Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Elf Charms in Context

In tenth- and eleventh-century England, 

Anglo-Saxon Christians retained an old folk belief in elves 

as extremely dangerous creatures capable of harming unwary humans. 

To ward off the afflictions caused by these invisible beings, 

Christian priests modified traditional elf charms by adding liturgical chants to herbal remedies. 

Religion in Late Saxon England: Elf Charms in Context (1996).

Lay of the Nine Herbs and Lay of the Nine Twigs of Woden

Be mindful, Mugwort,  what you revealed,
What you established  at the great proclamation
Una you are called,  oldest of herbs,
you are strong against three  and against thirty,
you are strong against poison  and against onfliers [flying venoms]
you are strong against the foe  who goes through the land.
And you, Waybroad [Plantain], mother of herbs,
open from the east,  mighty within.
Over you chariots creaked,  over you queens rode,
over you brides cried out,  over you bulls snorted.
All this you withstood,  and confounded.
So you withstand  poison and flying venom,
and the foe  who goes through the land.
Stune this herb is called,  she grew on a stone,
she stands against poison,  she attacks pain.
Stithe [hard] she is called,  she confounds poison,
she drives out evils,  she casts out poison.
This is the herb  that fought against the worm,
this is strong against poison,  she is strong against flying venoms,
she is strong against the foe  who goes through the land.
 Rout you now, Attorlathe [Venomloather],  the less the more,
the more the less  until there be a remedy for him against both.
Remember you, Maythe [Camomile],  what you revealed,
what you accomplished  at Alorford,
that never for flying venom  did he yield life
since for him a man prepared  Maythe for food.
This is the herb  that is called Wergule.
This a seal sent  over the sea ridges,
as a remedy  against the harm of another poison.
[Two herbs, chervil and fennel, are missing]
[Lay of the Nine Twigs of Woden]

These nine go  against nine poisons.
A worm came crawling,  he wounded nothing.
Then Woden took  nine glory-twigs [wuldor tanas]
smote then the adder  that it flew apart into nine (parts).
There apple and poison  brought it about
that she never would  dwell in the house.
Chervil and Fennel,  very mighty two,
these herbs he created,  the wise Lord
holy in heaven  when He hung;
He established and sent them  into the seven worlds,
to the poor and the rich,  for all a remedy.
She stands against pain,  she assaults poison,
who has power against three  and against thirty,
against enemy's hand  and against great terror
against the bewitching  of little/vile wights.
Now these nine herbs have power  against nine evil spirits 
[wuldorgeflogenum, "fugitives from glory"],
against nine poisons  and against nine flying venoms:
Against the red poison,  against the foul poison,
against the white poison,  against the purple poison,
against the yellow poison,  against the green poison,
against the dark poison,  against the blue poison,
against the brown poison,  against the crimson poison.
 Against worm-blister,  against water-blister,
against thorn-blister,  against thistle-blister,
against ice-blister,  against poison-blister.
If any poison  flying from the east,
or any from the north  . . . come
or any from the west  over humanity.
Christ stood over the old ones,  the malignant ones [?].
I alone know  running streams
and the nine adders  now they behold [?].
All weeds must now  give way to herbs
the seas slip apart,  all salt water,
when I this poison  blow from you.

[The Preparation]

Mugwort, waybroad open from the east, lamb's cress, attorlathe, maythe, nettle, crab-apple, chervil and fennel, old soap; work the herbs into dust, mix them with the soap and the apple juice. Work then a paste of water and of ashes; take fennel, boil it in the paste and beat with the [herbal] mixture when he applies the salve both before and after.
Sing the charm [galdor] on each of the herbs three times before he prepares them, and on the apple likewise. And let someone sing into the mouth of the man and into both his ears, and on the wound, that same charm [gealdor] before he applies the salve.

Lacnunga XXIX 

This is the holy drink against elf-influence [aelfsidene] and against all the fiend's temptings.
Write on a housel dish:

"In principio erat uerbum" usque "non comprehenderunt" et plura:
"et circumibat Jesus totam Galileam docens" usque "et secuti sunt eum turbae multae."
 "Deus in nomine tuo" usque in finem. "Deus misereatur nobis" usque in finem.
"Domine deus in adiutorium" usque in finem.

["In the beginning was the word" up to "they did not comprehend" and again:
"Jesus went round all Galilee teaching" up to "and a great crowd followed after him."
"God in your name" up to the end. "God have mercy on us" up to the end.
"Lord God to our aid" up to the end.]

Take cristalan and tansy and zedoary and hassock and fennel,
and take a sester [pitcher?] full of sanctified wine.

