Notes

black text = note on Old English text
red text = gloss of kennings

blue text = explanatory commentary on a section


[1] Mugwort (artemisia vulgaris). The OE Herbarium MS V describes the plant as useful in that: 'when someone wishes to begin a journey, have him take this herb artemisia [=mugwort] in his hand and have it with him, then he will not find the journey too great; and also it drives off demonic possession and in the house where he has it inside, it forbids evil leechdoms and also it averts the eye of evil men'. Mugwort has been used for its stimulant properties, and an infusion of it taken for fevers. [click here for an image of Mugwort]

[2] Bradley takes Regenmelde as a place name. Braekman relates this 'proclamation' to one of Christ's last pronunciations before the Ascension (Mark 16:18).

[3] Pollington suggests that 'Una' may simply be the feminine form of Latin for 'one'.

[6] MS ža

[6] Bonser suggests that 'the loathsome one' may be an epidemic, possibly the yellow plague

[7] Waybread (plantago maior), greater plantain or dock, called 'way-broad' in Old English for its wide leaves and tendency to grow near roadsides. This plant's durability may be the source of the idea that it may confer resilience in medico-magical applications. Waybread was believed to be effective against headache and sore throat. This plant, when pulverised, is effective as an anti-bacteria agent, but it must be used only when fresh as it is chemically unstable. [click here for an image of Waybread]

[8] MS opone

[9a] MS šy

[9a] MS cręte

[9b] MS šy

[10a] MS šy

[10b] MS žy

[14] OE stune appears, from the instructions which follow the verses, to be lamb's cress, though Pollington (112-3) states that OE lombes cerse (lamb's cress) is not the modern plant known as lamb's cress (cardamine hirsuta), but rather what is sometimes called corn salad (valerianella locusta), which is used as a winter vegetable and garden herb. The name stune appears to be related to the verb stunan ('to combat') which occurs in the following line. [click here for an image of Lamb's Cress]

[16] OE stiše (meaning 'rough, harsh, stiff') is also obscure as a plant-name, but appears from the closing instructions to be nettle (urtica dioica, urtica urens). The name 'nettle' derives from a root meaning of 'spin, sew', and nettles were once grown for their tough fibres which could be used like flax. Nettles can be used as animal-fodder and even in making beer, tea, soup and porridge. Its sap can be used as rennet (to curdle milk in cheese-making). The astringent property of nettle causes it to still be used in commercially-available preparations today.
[click here for an image of Nettle]

[20] MS ša

[21] OE attorlaše, whose name means 'poison-hater', is obscure. It is sometimes identified as betony (stachys betonica, betonica officinalis), also known as bishopswort or woundwort, once widely used in preparations to treat headache and palpitations. It was also used as a sort of amulet to ward off harmful spirits, nightmares and delusions. Its odour may well produce a calming effect which suggested its use against nightmares and evil spirits. Another identification of Attorlothe is with black nightshade (solanum nigrum), whose berries may safely be consumed by adults, and whose leaves may be used in a sophoric preparation (in some parts of Germany it is known as Schlafbeere (='sleep-berries')). [click here for an image of Betony and Black Nightshade]

[23] OE męgeša, whose name is based on OE męgš (='maid, young woman'), is the variety of chamomile still known sometimes as mayweed or maythe (anthemis cotula). Its name likely derives from its use to soothe menstrual pains as chamomile is known for its relaxing, calming effects and is still popular as a infusion, being sold as an 'herbal tea' which eases digestion and produces a calming effect. Its flowers and leaves can be made into a poultice against piles and its pungent odour is said to drive away insects. In Northumberland, Pollington (140) claims, 'it was known as "Balder's brae", i.e. "brow" with an explicit reference to the Norse god of reconciliation and male beauty. [click here for an image of Chamomile (mayweed, maythe)]

[24] Aldorford is obscure - it may refer to the location of some incidence from myth or folklore. The word means 'aldor-tree ford'.

[27] again, OE wergulu is obscure, from the following instructions, it appears to be the crab-apple or wood sour appel . Here the Indoeuropean serpent seems to be conflated with the Judeao-Christian serpent in the Garden of Eden, with association between the apple (representative of the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil?) and the serpent
[click here for an image of Sour Apple]

[30] MS ongan

[31] MS henan

[31] North (86-7) suggests that this line 'may be reminiscent of the [Norse] dragon Nķšhoggr ('Malice-Striker') in Voluspį [part of the Elder Edda]; and of the našr frįnn, nešan frį Nišafiollom ('glittering adder, from down below the mountains of his ?descendants', [Voluspį 66]), that sucks the blood from corpses in the world of the dead ([Voluspį 39]). It is appropriate that the cure for snake-bite should come from the same region'.

Wyrmas and their poison (attor) appear throughout old Germanic 'charms' as symbolic figures of illness in general. A 9th-c. Old High German charm reads:
Gang uz, Nesso,         mit niun nessinchilinon,
uz fonna marge in deo adra,         vonna den adrun in daz fleisk,
fonna demu fleiske in daz fel,         fonna demo velle in diz tulli.

