In the midst of a lengthy Anglo-Saxon charm, Æcerbot, there's a little chant in praise of the earth. I've always thought it needed music, so I've made an attempt at doing that (see below). I can easily imagine the folks carrying out the elaborate steps for the charm singing this part as they renew the field's fertility.
The charm requires many things: removing four pieces of sod from ground, taking it to be blessed, reciting prayers like the Crescite and Pater Noster over it and even adding "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".
The Anglo-Saxons often explained disease and inflammation by the presence of small creatures or their “weapons.”A well-known charm seeks to remove the evil influence of “elf-shot” and several others fight the effects of other poisonous arrows.This may seem quaint to our modern sensibilities—unless we consider this to be a metaphorical understanding of germs and viruses. Maybe our medieval forebears weren’t so naïve after all.
The following charm appears in a manuscript that dates to the 12th century (BL Royal MS 4 A xiv).It tries to cajole and threaten a wen (“a lump or protuberance on the body” per the Oxford English Dictionary) to take up residence elsewhere and leave the afflicted person.The tokens of the wolf and the eagle may well have been used in the healer’s ceremony—many scholars believe the Anglo-Saxons to have had a shamanictradition.This charm can easily be adapted to remove from your life any unwelcome presence (and works well, in my experience!).Underlines indicate the alliterating pairs of words: the primary arrangement of Anglo-Saxon poetry is repeated sounds at the beginning of words (as opposed to end rhyme, the more familiar "moon/june" type of rhyming). It helps that any vowel alliterates with any other vowel.
This is a bit of a chestnut, but like the holly evergreen: the longest night of the year has already begun here in Scotland. If you need some ideas for tomorrow's celebrations to welcome the return of the light, here you go:
The Anglo-Saxons settled Britain in the early fifth century, giving their name to the land now known as England. Very little remains of the native culture of the Anglo-Saxons.We learn from the Venerable Bede, a seventh century Christian historian, that the months we now call December and January were considered “Giuli” or Yule by the Anglo-Saxons.According to the historian, his Anglo-Saxon ancestors celebrated the beginning of the year on December 25th, referred to as “Modranect”— that is, Mothers’ Night.This celebration most likely acknowledged the rebirth of Mother Earth in order to ensure fertility in the coming spring season.An Anglo-Saxon charm for crop fertility, recorded in the eleventh-century and known as “Aecerbot,” refers to the Earth as “Erce, [the] Earthen Mother” and contains the following praise poem for her: