Episode 63: Restorations and Remedies

In this episode, we explore two different types of restorations. We begin with the restoration of the traditional West Saxon monarchy under Edward the Confessor.  Edward’s nickname reflects his piety and his purported ability to cure sick people with his healing touch. We then examine a different type of restoration – the restoration of health. We look at two Anglo-Saxon medical texts which contain a variety of charms, medications and other cures. Along the way, we explore English words which derive from ancient medical remedies.


23 thoughts on “Episode 63: Restorations and Remedies

  1. Regarding the words worthship and worship, the latter is still used as an honorific prefix for mayors and some other public officials. Where Americans would say “Your Honor”, north of the 49th parallel it would be “Your Worship”. That’s my direct experience here in Quebec and in some other parts of the Commonwealth (former British colonies).

  2. Is the “loc”/”latch” mentioned here related to “warlock” (especially given the connection to spells etc.)? I know “witch” and “wicca” were discussed in an earlier episode, but I don’t remember a connection to this word.

    • “Lock” and “latch” do not appear to be related to “warlock.” The “lock” in “warlock” is derived from the Old English word “leogan” meaning ‘to lie.’ The “war” part is derived from the OE word “waer” meaning ‘faith, fidelity, or covenant.” So a “warlock” was literally an ‘covenant liar’ or ‘oath-breaker.’

  3. Regarding the House of Wessex, Edward “the Confessor” was not the last male representative. He had two nephews, Edmund I’s sons, Edward “the Exile” (who was adopted and declared heir by Edward “the Confessor” but died in 1057 and was buried in Old St Paul’s Cathedral) and Edmund “the Exile,” who did not return to England as he died before Edward succeeded.
    Now, Edward “the Exile” did have offspring and one of them Edgard “the Atheling” was briefly King of England during William’s conquest, but had to take refuge in Scotland, where his sister (St) Margaret married Malcolm III of Scotland. Their daughter, Edith (Matilda) married Henry I, son of William, providing the House of Normandy with the necessary link to the House of Wessex.
    On a side note (although this is just History), William’s wife, Matilda of Flanders was a direct descendant of Elfrida, daughter of Alfred the Great and of Eadgifu, sister of Athelstan, and granddaughter of Alfred. So, even if William had no connection whatsoever to the House of Wessex by blood, his wife did.
    Not that this matters to the History of English but it does to History in general.

    • Well, don’t take the above into account. You just mentioned Edgard in Episode 67 (actually, he wasn’t abandoned, he had to seek refuge in the North, ending up in Malcolm III of Scotland’s court, where his sister married Malcolm).

  4. Fascinating as ever. Interested by your pronunciation of “salve” and “evolve”, both silencing the L, as in the US pronunciation of “golf”. We in the UK pronounce the Ls, and also in “valve” and “revolve”…but not in “calf” and “calve”!

  5. I love the podcast and I’m very appreciative of the history, which inevitably involves ecclesiastical history. This was the first episode that I have to quibble with, however. Catholics would never describe Edward’s abilities (whether real or legendary) as “magic,” but rather “miraculous.” Magic abilities would have their provenance in some source other than God, whereas miraculous abilities are naturally inexplicable but ultimately attributable to God.

    • Honestly, it has been so long since I prepared this episode that I don’t remember the full context for my reference to his powers as ‘magic.’ I get your point though. I sometimes obsess over a particular word or phrase, and inevitably, the feedback I receive is usually about a word I had never given a second thought to.

      • Thanks for the response! It makes sense – you can’t obsess over every word. It stood out to me as an exception to the excellent job you’ve done in reporting religious history in a factual and respectful way. Thanks for all your work!

