"Cursed by Canaan! [the son of Ham]
the lowest of slaves
will he be to his brothers."
and he went on to add:
"Blessed by the LORD, the God of Shem!
May Canaan be the slave of Shem.
May God extend the territory of Japheth;
may Japheth live in the tents of Shem,
and may Canaan be his slave."
Canaan was the son of Ham, and the descendants of Canaan were said to have settled in Palestine, or the Land of Canaan. Since the Israelites considered themselves descendants of Shem (or "Semites"; that's where that word comes from), this curse could be considered either a prophecy of or a justification for Israel's conquest of the Canannites at the time of Joshua.
But the Curse of Ham has another, more twisted legacy. Since many of Ham's descendants were said to have settled in Africa, it was widely believed that blacks were sons of Ham. In 19th Century America, the Curse of Ham was used by some to justify the practice of slavery.
The Curse of Ham has nothing to do with the Levitical prohibition against the eating of pork.
Game and Story Use
- In a historical campaign set before the American Civil War, players might encounter the argument that the Curse of Ham justified slavery.
- In a fantasy campaign, one race or group of people may be subservient to another because of some ancestor's infraction.
- Or the infraction might be a legend invented to justify the social order.