Writing on the Hand in Ink: A Late Medieval Innovation in Fever Charms in England

Pp. 9-45

  • Lea Olsan
Keywords: verbal charms, textual amulets, medieval medicine, writing, fevers, medieval manuscripts


This paper reviews the types of charms employed to relieve fevers in medieval England from the Anglo-Saxon period to the end of the fifteenth century with attention to the manuscript contexts in which the charms are found. In the second part, the paper focuses more closely on charms and practical rituals for healing fevers that involve inscribing and consuming communion hosts. It argues that the method of writing sacred words on the hand with ink to be washed into a potion and consumed came into favour in the late Middle Ages at a time when writing on wafers was becoming problematic.