How To Make A Curse Tablet Like Thrasius From FEAST OF SORROW

You’ve probably heard us shouting it this week but… Crystal King’s novel FEAST OF SORROW is now available! It’s the kind of historical novel–about the infamous gourmet Marcus Gavius Apicius and his slave Thrasius–where you aren’t simply dipping a toe into the world, you are fully emerged. Crystal’s vivid descriptions and nuances of Ancient Rome are simply immersive. So much so that I often felt like I was reading either a narrative nonfiction book or a memoir recovered from the first century.

A few days ago, I was reading an interview Crystal did with historical novelist Meghan Masterson, and I wanted to quickly share a snippet, because the answer touches upon one of those nuances of Crystal’s novel that I adored and that brought Ancient Rome to life for me.

What was your favourite scene to write? 

That’s difficult. I think that some of the most important and best scenes of the book are also the hardest for me to write. But I suppose that one of the darlings of the book is the curse scene, when several of the characters go to an ancient Roman cemetery to put a curse on someone…. And while I can’t find the original reference now, the curse itself is an actual Roman curse that I found in some history book, which I modified just slightly to accommodate the person cursed and the family doing the cursing, plus the right Gods for the book.

Ah, those curses. I found the God-related superstitions, omens, and the idea of cursing others throughout FEAST OF SORROW to be such an interesting element. And in the scene referenced above when Apicius’s slave Thrasius went to a tomb, he brought with him a curse tablet, and I was like.. yesssss.

So naturally, for this post, I had to Google how to make a curse tablet. I’ll quickly add: not that I’m planning to curse someone, but because I find the whole process so interesting.

– Most tablets are large rectangular sheets made from either pewter or some other white metal that were cast, hammered, and cut into shape.

– Using a sharp stylus, the curser(s) would ask the gods or spirits to make something horrible happen to whoever wronged them, generally associated with the perpetrator’s mental or physical health.

– In some cases, the tablet was only inscribed with names, which implies that in addition to the tablet, there was also an oral spell recited.

– The tablets were often rolled/folded to conceal the writing, and then usually placed underground: either buried in graves or tombs, thrown into wells, hidden in sanctuaries, or nailed to the walls of temples.

It sounds intense and the curses that fill the pages of FEAST OF SORROW are equally intense. If you want to see how Crystal brings this process to life, dating back to the Greco-Roman world, you’ll have to pick up the book and dive in with a nice glass of vino.

 

 

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Jenni L. Walsh spent her early years ​chasing around cats, dogs, and chickens in Philadelphia's countryside, before dividing time between a soccer field and a classroom at Villanova University. She put her marketing degree to good use as an advertising copywriter, zip-code hopping with her husband to DC, NYC, NJ, and not surprisingly, back to Philly. There, Jenni's passion for words continued, adding author to her resume. She now balances her laptop with a kid on each hip, and a four-legged child at her feet. BECOMING BONNIE (Tor Forge/Macmillan, 5/9/2017) is her debut novel that tells the untold story of how church-going Bonnelyn Parker becomes half of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde duo during the 1920s. SIDE BY SIDE, telling Bonnie and Clyde's crime spree story, will be released in the summer of 2018. Please learn more about Jenni's books at jennilwalsh.com.