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…

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…

A medieval astronomy lesson

If you drilled a hole through the centre of the earth, and dropped a stone down it, what would happen?  How big are the Sun, Moon and stars?  And, hardest to answer of all, are there any people on the other side of the globe?  I’ve been reading up on medieval science.  In particular, I’ve…

Honey and peace will abound: Anglo-Saxon predictions for 2017

Happy New Year!  If you’re wondering what is to come in 2017, early medieval monks had the answers.  A number of Anglo-Saxon manuscripts include prognostics of various kinds – texts for predicting the future. One such manuscript is London, British Library Cotton MS Tiberius A. iii.  As mentioned in some earlier posts, I’ve worked with…

Naming names in Ælfwine’s Prayerbook

It’s strange how you think you know a manuscript well and then realise that there are things in it that you didn’t even know were there.  Take London, British Library Cotton MS Titus D. xxvii + xxvi (originally one manuscript, later divided into two), a compendium of liturgical prayers, private prayers, and scientific information.  It’s…

New article published: ‘Which Psalms Were Important to the Anglo-Saxons? The Psalms in Tenth- and Eleventh-Century Prayer and Medical Remedies’

My latest article is now available online in a special issue of English Studies! ‘Which Psalms Were Important to the Anglo-Saxons? The Psalms in Tenth- and Eleventh-Century Prayer and Medical Remedies’ English Studies, 98:1 (2017): 35-48 This article examines the use of the Psalms in sixteen short prayer programmes, found in tenth- and eleventh-century English…

Like, pray, share: Anglo-Saxon prayer memes

So you’re scrolling through your Facebook feed, and one of those memes pops up. You know what I mean. Either it’s a sick child who needs your prayers (‘1 like = 100 prayers!’), or a cursed photo of a hellwraith (‘like and share or you’ll die tonight!!’), or simply an inspirational image which will give…