Tenth Century Anglo-Saxon folk magic

Ælfric of Eynsham (955-1010 CE) was an English abbot and renowned author of Christian works. In a homily on the Passion of St. Bartholomew the Apostle, Ælfric had the following to say regarding folk magical practices:

The Christian man, who in any of this like is afflicted, and he then will seek his health at unallowed practices, or at accursed enchantments, or at any witchcraft, then will he be like to those heathen men, who offered to an idol for their bodies’ health, and so destroyed their souls. Let him who is sick pray for his health to his Lord, and patiently endure the stripes; let him behold how long the true Leech provides, and buy not, through any devil’s craft, with his soul, his body’s health; let him also ask the blessing of good men, and seek his health at holy relics. It is not allowed to any Christian man to fetch his health from any stone, nor from any tree, unless it be the holy sign of the rood, nor from any place, unless it be the holy house of God: he who does otherwise, undoubtedly commits idolatry…

The wise Augustine said, that it is not perilous, though any one eat a medicinal herb; but he reprehends it as an unallowed charm, if any one bind those herbs on himself, unless he lay them on a sore. Nevertheless we should not set our hope in medicinal herbs, but in the Almighty Creator, who has given that virtue to those herbs. No man shall enchant a herb with magic, but with God’s words shall bless it, and so eat it.

Source: The Homilies of the Anglo-Saxon Church

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