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Ritual for healing a blighted field

wheat

Æcerbot (Field-remedy)

A tenth-century prayer translated in Popular Religion in Late Saxon England: Elf Charms in Context by Karen Louise Jolly.

The original contains many phrases duplicated in Latin and Anglo-Saxon, e.g. “sanctus, holy.” I’ve edited out the duplicates for clarity’s sake.

This prayer, like any formal observance, could be performed as a mechanical “vain repetition.” But to the liturgical worshiper this rite is a richly enculturated act of prayer that personally involves a whole family or community, together with the prayers of the Church, in addressing a blighted field. Whether the blight were due to parasites or spiritual foes, its impact on a family’s livelihood would be profound, and the need for remedy great.

The whole “Field Remedy” would take an entire day to complete.

Here is the remedy, how you may better your land, if it will not grow well or if some harmful thing has been done to it by a sorcerer or by a poisoner.

At night, before dawn, take four sods, from four sides of the land, and mark where they were before.

Then take oil and honey and yeast, and milk of each animal that is on the land, and a piece of each type of tree that grows on the land, except hard beams, and a piece of each herb known by name, except burdock only, and put then holy water thereon, and drip it three times on the base of the sods, and say then these words:

Grow, and multiply, and fill the earth: In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, be blessed. And the Our Father as often as the other.

And then carry the sods into church, turn the green sides to the altar and let a masspriest sing four masses over the sods. And after that let someone bring the sods to where they were before, before the sun sets.

And have four signs of Christ [crosses] made of quickbeam for them, and write on each end: Matthew and Mark, Luke, and John. Lay that sign of Christ in the bottom of the pit where each sod had been cut out, saying then: The cross of Matthew, the cross of Mark, the cross of Luke, the cross of John.

Take then the sods and set them down there on the crosses, and say then nine times these words, “Grow…” and as often the Our Father. Then turn to the east, and bow nine times humbly, and speak then these words:

Eastwards I stand, for mercies I pray, I pray the great Lord, I pray the powerful Lord, I pray the holy Guardian of heaven-kingdom, earth I pray and sky and the true holy Mary and heaven’s might and high hall, that by the gift of the Lord I may open this charm with my teeth through firm thought, to call forth these plants for our worldly use, to fill this land with firm belief, to beautify this grassy turf, as the wise man said that he would have riches on earth who alms gave with justice by the grace of the Lord.

Then turn thrice with the sun’s course [clockwise], and stretch out lengthwise and enumerate there the litanies and say then: Holy, holy, holy… to the end. Sing then Benedicite with outstretched arms and the Magnificat and the Our Father thrice, and commend the land to Christ and holy Mary and the holy cross for praise and for worship and for the benefit of the one who owns that land, and all those who are serving under him.

When all that is done, then let a man take unknown seed from beggars and give them twice as much as he took from them, and let him gather all his plough tools together; then let him bore a hole in the beam of the plough, putting in incense and fennel and hallowed soap and hallowed salt. Take then that seed, set it on the plough’s body, say then:

Truly [Erce], truly, truly, earth’s mother, May the All-Ruler, the eternal Lord, grant you, fields growing and flourishing, propagating and strengthening, tall shafts, bright crops, and broad barley crops, and white wheat crops, and all earth’s crops. May the eternal Lord, and His holy ones, who are in heaven, grant him that his produce be guarded against any enemies whatsoever, and that it be safe against any harm at all, from poisons sown around the land. Now I bid the Master, who shaped this world, that there be no speaking-woman nor crafty man that can overturn these words thus spoken.

Then let a man drive forth the plough and the first furrow cuts, say then:

Whole may you be [Be well], earth, mother of men! May you be growing in God’s embrace, filled with food for the needs of men.

Take then each kind of flour and have someone bake a loaf the size of a hand’s palm and knead it with milk and with holy water and lay it under the first furrow. Say then:

Field full of food for mankind, bright-blooming, you are blessed in the holy name of the One who shaped heaven and the earth on which we live; the God, the One who made the ground, grant us the gift of growing, that for us each grain might come to use.

Say then thrice “Grow… in the name of the Father… be blessed. Amen” and the Our Father three times.

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