Roundtable

Medieval Wellness Tips

Whether the problem was an arrowhead, a beating, or being visible, Middle English manuscripts from the fifteenth century offered solutions.

By Daniel Wakelin

Monday, September 24, 2018

Physician with a urine flask, from a medieval manuscript. Wellcome Collection (CC BY 4.0).

Physician with a urine flask, from a medieval manuscript. Wellcome Collection (CC BY 4.0).

For a man that is sore ybete
Tak weyhore and boyle it in good feyn ale, and drynk it ferst a morwe and last an evene; and make hym a bed in hot horse dongge, and ley hym therinne.

For a man who’s been painfully beaten
Take cudweed and boil it in fine ale, and drink it first thing in the morning and last thing at night; and make the patient a bed in a pile of steaming horse dung, and lay him in it.

 

Ife a man have an arowhede or any blade in hym
Take the gall of a hare hole and lay to the hole, and it will drawe it owt withowt any anguys.

If a man has an arrowhead or any blade stuck in him
Take all the bile from a hare and lay it on the entry-wound, and it will draw out the arrowhead or blade without any pain.

 

Medieval amulet to protect mother and child. Wellcome Collection (CC BY 4.0).

 

To save one from sword or gone ore any wepen
Write thes words and letters in virgin parchment and carri them aboute you: ff velle tofetis achætum + zadit + tizadit + zadan abi atit + zadne et | = æd b + abiat + | + | + b x in + d + x x + h + z + o + b + l + eliam + l + ff + m + m + P + v + j. Yf you be in dought of thes, prove it apon a doge which is all rede.

To protect yourself from a sword, gun or any other weapon
Write these words and letters on blank parchment and carry them round with you: ff velle tofetis achætum + zadit + tizadit + zadan abi atit + zadne et | = æd b + abiat + | + | + b x in + d + x x+ h + z + o + b + l + eliam + l + ff + m + m + P + v + j. If you doubt this’ll work, test it on a dog which is completely red.

 

For to be invysybell
Take an erthen pote and bore yt full of holys, and put therin a frosh, that ys blake spekelede, and stope yt faste and sete yt in a pysmere hyll, ther many rede pyssmers be, and come agen at the 3d dayes ende, and then take the bonys, and goo to a rynnyng water that renneth, and caste them in, and that bone that gothe ageyn the strem, kepe yt and wynde yt in sylke and closse yt in a rynge, or out of a rynge, and bere yt with the, and thou schalt goo invysebell. Also, yyf thou towche a whoman with the forseyde bone, sche schall folowe thy wyll and be at thi comaundment. Probatum est.

To be invisible
Take a china pot and drill it full of holes, and put inside it a black speckled toad, and close it tight and put it on top of an anthill, where red ants live, and come back at the end of the third day, and then take the bones, and go to a stream that is flowing, and cast the bones in, and whichever bone moves in the opposite direction to the stream, keep it and wrap it in silk and enclose it in a ring, or outside a ring, and carry it round with you, and you will be invisible. Also, if you touch a woman with that bone, she’ll do your desires and be at your command. It is proven.

 

Reprinted with permission from Revolting Remedies from the Middle Ages, edited by Daniel Wakelin and compiled by students of the University of Oxford, published by Bodleian Library Publishing. Copyright © 2018 by Bodleian Library Publishing. All rights reserved.