Anglo-Saxon Charms and Spells - AB-SpecEd2011-2013

Anglo-Saxon Charms and Spells (circa 1000-1100)
Mr. Fahey
Anglo-­‐Saxon charms and spells are categorized as “natural magic” within the late medieval distinction; however, some scholars, noting the blend of Christianity and paganism therein consider these to be reflective of popular Anglo-­‐Saxon religion, and not something outside the realm of orthodoxy for the time. As Benedictine and other reforms take place in England, these practices are increasingly suspicious in the eyes of the church, and after the Norma Conquest are largely outlawed. While most scholars presume that these “charms and spells” are derived from oral, pagan traditions, blending with the newly transplanted Christian faith. Often these chants and rituals contain both Latin (usually church phrases) and Old English, further emphasizing the explosion of multilingual literacy in England during this era. This collection of “spells” prescribe cures for all sorts of maladies, from herbal remedies, some of which medically treat diseases we suffer from still today, to cures for what we might consider foolish or superstitious illness involving elves, dwarves and demons. Here is a list of some charms from the time that are still available to historians. Titles for charms and spells:
For a toothache For diarrhea For corns For black ulcers Against ague For pain in limbs For headache For scabies For infectious disease For swollen eyes For a spider-­‐bite For elf-­‐shot For elf-­‐hiccup For elf-­‐disease For water-­‐elf disease Against a sorceress Against incubi For demonic possession Against the assault of the fiend For theft of cattle For thefts For horse’s sprain d
Se wifman, sE hire cild afEdan ne mag, gange to gewitenes i85b
mannes birgenne, and staeppe Ponne priwa ofer Pd byrgenne,
and cwepe ponne priwa pas word:
pis me t6 b3te pere lapan letbyrde,
sweran swertbyrde,
pis mE t6 bate
JPere1~an lambyrde.
wif sEo mid bearne and heo t0 hyre hl1forde
And Ponne
on reste gd, jonne cweJe heo:
Up ic gonge, ofer Pe steppe
cwican cilde, nales mid cwellendum,
mid fulborenumnalaesmid figan.
And Ponne seo msdor geffle PUetpset beam si cwic, ga ponne
to cyrican, and ponne heo t6foran Pan waofode cume, cwepe
ic sFde, Pis
gecyped. Folk-Lore
of American
SE wifmon, se hyre bearn afedan ne mvege, genime hao sylf
hyre Agenes cildes gebyrgenne del, wry efter Ponne on blace
wulle and bebicge t6 cepemannum, and cwepe ponne:
SIc hit bebicge, ge hit bebicgan,
pas sweartanwulle and pysse sorge corn.
Se wifman, se ne maegebearn
m fdan, nime Ponne anes bleos
cii meoluc on hyre handa, and gesupe ponne mid hyre miipe,
and gange ponne t6 yrnendum waetere and spiwe PJr in Pa
meolc; and hlade ponne mid pJre ylcan hand pjs waeteres
25 mfirffilne and forswelge. Cwepe ponne pas word:
Gehwer ferde ic me Jone ma~ranmaga pihtan
mid pysse maeranmete pihtan;
ponne ic me wille habban and ham gan.
ponne heo tO pan brace ga, jonne ne beseo heo, nOne eft
30 ponne heo panan ga; and ponne g hao in 6per hfs OJerheo fit
ofaode and per gebyrge metes.
Gif hors ofscoten sie, nim Ponne Pjet seax Pe JPet hxefte sie io6a
on. Writ Jonne
fealo hryperes horn, and sien III Prene
Pjm horse on pam heafde foran cristes mel, jPet hit blade; writ
ponne on pam hricge cristes mal, and on leopa gehwilcum pe pfi
5 xetfaolan mxege. Nim ponne JPet winestre Eare, purhsting
E z.
Let the womanwho cannot bring forth her child go to the grave of
a wise man, and step three times over the grave, and then say these
words three times:"This be my curefor the loathsomelate-birth,
This be my curefor the grievousswart-birth,
This be my curefor the loathsomelame-birth."1
And when the womanis withchild and she goes to bed to her husband,
then let her say, "Up I go, overyou I step,
Witha live child not with a dyingone,
With a full-bornchild,not with a deadone."
And when the mother feels that the child is quick, let her then go to
church,and when she comes beforethe altar, let her then say:"By Christ,I said, this [miracle]has beenmanifested."
1 That
The Anglo-Saxon
is, imperfect
Let the woman who cannot bring forth her child, herself take some
[earth]from the graveof one of her own children,wrap it up afterwards
in black wool, sell it to merchants,and then say:-"I sell it or havesold it,
This evil wool and the grainsof this woe."
Let the woman who cannot bring forth her child take, in her palm,
the milk of a cow of one color and sop it up with her mouth, and then
go to runningwater and spit the milk therein;and with the same hand
let her scoop up a mouthfulof the water and swallowit. Let her then
say these words:"AlwayshaveI carriedwith me this greatstronghero,
Throughthis famousfood, a hero.
Then I wish to haveit and go home."
When she goes to the brook, then let her not look around, nor yet
when she goes thence; and let her thereaftergo into a house other than
the one from which she set out, and therelet her take food.
