Leechbook Book 3 Elf Charms

copyright: Karen Louise Jolly, Popular Religion in Late Saxon England: Elf Charms in Context (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996), pp. 154-67 passim. Do not reproduce without permission from the publishers.

xli Work a good drink against all the fiend's temptations. Take betony, bishopwort, lupin, githrife, attorlathe, wolfscomb, yarrow. Lay them under the altar, sing nine masses over them. Cut the herbs into holy water. Give him [the patient] a cup full to drink at night while fasting, and put the holy water on all the food that the man eats.

Work a good salve against the fiend's temptations. Bishopwort, lupin, hara[n]sprecel, strawberry plant, the cloved wenwort, earth rime, bramble apple, polleian, wormwood. Pound all the herbs, boil them in good butter, wring through a cloth; set under the altar, sing nine masses over. Smear the man with (this) on the temples, and above the eyes, and on top of the head, and the breast, and the sides under the arms. This salve is good against every temptation of the fiend, and elf-trick [aelfsidenne], and against Lent disease [typhus].

If you will heal a wit sick man [gewitseocne man], take a tub full of cold water, drop thrice into it some of the drink. Bathe the man in the water, and let the man eat hallowed bread, and cheese, and garlic, and cropleek, and drink a cup full of the drink. And when he has been bathed, smear him with the salve thoroughly. And when it is better with him, then work for him a strong purgative drink. Work thus the drink: take libcorn leaves, and celandine roots, and gladden roots, and [holly]hock's root, and [dwarf]elder's root rind; boil in ale, let stand for a night; clarify then, and warm; add butter and salt to it. Give to drink.

Work a purgative spew drink. Take forty libcorns, rend them well, and rub them on the netherward part of celandine and [holly]hock root, and two cloves of the cloved wenwort, and a small part of the netherward of cucumber, and a moderate part of homewort root. Make all the herbs thoroughly clean, and pound; put in ale, wrap up, let stand for a night. Give a cup full to drink.

lxi Work a salve against elfkind and nightgoers [aelfcynne, nihtgengan], and the people with whom the Devil has intercourse. Take eowohumelan, wormwood, bishopwort, lupin, ashthroat, henbane, harewort, haransprecel, heathberry plants, cropleek, garlic, hedgerife grains, githrife, fennel. Put these herbs into one cup, set under the altar, sing over them nine masses; boil in butter and in sheep's grease, add much holy salt, strain through a cloth; throw the herbs in running water. If any evil temptation, or an elf or nightgoers, happen to a man, smear his forehead with this salve, and put on his eyes, and where his body is sore, and cense him [with incense], and sign [the cross] often. His condition will soon be better.


[1] Against elf disease [aelfadle]. Take bishopwort, fennel, lupin, the lower part of aelfthone, and lichen from the holy sign of Christ [cross], and incense; a handful of each. Bind all the herbs in a cloth, dip in sanctified font water thrice. Let three masses be sung over it, one "Omnibus sanctis," a second "Contra tribulationem," a third "Pro infirmis." Put then coals in a coal pan, and lay the herbs on it. Smoke the man with the herbs before undern [9 a.m.] and at night; and sing a litany, the Creed, and the Pater noster; and write on him Christ's mark on each limb. And take a little handful of the same kind of herbs, similarly sanctified, and boil in milk; drip holy water in it thrice. And let him sip it before his meal. It will soon be well with him.

[2] For the same [aelfadle]. Go on Thursday evening when the sun is setting to where you know helenium [elenan] stands. Sing then the Benedicite, the Pater noster, and a litany. And stick your knife into the plant; leave it sticking therein and go away. Go again, when day and night first divide [dawn]; at that same dawn, go first to church, and cross yourself and offer yourself to God. Go then silently; and though you meet on the way some fearful thing coming or a man, you should not speak to him any word, until you come to the plant that you marked on the evening before. Sing then the Benedicite, and the Pater noster and a litany. Dig up the plant; leave the knife sticking in it. Go again as quick as you can to church, and lay it under the altar with the knife. Let it lie until the sun is up. Wash it then; make it into a drink: with bishopwort and lichen from Christ's sign, boil thrice in [different kinds of] milk; and pour holy water thrice on it. And sing on it the Pater noster, and the Creed and the Gloria in excelsis deo; and sing on it a litany. And also write a cross around it with a sword on [each of] four halves. And then let [the patient] drink the drink. It will soon be well with him.

[3] Again for that. Lay under the altar these herbs, let nine masses be sung over them: incense, holy salt, three heads of cropleek, aelfthone's lower part, and helenium. Take in the morning a cup full of milk; drip thrice some holy water in it. Let him sip it as hot as he can. Eat with it three bits of aelfthone. When he wants to rest, have coals there inside. Lay incense and aelfthone on the coals, and smoke him with that until he sweats; and smoke the house throughout; and eagerly sign the man. And when he goes to rest, let him eat three bits of helenium, and three of cropleek, and three of salt. And let him have a cup full of ale and drip thrice holy water in it. Let him eat each bit; then let him rest. Do this for nine mornings and nine nights. It will soon be well with him.

