Charms formed part of the English folklore and practice. Some bear the mark of being survivals of practice from heathen days even deep into the Christian era. Several have come down to us today having been written down in works such as Bald's Leechbook and Lacnunga.

A charm (galdor) might involve a form of words or incantation, or a complex ceremony, or it might be simply a herbal remedy. Many a charm may be a mixture of these elements.

These charms provide a fine insight into local folklore and the unofficial side of folk beliefs. Beware though; the editors of and contributors to this Gemotstow take no responsibility for anything that happens if anyone is daft enough to try any of these remedies!

Here is a list of some of the charms which have come down to us, listed by the things against which they are meant to be a remedy:

Sudden Stitch Edit

wið færstice against a sudden stitch
Wið færstice feferfuige and seo reade netele, ðe þurh ærn inwyxð, and wegbrade; wyll in buteran.
Hlude wæran hy, la, hlude,    ða hy ofer þone hlæw ridan,
wæran anmode,    ða hy ofer land ridan.
Scyld ðu ðe nu, þu ðysne nið    genesan mote.
Ut, lytel spere,    gif her inne sie!
Stod under linde,    under leohtum scylde,
þær ða mihtigan wif    hyra mægen beræddon
and hy gyllende    garas sændan;
ic him oðerne    eft wille sændan,
fleogende fla{ne}    forane togeanes.
Ut, lyte{l} spere,    gif hit her inne sy!
Sæt smið,    sloh seax,
lytel iserna,    wund swiðe.
Ut, lytel spere,    gif her inne sy!
Syx smiðas sætan,    wælspera worhtan.
Ut, spere,    næs in, spere!
Gif her inne sy    isenes dæl,
hægtessan geweorc,    hit sceal gemyltan.
Gif ðu wære on fell scoten    oððe wære on flæsc scoten
oððe wære on blod scoten,    oððe wære on ban scoten,
oððe wære on lið scoten,    næfre ne sy ðin lif atæsed;
gif hit wære esa gescot    oððe hit wære ylfa gescot
oððe hit wære hægtessan gescot,    nu ic wille ðin helpan.
Þis ðe to bote esa gescotes,    ðis ðe to bote ylfa gescotes,
ðis ðe to bote hægtessan gescotes;    ic ðin wille helpan.
Fleoh þær [....]    on fyrgenheafde.
Hal westu,    helpe ðin drihten!
Nim þonne þæt seax, ado on wætan


(Against a sudden stitch: feverfew and the red nettle which grows in through a building, and waybread; boil in butter.)
Loud were they, lo, loud,    as they rode over the barrow,
they were single-minded,    as they rode over the land.
Shield thyself now, that this strife thou    mayst escape.
Out, little spear,    if herein it be!
I stood under linden,    under a light shield,
where mighty women    their power proclaimed
and they, yelling,    sent spears;
I to them another    will send back,
a flying bolt    against (them) in return.
Out, little spear,    if herein it be!
Sat a smith,    wrought a knife,
little iron,    great wound.
Out, little spear,    if herein it be!
Six smiths sat,    slaughter-spears wrought.
Out, spear,    be not in, spear!
If herein be    a piece of iron,
Hags' work,    it shall melt.
If thou wert shot in the skin    or wert shot in the flesh
or wert shot in the blood,    or wert shot in the bone,
or thou wert shot in the limb,    never be thy life injured;
if it were godlets' shot    or it were elves' shot
or it were hags' shot,    now will I help thee.
This is to thee remedy for godlets' shot,    this is to thee remedy for elves' shot,
this is to thee remedy for hags' shot;    I will help thee.
Fly there    into the mountain-head.
Whole be thou!    The Lord help thee!
(Then take the knife, place in the wet.)

Unfertile field Edit

The æcerbot is a very complicated charm, involving ceremonies which must have taken all day, cutting turves from the field, carrying them to four different churches for four masses, with prayers and the following poem.

The meaning of the opening erce, erce, erce has been debated endlessly; is it a pagan goddess whose name is allowed to intrude so late into a Chritian society? Is it some attempt to make an earlier pagan cry of heah, heah, heah sound more Christian? The word or name "Erce" appears nowhere else in Englisc except as a prefix in ercebiscop ("archbishop") and similar titles, which hardly seems relevant here.

æcerbot field remedy
Erce, erce, erce, eorþan modor.
Geunne þe se alwalda, ece drihten
æcera wexendra and wridendra,
eacniendra and elniendra,
sceafta hehra, scirra wæstma,
and þæra bradan berewæstma,
and þæra hwitan hwætewæstma,
and ealra eorþan wæstma.
Geunne him, ece drihten,
(and his halige þe on heofonum synt),
þæt hys yrþ si gefriþod wið ealra feonda gehwæne,
and heo si geborgen wið ealra bealwa gehwylc,
þara lyblaca geond land sawen.
Nu ic bidde ðone waldend se ðe ðas woruld gesceop,
þæt ne sy nan to þæs cwidol wif, ne to þæs cræftig man
þæt awendan ne mæge word þus gecwedene.
Hal wes þu, folde, fira modor!
Beo þu growende on godes fæþme,
fodre gefylled, firum to nytte.
erce, erce, erce, Earth's mother.
May he grant thee the all-powerful, eternal ruler
acres fruitful and flourishing,
increasing and strengthening,
in high condition, in bright abundance,
and the broad barleycrop,
and the white wheatcrop,
and all fruits of the Earth.
Grant to him, eternal ruler
(and his holy ones who are in heaven),
that his ploughing be protected against any and all enemies
and it be protected against each and every evil,
against those spells sown across the land.
Now I bid the ruler who this world created,
that neither the conjuring woman nor the cunning man
may change the words thus spoken.
Hale be you, earth, mortals' mother!
Be you growing in God's grasp,
filled with food, useful to men.

Wen Edit

wiþ wenne against a wen
Wenne, wenne, wenchichenne,
her ne scealt þu timbrien, ne nenne tun habben,
ac þu scealt north eonene to þan nihgan berhge,
þer þu hauest, ermig, enne broþer.
He þe sceal legge leaf et heafde.
Under fot wolues, under ueþer earnes,
under earnes clea, a þu geweornie.
Clinge þu alswa col on heorþe,
scring þu alswa scerne awage,
and weorne alswa weter on anbre.
Swa litel þu gewurþe alswa linsetcorn,
and miccli lesse alswa anes handwurmes hupeban,
and alswa litel þu gewurþe þet þu nawiht gewurþe.
Wen, wen, wennikins,
build not here nor find a home
but pass to the north to the next hill
and there discover your brother in pain.
He shall place a leaf on your face.
Under the wolf's foot, under the eagle's wing,
under the eagle's claw grow into nothingness.
Collapse like a coal burnt in a hearth;
shrink like plaster in a ruined wall;
evaporate away like standing water;
sink to the size of a linseed grain
and ever lessen as to a hand-worm's hip bone
and so little shrink that you become nothing.

Woman's chatter Edit

wiþ wif gemæðlan against a woman's chatter
Geberge neaht nestig rædices moran
þy dæg ne mæg þe se gemæðla sceþþan
Taste at night fasting a radish's root
In the day the chatter may not harm thee