Old English Medical Remedies: Mandrake, Wormwood and Raven's Eye

Old English Medical Remedies: Mandrake, Wormwood and Raven's Eye

Old English Medical Remedies: Mandrake, Wormwood and Raven's Eye

Sinéad Spearing

How pagan women blended magic and medicine—and why their medieval recipes may help cure modern-day illnesses.

In ninth-century England, Bishop lfheah the Bald is dabbling with magic. By collecting folk remedies from pagan women, he risks his reputation. Yet posterity has been kind, as from the pages of Bald’s book a remedy has been found that cures the superbug MRSA where modern antibiotics have failed.

Within a few months of this discovery, a whole new area of medical research called Ancientbiotics has been created to discover further applications for these remedies. Yet, what will science make of the elves, hags and nightwalkers which also stalk the pages of Bald’s book and its companion piece Lacnunga, urging prescriptions of a very different, unsettling nature?

In these works, cures for the “moon mad” and hysteria are interspersed with directives to drink sheep’s dung and jump across dead men’s graves. Old English Medical Remedies explores the herbal efficacy of these ancient remedies while evaluating the supernatural, magical elements, and suggests these provide a powerful psychological narrative revealing an approach to healthcare far more sophisticated than hitherto believed. All the while, the voices of the wise women who created and used these remedies are brought to life, after centuries of suppression by the Church, in this fascinating read.


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