And order an immaculate [unmaelne, "spotless"] person to fetch
silently against the stream half a sester of running water.

Take then and lay all the herbs in the water,
and therein wash the writing from the housel dish very cleanly.
Pour then the hallowed wine over the other.

Bear it then to church; have Masses sung over [it],
one Omnibus, another Contra tribulationem, a third Sanctam marian.

Sing these supplicatory psalms:
Miserere mei Deus, Deus in nomine tuo, Deus misereatur nobis,
Domine deus, Inclina domine. And the Creed, and Gloria in excelsis deo,
and the litanies, Pater noster.

And bless earnestly in the Almighty Lord's name, and say
In nomine patris et filii et spiritus sancti sit benedictum.
[In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, be it blessed].

Use it then.

Field Remedy

Here is the remedy, how you may better your land, if it will not grow well or if some harmful thing has been done to it by a sorcerer [dry] or by a poisoner [lyblace].

Take then at night, before dawn, four sods from four sides of the land, and mark where they were before.

Then take oil and honey and yeast, and milk of each animal that is on the land, and a piece of each type of tree that grows on the land, except hard beams, and a piece of each herb known by name, except burdock [glappan] only, and put then holy water thereon, and drip it three times on the base of the sods, and say then these words:

Crescite, grow, et multiplicamini, and multiply, et replete, and fill, terre, the earth. In nomine patris et filii et spiritus sancti sit benedicti. [In the name of the father and the son and the holy spirit be blessed.] And the Pater noster [Our Father] as often as the other.

And then bear the sods into church, and let a masspriest sing four masses over the sods, and let someone turn the green [sides] to the altar, and after that let someone bring the sods to where they were before, before the sun sets.

And have made for them four signs of Christ [crosses] of quickbeam and write on each end: Matthew and Mark, Luke, and John. Lay that sign of Christ in the bottom of the pit [where each sod had been cut out], saying then: crux Matheus, crux Marcus, crux Lucas, crux sanctus Iohannes.

Take then the sods and set them down there on [the crosses], and say then nine times these words, Crescite [grow], and as often the Pater noster, and turn then to the east, and bow nine times humbly, and speak then these words:

Eastwards I stand,  for mercies I pray,
I pray the great domine [lord], I pray the powerful lord,
I pray the holy guardian of heaven-kingdom,
earth I pray and sky
and the true  sancta [holy] Mary
and heaven's might  and high hall,
that I may this charm [galdor] by the gift of the lord
open with [my] teeth  through firm thought,
to call forth these plants  for our worldly use,
to fill this land  with firm belief,
to beautify this grassy turf,  as the wiseman said
that he would have riches on earth who alms
gave with justice  by the grace of the lord.
Then turn thrice with the sun's course, stretch then out lengthwise and enumerate there the litanies and say then: Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus to the end. Sing then Benedicite with outstretched arms and Magnificat and Pater noster thrice, and commend it [the land] to Christ and saint Mary and the holy cross for praise and for worship and for the benefit of the one who owns that land and all those who are serving under him.4 When all that is done, then let a man take unknown seed from beggars and give them twice as much as he took from them, and let him gather all his plough tools together; then let him bore a hole in the beam [of the plough, putting in] incense and fennel and hallowed soap and hallowed salt. Take then that seed, set it on the plough's body, say then:

Erce, Erce, Erce,  earth's mother,
May the all-ruler grant you, the eternal lord,
fields growing  and flourishing,
propagating  and strengthening,
tall shafts,  bright crops,
and broad  barley crops,
and white  wheat crops,
and all  earth's crops.
May the eternal lord  grant him,
and his holy ones,  who are in heaven,
that his produce be guarded  against any enemies whatsoever,
and that it be safe  against any harm at all,
from poisons [lyblaca]  sown around the land.
Now I bid the Master,  who shaped this world,
that there be no speaking-woman [cwidol wif]  nor artful man 
[craeftig man]
that can overturn  these words thus spoken.
Then let a man drive forth the plough and the first furrow cuts, say then:

Whole may you be [Be well] earth,  mother of men!
May you be growing  in God's embrace,
with food filled  for the needs of men.
Take then each kind of flour and have someone bake a loaf [the size of] a hand's palm and knead it with milk and with holy water and lay it under the first furrow. Say then:

Field full of food  for mankind,
bright-blooming,  you are blessed
in the holy name  of the one who shaped heaven
and the earth  on which we live;
the God, the one who made the ground,  grant us the gift of growing,
that for us each grain  might come to use.
Say then thrice Crescite in nomine patris, sit benedicti [Grow in the name of the father, be blessed]. Amen and Pater noster three times.