(='Go out, worm, with nine little worms, out from [the] marrow into the veins, from the veins into the flesh, from the flesh into the skin, from the skin into this arrow')

Another charm in Old Saxon reads:
Gang ūt, nesso,         mid nigun nessiklinon,
ūt fana themo marge an that ben,         fan themo bene an that flesg,
ut fan themo flesgke an thia hud,         ūt fan thera hud an thesa strala.
Drohtin, uuerthe so.

(='Go out, worm, with nine little worms, out from the marrow into the bone, from the bone into the flesh, from the flesh into the skin, from the skin into this arrow. Lord, make it so.')


[32a] This is one of two places in which the god Woden (ON Óšinn) appears in Old English poetry. The other is Maxims I l.132 in the Exeter Book. Óšinn appears to correspond to the Roman Mercury, and is often associated with magic and divination, with a famous passage in the Elder Edda relating how he gained secret 'runic' knowledge - see n. 32b and esp. n. 37-38 below.

[32b] the nine wuldortanas, or 'glory-twigs', 'glory-rods', with which Woden defeats the serpent, may be rune-carved pieces of wood. Tacitus relates in his Germania, chap. 10: 'Auspicia sortesque ut qui maxime observant: sortium consuetudo simplex. virgam frugiferae arbori decisam in surculos amputant eosque notis quibusdam discretos super candidam vestem temere ac fortuito spargunt. mox, si publice consultetur, sacerdos civitatis, sin privatim, ipse pater familiae, precatus deos caelumque suspiciens ter singulos tollit, sublatos secundum impressam ante notam interpretatur.' (='To divination and the lot [the Germans] pay as much attention as any one: the method of drawing lots is uniform. A bough is cut from a nut-bearing tree and divided into slips: these are distinguished by certain runes and spread casually and at random over white cloth: afterwards, should the inquiry be official the priest of the state, if private the father of the family in person, after prayers to the gods and with eyes turned to heaven, takes up one slip at a time till he has done this on three separate occasions.')


[36] Chervil (anthriscus cerefolium) is known principally (today as well) as a culinary herb. [click here for an image of Chervil] However, it has also been used as a remedy for sore stomach and also in a poultice for aching joints. Fennel ( foeniculum vulgare ) has anise/licorice-flavoured seeds still used in food today. It has been used to settle sore stomachs and also in purgatives. In later mediaeval times it was hung over doorways on Midsummer's Eve to ward off both sorcery and fire. [click here for an image of Fennel]

[37-38]The 'hanging lord' is presumably Christ on the Cross. However, at least there seems here to be a syncretism or conflation of Christ with Woden, who also suffered, not on a cross, but on a tree. Woden, or at least the Norse Óšinn, hanged himself on a tree and wounded himself with his own spear as part of a 'shamanistic' journey which gains him mysterious runic knowledge, this is recounted in the Hįvamįl in the Elder Edda :
'Veit ec, at ec hecc vindgameiši į
nętr allar nķo,
geiri undašr oc gefinn Óšni,
siįlfre siįlfom mér,
į žeim meiši, er mangi veit,
hvers hann af rótom renn.

Viš hleifi mic sęldo né viš hornigi,
nżsta ec nišr;
nam ec upp rśnar, oepandi nam,
fell ec aptr žašan.' (Hįvamįl 138-9)
(='I know that I hung on the windy branch for nine whole nights, wounded with a spear and given to Óšinn, myself to myself, on the branch that no-one knows from whose roots it runs. They revived me neither with a loaf nor with a horn; I peered down; I took up runic staves, screaming I learnt runic secrets; I fell back from there/then'. [translation from North (84)])

[39] it is unclear what the VII worulde 'seven worlds' are. It may mean the seven other planets, though it is reminiscent of the (nine) Norse worlds: Mišgaršr (middle-earth), Ljossalfheimer (light elf home), Svartįlfheimer (black elf home), Įsgaršr (place of the Aesir), Hel (place of the dead), Vanaheimer (home of the Vanir), Mśspellheimer (world of muspell), Niflheimer (the dark world), Jotunheimer (world of giants). However, one can easily imagine that, if the Anglo-Saxons had a similar concepts of 'worlds', they may well have had a different number. Or there may have been a corruption either in the text or in the charm itself. See the Anglo-Saxon Heathenism site's page on A-S cosmology for further speculation.

[43] MS and wiš žęs hond wiš freabegde - em. from Grendon/Holthausen (1920). Bradley suggests f{ęr}b{r}egde ('sudden peril?').

[44] MS manra ; em. from Bradley

[47] MS ša

[47] MS runlan - em. mine ; some editors gloss runlan attre as 'running' poison or 'foul' poison, though this seems out of place since every other poison is designated by colour

[48] MS wedenan , which occurs again at l. 50b - em. to avoid repetition from Grattan & Singer

[52] Griffiths (182, fn.30) states 'blęd should not imply "blister" (blędre) but have the meaning of a blast of air. Thus in Ęlfric's "Life of Cuthbert" it is used of (seals') breath and (fire's) blast, in the latter case paralleling ša ęttrigan flan deoflicere costnunge (the poisonous arrows of devilish temptation)'

[58] MS alde ; em. from Cockayne

[60] MS nothing ; addition from Holthausen (1920)