Sunday, February 10, 2013

Witchcraft as Beneficial Magic in Old English Sources

All of these quotes from Old English sources, except for the last, directly attest to the fact that the people of the time sought out Witches for the beneficial magic that they could do.

The last quote directly attests to a close association between "wiccunga" and "galdorsangas". Two of the other quotes (2 & 5) also demonstrate that "galdrum" was placed in the same category of magical practices as Witchcraft.

Some of these sources might be as early as the 7th century Penitential of Theodore. I will update this post as soon as I can with more detailed information on the original sources.

Most, perhaps all, of these quotes are cited in the Bosworth-Toller Anglo-Saxon dictionary entries for wicce, wiccecræft, etc . The translations (and some of the original Old English texts) were found at the Heathen Thing blog:

"Ne sceal se cristena befrínan ða fúlan wiccan be his gesundfulnysse, þeáh ðe heó secgan cunne sum ðincg þurh deófol."
Translation: "The christian must not inquire of the foul witch regarding his health, although she will be able to say some things on account of the devil”. (taken from here:

"Ne cristena man ðe his hǽlðe sécan wyle æt unálýfedum tilungum, oððe æt wyrigedum galdrum, oþþe æt ǽnigum wiccecræfte, ðonne bið hé ðám hǽðenum mannum gelíc"
Translation: ”The Christian man who wants to seek his fortune with forbidden methods, either with magic spells or with any witchcraft, then he is equivalent to the heathen man.” (

"Wigliaþ stunte men menigfealde wigelunga on ðisum dæge æfter hǽðenum gewunan, swylce hí magon heora líf gelengan, oþþe heora gesundfulnysse"
Translation: "On this day foolish men magic manifold magickings after the heathen fashion, as if they can lengthen their lives, or their healths”  (

"ðonne man tó wiccan and tó wigleran tilunge séce æt ǽnigre néode–"
Translation: "when someone seeks attention from witches and magicians in any need” (

"hǽlðe sécan æt unálýfedum tilungum oððe æt wyrigedum galdrum, oþþe æt ǽnigum wiccecræfte"
Translation: "to seek benefits from unsanctioned actions or accursed sorcery, or any witchcraft" (

"gif hwylc wíf wiccunga begá and þá déoflican galdorsangas"
Translation: ”if any woman should practice witchcraft and the devilish galdor chants ...”  [a fast of one year is prescribed] (