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OE wyrtig, adj: Garden-like, full of plants;
On anum wyrtige hamme, Homl. Skt. ii. 30:312




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Agrimony. Many thanks to the British
Library for providing this image from MS Edgerton
747:35, c. 1300 CE.



In Early Sources...


Agrimonia eupatoria odorata



Growing agrimony in your garden

Agrimony, a graceful perennial, bears sunny spikes of tiny, clear yellow, apricot-scented flowers from June to September. It grows 20-24" tall. Its leaves look like strawberry leaves, notched around the edges and a little narrower. They are subtly scented of apricot, as is the long, dark green root. When the seeds ripen, they have tiny hooks that will cleave ferociously to animal fur or human clothing, hence the name clife, cleave, grip.

Medieval Names


Garclife, gar, garclifan, garclife, garclifu, garcliua, gorclifu

[Old English gar, "a spear," and clifan, "to cleave, adhere, stick"]

Herbarium Apuleii

Argimoniam, garclife


Acrimonian sd, t is garcliue; garclif, garclifan, garclife


Garclifan, garclife

Walafrid Strabo


Holy Salve protects one against possession by elves or spirits.






The beast of one color -- cow, deer, dog, or other animal -- has magical powers in folklore as well as medicine.



The end of the stick is cut with a cross, and an Evangelist's name is then inscribed on each quadrant.




Deus meus et pater
opens David's song of thanks, in Psalms,  for delivery from his enemies.

The words of this charm or prayer, "Acre acrare," appear to be a mixture of  Gaelic, Arabic, and Old English; their meanings aren't clear. In the oldest herbals, such prayers are often not translated, for their power resides in the shapes and sounds of the ancient words more than in their meaning.

To make Holy Salve you shall take:
Betony & herb bennet & water agrimony * & hemp & raspberry centaury sage savine * bishopswort & rosemary fennel & cinquefoil halswort horehound mugwort meadowsweet marigold * agrimony & birdstongue * radish & plantain & the red yarrow dill southernwood dragons * hassock & cabbage * celandine & myrtle bark wax * woodruff & a sprout of madder * Savory & solsequium water betony & rue & vervain strawberry stem * & a black snail's dust * lupin iris smallage pennyroyal attorlothe vipers bugloss wild chervil wormwood boarthroat fern English costmary elecampane periwinkle feverfew ground ivy cumin * & lily lovage alexanders parsley groundsel * of these last four worts one must put in the most & of all others equal quantities * & thus must you make the butter for the Holy Salve from a cow of one color * so that she is all red or white & without spots make the butter come & if you have not enough butter wash very clean & mingle other butter with it & pound all the worts very small together & take water that has been blessed as for baptism & put the butter into a jug. Take then a stick & cut it to make a four-bristle brush & write on it these holy names:


Then stir the butter with the stick the whole vat sing over it these psalms * beati immaculati & each one thrice & gloria in excelsis deo * & credo in deum patrem & other litanies that is the holy names & deus meus et pater * et in principio & the worm chant & sing this incantation over it:

Acre acrare arnem

nona rnem beoor

rnem nidren arcum

cuna ele harassan fidine

Sing this nine times & put your spittle on & blow on them & lay the worts by the jug & afterwards have a priest bless them and sing prayers over them.                   

Lacnunga, 29


Hic quoque sarcocolam, campus

qus qu plurima passim

Vestit et effetis silvarum inventa
   sub umbris


Walafrid Strabo,  Hortulus


Here is where you see, gardener, how [agrimony] costumes the field with its abundance; and discover how it grows poorly in the woodland shade.

Walafrid Strabo, Hortulus

These are the Seven Sleepers, buried alive near Ephesus when they refused to deny their faith. They returned, resurrected, 200 years later, and their names:


appear in many charms. "For their merits and their atonement, the Lord has made them worthy to intercede to free us from all evil. Amen"
                                     (Regius II.A.XX)

To produce sleep:


When the names are carved thereon, lay the knife beneath the sick one's head, without telling that one, and it will bring sleep.

Myddvai, 807

Drunken & vn-Drunken
efre is wisdom wel god
arf noman drinken e lasse
oh he be wi-ale wis

ac he
at Drinke
& disi3e
at he for-drunken
desi3e him wurche

he scal li3en ale ni3ht
litel scal he slepen

him suh
sor3e to
so do
salt on flesche
ur his liche
so do
leche blod

Drunk and sober,
always is wisdom well and good --
no man thinks to drink the less,
when he is ale-wise.

But he that drinks
and is ill from it,
so that he for drunkeness
works himself evil --

he shall lie all night,
little shall he sleep.

Sorrow sucks him as dry
as salt does meat;
sucks all his body
as a leech does blood.
     Proverb XV,  Alfred the Great



To prevent drunkenness, drink as much of the juice of the agrimony as will fill an eggshell.

Physicians of Myddvai, 56

Please note: Many plants have been used in past and present times for medicinal purposes, and as one of the focuses of Wyrtig is the history of gardening, these uses are discussed here. However, common sense requires that you consult your family physician or other health care provider before using any plant materials for medicinal purposes. The old saying that "A doctor who treats him- (or her-) self has a fool for a patient" is no less true in herbal medicine than in any other branch of the healing sciences. Herbal remedies should not be used by the uninformed; medical advice should be sought before using any herbal remedy.

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F.D. Drewitt


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