Not Angles but angels

According to the Venerable Bede, the evangelisation of the southern English was proposed by a Pope with a pun.  In his Ecclesiastical History of the English People,  the story goes that Pope Gregory I was walking through the market of Rome when he saw some slave boys with striking looks and hair.  What people, he…

Radices and radishes: Latin roots in Old English

How many languages are there in the world? Seventy-two. Why are there no more and no fewer? Because of the three sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japhet.  Shem had twenty-seven sons, Ham had thirty sons, Japhet had fifteen sons.  These added together are seventy-two. This text comes from a dialogue between Pope Damasus and…

Loveliest of women, work of God

At the start of June, I took place in a dramatised version of the Old English poem known as Genesis B, staged as part of the conference Down There: Uncovering the Infernal in the Early Middle Ages at University College London. Now that the play is over, I thought it might be time for a…

God bless my epiglottis: why I love the Lorica of Laidcenn

In this blog, I have written a lot about Anglo-Saxon prayer, medicine and poetry. Of course, these aren’t exclusive categories: medicine sometimes involved prayer, and prayers could be in the form of poetry. And sometimes, the same text can be all three. The Lorica of Laidcenn is a good example of this. A lorica is…

Naming a royal baby

Together with my colleague Alison Hudson, I have written a blogpost for the British Library’s Medieval Manuscripts Blog on early medieval royal names.  Enjoy! Naming a royal baby

Egyptian Days and Ayurvedic Man: medical cultural connections

One of the advantages of working in central London is the sheer number of interesting exhibitions and other events going on all around me.  The other day I wandered into the Wellcome Collection to see if they had anything interesting to see, and was rewarded with a free exhibition called Ayurvedic Man: Encounters with Indian…

Silk and spices, pepper and peacocks

A while ago, in my post on fruit, I mentioned that the word ‘peach’ entered England in the Anglo-Saxon period, even if the fruit itself probably didn’t.  The word is ultimately derived from persicum malum, Persian apple, indicating that the fruit entered Europe via Iran.  This is the trouble with writing about Anglo-Saxon medical works…

New job: Polonsky Pre-1200 England and France Digitisation Project (700-1200)

As mentioned in previous posts, I have recently moved to London to begin a new job: I have joined the Polonsky Pre-1200 England and France Digitisation Project (700-1200) team at the British Library as the digitisation Project Officer.  You can read more about the project here. These manuscripts, and many more, have already been digitised…

Onwards I go: may I meet with friends

It’s always interesting to see which words other languages have which are missing from one’s own.  Old English, being somewhat similar to modern German, has a tendency to create compound words to a greater extent than modern English does, leading to words such as tidfara – a traveller whose time to journey has come.  So…