Charms, Old English (882 words)

Historical Context Essay


A charm is a verbal formula performed in rituals designed to protect or heal; the words of the charm may command invisible forces in nature or appeal to divine power in order to bring out the virtues of herbal ingredients in a remedy or to ward off evil. The literary designation “Old English charms” refers to a group of semi-poetic texts found in ninth to eleventh century Anglo-Saxon manuscripts and identified by early twentieth-century scholars as incantations performed for magical effect. Because these formulas occur in Christian manuscripts alongside other religious and medical texts, the line between a charm, a prayer, and a remedy is often difficult to distinguish. Hence, scholars debate whether the Old English charms retained i…

Jolly, Karen Louise. "Charms, Old English". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 24 April 2003
[, accessed 23 October 2016.]