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:
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.
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