How the blog works

The poems on this blog are mostly written on the basis of my historical reading and are intended to be both educational and entertaining.
Recently I have also begun posting some of my work with Anglo-Saxon charms. This work is somewhat speculative and is conducted as an amateur researcher and keen Pagan historian.

Please feel free to use anything on this site as a resource if you think that it may be relevant to your needs.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Remember the Birch

This poem was written during the spring, for an artist friend called Buffy that tried to save a tree (familiar to me) on the Barbican from developers and was intended to be used as a remembrance to its demise at the hands of an abusive contractor's operative.
Buffy had watched the lower branches and secondary trunk being cut against the protestations of her and other neighbours. The contractor's operative had been very abusive during this process. Buffy was unable to watch the final cut and left in tears and asked me to write a memorial poem for the tree to be displayed with a painting of hers on the site.

Remember the Birch
Oh birch that burns true, and is first to leaf,
And allows all plants, to grow well beneath.
Protect us from foes, with your noble might,
And help make sacred, this fair city site.
I call all rune trees, to come to our fight,
And guard us here with, thine magical might.
By the first spring birch. in the morning dew,
Rise above morons, that haven't a clue.
We honour you here, in this city glade,
Every root bower branch, and sacred blade.
May the green wood spirit, return to this space,
And those that destroy, never show their face.
Andrew Rea Spring 2016

I quickly wrote this poem and sent it to her the next morning. Shortly after sending it she contacted me and said: 'a miracle has happened the tree was saved by the planners moments before the main trunk was about to be cut'.

So did the poem turn back time?
The next week we put a spell of protection on the tree.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Mowing Feast

The poem is set in Anglo-Saxon England and is based on the right of feasting after mowing a meadow on the lord's land. This was one of the eight major feasts and was in return for a days labour given in duty.
The method of mowing a field did not change significantly until the invention of modern agriculture.

The lines have been divided in two by a central comma creating sets of five syllables, this is intended to be expressed in the reading to match the rhythm of the scythe.

Mowing Feast
Æfterra Litha, first summer hay cut,
With a well honed scythe, holding the long butt.
Misty sunny morn, blade peened flat and true,
Trudging to meadow, early morning dew.

Sweet meadows of grass, poppies and corn flowers,
Sweep blade to the left, those long fragrant hours.
Tall lady's bedstraw, and meadow foxtail,
Seeds drop into sward, sweet sent to inhale.

Gathering of folk, working side by side,
In blistering heat, of mid-summer tide.
The rhythm of scythe, long furlong to mow,
Hay drops to the left, forming long windrow.

Wipe sweat from thy brow, our thirst is relieved,
Ale cup bearing boys, are greatly received.
Everyone gathered, beneath the elm tree,
Sat down on soft hay, and slacked thirst with glee.

Short break back to work, till acre is mown,
With wet stone to hand, the long blade to hone.
In Litha's warm wind, tall corn cockles sway,
Buttercups tumble, as bees fly away.

Once thine Lords hard work, is out of the way,
The feasting begins, at end of the day.
Wifmen serve thick slices, of buttered warm bread,
Ale cup bearing boys, return for the spread.

Music and feasting, merriment and ale,
A roll in the hay, and jugs of wassail.
A basket of fruit, pies cakes and delights,
This feast in the hay, is one of our rights.

Our Nerthus's gift, is hay for the beasts,
And mowing the field, gives one of our feasts.
Children frolic laugh, and jump in the hay,
Tomorrow's mowing, is another day.

Copyright Andrew Rea Heilig Monath 2016

Æfterra Litha (OE) = July
To peen = to hammer the edge of a blade true
sward = the cut grassy ground or upper layer of earth
windrow = a line of cut hay
Litha (OE)= Summer Solstice

Wifmen (OE) = women (compare 'weapon men' = men)
Nerthus (OE) = Earth Goddess, pre dates Frigg (mentioned by Bede)

furlong = the length of a field (220yards)

In 'The labours of the months' July (Æfterra Litha) shows hay being cut with scythes.
The poem was also inspired by the end scene of 'A Day In The Hayfields 1904' showing children playing in the hay (ignore the modern machinery):

For traditional hay making see 'How to Make Hay with a Scythe':

For a variation in procedure see also 'Hay In A Day':

Saturday, 30 July 2016

The Fairy Wood

In medieval times when people wore cod pieces and chastity belts.......

