Lay of the nine herbs / 1995

Date: Tue, 5 Sep 1995 23:17:13 +0000
From: christopher hedley <christopher.GN.APC.ORG>
Subject: Lay of the nine herbs

> if anone knows where I can get a copy of the Anglo-Saxon poem, "Lay of the Nine Herbs" I would appreciate it!

From the Anglo-saxon Lacnunga as quoted in Ealanour Sinclair Rhode, The Old English Herbals, pub Minerva 1922 and 1974. There is a recent paperback edition.

The herbs are;

  1. an unknown herb called atherlothe
  2. Mugwort
  3. Plantain
  4. Watercress
  5. Camomile
  6. Stinging Nettle
  7. Crab Apple
  8. Chervil
  9. Fennel.

These nine attack against creeping venoms.
A worm came creeping, he tore assunder a man.
Then took Woden nine magic twigs,
then smote the serpent that he in nine bits dispersed.
Now these nine herbs have power against nine magic outcasts,
against nine venoms and against nine flying things
and have might against the loathed things that over land rove.
Against the red venoms, against the runlan venom,
against the white venom, against the blue venom,
against the green venom, against the dusky venom,
against the brown venom, against the purple venom.
Against the worm blast, against the water blast,
against the thorn blast, against the thistle blast,
Against the ice blast. Again the venom blast.

If any venom come flying from the east, or any come from the north,
or any come from the south, or any come from the west, over mankind.
I alone know a running river and the nine serpents behold it.
All weeds must now to herbs give way.
Seas dissolve and all salt water when I this venom from thee blow.

Worms are maybe better translated dragons. Dragons spit venoms, which cause diseases.

This chant reminds me of shamanic healing chants in other cultures, with its emphasis on including everything, impressing the patient with your all inclusive knowledge and secret knowledge.
I would be interested in any comparisons people may come up with here.

There is also an implication that magical use of these nine herbs would cure anything.... seems quite possible to me.

Christopher Hedley