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A voice from the audience cut in.
“You really believe someone could put a remote hex on another country? On America?"
A heckler already. Anson peered. A man in the front row with military bearing and bulking up a blue suit, turned to throw a glare at the heckler.
In spite of the academic venue, this may not be a polite audience, Anson thought.
Anson hadn’t mentioned putting hexes on America and America wasn’t even on his mind. But it was on theirs, the heckler’s in particular.
“Do we have a few good Protestant Americans, Catholics and Jews in attendance today?” he asked the audience. “Then let me remind you about smiting in the Bible and Torah. The God of Moses hurled down some doozy execrations himself, with devastating effects: “… I shall make the land of Egypt desolate, and the country shall be destitute of that whereof it was full … I shall smite all them that dwell therein ... then shall they know that I am the LORD.”
He decided to bring ancient history up to the present. He flipped past a slide showing a shattered ancient Egyptian execration or cursing bowl, a clay vessel that contained a list of enemies and beside it one ritually shattered in order to bring foreign powers to their knees. He stopped to show a passage of text in Arabic on the screen.
“You think remote killing is no longer attempted today? It is, and it’s being used by dissidents in the Middle East. Smiting and execration might seem unthinkable in our desacralized Western society, so let’s move forward to the twenty-first century. Take a look. It’s a Palestinian text, discovered in the Dead Sea in 2002, by an Israeli Professor and it directed virulent thoughts against the leaders of Israel. Here’s a translation…
“Oh God almighty, I beg you God to destroy Ariel Sharon, son of Devorah, son of Eve… Destroy all his supporters, loyal aides and confidants, and all those who love him and whom he loves among the human beings and among devils and demons.”
“It came in a small, cloth-wrapped bundle, surrounded with lead, an interesting choice of metal since the ancient Egyptians also used lead for hostile symbolic and magical purposes, because of its heaviness and malleability. A modern day execration? Did this long-distance attack strike Sharon down? His doctors probably had a more prosaic explanation, like a stroke with massive bleeding in the brain, but it shows you what many still believe. And if you think that’s all a bit vague and low-tech, here’s something for the technocrats:
"Oh God, destroy all their security and policing apparatus, the computers, the electronic and listening equipment…”
There must have been a few technocrats in the room. It got a visible stir.
“The ancient Egyptians, who could engineer stone pyramids to optical precision, millennia before the real flowering of their empire, were not perversely stupid in one department of their lives, nor were they peculiarly occult. They were an intensely practical society. You don’t keep doing something for four thousand years if it doesn’t work. They believed that ritual execration and smiting – creative visualisation with potent maledictions thrown in – worked, and it protected their nation for thousands of years. A better investment perhaps than any Star Wars anti-missile system?” Anson suddenly switched off the PowerPoint...
(Excerpt from The Smiting Texts. Renegade British Egyptologist Anson Hunter is intercepted at a US airport and co-opted to address a Homeland Security Centre, the Centre for the Study of High Consequence Event Preparedness and Response, a consortium studying how the nation can best prepare for and respond to a range of unexpected large-scale incidents or disasters.)