Elf charm protection lore:

Against elf disease [aelfadle]
Take bishopwort, fennel, lupin, the lower part of aelfthone,
and lichen from the holy sign of Christ [cross], and incense; a handful of each.
Bind all the herbs in a cloth, dip in sanctified font water thrice.
Let three masses be sung over it, one "Omnibus sanctis," a second "Contra tribulationem,"
a third "Pro infirmis." Put then coals in a coal pan, and lay the herbs on it.
Smoke the man with the herbs before undern [9 a.m.] and at night;
and sing a litany, the Creed, and the Pater noster; and write on him Christ's mark on each limb.
And take a little handful of the same kind of herbs, similarly sanctified,
and boil in milk; drip holy water in it thrice.
And let him sip it before his meal. It will soon be well with him.

For the same [aelfadle]. 
Go on Thursday evening when the sun is setting to where you know helenium [elenan] stands.
Sing then the Benedicite, the Pater noster, and a litany.
And stick your knife into the plant; leave it sticking therein and go away.
Go again, when day and night first divide [dawn];
at that same dawn, go first to church, and cross yourself and offer yourself to God.
Go then silently; and though you meet on the way some fearful thing coming or a man,
you should not speak to him any word, until you come to the plant that you marked on the evening before. Sing then the Benedicite, and the Pater noster and a litany.
Dig up the plant; leave the knife sticking in it.
Go again as quick as you can to church, and lay it under the altar with the knife.
Let it lie until the sun is up.
Wash it then; make it into a drink: with bishopwort and lichen from Christ's sign,
boil thrice in [different kinds of] milk; and pour holy water thrice on it.
And sing on it the Pater noster, and the Creed and the Gloria in excelsis deo; and sing on it a litany.
And also write a cross around it with a sword on [each of] four halves.
And then let [the patient] drink the drink. It will soon be well with him.

Again for that. Lay under the altar these herbs, let nine masses be sung over them:
incense, holy salt, three heads of cropleek, aelfthone's lower part, and helenium.
Take in the morning a cup full of milk; drip thrice some holy water in it.
Let him sip it as hot as he can. Eat with it three bits of aelfthone.
When he wants to rest, have coals there inside.
Lay incense and aelfthone on the coals, and smoke him with that until he sweats;
and smoke the house throughout; and eagerly sign the man.
And when he goes to rest, let him eat three bits of helenium, and three of cropleek, and three of salt.
And let him have a cup full of ale and drip thrice holy water in it.
Let him eat each bit; then let him rest.
Do this for nine mornings and nine nights.
It will soon be well with him.

If he has elf-heartburn [aelfsogotha, lit., "elf-juices"], 
his eyes are yellow where they should be red.
If you want to cure this person, consider his bearing, and know of which sex he is.
If it is a male [waepned man], and he looks up when you first see him,
and his appearance is yellow black, then that man you may cure completely,
 if he has not been therein too long.
If it is a woman [wif] and she looks down when you first see her,
and her appearance is dark red, this you might also cure.
If it is on him a day's space longer than twelve months, and his visage be such,
then you might better him for awhile, but may not however completely cure him.

If a man is in the water elf disease [waeter aelfadle]
then the nails of his hand are dark and the eyes teary, and he will look down.
Give him this as medicine [laecedome]:
everthroat, hassock, the lower part of fane, yewberry, lupin, helenium,
marshmallow head, fen mint, dill, lily, attorlathe, pulegium, marrubium,
dock, elder, fel terre, wormwood, strawberry leaves, consolde.
Soak with ale; add holy water to it. Sing this gealdor over it thrice:

I have bound on the wounds the best of war bandages,
so the wounds neither burn nor burst, nor go further, nor spread, nor jump,
nor the wounds increase [waco sian?], nor sores deepen.
But may he himself keep in a healthy way [halewaege?].
May it not ache you more than it aches earth in ear [eare?].

Sing this many times,
"May earth bear on you with all her might and main."
These galdor a man may sing over a wound.

A drink against the Devil's temptations: 
the fanthorn, cropleek, lupin, ontre, bishopwort, fennel, hassock, betony.
Sanctify these herbs; put into ale holy water.
And let the drink be there in where the sick man is.
And continually before he drinks sing thrice over the drink,
"Deus! In nomine tuo saluum me fac."
[God, in your name make me whole (save me).]

The above Anglo-Saxon "charms" were translated by Karen Louise Jolly in her book, Popular Religion in Late Saxon England: Elf Charms in Context (1996).

Hope you enjoyed that interesting piece of lore :0)
Thank you for visiting,

love, peace and light

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