Text over time: The written word in English charm before 1350

Pp. 72-93

  • Katherine Hindley
Keywords: Anglo-Saxon, caracteres, post-Conquest, Sloane MS 475, textuality, written charms


After the Norman Conquest, many of the charms that had circulated in Anglo-Saxon England disappeared from the written record, while new charming techniques emerged. Among the most striking changes was a sudden increase in the proportion of charms using written words. This paper explores this post-Conquest change in the use of charms by examining examples preserved in manuscripts written or owned in England from the Anglo-Saxon period to 1350. It begins by arguing that in Anglo-Saxon England different types of words were used to treat different kinds of illness or injury. Turning to the post-Conquest period, it identifies not only an increase in the proportionate use of written charms, but also emerging interest in the idea of textuality.