'Charms', Liturgies, and Secret Rites in Early Medieval England

June 2018
3 black and white illustrations
262 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Anglo-Saxon Studies
ISBN: 9781783273133
Format: Hardback
Boydell Press
BISAC REL033000, HIS037010, REL020000

'Charms', Liturgies, and Secret Rites in Early Medieval England

Ciaran Arthur

A re-evaluation of the mysterious "charms" found in Anglo-Saxon literature, arguing for their place in mainstream Christian rites.
Since its inception in the nineteenth century, the genre of Anglo-Saxon charms has drawn the attention of many scholars and appealed to enthusiasts of magic, paganism, and popular religion. Their Christian nature has been widely acknowledged in recent years, but their position within mainstream liturgical traditions has not yet been fully recognised. In this book, Ciaran Arthur undertakes a wide-ranging investigation of the genre to better understand how early English ecclesiastics perceived these rituals and why they included them in manuscripts were written in high-status minsters. Evidence from the entire corpus of Old English, various surviving manuscript sources, and rich Christian theological traditions suggests that contemporary scribes and compilers did not perceive "charms" as anything other than Christian rituals that belonged to diverse, mainstream liturgical practices. The book thus challenges the notion that there was any such thing as an Anglo-Saxon "charm", and offers alternative interpretations of these texts as creative para-liturgical rituals or liturgical rites, which testify to the diversity of early medieval English Christianity. When considered in their contemporary ecclesiastical and philosophical contexts, even the most enigmatic rituals, previously dismissed as mere "gibberish", begin to emerge as secret, deliberately obscured texts with hidden spiritual meaning.

Ciaran Arthur is a Research Fellow at Queen's University Belfast.

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Table of Contents

Kill or Cure: Anglo-Saxon Understandings of Galdor
By the Power Vested in Me: Galdor in Authorised Rituals
Ite Missa Est: The Liturgical Nature of 'Charms'
Crops and Robbers: A Case Study of the Vitellius Psalter
In the Beginning Was the Letter: The Cosmological Power of 'Gibberish'

Author Bio

Ciaran Arthur is a Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow at Queen's University Belfast, having previously studied here before obtaining his PhD from the University of Kent.

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