It is an example of the idea that evil objects are sacred, that they are charged with divine power, and that they therefore belong to God. In English law prior to 1846, any moveable material object — more specifically, and piece of personal chattel property – that directly caused the death of an adult human being became Deodand and, as an accursed thing, was held to be forfeit to God (whose earthly representative in such cases was the royal sovereign).



The abolition of the law of Deodand was a relatively minor, but essential, part of a much more sweeping transformation … that established legal structures better suited to capitalist enterprise and liberal society.

William Pietz (1997): ”Death of the Deodand: Accursed Objects and the Money Value of Human Life”, RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics, No. 31, The Abject (Spring, 1997), pp. 97-108