By Kim Rendfeld
Whether it was originally a pagan poem with Christian elements or vice versa, the “Nine Herbs Charm” reveals clues about Saxon culture before Christianity, something a novelist needs when portraying the lost pagan religion of the eighth-century Continental Saxons conquered by Charlemagne.
The healer would grind the herbs into a powder, then make a paste with soap, apple juice or apple pulp, and ashes and use it as a salve on a wound while reciting the charm.
Mugwort, which smells like sage, it can be used to repel insects. Plantain leaves are supposed to be good to treat bee stings and poison ivy. Chamomile extracts might be anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, and anti-infective for minor illnesses. (Author’s disclaimer: I’m not a medical professional, not even close. Nor have I tried any of these. If these herbs at all tempt you, please consult an expert.)
You almost get the feeling these herbs are warriors about to do battle.
See a translation of the poem here: "Nine Herbs Charm" from Karen Louise Jolly's Popular Religion in Late Saxon England: Elf Charms in Context.
Public domain images via Wikimedia Commons.
Anglo-Saxon Medicine, Malcolm Laurence Cameron
The Word Exchange: Anglo-Saxon Poems in Translation, Greg Delanty and Michael Matto
Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs
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