How the blog works

The poems on this blog are mostly written on the basis of my historical reading and are intended to be both educational and entertaining.
Recently I have also begun posting some of my work with Anglo-Saxon charms. This work is somewhat speculative and is conducted as an amateur researcher and keen Pagan historian.

Please feel free to use anything on this site as a resource if you think that it may be relevant to your needs.

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Plough Monday

Up until the middle of the 19th century it was common on Plough Monday, for the plough men to lead a procession through the streets and lanes, going from village to hamlet and farm to farm, collecting money and whatever else folk might give them.
The plough men roped themselves to the plough and dragged it about dressed in their clean smock-frocks worm over their jackets with ribbons on shoulders and hats.
The plough was decked with ribbons and other decorations, known as the Fools Plough.
Lead by a man dressed as an old woman known as Bessy who would rattle a money box. Small clusters of corn would be worn in her hat, but were quickly lost in lumberous dancing. Bessy was accompanied by a fool dressed in fantastic attire.
The women (Mollies) would ensure that their men (Johns) were well turned out and would shout after them: 'Larks John, thou does look smart surely'.
Threshers, reapers and carters would join in with their respective implements, even the smith and miller might attend, perhaps accompanied by Morris men.
The money collected was spent in a public house at the end of the day.

Plough Monday - early 19th century

The plough procession, came winding along,
The quiet long rutted lanes.
Pulling the plough, from village to hamlet,
With plough hands at the reins.

Old woman 'Bessy', is leading the pack,
Hoping a cheerful glass.
And John the fool in, fantastic attire,
Seeking a little brass.

Twenty 'sons of the soil', in clean smock-frocks,
To the plough they are tied.
The 'old woman' prances a fetter dance,
'God speed the plough' she cried.

Threshers with their flails, reapers with sickles,
Carters cracking their whips.
Then smith and miller, join in the Morris,
With Bessy a dance trips.

A long bullocks tail, under jaunty gown,
Held in hand while dancing.
Small clusters of corn, in her finest hat,
Lost in graceless prancing.

Flowing ribbons pinned, on shoulders and hat,
Molly waves to her John.
'Larks John, thou does look smart surely' says she,
Drink your load down, go on!

Finally arrive, at the far farm house,
Molly's money box now filled.
After eating cheese, and hot spiced farm ale,
T'pub go the merry guild.

Copyright Andrew Rea Candelmas 2019

Monday, 7 January 2019

Twelfth Tide and Wassail the Apple Tree

Twelfth Tide Poem and Wassail the Apple Tree poem as recently performed ('in the round'). at Spoken Word London

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Portal Active on Utube

A recent rendition of Portal Active

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Dweorgh II (Against a Dwarf II) from the Lacnunga manuscript.

Introduction to 'Charming a Dwarf'

This poem is based on With Dweorgh II (Against a Dwarf II) from the Lacnunga manuscript.
With Dweorgh II is a charm seemingly to banish a dwarf. Scholars differ both in the translation of this text and its interpretation. The first part describes writing the names of seven saints on wafers, these to be taken to the afflicted, each day of three by a virgin and hung around their neck. This part of the charm is distinctly Christian and has clearly been added or changed over the course of time. It is significant that the names are those of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus who awoke from a long sleep into which they had gone to escape persecution.
The second part of the charm is a spoken text that the leech (healer) is to sing three times into each ear and three times above the head. The text refers to a spider wight (supernatural spider creature), there is reference to the afflicted being ridden like a horse. The mara/mare may be used as a scan for incubus/succubus and rides its victim like a horse, hence nightmare. As wights such as elves can cause nightmares, then it seems dwarves can too. Compare High German alpdruck (elf pressure) meaning nightmare. The charm may serve as a kind of dream-therapy to protect against nightmares and/or sleep Paralysis.
Reference to a cooling affect may be alluding to reducing a fever (in other texts we see the use of a herb known as dweorge dwosle (destroyer of dwarves, believed to be pennyroyal) used to treat symptoms of fever. Note also that there is a medieval Italian manuscript which refers to 'riving as if vexed by a dwarf'.
The calling of Eastre, the Goddess of the Dawn is based on an alternative possible translation of an incomplete word in the charm which otherwise reads as dwarf.
Finally the beasts sister comes to the aid and brings things to an end and swears that this shall never again harm the sick or the anyone that knows how to cast the charm.

The charm in Anglo-Saxon:
Wið dweorh man sceal niman VII lytle oflætan swylce man mid ofrað, et wri[t]an þas naman on ælcre oflætan: Maximian(us), Malchus, Iohannes, Martimianus, Dionisius, Constantinus, Serafion. Þænne eft þ(æt) galdor, þ(æt) heræfter cweð man sceal singan, ærest on þ(æt) wynstre eare, þænne on þæt swiðre eare, þænne [b]ufan þæs mannes moldan. Et ga þænne an mædenman to et ho hit on his sweoran, et do man swa þry dagas; him bið sona sel.

