Lori Ann Garner
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Of swords and status
Hybridity of metaphor in Ic me on þisse gyrde beluce
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Chapter 2 examines metaphorical weapons that appear in Old English charms and remedies and asks: what happens when we consider the weapons as more than abstract metaphors for battling disease, when we think of the weapons in more concrete, literal terms? The chapter first brings oral theory into dialogue with approaches from archaeology in an analysis of the Old English Herbarium entry for yarrow, a medicinal herb whose healing properties are deeply connected in traditional lore to the legendary battles of Achilles. The chapter then builds toward analyzing in greater depth an Old English alliterative poem from the margins of Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, opening ‘Ic me on þisse gyrde beluce’, a generically hybrid poem in which weapons serve as metaphors for healing and protection. Old English traditional remedies frequently employ weapons (both as metaphors and also as healing implements) to conceptualize disease and to negotiate power over illness and adversity in early medieval England, providing important glimpses into how ‘battles’ against ailment might have been understood and imagined by the texts’ earliest audiences. In metaphorically equating items of the most elite warrior’s armor – specifically a sword, shield, mailcoat, and helmet – to the four gospel authors, Ic me on þisse gyrde beluce essentially elevates figures associated with Christian liturgy to the highest values of loyalty, honor, and protection within the vernacular heroic tradition. Finally, the chapter concludes by discussing several debated matters of editing and translation.

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Hybrid healing

Old English remedies and medical texts


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