Thursday, 1 December 2016

Speak like an Anglo-Saxon: Bees!

This is mostly thanks to wikipedia....

I know it's completely the wrong time of year for this, but as I was looking for something for World Soil Day, I came across this lovely charm for bees.

Never mind planting bee-friendly flowers, pollinator strips, wildflower meadows and the like, back in Anglo-Saxon times all you need to do* is say this simple poem and the little buzzers will swarm to you.

Sitte ge, sīgewīf,
sīgað tō eorðan,
næfre ge wilde
tō wuda fleogan,
beō ge swā gemindige,
mīnes gōdes,
swā bið manna gehwilc,
metes and ēðeles.

(translation by Greenfield, 1996)

Settle down, victory-women (i.e. bees),
never be wild and fly to the woods.
Be/bees -  as mindful of my welfare,
as is each man of border and of home.[4]

[Sit-uh yay, see-yuh-weef,
see-yath toe ay-orth-an,
nay-fre yay wild-uh
toe wood-a flay-o-gan,
bay-o yay swaa yu-min-dee-yu,
meen-us goad-es,
swaa bith man-a ye-hwiltch,
may-tes and eth-el-es]

You might as well chant "Esiotrot, esiotrot..." while you're at it...

*unverified claim alert

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

What's in the attic?

A minor disagreement over whether the thing through the hatch at the top of the stairs and under the roof was a loft or an attic got me wondering where the words came from.

Loft entered our language with the vikings. The word comes from the Old Norse Lopt (pronounce the 'p' more like an 'f'), meaning 'upper chamber, region of sky, or air', and the Old English loft means pretty much the same thing, but leaning slightly towards the 'air/sky' than the upper chamber. My archaeological knowledge of Anglo-Saxon isn't amazing, but I'm not sure how many of them had upper chambers...

The word Attic (thanks witionary), comes from practice of decorating the top of facades in the style of Attic architecture.

I'm not sure the Anglo-Saxons had a room at the top of their houses stuffed full with junk they might need one day or can't bear to part with, but if they did, it's more likely to have been a loft than an attic.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

The spacefarer part 1

This is a work in progress, and a request from my Dad. As such, there will be some grammatically erroneous words, but bear with me.

Ic þe soðan spell secgan,
hu ic neorxnewange nearlæceð
Tungolfara, freondes feawlic
Middangearde feore, Morgensteorra nearwwe
Feorþeod, sidweg....
Ne faran naenes her biforan

[I will tell you a true story, 
How I came near to the plains of heaven,
A star traveller with few friends.
The earth far away, the morning star near,
A faraway country, a long road.
No-one came here before.]

All plot suggestions gladly received! Where does he go? What does he see? What does he learn along the way? And what would an Anglo-Saxon beast of battle look like in space?

I've recently found the Old English Translator and it's really useful. I'd highly recommend it as a useful tool for writing your own Anglo Saxon. 


Friday, 22 April 2016

The Old English for 'beard'

This is a really easy one:


Say it with a lilt, like you're from North of the Humber; slowly, like you're enjoying having a beard; and pensively, like your beard gives you new cognitive powers. Roll your rrs.

The Anglo-Saxons gave us a wonderful gift in this word.

Enjoy the beard.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Happy Christmas and a sermon for 25 December

Gesælige Cristesmæsse 

[Yu-sail-ig-uh Krist-es-mess-uh]

Merry Christmas! 

The British Library has a lovely article on Ælfric and his Christmas homilies.

Check out the first semon in Cotton MS Julius e vii... in Ælfric's own words:

Ure hælend Crist... acenned wæs of Þam halgan mædene Marian

[Oo-re hay-lend Krist a-ken-ed was off tham hal-gan maid-un-uh Ma-ree-an]

Our saviour Christ was born of the holy maiden Mary

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Speak like a Saxon: Happy Easter

Just a few days to go until Easter. There's no better time than Holy Week to have a go at some Old English Easter phrases:

þonc sie Gode for þissere Eastre*

[Thonk see-yuh Go-du for this-er-uh Ay-as-truh"]

Thanks be to God for this Easter

I reckon that just about counts for 'Happy Easter'...

And you should also have a go at one that's a bit longer; a couple of lines from the Dream of the Rood: 

Deað he þær byrigde; hwæðere eft Dryhten aras

mid his miclan mihte mannum to helpe.

["day-ath hay there boo-rig-du; hwath-er-uh eft Drich-ten ar-ras
mid his mitch-lan mich-tuh man-um toe help-uh"] 

He tasted death there [in the grave]; nevertheless, afterwards the Lord arose
to help mankind with his great might.


*Warning: the words are all pukka Old English but I made up the phrase.


Speak like a Saxon - in the garden

Impress your gardening buddies with some Old English plant names next time you're out. Here's one to get you started:

Heahheolode - elecampane


There's a great wikipedia article on elecampane...ahem...enquire in one of the Leechdoms* for all you need to know on this mighty plant.

The elecampanes in my patch of ground are just starting to poke through the earth, so you'll have plenty of time to get practising this word.

* to be precise, Leechdoms, Wortcunning and Starcraft of the Anglo-Saxons, ed. O. Cockayne, London (1864-6)