Hēr cōm ingangan, inspidenwiht. Hæfde hi(m) his haman on handa,
Leg[d]e þē his tēage an swēoran. Sōna swā hy of þǣm lande cōman
cwæð þ(æt) þū his hæncgest wǣre, Ongunnan hi(m) of þǣm lande līþan.
þā ongunnan hi(m) ðā liþu cōlian. Þa cō(m) ingangan dēores sweostar.
Þa g(e)ændade hēo, et āðas swōr
ðæt nǣfre þis ðǣ(m) ādlegan derian ne mōste,
ne þǣm þe þis galdor begytan mihte, oððe þe þis galdor ongalan cūþe.
Am(en). Fiað.”

Against a dwarf, one must take seven little wafers such as one might offer, and write these names on each wafer: Maximianus, Malchus, Iohannes, Martimianus, Dionisius, Constantinus, Serafion. Then the galdor that is hereafter spoken of one must sing, first in the left ear, then in the right ear, then above the persons head. And then let a virgin go to him and hang it on his neck, and do this for three days; he will soon be well.

Here came walking in a spider-creature.
With his coat in his hand, saying you were his horse;
He laid his fetters on your neck. He started sailing from the land;
As soon as he came away from land, his limbs started cooling.
Then the beast‟s sister came walking in.
Then she ended it and swore oaths. That this must never hurt the sick,
Nor he who could obtain this charm, Nor he who could chant this charm.
Amen. Let it be so.”

For further reading:
A good set of notes on the subject:

A thesis on the possible link with sleep paralysis:

My reworking of the charm :

Charming a Dwarf

Here cometh hither, a creature stalked past,
Had his bridle held tight.
He said that thee beest his mare to ride,
Until dark day be light.

Last night he awoke, but limbs would not move,
Dwarf sat on chest to scare.
Paralysed and bound, like a spider's pray,
Was ridden like a mare.

With quill in thine hand, and magic to charm,
Runes on wafers to write.
I call on thee Eástre, Goddess of Dawn,
Banish dwarves of dark night.

Help this weapon man, so vexed with terror,
This nightmare dwarf to fight.
He will no mare be, to take for a ride,
Put this dark dwarf to flight.

Leech came and he sung, spider spell nine times,
Thrice sung into left ear.
Then thrice to the right, and thrice above head,
To cast out dwarfish fear.

Virgin brings to hut, seven small wafers,
His neck to hang around.
She will come three days, with thin wafers new,
Until the spell is bound.

Spider sworeth oaths, and maketh an end,
This dwarf shalt never more harm.
Never let this creature, hurt this weapon man,
Nor those with skill to charm.

So mote it be
Copyright Andrew Rea midsummer 2013

Sunday, 29 July 2018

A Dedication to Woden

I fortify myself in this rune staff,
And givest myself into Woden's arms,
Against the sore sigh, against the sore blow,
And against the loathly mischief which harms:
Against grim horror and mickle terror,
Siege staff I bear thee,
I chant triumphant charms,
Let I no night mare see.
Victory words I chant,
Nor my belly shrink me,
But may Drychten triumph,
And against fear be free.

Great Woden that into all glory delves,
Valhalla's creator and eke, Frigg,
Nine thousand of the faithful bright elves,
I call out to guard me against all fiends.
May they defend and bear me up themselves,
Preserve me in peace and protect my life,
Hand over head, the hall of Valhalla,
Mayest there be a hope of glory writhe,
Of the glorious and the triumphant,
Of the truthful wights.

With all blithe mood I pray now, that for me,
Placing my hand over my head to hail,
Wayland my rune sword, with sharp and sheer edge,
Dragon my helmet, boar my coat of mail,
Linden my safe shield, my embellished vail.

Ye Seraphim, guardians of the ways!
Forth I shall depart, kith and kin to greet,
For all of the glory of the ese,
Through the lore of our Drychten I shall meet.

Now pray I for the mercy of the gods,
A good departure through the secrete door,
The winds I know, the encircling water,
For a good, light zephyr upon this shore,
Ever preserved against all enemies.

When I'm in Valhalla, friends I shall meet,
Shielded gainst the loathsome,
In his peace, in his seat,
From those who may hurt me,
In glory of the ese's I shall greet,
In the hand of Wodan of Valhalla,
while I may live in Middengard.
While I have wheat in Middangard to eat.
Soslice So mote it be.