[4a] If he has elf-heartburn [aelfsogotha, lit., "elf-juices"], his eyes are yellow where they should be red. If you want to cure this person, consider his bearing, and know of which sex he is. If it is a male [waepned man], and he looks up when you first see him, and his appearance is yellow black, then that man you may cure completely, if he has not been therein too long. If it is a woman [wif] and she looks down when you first see her, and her appearance is dark red, this you might also cure. If it is on him a day's space longer than twelve months, and his visage be such, then you might better him for awhile, but may not however completely cure him.

[4b] Write this writing: "Scriptum est, rex regum et dominus dominantium. byrnice. beronice. Lurlure. Iehe. aius, aius, aius, sanctus, sanctus, sanctus, dominus, deus sabaoth, amen, alleluiah." [It is written, king of kings and lord of lords. Veronica, Veronica. Lurlure? Yahweh? holy, holy, holy (Greek agios? and then repeated in Latin). Lord, God of Hosts. Amen, Alleluia.]

Sing this over the drink and the writing: "Deus omnipotens, pater domini nostri Iesu Christi, per impositionem huius scriptura expelle a famulo tuo, ----, omnem impetum castalidum de capite, de capillis, de cerebro, de fronte, de lingua, de sublingua, de guttore, de faucibus, de dentibus, de oculis, de naribus, de auribus, de manibus, de collo, de brachiis, de corde, de anima, de genibus, de coxis, de pedibus, de compaginibus omnium membrorum intus et foris. Amen." [God Almighty, father of our lord Jesus Christ, through the imposition of this writing expel from your servant, (name), all attacks of muses/fairies (possibly down elves, dun elfen) from the head, from the hair, from the brain, from the forehead, from the tongue, from the epiglottis, from the throat, from the pharynx, from the teeth, from the eyes, from the nostrils, from the ears, from the hands, from the neck, from the arms, from the heart, from the breath, from the knees, from the hips, from the feet, from the connections of all body members within and without. Amen.]

[4c] Work then a drink: font water, rue, sage, hassock, dragonzan, of the smooth waybread the lower part, feverfue, a head of dill, three cloves of garlic, fennel, wormwood, lovage, lupin; an equal amount of each. Write thrice a cross with oil of unction [oleum infirmorum] and say "Pax tibi." Take then the writing, write a cross with it over the drink, and sing this there over it: "Deus omnipotens, pater domini nostri Iesu Christi, per inpositionem huius scriptura et per gustum huius expelle diabolum a famulo tuo, ----," [God Almighty, father of our lord Jesus Christ, through the imposition of this writing and through this medicine expel the Devil from your servant, (name)] and the Creed and the Pater noster. Wet the writing in the drink, write a cross with it on each limb, and say "Signum crucis Christi conserva te in vitam aeternam. Amen." [May the sign of the cross of Christ conserve you in life eternal, Amen.] If you prefer not, tell [the patient] himself or whatever relative he has nearest related to him, and sign as best he can. This craft is mighty against every temptation of the fiend.

lxiii If a man is in the water elf disease [waeter aelfadle], then the nails of his hand are dark and the eyes teary, and he will look down. Give him this as medicine [laecedome]: everthroat, hassock, the lower part of fane, yewberry, lupin, helenium, marshmallow head, fen mint, dill, lily, attorlathe, pulegium, marrubium, dock, elder, fel terre, wormwood, strawberry leaves, consolde. Soak with ale; add holy water to it. Sing this gealdor over it thrice:

I have bound on the wounds the best of war bandages, so the wounds neither burn nor burst, nor go further, nor spread, nor jump, nor the wounds increase [waco sian?], nor sores deepen. But may he himself keep in a healthy way [halewaege?]. May it not ache you more than it aches earth in ear [eare?].

Sing this many times, "May earth bear on you with all her might and main." These galdor a man may sing over a wound.

lxiv Against the Devil and against madness [ungemynde], a strong drink. Put in ale hassock, lupin roots, fennel, ontre, betony, hind heolothe, marche, rue, wormwood, nepeta (catmint), helenium, aelfthone, wolfs comb. Sing twelve masses over the drink; and let him drink. It will soon be well with him.

A drink against the Devil's temptations: thefanthorn, cropleek, lupin, ontre, bishopwort, fennel, hassock, betony. Sanctify these herbs; put into ale holy water. And let the drink be there in where the sick man is. And continually before he drinks sing thrice over the drink, "Deus! In nomine tuo saluum me fac." [God, in your name make me whole (save me).]

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