Cursing pot

This cursing pot was found in October 1871 buried in an earth bank by a labourer who was removing and old fence on Penrhos Bradwen Farm, Penrhos, Holyhead. It consisted of a chipped black cup (or pipkin) which when buried had contained a live frog stuck with 40 pins (the skeleton and the skin were still there in 1871 but have been lost). The cup was covered with a slate with the name of the person to be cursed “Nanny Roberts” scratched on each side.

According to local tradition a curse could be placed on a person by placing a live frog stuck full of pins into a pipkin covered by a slate with the name of victim placed on top. These would then all be buried. To lift a curse the victim had to find the pot. At times the frog had burnt or drowned, making lifting the curse impossible.

The person who recorded all this and kept the evidence was the MP for Anglesey, the Hon W.O. Stanley, who wrote it all up for Notes and Queries March 30th 1872. It is likely that he was the landlord of both the curser and the cursed, but he did not reveal the reason behind the enmity.

The practise of visiting wells for their restorative, healing powers had been in place in Wales for centuries. Using wells to cast curses only developed in the second half of the 18th century and only lasted for about one hundred years. According to folk belief, wells in the south of Anglesey carried cursing powers, and the well at Penrhos was supposed to have restorative as well as cursing powers. By the mid 19th century, the well was in great demand causing damage to the surrounding property and the farmer on whose land it was situated destroyed the well by draining it.1

It was donated to the Museum in 1944 and is on display in Gallery 4.

  1. Cursing and Blessings at the Holy Wells of Anglesey by Rita Singer, 2021