Divination for a day of birth

This is my 100th blogpost on For the Wynn! In celebration of this, I am going to share a full version of a fascinating little text which I mentioned briefly in this blogpost for the British Library’s Medieval Manuscripts blog: a divinatory text by which you can discover a person’s fortune based on the position…

Rivers of tears, softening stone

“Jesus wept.”  Famously the shortest verse in the Authorised English version of the Bible (John 11:35), when Jesus weeps at the death of his friend Lazarus, this is actually slightly longer in Latin, usually a more succinct language than English: Et lacrimatus est Iesus. A major focus of my work is on the circumstances surrounding…

‘Lord, my teeth hurt…’ Prayers to and for St Peter

It’s the 29th of June, and today is the feast day of St Peter (and also of St Paul).  Peter is my favourite Bible person, because he’s a bit of an idiot quite a lot of the time, but he really wants to be good. Take, for example, the narrative of the Transfiguration of Christ. …

Now open: Anglo-Saxon Exhibition at the British Library

Hwæt!  The British Library’s new exhibition, Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms: Art, Word, War, has now opened.  I have had the great privilege of working alongside the curators, being one of the first to see the completed exhibition, and of celebrating the official opening. A number of the manuscripts which I have written about in my blogposts are…

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…

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…

How many colours were there in a medieval rainbow?

This is the sign of my covenant, that I make between me and you and all living creatures for all generations, that is that I will set my rainbow in the clouds and it will be a sign of my covenant between me and the earth: when I cover the heavens with the clouds, then…

In the Seven Sleepers’ den

There must have been many people who have come across this line from John Donne’s seventeenth-century poem and wondered who the Seven Sleepers might have been – or why the poet might have snorted there.  The second question has a quick answer: it simply means ‘snored’.  But who were the Seven Sleepers? In June last…

Adam, agate and amulets: a medieval general knowledge quiz

What is the connection between Adam’s navel and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s left ear? This was the first question that was asked in the first episode of the long-running British comedy quiz QI, which has been producing one series for each letter of the alphabet since the A-series in 2003.  Of course, the whole point…