Would'st that I compare thee, to a wood elf,
Thine magic enchantments, to keep for myself.
Oh thou radiant ealfscyne, young wife man,
Thee doest please me, as only thee can.

Into the green wood, must I thee follow,
On the raunchy eve, of a lewd morrow.
Take the neverward part, of mine own thing,
Away into night and let's have a fling.

Come hither wench, for I am ready for thee,
'Oh sir thou can'st have, thine way' sayeth she.
Let me souse thine lips, and breasts with fine ale,
And plunge my blade, into thine fairy grail.

Standing naked ere, rising of the moon,
Perchance it wilt, upgoeth some time soon.
Doth it not now shineth, both bright and clear,
And that's only the first quarter to appear.

With this field-dew, I do thee consecrate,
I pray thee please me now, I can not wait.
Full oft hast thou pleasured, my ample manhood,
And shown me enchantments, in the greenwood.

The velvet tongue of midnight, hath told twelve,
Thou shalt come when, I dig, dive and delve.
Call out thine song, whether thou wilt or not,
At once thou wench lease, I shoot my own shot.

Thou hath well beguiled me, with thine beauty,
Least I loose the plot, let me do my duty.
Since my magic wand, is now at its prime,
Let's straight to bed, 'tis almost fairy time.

Durst thou have climbed, upon me to gyrate,
Thy summer curves doth, tend upon my state.
I pray thee what wilt, thou do to please me?
Oh no, not now, I've mislaid that dam key!

Copyright Andrew Rea Midsummer 2016

Friday, 10 June 2016

Drinking Feast


Set in early Saxon times when ploughing began in Solmonath (February) we know from ‘The Rights of Various People’ that workers had the right to a drinking feast in return for their obligation to a days ploughing on the Lord's land.

Plough teams had one, two or eight oxen. In the case of a two oxen team the oxen would have had names that they could easily recognise, traditionally a one syllable name and a two syllable name (here Nimble walking in the farrow and Quick walking on the turf).

Field sizes were set in very practical ways: the length that the oxen could work before needing a break set the length, this was called a 'furrow long' which became the furlong. The width of a field was determined by what a plough team could plough in a day this is known as a rod or a chain. The area of this field became known as an acre.

Ploughing started at the centre end of the field and progressed back and forth in a spiral fashion moving clockwise turning the sods to the right, in this way over the years the fields developed a camber which often still shows on our landscape.

Nerthus was the Earth goddess as noted by Saint Bede. Note in later Saxon times she was replaced by Frigg.

Ploughing was hard work requiring strength to control the plough, Elf-schot refers to 'a sudden sharp pain caused by the influence of elves'

Drinking Feast

In cold Solmonath, we return to mead,
Oxen in frosty, crisp morning to lead.
To plough the cold land, to sow the corn seed,
To the lord's first field, fulfilling our deed.

When sun he upgoeth, we bless the ploughshare,
God speed the plough team, let naught us impair.
We three men tilleth, Nerthus in her earth,
For the livelihood, of all men's worth.

We two men a ploughing, a lad sowing corn,
Two oxen a pulling, on a misty morn.
I am a leading, Aelfric guides the plough,
Elf-schot in the back, if thee don’t know how.

Raising the mouldboard, at end furrow long,
Changing our places, thee need to stay strong.
Nimble in furrow, and Quick on the turf,
Pulling heavy plough, for all of their worth.

Walking the furlong, sun wise straight and fine,
Strong oxen to rest, at end of the line.
With turf on the left, and sod on the right,
Ploughing all long day, before it is night.

That sacred point when, day and night divide,
Put away the plough, its ale drinking tide.
After the plough day, and thrusting our shaft,
On eve of morrow, we quaff the strong draught.

Bring us more good ale, we'll raise our great horn,
Up with pointy end, drink to Barleycorn.
Made from best barely, we down it with glee,
Lift up thine tankards, wassail unto thee.

Copyright Andrew Rea May 2016

See also 'The Corn Dolly': 

and Solmonath:

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Possible Translation of Lacnunga P10.10 - Revisited

Lacnunga P10.10 – See Leechdoms, Wortcunning and Starcraft of Early England
Vol III, P10 line10
'In case a man or a beast drink an insect'

Other possible translations

Further to my proposed possible translation of this charm (See my blog December 2015)
I reproduce here two somewhat more scholastic attempts at a translation, for comparison. These are attempts by students as part of their thesis’s.

