A treasure-chest of pearls

Þas þing synt earfoðe on Englisc to secganne, se we wyllað þurh Cristes fultum hig onwreon, swa wel swa we betst magon, and þas meregrota þam beforan lecgan þe þisra gyman wyllað.  Þæs anes dæges wanung, hu he byð geworden binnan nigontyne wintrum we wyllað gecyðan. These things are difficult to say in English, but…

In a circle of trees

A tree God set in paradise, and its fruit forbade to Adam and Eve. And him bi twegin beamas stodon þa wæron utan ofætes gehlædene, gewered mid wæstme, swa hie waldend god, heah heofoncyning handum gesette, þæt þær yldo bearn moste on ceosan godes and yfeles, gumena æghwilc, welan and wawan. Næs se wæstm gelic!…

Rereading, retelling, rediscovering Beowulf

A strange creature attacks a warrior hall, killing the men night after night, until a hero comes and slays him.  The creature’s mother takes her revenge and is likewise vanquished in battle.  But the hero meets his own end when, later in life, he kills a dragon who terrorises his own people. I won’t pretend…

Living on loaned time

Autumn has come to London: a mostly hot summer suddenly turned in the final week of September. I like early autumn, the time just before and just after the emniht (or ‘equal-night’, as an Anglo-Saxon would have called the equinox), when there is still some warmth and plenty of sunlight, but a slight nip in…

BL blogpost: Wynflæd and the price of fashion

There is a new post on the British Library’s Medieval Manuscripts Blog today, by my colleague Alison Hudson, to which I have contributed.  It’s on a text which I have written about here before, the will of Wynflæd, the earliest surviving will by an English woman. Wynflæd and the price of fashion

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…

BL blogpost: 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

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…