FOR THE WATER-ELF DISEASE

 

Gif mon biž on węteręlfadle,
žonne beož him ža handnęglas wonne and ža
eagon tearige and wile locian nižer.
Do him žis to lęcedome:
eoforžrote, cassuc, fone niožoweard, eowberge, elehtre, eolone,
merscmealwan crop, fenminte, dile, lilie, attorlaže, polleie, marubie,
docce, ellen, felterre, wermod, streawbergean leaf, consolde.
Ofgeat mid ealaž, do hęligwęter to, sing žis gealdor ofer žriwa:

     Ic binne awrat betest beadowręda,
     swa benne ne burnon, ne burston,
     ne fundian, ne feologan, ne hoppettan,
     ne wund waxsian,
     ne dolh diopian;
     ac him self healde halewęge,
     ne ace že žon ma že eoržan on eare ace.

Sing žis manegum sižum:

     Eorže že onbere eallum hire mihtum and męgenum.
     Žas galdor mon męg singan on wunde.
If a person has the water-elf disease,
then his fingernails will be dark and the
eyes teary and he will look downward.
Prepare him this for a medicine:
carline thistle, cassock, the lower part of an iris, yew berry, lupine, elecampane,
marshmallow tops, fen mint, dill, lily, betony, pennyroyal, horehound,
dock, elder, centaury, wormwood, strawberry leaves, comfrey.
Soak with ale, add holy water to it, and sing this charm three times:

     I within wrote the best war-bandages,
     so the wounds not boil, nor burst,
     nor hasten, nor cleave, nor throb,
     nor the wound grow,
     nor the gash deepen;
     but for him I hold a health-cup,
     it will not pain you any more than earth hurts the earth.

Sing this many times:

     Earth reduce you with all Her might and power.
     This charm a person may sing over the wound.

 

It has been suggested that water-elf disease may refer to either measles or chicken pox, but in my opinion it is an error to impose modern, anatomical definitions of disease on the ailments found in the Old English healing charms. Węteręlfadle may correspond no more to measles than it does to an imbalance of qi in the paradigm of traditional Chinese medicine.

Charms such as this reveal the Anglo-Saxons' extensive use of herbs. One list to make a "holy salve" names no less than fifty nine different plants, half of which are also found in the charm to combat the water-elf disease.

The nineteen herbs in this charm are combined and then soaked with ale, making a sort of mild alcohol infusion. While ale provided a means to administer an herbal remedy, we can be fairly certain the Anglo-Saxon lęce valued its inherent power. The very word for ale - alu - is a conveyance of power in Norse magic, and the fact that the charm for the water-elf disease includes Christian "holy water" as a second fluid strongly suggests that ale had a similar role in Anglo-Saxon magic.

Notice how the Earth Mother is appealed to as a sentient and responsive entity in the final chant. Here the word eorže refers to more than just soil. The chant calls out to the goddess known variously as Eorthe or Hrethe and asks her to reduce the disease, or at least its symptoms, with "all Her might and power".

Notice, too, how the words of this charm are sung. The herbal medicine is empowered by singing the first part of the charm three times, and then a simple chant is sung repeatedly to further nurture a healing effect. The word galdor is translated as "charm" or "magic", but the magic of galdor is a magic effected through sound. The word itself comes from the verb galan, meaning to sing or call out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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