
  11. ^ Smiley, Jane. "A house divided".
  12. ^ "The Hound of the Baskervilles".
  13. ^ "The Hound of the Baskervilles Sir Arthur Conan DOYLE (1859 - 1930)".
  14. ^ Barton, Steve. "Voices (2009)".
  15. ^ "Why Do People Believe in Curses?". September 2019.
  16. ^ "Why do people believe in curses?". August 30, 2019.
  17. ^ Mariani, Mike (November 19, 2015). "Science Is Proving That Tragic Curses Are Real".

External links and referencesEdit