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Utterance instructions in the Anglo-Saxon charms The utterance instruction is a distinguishing structural feature of that group of Anglo-Saxon charms covered by the following definition: "any magical or medicinal recipe that contains a magical formula designed to be spoken, chanted, or sung: that is, any recipe containing a recongnisable incantation". The utterance instruction generally states the way in which its accompanying incantation is meant to be uttered; it may also indicate other significant factors, such as the author's attitude to the incantation involved. This paper investigates the forms of the utterance instruction and the relationship between categories of utterance instruction and incantation. The Old English verbs used most frequently in utterance instructions are cweban and sinzfln. Utterance instructions containing cwepan may accompany various types of incantation. The simplest type, certainly preChristian in origin, is the prose statement commanding or petitioning a certain substance to become potent in some specified manner. Such incantations generally form part of a series of magical actions which were evidently felt to result in an efficacious medicine or a truly protective amulet. For instance, to guard against weariness on a journey, the patient is advised to cairy some mugwort, and to explain his needs to the herb while he is picking it: (1) Wip miclum z,onze ofer land by laes he teorize mucz,wyrt nime him on hand oppe do on his sco by lass he mebize 7 ponne he niman wille aer sunnan upzanze cwebe bas word aerest. Tellan (sic) te artemesia ne lassus sum (sic) in uia ' zesena hie ponne bu up teo. For a long journey by land, in case he should tire, let him take mugwort in his hand or put it into his shoe in case he should grow weary, and when he wants to take it before sunrise, let him first say these words: "I take you, artemisia, in case I grow weary on the way". Make the sign of the cross over it when you pull it up. (MS B M Royal 12 D. xvii, fol. 57; Laeceboc I; Cockayne, vol.2, 154)1 Cweban is also used of short prose incantations derived from Christian ritual or scripture. The Mcerbot is full of such directions as (2) ... and cwebe bonne bas word: Crescite, wexe, et multiplicamini, and gemasnigfealda, et replete, and gefylle, terre, pas eoroan. In nomine patris et filii et spiritus sancti sit benedicti. . . . and then say these words: "Grow and multiply and fill the earth. In the name of the father and the son and the holy ghost, may it be blessed". (Dobbie, no.l, p.116) It seems that the charm composer's decision to include either cweban or sinzan in an utterance instruction was deliberate: in such a context, cweban and sinz/m are mutually exclusive terms. In the following extract 32 H. Stuart from the charm against aelfsozoba, "elf-sucking", for instance, it seems clear that the two shorter incantations should be "said" while the longer should be sung: (3) . . . Wyrc bonne drenc . . . writ .TIT crucem mid oleum infirmorum 7 cwe6 * pax tibi ' Nim b o n n e P331 zewrit writ crucem mid ofer bam drince 7 sinz pis peer ofer. Deus omnipotens pater domini ' nostri ' iesu cristi per inpositionem huius scripturae et per z,ustum huius expelle diabolum a famulo tuo *N* 7 credo * 7 pater ' noster • waet past zewrit on bam drence 7 writ crucem mid him on aelcum lime 7 cweo si^num crucis xpT conseruate in uitam eternam ' amen. Then make a potion . . . . Write a cross three times with oleum infirmorum and say "Peace be with you". Then take the writing and make a cross with it over the potion and sing this over it: "Omnipotent God, father of our lord Jesus Christ, through the laying on of this writing and through the tasting of this, drive out the devil from your servant N"; and a creed and a paternoster. Wet the writing in the potion and write a cross with it on each limb and say, "May the sign of the cross of Christ keep you in eternal life. Amen". (MS Royal 12Dxvii; fol. 125a ; Laeceboc 11$ Cockayne, vol.2, 350) The charm composer...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1832-8334
Print ISSN
0313-6221
Pages
pp. 31-37
Launched on MUSE
2013-04-03
Open Access
No
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