The Indexing Of Medieval Women: The Feminine Tradition Of Medical Wisdom In Anglo-Saxon England And The Metrical Charms

The Indexing Of Medieval Women: The Feminine Tradition Of Medical Wisdom In Anglo-Saxon England And The Metrical Charms

Sanburn, Keri Elizabeth

Master’s Thesis, Florida State University, June (2003)


This thesis opens for speculation the idea, largely neglected in scholarly research to this date, that women were instrumental in creating and administering the basic and complex magical/medical procedures in Anglo-Saxon society, not just for themselves and their children, but also for their husbands, male relatives, neighbors, and friends. It begins with an in-depth study of the position of Anglo-Saxon women in their culture, and continues with an examination first of the childbirth charms and then of the other charms within this context. I hope to show strong evidence for the possibility that Anglo-Saxon women, unlike American women, were active, if not primary, initiators and exactors of their system of health care.

That women’s history is often seen as a niche of medieval history is addressed, and the argument that an integrated perspective that acknowledges that medieval society consisted of women and men is called for. Though it seems that comprehensive works about the metrical charms have been accomplished, the works lack any real consideration of the part women played in medicine. A line or footnote admitting that there is no real reason to believe that women did not participate in the charms’ creation or administration is not enough, for it does not truly attempt to consider the perspective of women. This is the task I have attempted to undertake.

Click here to read this thesis from Florida State University

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