The Galdor (charm)
Gonomil orgomil marbumil
marbsai marbsai tofethtengo docuillo biran cuithaer
caefmiil fcuiht cuillo scuiht cuib duill marbsiramum

My proposed translation:
I wound the animal, I strike the animal, I kill the animal.
Brine of death, brine of death (with) wind (and) tongue I destroy the thorn from the sky, belonging to fine lovely honey, suck the wound/ wound (like) a love bite/suck if (it be) split, sing to kill the long (worm).

Additional note: the implied use of saliva.
Belief in the medicinal usefulness of saliva is very ancient: see e.g. Opie & Tatem [1989: 373-41, Bonser [1963: 22 1-21, Chowdharay-Best [1975], Nicolson [1897] and Selare [19391. Its use in a remedy for wyrm is also derived from the belief recorded by Pliny that: Omnium vero in primis ieiunain salivam contra serpentes praesidio esse
docuimus. [NH 28.3 5].
Chowdharay-Best [1975: 197] also notes instances of the use of saliva against
venomous creatures in the works of Galen, Paulus Aegineta, and Oribasius.

Heather Lesley Stuart (1973: A Critical Edition of Some Anglo-Saxon Charms and Incantations. 802-9) proposes this reconstruction of the galdor:

Gono mil, orgo mil, marbu mil.
Marb sir [n]-amus. Do-foth tengo do. Guillo biran co [n]-ith ar
cach miil scucht co n-ibdaich. Marb sir [n]-amus.

Stuart's translation:
I wound the animal, I slay the animal, I kill the animal.
Kill the long-lived hireling. Its tongue will fall out. I destroy the little spear with fat
for each animal an end with a sorcerer. Kill the long-lived hireling

However duill "creature" has been removed, and the amendments do not produce readily intelligible sense.
Perhaps with the application of strict lexical and syntactical sense damage is done to the sound-patterns of the galdor.

With this in mind Harley (1996 A critical edition of the Anglo-Saxon Lacnunga in BL MS Harley 585 P315-318) suggests

Gono mil orgo mil marbu mil
marb sair amum tofeth tengo do cuillo biran cuuthaer
cufinnl scuiht cuillo scuiht cuib-.duill, marb sir amum.

Harley's translation:
I wound the animal, I hut the animal, I kill the animal.
Kill the long/lasting creature! The beast's tongue will fall out. I destroy the little
spear with verse.
Against the (?)dear-beast (?)An ending. I destroy. (?)An ending. (?)dear-beast. Kill the long/lasting creature!

So my previous conclusion remains and is reprinted thus:

Of course one could also arrive at alternative variations in the translation and perhaps this ambiguity is exactly what the charm intended to achieve, after all it is unlikely the Anglo-Saxons would have had any understanding of Old Irish. What would have been important was the distinct incantatory sound patterning resulting from the alliteration, rhyming and repetition.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

On the Spindle Side - Youtube link

I have a few of my poems recorded with brief introductions on Youtube, here is a link to the second poem:

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Drink Hail

We have just premièred my poem based on Phil's mead. Philip is a good and true Heathen friend that brews very fine mead indeed. I have drunk many a bottle and partaken of many a little sip on my little mead bench.

Drink Hail
Drink up Phil's fine mead, and wassail to thee,
Pass full horn around, merry let us be.
With horns we shall hail, here's to the best brew,
Let's toast raise the roof, with good mead and true.
Pass horn to the left, raise another toast,
Feel free to be bold, and make biggest boast.
Mead moves round with sun, drink hail and wassail,
A mouthful of mead, and tell a tall tale.
Mead cup bearing boys, bring it round again,
Take another small sip, send it to your brain.
Slurp Phil's spicy mead, that's fit for a thane,
Into the long night, and drink like a Dane.
Let's take the mead oath, to kith kind and true,
And swear allegiance, to friends old and new.
Partake one last horn, wassail me and you,
After five or six, you haven't a clue.
Up with pointy end, and wassail away,
Made from best honey, by Philip the fay.
The fairies' about, at this time of day,
One more little swig, is the Heathen way.

Fell free to share.....