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Nine Herbs Charm

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The Nine Herbs Charm, Nigon Wyrta Galdor, Lay of the Nine Healing Herbs, or Nine Wort Spell (among other names) is an Old English charm recorded in the tenth century CE.[1] It is part of the Anglo-Saxon medical compilation known as Lacnunga, which survives in the manuscript Harley MS 585 in the British Library.[2] The charm involves the preparation of nine plants.

The poem contains one of two clear Old English mentions of the god Woden in Old English poetry; the other is Maxims I of the Exeter Book. Robert K. Gordon's translation of the section reads as follows:

A snake came crawling, it bit a man.
Then Woden took nine glory-twigs,
Smote the serpent so that it flew into nine parts.
There apple brought this pass against poison,
That she nevermore would enter her house.[1]

Nine and three, numbers significant in Germanic paganism and later Germanic folklore, are mentioned frequently throughout the charm.[2]

Scholars have proposed that this passage describes Woden coming to the assistance of the herbs through his use of nine twigs, each twig inscribed with the runic first-letter initial of a plant.[3]

According to Gordon, the poem is "clearly an old heathen thing which has been subjected to Christian censorship."[1] Malcolm Laurence Cameron states that chanting the poem aloud results in a "marvellously incantatory effect".[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Gordon (1962:92–93).
  2. ^ a b Macleod (2006:127).
  3. ^ Mayr-Harting (1991:27).
  4. ^ Cameron (1993:144).


  • Cameron, Malcolm Laurence (1993). Anglo-Saxon Medicine. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-40521-1
  • Gordon, R. K. (1962). Anglo-Saxon Poetry. Everyman's Library #794. M. Dent & Sons, LTD.
  • Macleod, Mindy; Mees, Bernard (2006). Runic Amulets and Magic Objects. Boydell Press. ISBN 1-84383-205-4
  • Mayr-Harting, Henry (1991). The Coming of Christianity to Anglo-Saxon England. Penn State Press ISBN 0-271-00769-9

External links[edit]