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, 28 July 2013

A recreated Heathern charm based on a late Saxon charm

As the basis of the reconstruction I used 'An exorcism of fever' from Leech Book I, LXII.3.
I added in a popular method of blessing the herbs at the point of picking and also again under an altar. All references to the new religion were replaced with equivalent non Christian texts from other Saxon documents. Where none could be found a simple appropriate text was made up or borrowed from none medical sources, eg when singing to the herbs under the altar the Lords Prayer was replaced with an abridged Anglo-Saxon version of the same prayer but using the word 'Wodan' in place of god.
All references also include reference to the 1865 publication by parliament of a collected corpus of Anglo-Saxon medical documents (for a free download of these refer to links on this blog).
The final galdor that is sung at the end: 'May this leaf cause to cure......' I was unable to find a translation. I managed with the help of a friend and various online resources to produce the translation of the text that you see.

The healing herbs used were taken from various Anglo-Saxon healing texts and leaned towards that which we could find growing locally during a rather cold spring.

An exorcism of fever (heathen recreation)
Before picking a wort say:
"I pray thee, insert name, thee that art to be had for thy
many useful qualities, that thou cometh to me glad,
blossoming with thy usefulness; that thou outfit
me so that I be shielded, and ever well, and
undamaged by poisons and by wrath
(HERBARIVM, CLXXIX (Periwinkle); 1865 doc, P313)

To make herbal ink:
Place worts under the hearg (altar) and sing nine times:
(Leech book II LXV 4, 1865 doc P295 = 3masses x 3 days
Leech book II Against elf disease P62, 1865 doc P305
Leech book II XLI, 1865 doc P335 = 9 masses
Leech book II LXI, 1865 doc P345 = 9 masses
Leech book II LXII, 1865 doc P345 = 9 masses)

Galdor (spell/charm) to be sung, based on Anglo-Saxon Lord's Prayer:

'Wodan ure þu þe eart on heofonum;
Si þin nama gehalgod
gewurþe ðin willa
urne gedæghwamlican hlaf syle us todæg
and gelæd þu us. soþlice'

Then grind with some holy water and strain through a clean cloth.

Galdorcraftica (spellcrafter) brings sacred spring water, and herbal ink, writes charm with a wand:
'Wodan make this wifeman/weaponman well', on a plate and washes it off with the water into a bowl or cup, then sings a charm three times over it:
'I taketh thee worts, that thou beest a comfort to this wifeman/weaponman so mote it be'
Galdorcraftica takes three sips, passes to patient, they take three sips, he then sings a galdor. (Leech Book I, LXII.3 (An exorcism of fever); 1865 doc, P137)

The Galdor:
May this leaf cause to cure all who are,
In cities, towns, fields, houses, in villages and forts or wandering,
Cast out all diseases of the body and be healed.

The three worts:
Fennel or Pennyroyal
Feverfew or camomile

Translation of the prayer:
Wodan our thou that art in heavens
be thy name hallowed
be done thy will
our daily bread give us today
and lead thou us. truly

Basis of the exorcism:
Leech Book I, LXII.3 (An exorcism of fever) P137 in 1865 doc
A man shall write this upon the sacramental.
paten, and wash it off into the drink with holy water,
and sing over it ... . In the beginning, etc. (John i.1) 
Then wash the writing with holy water off the
dish into the drink, then sing the Credo, and the
Paternoster, and this lay, Beati immaculati, the psalm; (Psalm, cxix.)
with the twelve prayer psalms, I adjure you, etc. And
let each of the two men (the leech and the sick) then sip thrice of the water
so prepared.
Inde salutiferis incedens gressibus urbes,
Oppida, rura, casas, vicos, castella peragrans
Omnia depulsis sanabat corpora morbis.

(May) this leaf cause (to cure) (all who are)
In cities, towns, fields, houses, in villages and forts or wandering
Cast out all diseases of the body and be healed.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Here be Elves

Here we look at some of the places named after elves.
We start with Alphington (swallowed up by Exeter) Devon, it has a 17C rectory, was recorded in the Domesday Book and retains a12C font. The Saxons settled on Alphin Brook at a crossing point.

From 1100 it was ruled by a series of lords, the last lord, Henry Courtenay, was greedy and cared not for the people, he built a weir on the river which stopped fish and outlawed the taking of sand. Henry executed him for treason in 1538. In 1550 the weir was removed, but too late as the river had silted up (the elves were not pleased with him)!

In 1563 a metre deep canal was built as a bypass but it too silted up.
Charles Babbage (1791–1871), "father of computing" was educated in Alphington.
Charles Dickens's parents (1839) moved to Alphington.

There is, as often, some scholarly debate as to whether these places are actually named after elves or after people that mealy have elven names, eg Alvingham could, elf friendly farming settlement or the Homestead of the tribe of Ælf  where‘Ælf’ is a person’s name. It all become very pedantic for a thesis on this aspect see: ‘The Meanings of Elf and Elves in Medieval England’ by Alaric Timothy Peter Hall, Department of English Language, University of Glasgow, October, 2004.

Here be elves

Elfin villages, did elves once live there?
Tall slender people, long flowing blond hair.
But where art they now, those fabulous Wights,
Disappeared vanished, into darkest nights.

Alvingham village, of elves Lincolnshire,
Two churches built in, one yard out of fear?
Gilbertine Priory, Black Death monks did kill,
But elves still protect, oldest watermill.

Within Doomsday Book, Alveston is found,
An elfin village, with old Roman mound.
Elfin enclosure, in South Gloucestershire,
Saxon church ruined, did elves interfere?

Elf friend Alvington, a Gloustershire town,
Thousand year manor, has been taken down.
Smithas’ iron ingots, for bright elfin spear,
Light elves still protect, there’s nothing to fear.

Alvington Devon, an elf friendly town,
Saxon hill village, on garlic wood down.
Still Danes and Vikings, did not stay away,
Blue bells and wood elves, in shadows do play.

Alphington Devon, on old elfin brook,
Had it a priory, till dark elves they took.
Its sacred river, abused and destroyed,
Its lord beheaded, dark elves were annoyed.

Ilfracombe Devon, with Iron age hill fort,
Old working beacon, light for elfin port.
Elf wisdom valley, light elves tend the flame,
Many fires in town, art dark elves to blame?

Light Elves of our land, field water and wood,
Since late Saxon times, art misunderstood.
Yon devil did come, and make evil thee,
Thee were demonised, with sacred oak tree.

Copyright Andrew Rea Spring 2012

Friday, 12 July 2013

Introduction to 'Charming a Dwarf'

(For the poem see last post)

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 person's 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:

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Charming a Dwarf

This poem is based on With Dweorgh II (Against a Dwarf II) from the Lacnunga manuscript.
Full Introduction to follow next week.

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