Violence, Christianity, and the Anglo-Saxon charms
Laurajan G. Gallardo
Master’s Thesis, Eastern Illinois University, 2011
Abstract: The thesis focuses on violence reinterpreted through the Anglo-Saxon charms that exhibit a fusion of Christian and pagan elements. In order to comprehend the impact of this fusion, I provide ecclesiastical and social histories of the Anglo-Saxons, stressing upon the interconnectedness of both-an essential concept in understanding the Anglo Saxon view of the world. This interconnectedness is seen in the Anglo-Saxon perception of magic, which in their understanding was synonymous to science or religion. I provide a brief introduction on magical practices and beliefs that applied to the charms, shedding light on how they were expected to work. In the third chapter of the thesis, I include seven Old English charms of my own translation, categorizing them into three groups:
1. Charms that require violent acts for their efficacy;
2. Charms that remedy a violent act;
3. Charms that protect against violence.
I analyze each of the charms, providing a Christian and pagan understanding for each one. Each section concludes with a statement about how violence was reinterpreted in the charms. Based on the chronology of the manuscripts in which the charms were found, I argue that the charms increasingly become more prayer-like, moving from being pagan chants superimposed with Christian references to incantations more like prayers.