E 2.
If a horse is elf-struck,take a knife of which the handle is horn from
a tawny ox and on which are three brass nails. Then inscribea cross
on the horse'sforeheaduntil it bleed; next marka crosson [the animal's]
back and on each of its limbs that you can hold on to. Then grasp the
left ear, pierce it in silence. This you must do: take a stick, strike [the
horse] on its back, then it will be well. And on the horn of the knife
inscribethese words:-
Zis 6E t6 bate hxegtessangescotes: ic Zin wille helpan.
Floh Pjr on fyrgen, [seo pa fldne sende]!
HEafdehMlwestu! Helpe Zin drihten!
Nim ponne Pjet seax, ad6 on watan.
Man sceal niman VII lytle ofl•ptan,swylce man mid ofraS, I67a
and writtan PJs naman on Aelcreofle-tan: Maximianus, Malchus, Johannes, Martinianus, Dionisius, Constantinus, Serafion. paenne eft JPet galdor Paet her aefter cwe6, man sceal
5 singan, Arest on paetwynstre Eare, JPenneon paetswiVre Eare,
Penne ufan Pees mannes moldan. And ga jPenne an madenman t6, and h6 hit on his swboran and d6 man swa Pry dagas: him bi6 s6na sl.
Her cam in gangan, in spider wiht,
hefde him his haman on handa.
Cwe' p•et Pf, his hxencgestwere.
Legep he his teage an swioran.
Ongunnan him of pjm lande lipan.
Sana swa hy of jPm lande c6man,
Pa ongunnanhim P c6lian.
P• cam ingangan deores sweostar.
Piageaendade heo and dsas sw6r:
%aetn?fre Pis BMmAdleganderian ne m6ste,
ne P?m pe pis galdor begytan mihte,
o"6e Pe pis galdor ongalan ciipe.
Amen, fiat.
Wenne, wenne, wenchichenne,
her ne scealt pii timbrien, ne nenne tfin habben
ac Pjf scealt north eonene t6 Pan nihgan berhge
perpafhauest ermig eannebrjper.
He pe sceal legge l1af et hiafde
Under fat wolues, under ueper earnes,
under earnes clea, d pii geweornie.
Clinge pt alswa col on heorpe.
Scring pJialswa scearn awage,
and weorne alsw~ weter on ambre.
Swa litel jP gewurje alswa linsitcorn,
and miccli lesse alswa anes handwurmeshupeban,
and alswa Iftel jPi gewurpe pet pa ndwiht gewurpe.
A I. - 26. E., R. ic pin helpan ville. - 27. MS., Wr. fled 'f on fyrgen haefdehalwestu;
G., E. Fleo peer on fyrgen, seo pone flan sceat (sende)! K., C. Fled por on fyrgen!
heafde (C. hefde) halwes tu; B. Fleo peer on firgen, seo pa flane sende! 0 heafde hal
vestu! R. Fleo peer on fyrgen . . . haefde hal vestu; S. Fleo on fyrgenheafde; hal
wes-tu ! W. Fleoh peer on fyrgen
K. wetere.
. . . haefde hal westu. -
29. W. erroneously quotes:
This for relief from shot of hags: thee will I help.
Yonder to the mountain flee [hag, who sent the dart]!
Be hale in head! Help thee the Lord!
Then take the knife, plunge it into the liquid.
You must take seven little wafers, such as are used in worship, and
write these names on each wafer: Maximianus, Malchus, Johannes,
Martinianus, Dionisius, Constantinus, Serafion. Then again, you must
sing the charm which is stated below, first into the left ear, then into
the right ear, then over the man'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 a spider wight a-walkingin,
He had his harness in his hand.
Quoth that thou his blood-horsewert.
He puts his traces on thy neck.
They from the strand began to sail.
As soon as from the land they came,
They then began to cool.
The sister of the beast then came a-walkingin.
Then she ceased and swore these oaths:
That this should never scathe the sick,
Nor him who might this charm acquire,
Nor him who could this charm intone.
Amen, fiat."
Wen, wen, little wen,
Here you shall not build, nor any dwelling have,
But forth you must, even to the near-by hill,
Where a poor wretch, a brotheryou have;
He shall lay you a leaf at your head.
Under the wolf's foot, under the eagle's wing,
Under the eagle's claw - ever may you wither!
Shrivel as the coal upon the hearth!
Shrink as the muck in the stream,
And dwindle even as water in a pail!
May you become as little as a linseed grain,
And much smaller, likewise, than a hand-worm'ship-bone!
And even so small may you become, that you become as nought.
A 2. -
C., W. weorh. -
6. MS., W. hufan. -
12. MS., C., W. lege pe his teagean. -
MS. 6ah interlined after him; W. pa [6ah] colian; Sch. Pa ongann an him p. hap acolian.
17. W. joins pa g. heo to line 16, and and a. swor to line 18. -
A 3- -
3. Bi. uorth. Bi. eouene. -
awage. -
io. Bi., Z2. anbre. -
21. MS., C. fia6.
6. MS., Z2. uolmes; Bi. uoluues. - 9. MS., Bi. scesne
13. Bi. wet for pet.