ἀνάθεμα originally 'an offering' often to the Lord which came to flip its meaning to indicate that which is evil, accursed and to be shunned - something (doctrine) or somebody (sinner) against which The Lord has emphatically turned his face. I was down with Pat the Salt on my regular Sunday gig recently and he remarked that one of his collateral relatives, also ancient, was down to his last penny. This chap had, apparently, battened on to his mother's purse while young and lived the life of Reilly while leaving nothing at all for the other members of his family, including the mother. Pat said that he had cursed this chap "by bell, book and candle" over many years and was delighted to see this work finally coming to bear fruit.
Table of Kindred and Affinity, which began "A man may not marry his Mother, Daughter, Father's Mother . . . " followed by a long list of female relatives. Back in the enlightened days of 1662, it was okay for a chap to marry his brother, it seems.
Another rich seam of interest was the Service of Commination, regularly scheduled for Ash Wednesday but allowable at other times as directed by the local bishop. Commination is a word rarely used today but it is basically bringing down anathema on certain categories of sinner. Basically cursing them out; which was, for cruel young bravos, a welcome change from goody-two-shoes Christianity . I can do no better than give you the list of categorised black-hats:
CURSED is the man that maketh any carved or molten image, to worship it.
And the people shall answer and say: Amen.
Minister: Cursed is he that curseth his father or mother.
Minister: Cursed is he that removeth his neighbour's land-mark.
Minister: Cursed is he that maketh the blind to go out of his way.
Minister: Cursed is he that perverteth the judgement of the stranger, the fatherless, and widow.
Minister: Cursed is he that smiteth his neighbour secretly.
Minister: Cursed is he that lieth with his neighbour's wife.
Minister: Cursed is he that taketh reward to slay the innocent.
Minister: Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, and taketh man for his defence, and in his heart goeth from the Lord.
Minister: Cursed are the unmerciful, fornicators, and adulterers, covetous persons, idolaters, slanderers, drunkards, and extortioners.
Quite so! Especially the miserable baastid who removed my land-mark.
Later on the Commination Service, having fingered everyone who has done wrong, the congregation is invited to consider their own position. "Wash me thoroughly from my wickedness . . . But lo, thou requirest truth in the inward parts . . . Thou shalt purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean" Purgative? we don't use them so much nowadays; it is "an agent that produces a vigorous emptying of the bowels, more drastic than a laxative or aperient". The natural consequence of this supernatural shit-storm will require "thou shalt wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow". Thus the Service of Commination is a useful, if metaphorical, cross between a launderette and a car-wash.
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