Atchleya, E.G.CF 1896–1900 Some Notes on the Beginning and Growth of the Usage of a Second Gospel at Mass. Trans. St Pauls Ecclesiol Soc. , Vol IV, 161–176.
Bozóky, Edina 2013 Medieval Narrative Charms. In Kapaló, James Alexander – Pócs, Éva – Ryan, W. F. (eds.) The Power of Words: Studies on Charms and Charming in Europe, 101–115. Budapest – New York: Central European University Press.
Huws, Daniel 2008 The Welsh Book. In Morgan, Nigel J. – Thomson, Rodney M. (eds.) The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain. II. 1100–1400., 390–396. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Olsan, Lea 2004 Charms in Medieval Memory. In Roper, Jonathan (ed.) Charms and Charming in Europe, 59–88. Houndmills – Basingstoke – Hampshire – New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Olsan, Lea 2009 The Corpus of Charms in the Middle English Leechcraft Remedy Books. In Roper, Jonathan (ed.) Charms, Charmers and Charming: International Research on Verbal Magic, 214–237. Houndmills – Basingstoke – Hampshire – New York: Palgrave Macmillan. (Palgrave historical studies in witchcraft and magic.)
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)| false Olsan, Lea 2009 The Corpus of Charms in the Middle English Leechcraft Remedy Books. In (ed.) Roper, Jonathan Charms, Charmers and Charming: International Research on Verbal Magic, 214– 237. Houndmills – Basingstoke – Hampshire – New York: Palgrave Macmillan. ( Palgrave historical studies in witchcraft and magic.)
Olsan, Lea 2011 The Three Good Brothers Charm: Some Historical Points. Incantatio. An International Journal on Charms, Charmers and Charming 1:47–78.
Olsan, Lea 2013 The Marginality of Charms in Medieval England. In Kapaló, James Alexander – Pócs, Éva – Ryan, William F. (eds.) The Power of Words: Studies on Charms and Charming in Europe, 135–164. Budapest – New York: Central European University Press.
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)| false Olsan, Lea 2013 The Marginality of Charms in Medieval England. In . (eds.) – Kapaló, James Alexander – Pócs, Éva Ryan, William F The Power of Words: Studies on Charms and Charming in Europe, 135– 164. Budapest – New York: Central European University Press.
Roper, Jonathan 2009 Charms, Charmers and Charming: International Research on Verbal Magic. Houndmills – Basingstoke – Hampshire – New York: Palgrave Macmillan. (Palgrave historical studies in witchcraft and magic.).
Suggett, Richard 2019 Welsh Witches: Narratives of Witchcraft and Magic in 16 th and 17 th Century Wales. Wales: Atramentous Press.
The Prologue, or the in principio, was used in the Middle Ages by Mendicant Friars when begging, but it was also used as a charm to drive out demons, bad dreams, and even to cure epilepsy, often referred to as morbus Sancti Johannis. In the late twelfth century, Gerald of Wales stated that the ignorant people of his day believed that the in principio could exorcise demons. Giraldus Cambrensis, Opera, ed. J.S Brewer, Rolls Series, 1862, Vol II p 129. See also R.A Law in P.M.L.A Vol XXXVII (1922), 208–215 and E.G.CF Atchley in Trans. St Pauls Ecclesiol Soc., Vol IV (1896– 1900), p 161–176.
In both cases, the in principio is found among and between healing charms and medical remedies. Additionally, rather than being translated into Welsh, or written in Latin with Latin orthography, the in principio was written orthographically in Welsh, though it remained essentially Latin, a point I will return to later. Rather than translating it into Welsh, which would have been pretty standard for a religious work of that time, the text was kept in Latin, but written in Welsh orthography, transliterated, or transcribed, for or by someone unfamiliar with Welsh. The ways in which the text was transmitted in these instances, along with the manuscript context in which they are found, indicate quite clearly that they functioned as healing charms in both cases.
Social class was also a factor in Gwen’s case, and, as Richard Suggett has demonstrated, it should be noted that Gwen would have most likely been allowed to live in peace and under the radar had it not been for the involvement of (and threat to) a wealthy local family. See Suggett (2019) for more.
Scholars of Welsh history typically view the Laws in Wales 1535–1542 as the time of transition from medieval to early modern.
There is a fairly significant disparity between extant sources from the earlier period (late fourteenth century/early fifteenth century) and those of the later period (mid fifteenth century to the early modern era). Nevertheless, there is a discernible development in the Welsh charms, most notably in those that can be classified as “narrative charms”.
For more on narrative charms see Bozóky 2013:101. Many thanks to both Lea Olsan and Katherine Hindley for several stimulating discussions of narrative charms in the Welsh and English traditions. The work of both of these scholars has informed my own work on the Welsh charming tradition.
ibid. The earliest surviving Welsh book is the 8th century Gospel of St. Chad, at Litchfield Cathedral.
There are a few late fourteenth-century charms found in later manuscripts, having at some point been bound with the later texts.
Here I consider a collection of ten or more charms to be a “significant collection”. Most manuscripts with charms feature anywhere between one to five charms, and they are often not found in direct succession of each other as they are in the case of Cardiff 3.242 and National Library of Wales Peniarth Manuscript 204.
While my focus is on Welsh healing charms up to about 1600 at the latest, Owen Davies has presented some fascinating charms circulating in Britain in a later era. For more see Davies 1996.
For an edition and translation of this manuscript, see Jones (1955–1956), though she tends to omit significant parts of the charm texts, namely the “prayers” and “prayer-like” lines of the charms. More recently, Diana Luft has undertaken a new study of this manuscript and has generously shared some of her own transcriptions and translations for comparison. Additionally, the staff at the Cardiff Central Library, in particular Lesley Jenkins, graciously made the manuscript available for me to consult on very short notice.
It is perhaps of note that this verb, in the Latin, and the following verb, were not given in the subjunctive, as was the case in the charm above (and as is the case in the last verb of this current charm). Perhaps this was simply a mistake on the part of the copyist or the text he may have been copying from, or perhaps it is indicative of the copyist’s level of familiarity with Latin.
For example, some charm types only exist in Welsh manuscripts in Latin contexts. A Latin charm for an eye blemish features the only use of the Nichasius motif that I have thus far uncovered in Welsh. Similarly, the charms that feature Peter sitting on a stone, or in the gates of Galilee are specific Latin charms that were not, for whatever reason, featured in vernacular charms in Welsh manuscripts.
Both words used here indicate a wound from which the skin is pierced. Brath means bite, but also a piercing or stabbing. Similarly, dyrnod means a blow, but in the sense of a cut or gash-a blow that significantly pierces the skin.
Huws, Daniel unpublished book manuscript, accessed with the assistance of Catherine McKenna, Harvard University, and Canolfan Uwchefrydiau Cymreig a Cheltaidd Prifysgol Cymru, Aberystwyth.
Welsh narrative charms that belong to the wider English and European tradition (Longinus, Flum Jordan etc.) often do not feature the elaborate strings of operative words or phrases that are sometimes labelled as ‘gibberish’. Rather, in Welsh charms, these long strings of words and phrases are most prevalent in charms of general protection and in charms for ailments where the charm type does not display much continuity or consistency with wider charming traditions outside of Wales.