Copyright Andrew Rea July 2018

This is an attempt to add a Pagan feel to this lessor known Anglo- Saxon charm. I mostly just substituted a few words and added a little rhyme and rhythm. Based on: LEECHDOMS, WORTCUNNING AND STARCRAFT OF EARLY ENGLAND Vol I, 'Fly leaf Leechdoms, a charm or prayer', P389:

A charm or prayer
I fortify myself in this rod and deliver myself into
Gods allegiance, against the sore sigh, against the
sore blow, against the grim horror, against the mickle
terror, which is to everyone loathly, and against all the
loathly mischief which into the land may come: a
triumphant charm I chant, a triumphant rod I bear,
word victory and work victory : let this avail me,
let no night mare mar me, nor my belly swink me,
nor fear come on me ever for my life: but may the
Almighty heal me and his Son and the Paraclete Spirit,
Lord worthy of all glory, as I have heard, heavens
creator. Abraham and Isaac and such men, Moses and
Jacob, and David, and Joseph, and Eve, and Hannah
and Elizabeth, Sarah and eke Mary, mother of Christ,
and also a thousand of the angels I call to be a guard
to me against all fiends. May they bear me up and
keep me in peace and protect my life, uphold me
altogether, ruling my conduct; may there be to me
a hope of glory, hand over head, the hall of the
hallows, the regions of the glorious and triumphant, of
the truthful angels. With all blithe mood I pray, that
for me, hand over head, Matthew be helmet, Mark
brynie (coat of mail), a light lifes bulwark, Luke my sword, sharp
and sheeredged, John my shield, embellished with glory.
Ye Seraphim, guardians of the ways ! Forth I shall
depart, friends I shall meet, all the glory of angels,
through the lore of the blessed one. Now pray I to
the victor for Gods mercy, for a good departure, for
a good, mild, and light wind upon those shores ; the
winds I know, the encircling water, ever preserved
against all enemies. Friends I shall meet, that I
may dwell on the Almightys, yea, in his peace,
protected against the loathsome one, who hunts me
for my life, established in the glory of angels, and in
the holy hand of the mighty one of heaven, while I
may live upon earth. Amen.

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Hendon Heathens


We have a lot of fun at our summer camps!

Hendon Heathens

Since Phil's mead still brings, out the noble beast,
We still have our seats, at the drinking feast.
And time to wassail, wilt never have ceased,
Under Yggdrasil tree.

Blessing bread and mead, hammer bearing priest,
To noble Wotan, in the heathen east.
Offer it around, prelude to the feast,
And let's all be carefree.

Horns to the ready, and pass the best brew,
Lift up thy long horns, to good friends and true.
Let's swear allegiance, to us Heathen few,
All merry let us be.

To that magical wife, in secret wood glade,
A small oak stands where, libations are made.
Growing where Donna's, ashes were last laid,
We still wassail to thee.

To old Heathen gods, every one drink hale,
Drink it like a Dane, and tell a tall tale.
Let's all see who can, drink the most real ale,
And merry let us be.

Bring us more good ale, we'll raise our great horn,
Up with pointy end, drink to Barleycorn.
There's a lot to drink, before break of dawn,
So we down it with glee.

A few stalwarts drank, long into the night,
A long drinking rite, to the local Wight.
The sound of singing, until the first light,
With Phil's mead from the bee.

To lady bed straw, late for second sleep,
Back to the cold tent, the stall worts now creep.
Collapse in a heap, into the sleep deep,
Wake up in time for tea.

Copyright Andrew Rea May 2018

Saturday, 26 May 2018



He durst stay inside, on such a grey night,
When powers of darkness, are at their height.
Durst that he spy, the shady Black Shuck,
He durst not venture, to his nasty nook.

Though he be stout hearted, and strong of hand,
On this spirit night, best stay off the land.
For this night witches, and fairies abound,
Dark elves and goblins, are roaming around.

Least dark eyed puckers, may lead thee astray,
Avoid grassy rings, on the first of May.
Just witches questing, for herbs of the hour,
Can bear such things, with their strange power.

Worts have magic strength, on the eve of May,
Without use of iron, gather before day.
Carefully they lift, before first cock crow,
Growing in those groves, that only they know.

Collected at that, early morn twilight,
Blessed with magic signs, and spell casting rite.
On Walpurgis laden, with glistening dew,
Then taken to old hut, and made into brew.

Oh strong oak full oft, hast thou born witness,
To lusty maids in, their summery dress.
But witches in the, late nights early dark,
Wilt oft beat those that, get up with the lark.

Copyright Andrew Rea 6th May 2018

Walpurgisnacht is the eve of May Day, a time when the veils between the world of man and fairy grow thin. To the Anglo-Saxons this was a powerful spirit night, a good time to gather herbs (worts) for magic or healing.
Anglo-Saxon documents advise the lifting of herbs by the whole root ball to contain their energy. The best magical time to gather herbs was at a liminal moment, such as twilight. We have reference to the making the sign of the cross and singing of nine prayers or galdors (spells or charms that were sung) prior to lifting the herbs.
Gathering herbs without the use of iron is taken from page 5, paragraph 47, item 4 of the Lacnunga manuscript as referenced in Starcrafts and Leechdoms of Anglo-Saxon England.
Puckers (pookers) are supernatural giant animals that lead folk astray. Black Shuck refers to a legendary demon dog said to roam East Anglia.