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Title: The liturgy of 'charms' in Anglo-Saxon England
Author: Arthur, Ciaran
ISNI:       0000 0004 5923 0601
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis undertakes a re-evaluation of the concept of ‘charms’ in Anglo-Saxon culture, and reconsiders three core issues that lie at the heart of this genre: the definition of galdor as ‘charm’; the manuscript contexts of rituals that have been included in this genre; and the phenomenon of ‘gibberish’ writing which is used as a defining characteristic of ‘charms’. The thesis investigates the different meanings of galdor from the entire corpus of Old English before reconsidering its meaning in ritual texts. It then explores the liturgical nature of these seemingly unorthodox rituals, and argues that ‘charms’ were understood to be part of the Anglo-Saxon liturgy. The manuscript contexts of ‘charms’ indicate that Anglo-Saxon scribes did not distinguish between these rituals and other liturgical texts, and I take a case study of one manuscript to demonstrate this. Some rituals from the Vitellius Psalter have been included in editions of ‘charms’, and this case study reinterprets these texts as components of a liturgical collection. The Vitellius Psalter also reveals intertextual relationships between ‘gibberish’ writing in some of its rituals and exercises in encryption, suggesting that several texts encode meaning in this manuscript. The findings of this case study are then developed to reconsider the phenomenon of ‘gibberish’ writing that is used as a defining characteristic of ‘charms’, and it offers an alternative way of reading abstract letter sequences in ritual texts according to Patristic philosophies of language. This study does not aim to analyse every ritual that has been included in the corpus of ‘charms’ but each chapter will take case studies from a range of manuscripts that are representative of the genre and its sub-categories. The thesis challenges the notion that there was any such thing as an Anglo-Saxon ‘charm’, and it offers alternative interpretations of these rituals as liturgical rites and coded texts.
Supervisor: James, Sarah ; Gittos, Helen Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: P Language and Literature