  6. Hello Kevin, I’ve come to your podcast late (I’ve only just listened to episode #63) and am enjoying it immensely. Thank you for all your hard work – the podcast really is a delight to listen to. Your information is presented in a thoughtful, intelligent and well-organised manner, and I do love how you make connections and transition from one thing to another. I just wanted to let you know how chuffed I was to hear you recite and translate the charm against warts. Not only was the charm touchingly poetic – I was amazed at how beautiful it was and at how much effort must have been put into it by the Anglo-Saxons – but I was hurled back to my own past. Namely, when I was a young kid in the late 70s I had a problem with warts – as many kids do. My mother was a school teacher and one of her colleagues and friends was a woman who had emigrated to Australia from what was then known as Rhodesia. From a distance, without touching me, this woman charmed my warts off at one of our rural ‘shows’ (perhaps Australian shows equate to US fairs?). Later, my mother told me that her friend had asked the warts to go away; that they really didn’t need to be on my body; that they should go home. This lady was originally from England. So when I listened to your podcast, I realised that in the late 1970s, in a place as far away from England as anywhere, I was healed by a woman drawing on an old old Anglo-Saxon remedy. Thanks Kevin, for alerting me to the tradition!

  7. Again, Mr. Stroud, a remarkably interesting podcast. I’ve worked through several and find each one offering a new and excellent insight. Language is history but language is also culture and your commentary on the loc/latch/logic connection got the gears working. Is, then, the connection in Indo-European also the word “LOGOS” from the Greek? My understanding is that Logos referred not just to language but to a mathematical matrix that governed all of the physical world – something connected to Plato’s “Eidoi” (Forms). If so, would the “magicians” of old conceived themselves as manipulating or “folding” the Logos through language? This is a VERY intriguing idea. I’ve often marveled at how intimately connected words are to manipulation of the world around us (ever since listening to The Police as a teenager: da doo doo doo, da da da da) and think this concept might have traction.

  8. Then as a follow up – when the Enlightenment thinkers referred to “superstitious ideas” such as religion & magic which needed to be excised for science to improve the world, were they perhaps thinking about this ubiquitous sense of manipulation of the world by words? I agree with Fr. Tim’s above distinction btwn “magic” and “mystical” but perhaps the two were more intricately entwined in the world prior to the 1700s than they are now. King James did, after all, have commissioned both the translation of the Bible and the definitive compendium on witchcraft during the 1600s.

  9. The University of Nottingham’s Mathematics and Computer Science departments have hit pretty big on Youtube, so there’s one more thing.

  10. Talk about late to the party! I recently discovered your podcast, Kevin, and I ADORE it! Educational, absorbing, erudite–and thoroughly entertaining! I can’t believe I’m at #63, and we’re not even at the Norman Conquest!! But your pace is fine with me. Such a lovely respite from and counterpoint to the news. I just wish I could remember 1/10 of all the great “Aha!” moments I encounter here… Thank you for this prodigious effort!

    Regarding ‘stitch’ as a sharp pain: When I was little (in 1950s S. California), we would talk about getting a “stitch in my side” while exercising. Thanks for explaining the origin of the word.

  11. P.S. I forgot to mention: That something should become as small as a “hand-worm’s hipbone” is such a wonderful image (and spell)! These were poetic and playful people!

  12. I also love your podcast Kevin and have been thrilled to find so many of my ancestors mentioned ☺️ I’m finding out how ruthless some of them were but fun stuff anyway 🤣

    I was so glad you mentioned the research on the boil remedy in the book and its efficacy because you were hitting a discordant note with me (a rare thing I can assure you.) when you were disparaging the remedies in the book. Many modern medications owe their foundations to the work of such healers and knowledge. And we are even discovering now that words and thought processes have a powerful impact on health and wellbeing (just look at mindfulness, mantras, and nuero plasticity for instance). So not all of those potions and charms would have worked but it’s likely many of them would have. You don’t know what you don’t know. Generations of experience and testing would have gone into that body of knowledge.

    Historically women were the healers and midwives in their communities and, unfortunately, women’s wizdom and experiences have always been feared and discounted by males in power – a practice which continues today. It was just over 100 years ago that it was “scientific proof” that you couldn’t educate females because their brains were so small their heads would explode. And, as you’ve so ably pointed out, education and literacy was restricted to a select few males. It was males who recorded history and created the historical record and everything was filtered through a privileged male lens.

    Your research is amazing and your stories so engaging. Thank you for sharing your passion and knowledge with us ❣️

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